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Trip Report Our 30 day trip to the US. Part 1 San Francisco. (LONG).

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US Trip Nov 2012
30 Oct 2012

Our flight from Nelson to Auckland wasn’t until 3pm, I had debated about going into work in the morning, but then thought what the heck I am on HOLIDAY, let’s make the most of it. DH and I did some last minute grocery shopping for the cats we were leaving behind. We were also leaving my Mum behind (she has lived with us for the last 7 years, and has Alzheimers). Up to now the longest we had been away since she had come to stay was about a week. We had a three or four caregivers coming in to look after her and the three cats for the 30 days we were going to be away.

The flight to Auckland was uneventful it takes just over an hour from Nelson. We arrived just after 5pm and our plane to San Francisco was leaving at 7.30pm. The international terminal in Auckland is about 10 minutes walking distance away, or there is a free shuttle bus that goes by every 15 minutes. We opted to walk; we only had our carry-on as the checked luggage had been checked through to SFO from Nelson. It only took ten minutes to get through security hardly anyone in the queue. Tuesday must be a slow night. The buzzer went off as I went through the scanner, so I got wanded (is that a word?). Turned out I had a metal button on my jeans that set it off.

We boarded at 6.30pm so didn’t have long to wait. However we were counting down the hours once we were in the air, eleven and a half hours is a long time to be sitting in a seat, with not much legroom. We were lucky as there were only the two of us in the four row middle section, so could spread our a bit. I did try sleeping across two seats but that was just as uncomfortable as trying to sleep sitting up. Do you know when you are watching the air map showing where you are it seems to take forever to go the 10,000 kilometres!! After watching a movie or two, dozing in fits and starts, it was finally 6.30am and time for breakfast. After watching another movie we landed in San Francisco at 11.30am, seemed to taxi for ages before we got to a terminal. It’s amazing to think we left New Zealand at 7.30pm on the 30th October and arrived at 11.30am on the same day.

San Francisco. Day 1

Here is a tip. Even if you need to go to the restroom desperately, when you finally get into the terminal, don’t. You need to go as fast as possible without stopping to get into the immigration queue before the rest of the passengers, especially if there is more than one plane arriving at the same time. Get your place in the queue and then go. I decided I needed to stop, and when we got to immigration the queue was very long. There were about 4 long zig, zags, and it was taking 25 minutes to move into the next zig, or zag!!. The passengers who had US passports were going through very fast, and eventually these lanes were opened up to us non-residents also. Things started to move more quickly then, and we didn’t have the eye scan or the fingerprints taken either. We were told though that this was an exception and would happen next time we came in. The immigration officer was very nice and polite, and welcomed us to the US. At 1.30pm we were finally through, we were tired and hungry and just wanted to get to our hotel. We had thought about taking a shuttle, earlier but flagged that idea and took a cab instead. Cost about $ 50.00 to get to our hotel the Coventry Motor Inn in Lombard Street.

I was a bit disappointed in the Coventry Motor Inn but it was my fault. On a Trip Advisor review a few months ago I had read that you could get a view of the Golden Gate bridge from some of the rooms. Someone had said they got a great view of the 4th July fireworks. I wrote about this on Fodors and was told that there is no way you would be able to see the bridge from any of the rooms. I e-mailed the Coventry and asked it we could have a room with the view of the bridge. They did exactly as I asked, and gave us a corner room overlooking Lombard St, but with a great view of the bridge. We were on the third floor. We loved waking up and looking out the window to see the Golden Gate bridge each day. Normally a clear view in the morning, but one day was completely fogged in by mid afternoon. The downside of having this room., was it was very noisy, we were woken up early both days, with the garbage collectors, and also sirens etc from the traffic. We had stayed in the Columbus Motor Inn on a previous trip and I think I prefer that one to the Coventry as far as noise goes. However the Coventry was close to some great shopping and restaurants on Union St., and once we worked out where to catch the bus, location wasn’t a problem.
The room we had was large, it was clean, we ordered a refrigerator for three days at a cost of $ 5 per day and it had free Wi-fi. The only complaint was the noise.

The weather was perfect in San Francisco while we there. I wasn’t sure what to pack, as we were going to New Orleans, and New York City on this trip so needed both summer and winter clothes. I ended up wearing the summer T’s and capri’s I had packed for the New Orleans temperatures in San Francisco. This meant we had to do a Laundromat trip as soon as we got to New Orleans. Fortunately there was a laundry in the hotel.

After we had settled in to our room, we needed to find somewhere to get something to eat. It had been a good few hours since breakfast. I had done a bit of research and knew there were shops on Chestnut Ave, a block over from Lombard St. The first place we saw was a Starbucks (yes I know there are much better places but we were hungry). We got two hot teas, and two scones, (pronounced like long), but the server said two scones (pronounced like moans). Warren spied an Apple shop over the road, and was in heaven. No Apple shops in Nelson, closest one in Wellington where our son lives. He left me drinking the very hot tea and went for a visit. He had tried to check our e-mails when we got to the hotel and the mouse pad on the lap-top didn’t seem to be working. He decided he needed to get a mouse. When we got back to the hotel the mouse didn’t work either. He finally figured out that this fault had happened before and by undoing the back and taking the battery out, and putting it back in solved the problem.

We walked along Chestnut Street for a bit but were both very tired so made our way back to the hotel for a rest. Around 5.30pm we decided to have a look at Union St and find somewhere for dinner. This was just a block away in the other direction from Chestnut St. A lot of the shops had Halloween window displays which we loved. Took quite a few photos, as Halloween is not that big a deal in New Zealand. A lot of houses had their steps and porches decorated also. We found a lovely French restaurant close by, called Café Des Amis where we had dinner. Great food and five minutes walk from the hotel. We went to bed very early to try and catch up on some sleep, but got woken up very early.

San Francisco Day 2.

The first thing we needed to do was to to figure out how to get the 3 day Muni pass which is the most cost effective way of getting around San Francisco. It costs $ 21.00 each and gives you unlimited travel on the buses, streetcars and cable car. Seeing the cost of a cable car trip was $ 5.00 normally, it was the way to go. After googling to find the closest place to our hotel we worked out how far we had to walk. The nearest place seemed to be Polk Street. This was the same street that our Fodors GTG was going to be tonight so we checked out where the Lemongrass Thai Restaurant was at the same time. It was a steep walk to Polk Street but the views were great. We took photos of the houses on the way. By the time we got the Muni pass it was getting on in the morning and I wanted to go and see Golden Gate Park.

We caught a bus in Chestnut St which took us to the Park via the Golden Gate bridge. Unfortunately we ended up getting off at the wrong stop at the other side of the park. Instead of following the directions I had researched I listened to a man on the bus giving directions to other tourists. They got off there so we did too. I think they were going someplace else. We were looking rather lost with a map in out hands, when a very helpful man told us which direction to go and how to get to the Japanese Tea Garden. I knew there was a free walking tour there at 1pm and thought we would miss it. We wandered our way through the park, came to Stowe lake where the paddle boats were, but it is the off-season and a weekday so there was no-one around. We found the path to the Tea Garden and arrived just on 1pm. There was a tour guide waiting there, and was just about to leave when we turned up. We were the only ones on the tour, and learned a lot about the history of the place. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour.

We went to the De Young cafe for lunch, had a massive turkey sandwich, which we shared. We didn’t go into the museum. We caught another bus to downtown but had forgotten about the Giants Parade. We were going against the flow of people as hundreds/thousands were making their way home. It was very busy, but fun to be amongst it all.

Fodors GTG

We were meeting some Fodorites tonight for dinner, originally we were going to go to Oakland but the restaurant that Thereyet had chosen was closed for Halloween. Dayenu suggested the Lemongrass Thai restaurant in Polk St, which wasn’t too far from us. Aparnz had offered to pick us up but we decided to walk. Thereyet and Artsnletters were also there. A fun evening, with great company. Thereyet gave us Obama buttons and had managed to find one for Dayenu that was in Hebrew. Thereyet and Aparnz did a great job of selecting the food choices. It was raining by the time we finished so Aparnz drove both Dayenu and us back to the hotel.

San Francisco Day 3.

This was our last day in San Francisco. We had done most of the touristy things on our previous trip 5 years ago so were happy just walking around, and had nothing specific planned, although we did want to have a look at the marina and Fort Mason.

Warren had been trying to download the free Fodors apps but because we lived in NZ wasn’t having any luck. He decided to go visit the Apple shop again and see if they could help. He arrived at 9.45am but the doors were locked and a queue was forming up outside. The shop opened at 10am. Once inside he waited ten minutes but no one served him so he gave up and we decided to walk to the Marina. We walked through Fort Mason, over the hill to Fisherman’s Wharf. Went to the Ghirardelli chocolate shop and bought some Halloween chocolates for the grandchildren that were now half price. They had soft toys attached to them. Also bought some for us that were in a San Francisco cable car tin. They didn’t last long. We came across a genuine replica (an oxymoron) American diner called Lori’s where we decided to have brunch. We were only having two meals most days as the hotel wasn’t doing free breakfasts. Enjoyed Lori’s although the bacon was a bit crispy, difficult to cut with plastic knives!!!

We then joined the queue to catch the cable car. Had done them before but couldn’t not do it again. Waited for about 20 minutes or so. Loved going up hill in the cable car, we managed to sit on the outside although it was a bit of a squash. I wasn’t brave enough to stand on the outside. We got off at Union Square, and had a look at some of the shops. We each had a huge ice-cream at Ghirardelli’s in Unions Square. It was in a food court not sure of the name of the place we were in.

Tried catching a bus home later, but got the wrong one and ended up at the Castro. We didn’t really look around; we needed to get back to the hotel as we were going to Beach Blanket Babylon that night. We eventually made it home but for a long time weren’t sure if the bus was going in the right direction. We did have to change buses, but the driver was very helpful and told us where to change. As we had been walking so much I think I strained a muscle in my foot and it was getting very painful. Not a good start for the next few weeks.

Warren walked down to a pizza place and got a pizza for dinner, it was about twice the size you get in New Zealand for half the price. We worked out the best way to get to Beach Blanket Babylon, and fortunately one of the buses on Chestnut Street went close to Green St. We loved Beach Blanket Babylon. The costumes were outrageous, but it was very funny, and very topical. As Warren said it reminded him of one of the local school productions where they change the words to songs to fit the situation.

We had, had an e-mail the day before to say our flight to New Orleans had changed from 1.30pm to 4pm, so now had most of Friday for sight-seeing also. Our daughter Adrienne has a good friend in San Francisco and we had arranged to meet her and her husband for brunch at Dotties’s at 9.30am. They would stand in the queue from 9am and we would meet them there. We were actually about 10 minutes late by the time we worked out which bus to take, but they were at the entrance just as we got there. As we were 4 people we had to wait a bit longer, the people behind us who were a couple got in before us. We had a huge brunch, and very nice too, and it was great to catch up with Adrienne’s friend. After that we took the F street car, to the Ferry building, and the Embarcardero. We had ordered a shuttle from the hotel for 1.30pm as our flight was at 4pm so eventually made our way back there to get our bags. There was no problem leaving them there when we checked out at 9am. The shuttle fare was $ 16.00 each, which is markedly cheaper than taking a taxi. We did have to pick up another couple of people on the way.

We had no problems checking in, although we did have to ask someone how to print off our boarding passes. We had tried from the hotel but wouldn’t let us. Just as it got to boarding time we were told there was a mechanical problem with the plane, they were trying to fix it and we would be updated at 4.30pm. We were told the same thing at 4.30pm and would update again at 5pm. At 5pm we were told they were bringing in another plane but would have to shift to another gate. There was a mad rush as passengers took off for the other end of the terminal. When we got there we were told there was a problem with the replacement plane and another one would have to be brought in. There were some unhappy passengers by this stage. Warren and I weren’t particularly happy either as we were not sitting together. Apparently this is common on US planes, we found it very strange. We tried to get it changed but no luck. Others were trying to change too.

We finally left just after 7pm and arrived in New Orleans at 1.30am.

To be continued.

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    I am enjoying your report. Those long international flights do wear you out.

    I didn't quite understand your remark that you and Warren weren't sitting together and this is common on US planes. Were you perhaps on a Southwest Airlines flight with open seating? We pay the early bird $10 fee which more or less guarantees that you will board fairly early on and a better choice of seats. Other American airlines you get to choose your seat at the time of booking. Sorry about the delay though that is certainly not fun and adds to the stress.

    Looking forward to New Orleans. Carry on please.


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    We had the same seating issue on our AA flight from NOLA to Tampa. A big issue in our case since we're traveling with a 9yr old and his seat was 7 rows away from either of ours! We did some bargaining with other passengers and all ended up together. This swapping was going on all over the plane. No one who had booked together appeared to have been seated together.

    I'm looking forward to reading your next couple of installments so I can compare notes ;-)

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    We were on Delta, and not seated together. The airline blamed our NZ travel agent as she should have booked the seats when the initial booking was made. However there was a flight change and I think we just got put anywhere. We couldn't change it online when we did the online check-in as the booking had been made by someone else. It was very frustrating. This would never happen in NZ, if you are travelling together you automatically would be seated together.

    Kwaussie I would have been livid in your situation.

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    Day 1 New Orleans.

    There were only a few people in New Orleans airport when we arrived, some cleaning staff, and a woman trying to find cabs for all of us. Thankfully there were still a few waiting to take us latecomers to our destination. I think the cab driver must have wanted to go to bed, as it was the fastest ride we have ever had. Warren was watching the speedo and he was doing 80mph most of the way. Thankfully we arrived in one piece, and finally got to bed about 2.15am.

    After a bit of a sleep in, we made our way down to breakfast. We were staying at the Quality Inn & Suites in O’Keefe St, on the edge of the business district, but only two minutes from Canal St and about five minutes from the French Quarter. It has a two and a half star rating on Trip Advisor and is ranked 3rd out of 149 hotels in New Orleans. We booked a queen room but at check-in upgraded to a king. However if you read all the reviews on Trip Advisor it looks like everyone gets an upgrade. We were very happy with the room, the free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. The breakfast was plentiful, eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles,, toast, cereal, yoghurt, juice etc. The hotel staff provides excellent service, there is also a laundry in the hotel which came in handy.

    We didn’t really have any definite plans for today, just to have a look around the city, go down to the waterfront, and perhaps the French Quarter. We walked the length of Canal Street and ended up at the River Walk. You had to watch where you were walking as the footpaths (sidewalks) were uneven, and not in a great state of repair. Down on the riverfront we heard the steam Calliope being played on the Natchez paddle steamer. This was on our to do list, we decided to go for the package that included the lunch. We thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour cruise on the Mississippi and liked the commentary about the places we could see from the steamboat, and also the facts and figures about the river. It was our first introduction to New Orleans food, and I was not that impressed. I did like the fried fish but not the red beans and rice. The coleslaw was okay. Warren had the bread pudding as well, which was quite dry. We chose to have lunch when the jazz band started playing from the turnaround point. The paddle steamer goes back the same way so the commentary stops and the band starts playing. The band was great to listen too and Warren videoed several songs.

    When we got off the boat we made our way to Jackson Square, and heard before we saw, music playing. It turned out to be a high school marching band, We couldn’t get over the number of sousaphones being played. They are not a common instrument in New Zealand schools. Actually there are no marching bands at all in schools here. It was a warm day and the players looked very hot in their uniforms. We took some video of their music also. We then walked round the market, lots of artists displaying their paintings, and ended up at the French Quarter, which was rather quiet at 3pm. Loved the houses, and the way the doors and windows open straight out onto the sidewalk. We walked down Bourbon St, but knew we had to go back there later on in the evening. We then got lost trying to find our way back to the hotel.

    We had come to New Orleans for the music, and I had read that Frenchmen Street was the place to go now to hear jazz music rather than Bourbon St. There are a lot of clubs/restaurants that have jazz/blues bands playing from about 4pm onwards. As we had done so much walking earlier in the day, and my foot was rather sore, we took a cab. Cost about $ 10.00. We spent a bit of time just going along the street listening to the bands, and the buskers on the street, but ended up at Maison, which had a 7 piece Dixieland band playing. Maison became our favourite place and we ended having dinner and listening to music on all three nights. There was a different band each night, we normally left about 9pm, when a new band came in. We stayed for two sets the first night, Warren did a lot more videoing. The singer came around with the tip jar and stood at the tables waiting for the patrons to give them money. I told our daughter and son-in-law this, (they are jazz musicians based in New York.) Adrienne said she is not brave enough to stand by the tables, if they did they may get more tips. We wandered our way back to the French Quarter by following the crowd. There are a lot of people out and about going between Frenchmen Street and Bourbon Street. We couldn’t get over how there was only one place playing jazz music in Bourbon St. it was mostly rock music. Warren plays in the Nelson big band, so had to have his photo taken by the Bourbon St sign.

    New Orleans Day 2.

    This morning we planned on goring on a walking tour in the Garden District. I had read on Trip Advisor about the Free Tours by Foot tours and they had great reviews so thought we would give it a go. You would normally take the St Charles streetcar but as the track was being redone had to take the bus which was replacing the streetcar. We got off at Washington Ave and met our tour guide by the entrance to the Layfette No 2 cemetery. There were about ten on the tour from all over the US, and also a couple from Australia and us from New Zealand. We had just made our way into the cemetery when the rain came down in torrents. We took shelter under a verandah on the opposite side of the street for about 15 minutes but it wasn’t looking good. The tour guide kept looking at the satellite picture on his cell phone and would say it is going to blow over very soon. Hmm it didn’t. The tour was eventually called off. The guide said he normally keeps umbrellas in his car during the summer, but had taken them out only a week or so ago.

    There was a little coffee shop just by the cemetery so we had some lunch there, and then took a cab back to the hotel. It took awhile getting a cab, as there were a lot of tourists trying to get back into town. The rain kept up until 4pm or so and was very heavy. We ended up buying some cheap umbrellas at the discount store. As our shoes had got rather wet we decided to stay put for most of the afternoon. We had also been keeping an eye on Hurricane Sandy as we were heading to NYC on Tuesday. The rain eased off though by the time we wanted to go to Frenchmen St at 5.30pm. We also planned on going to Preservation Hall, to the 9pm set. We had another great meal at Maison, and the band that was playing Sunday night was excellent.

    We left about 8pm so we could queue up for Preservation Hall. There were about 50 people in front of us but the time went by very fast. It was fun chatting with the others in the queue. The Dixieland music that is played at Preservation Hall is fantastic. Warren said when he came out, that is the music I wanted to hear in New Orleans. The musicians were very skilled, and the aim is to preserve the traditional type of jazz music that used to be played in New Orleans. The room the band plays in is small; there are a few rows of wooden seats, and standing room at the back. If you pay $ 30.00 you get a guaranteed seat along the side of the hall, but the normal ticket price is $ 15.00. A set only lasts for about 45 minutes, but the wooden seats and the size of the hall doesn’t matter when you hear the music that is played. There was a trombone, trumpet, clarinet, piano, double bass and drums. All acoustic, including the singing. The trombone player was a large African American and he was a great player, jiggling around in time to the music. The levels were great, first song was In The Good Old Summer Time and last song was Margie (Warren plays both of those). We ended up buying a DVD and got a CD thrown in for free. The band on the DVD was not the same as we had seen, but was playing the same style.

    New Orleans Day 3.

    We made another attempt to do the tour of the Garden District in New Orleans. This time it stayed fine, and we completed the whole tour. It took about two hours but we only walked about a mile, so not very strenuous. We had the same tour guide as yesterday and he was very knowledgeable. He was telling us about what he had to do to be a registered guide. His regular job was teaching accounting!! Learning about the history of the Garden District was very interesting, and we were told how the Americans wanted to build big houses with large back yards whereas the French were happy with smaller houses, with inner courtyards. The French were also predominantly Roman Catholic and a different culture to the Americans. Being told how the dead were buried in the Layfette cemetery was a bit of an eye-opener also. The houses in the Garden District were very large a lot of them built in the Greek style with lots of columns. We took lots of photos including one of Sandra Bullock’s place. It’s great that a lot of places have been renovated after they fell into disrepair. We also walked past Commanders Palace and were told that if you want a great meal that won’t break the bank to go there for lunch rather than dinner!!!!

    After the tour finished we walked up to the start of the St Charles streetcar, a few blocks up. We stayed on until the end and got off and had a walk around Carrolton, but there wasn’t a lot there. We decided to go back to the Riverfront and try and find Café Du Monde, so we could try the beignets. We had passed it the previous day so roughly knew where to find it. It was about 3pm so a lot of people there but we were served straight away, and we LOVED the beignets. We only ordered one plate and two half and half coffees originally, but soon put in anther order for more beignets. They were superb. Lots of icing sugar!!!!! (powdered sugar). We got lost walking home again and came across the Louis Armstrong Park. We decided to explore and loved the different statutes that were there, especially the one of Louis. We walked around there for awhile but then it started raining again. By the time we got back to the hotel it was starting to thunder.

    Well you will probably never guess where we went for dinner tonight!!. We ended up at Maison again, another fantastic band, more videoing, and a great meal. The rain came down in buckets while we were there and had to take a cab back to the hotel. When we checked our e-mails we discovered there had been a change in our flight to Atlanta and we were going to miss the connecting flight to New York. After a frantic call to the airline we got it sorted out. We also had to pay extra if we wanted to be seated together!!

    New Orleans Day 4.

    As our plane was leaving at 12.30pm today we didn’t have a lot of time in the morning to do very much. However one of my Fodors friends had posted on Facebook that we needed to try a muffaletta. We just had enough time to go to Central Grocery on Decatur. By this time we had worked out the buses and street cars, and had bought a three day pass early on in our stay, which was very economical. We caught the bus on Canal St to Riverwalk, then took the street car, and got off close to Decatur. There was a queue of tourists lined up to buy muffalettas. We bought one and took it to the airport to eat while we were waiting to board. There were too many olives for me, I have very bland taste-buds, Warren liked it but couldn’t eat all of it by himself.

    New York city here we come......

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    Loved hearing about your time in New Orleans. Is your foot healed?

    Glad you worked out the latest problem with your flights. When you return home you should inform your NZ travel agent of the seating problem on Delta.

    Looking forward to your NYC portion. Have fun.


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    Enjoying your report, nelsonian!

    >>This would never happen in NZ, if you are travelling together you automatically would be seated together.<<

    That is nice -- is that true when you book on line as well as working through a travel agent?

    I haven't used a TA in years, only purchased on line, and tend to book the lowest cost seats which are not always adjacent. Sometimes there are paired seats in a higher price category and I'll check that out but the truth is we tend not to chat much but instead read, surf or doze. It was definitely a different circumstance with younger children. Have done the seat swapping thing and mostly found people to be accommodating (esp. if they were leaving a middle seat).

    Keep up the good story telling!

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    Yes if you booked online you would be able to get seats together too. What seems to happen in the US is people are booking window and aisle, or aisle, aisle, which tends to leave a lot of middle seats vacant.

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    "....we ordered a refrigerator for three days at a cost of $5 per day and it had free Wi-fi. ::"

    Now this is original!

    Loving your report.. and please .. I am just joking! ( funny what an "out of context" can do )

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    Lovely to read your report after we've just been there. I can 'see' all the places you visited. We had lunch at that coffee shop near the cemetery too!
    I was worried rather than livid about the seating on our plane. Taine just isn't old enough to sit by himself. Heaven help the other poor people in his row! Like NZ, in Aus families are automatically placed together. I'm hoping we won't have the same problem on our next 3 internal flights.
    How crispy is the bacon here? I have adopted Michael's suggestion of eating it like a biscuit!

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    How thoroughly entertaining! I am looking forward to reading more about your adventures. To be honest, I think you did pretty good, making it thru customs. You should be pleased.

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    New York Part 1

    The reason for our trip. Our daughter Adrienne and son-in-law Josh have been living in the US since 2008, firstlyin Columbus Ohio, and then moved to Long Island City New York. We did see them 12 months ago though when they came home for a visit.

    I had booked our flight from New Orleans to New York several months ago. It had a stop and a change of plane at Atlanta. We had no problems with the flight, and as I had paid an extra
    $19.00 each so we could sit together we had extra legroom and got to board relatively early. We arrived at JFK about 7pm, Adrienne had given us instructions on how to get to the Air Train and she would meet us at Jamaica station. We had to pay for the Air Train tickets once we were at Jamaica, and then buy a couple of subway tickets. We spied Adrienne on the other side of the turnstile, and then followed her to get to the E subway train back to her house. She also took over one of the big bags, which helped a lot. I was in charge of the two carry-on bags. Thankfully there were elevators and escalators at Jamaica so didn’t have to carry the bags up and downstairs.

    Josh was waiting with the van at the Court Square station and it was a quick five-minute drive to their house. We had a celebration bottle of wine and lots of nibbles, and then it was time to head out to a jazz club. We went to see Charmaine Fulton a lovely jazz pianist and singer; she was playing at Cleopatra’s Needle in uptown Manhattan. After a check on what subway to take we were off, glad that we didn’t have to find our own way this time. This gig was a jam session so anyone could get up and play or sing. Josh played a few songs on guitar, and Adrienne sung a couple. The video camera was out again. We had a very enjoyable time, had another couple of wines and some more nibbles. We finally got back to Adrienne’s place around midnight. We were very happy to fall into bed, We had taken over the bed, while A & J slept on the couch, which was a tad broken and not very comfortable. We did take pity on them though and booked a hotel for the next two nights.

    Day 2

    I had wanted to see Tenement museum so we decided to do this the next morning. It was a rather cold, a totally different temperature from New Orleans and San Francisco. We had our winter woollies on now. I couldn’t find my gloves so had to borrow Adrienne’s. We did the Sweatshop Workers tour, which was about the Levine family, who were dressmakers in the late 1800’s. It was hard to believe a family of two parents and three children lived in this tiny apartment where a dress making business was also in operation.

    After the tour Adrienne wanted to take us to one of her favourite cafes but it started snowing half way there. We were very excited for the first 15 minutes or so but Warren didn’t really have a warn jacket, so we ended up going to K-Mart and buying a waterproof/windproof jacket for him and some more gloves for both of us so Adrienne could have hers back. The snow was really heavy when we got back to the Court Square station and it was difficult to walk back home as it had started to build up on the sidewalk. We were very cold and wet by the time we got back. Josh quickly put our bags in the van, and drove us to the Country Inn and Suites where we had booked for the next two nights. It was not very far away. We decided we would stay put for the evening, ordered in pizza, as we didn’t want to go out in the snowstorm. You can tell we are not used to snow. Nelson doesn’t get any snow in the winter only frosts. We couldn’t believe the size of the pizza and how cheap it was. It was about twice the size of what you would get in New Zealand. Warren gave the delivery person $ 20.00 so he got an $ 8 tip!!

    Day 3

    Warren had wanted some help from the Apple Shop so I had gone online earlier and booked a time for him to see a genius at the shop in Grand Central Station. We got a time at 10am so made our way to the subway station and met Adrienne there. We had to do a change of trains to get to Grand Central Station, but that wasn’t a problem as it was off-peak. I loved the beautiful ceiling at Grand Central, I took a lot of photos while Warren was talking to the “genius”. People watching was fun too We had a look around the shops and came across Magnolia Bakery. As it was Warren’s birthday, we had a cupcake each to celebrate. Very nice they were too. Adrienne and Josh had a gig this evening, so she went home to do some practice, and we carried on and did some window shopping, ending up at Rockefeller Centre where we watched the ice-skating for a bit and had some lunch. We then made our way back to the hotel and did some laundry. Our first experience at using a Laundromat.

    This evening Adrienne and Josh were playing at the American Legion in Harlem. Adrienne had been running the jam session there on a Thursday night for two years but gave it up when they started doing cruise ship gigs. However when ever they are back in town they are warmly welcomed back. We were made very welcome too, and once the Commander realized it was Warren’s birthday the drinks began to flow!!!. The American Legion is similar to our RSA clubs (Returned Service Association.). The drinks are cheap at the RSA also. We had some wonderful soul food there. The music was great. It had been a couple of years since we had heard Adrienne and Josh play at a gig. I was starting to feel a bit dizzy on the way home, everything seemed to be on a lean. It could have been too much wine but it was actually vertigo!!!

    Next stop Hyannis....

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    I'm behind on the reading, just finished day 2, but so far it's great! We used to live about an hour from SF and loved, loved going there, exploring, eating!
    Great report!

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    Hyannis and Provincetown

    We had an early start this morning, as Adrienne and Josh were picking us up at our hotel at 7.30am. The Country Inn and Suites was an okay hotel, clean and comfortable, free breakfast, and free wi-fi and very handy to the subway. As you can probably tell we have been staying in budget hotels and we think have had great value for money. The breakfast selection at Country Inn & Suites wasn’t as good as the Quality Inn and Suites in New Orleans but was okay for us. A lot of people staying there seemed to be workers called in to help fix utilities damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

    Today we were all driving to Hyannis as A & J had a gig at the Cape Codder hotel that evening. Josh had queued up for gas the night before and was only allowed a certain amount, but had enough to get to the next State where we could fill up. We ended up meeting them at the next block rather than our hotel as the traffic was very heavy and it was difficult to turn into our street. It took an hour or so to get out of New York itself but after that we made good time. We stopped for a cuppa at one of the big truck stops, along the way, and arrived in Hyannis about 1.00pm. We parked in Main Street and spied a Thai restaurant close by. A & J are vegan so Thai food was a good choice for them. It was very nice food, and we got great service, as there were only two other couples in the restaurant. After lunch Josh took off to see the drum shop while Adrienne, Warren and I wandered down the street looking at the very interesting shops. Most of them were tourist orientated but there were one or two nice clothing shops also. Hyannis reminded us of Nelson, a retirement town close to the sea.
    We then drove down to the sea-front and came across the JFK memorial. I had photos of John and Robert Kennedy on my bedroom wall when I was a teenager, and had lots of books about the Kennedy family, so was very happy to see the memorial. There was also a memorial to the veterans who had served in the Korean War. It was a very peaceful and beautiful setting with beautiful views. There looked to be a lot of expensive houses on the other side of the harbour.

    We then checked into our hotel. A & J were staying at Cape Codder as it was part of their gig payment. We had booked a room at the Holiday Inn, which was about three minutes walk from Cape Codder. This was a lovely hotel, no free breakfast, but free wi-fi. We had dinner at the Grand Cru lounge where A & J were playing, with Bart Weisman who had organized the gig. Bart is a well-known drummer in the Cape Cod area, and organizes the Provincetown Jazz Festival every year. We had a lovely evening, the food was excellent, and the atmosphere was fantastic. The music was pretty good too (but we could be biased!!).

    Next morning we were off to Provincetown. We slept in until about 9am, had a quick stop at Starbucks for a coffee and muffin while Josh went to Trader Joes to stock up on nibbles for the car trip. Our first stop was the Nauseut lighthouse in Eastham. However we had a bit of a camera tragedy here. Warren had got out of the van, and was doing up his jacket. The camera was around his neck. Just then the strap on his camera broke and it hit the ground. That was the end of that. Luckily the memory card was still intact but the camera itself was not working. He had to resort to my little Nikon camera to take photos of the lighthouse. The beach around this area looked fairly rugged, I am not sure if it is a swimming beach in the summer-time.

    We arrived at Provincetown about 11am. What a lovely place. Disappointing that a lot of shops and cafes were closed as it was out of season, but there were still a few craft and souvenir shops open. There also seemed to be several shops that sold dog and cat clothing, accessories, and plaques etc. One shop had a large Christmas display and we ended up buying a little TV which when you turned it on played Christmas carols, and where the screen was, was an ice-skating rink with people skating. I wanted a big one, but it would have been too difficult to take home to New Zealand so settled for a small one. Now it looks really tiny on our entertainment unit. There was only a small number of food places open so we ended up at a pizza place. Still can’t get over the size of the pizza’s. After lunch we went for a drive to the Provincetown museum and Pilgrim monument. I loved the museum, had lots of exhibitions about the Pilgrims, whalers, and prominent people from Provincetown. We had intended to go to Plymouth Rock but Bart had told us that the Pilgrims had landed at Provincetown first, and said we needed to go there, he was right. Warren, Adrienne and Josh climbed to the top of the monument, I only made it to the first window. I thought I might have a heart attack climbing up all those stairs. Warren came down and said the stairs only went part of the way and then it was a ramp so wasn’t to hard to climb. Apparently the view was fantastic. I climbed to the first window and thought the view was terrific even from there. There were Christmas lights draped all over the grass, they were going to be installed on the monument itself the following weekend.

    It was getting on in the afternoon and we needed to get to Boston. As we got close to Boston the sun was setting and it was only 4.15pm. We couldn’t believe how early it was setting. In Nelson even in the middle of winter the earliest the sun sets in 5.30pm.

    I had agonized over the choice of hotel in Boston for several months. We couldn’t stay in the city as we needed free parking for the van. I had booked the Best Western Roundhouse, but then Adrienne wanted to use the points on her Wyndham Card. There were only two Wyndham hotels in Boston that she could have booked. One was ranked 77th out of 78th so I put her off that one. We ended up at the Wyndham in Chelsea, which was about three miles away from Boston itself. It wasn’t the nicest area, but there was a free shuttle to the airport T where you could take the Blue line to downtown Boston.

    As it was dark when we arrived and we weren’t sure about how the shuttle worked we opted to take a cab to a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown. I began to wonder where we were when the cab arrived. It was unmarked, the driver was wearing track-pants, a baggy T shirt, and had several teeth missing!! Hmm. However it was an entertaining ride, he was very friendly and chatty. Adrienne had googled to find a Vietnamese restaurant and came up with Pho Pasteur in Washington St. The cab fare was $ 25.00. The restaurant was packed when we arrived, but we didn’t have to wait long for a table. This was Warren and my first experience of Vietnamese food. I wasn’t keen on it. Warren had the Pho and didn’t mind it but couldn’t eat it all. Adrienne and Josh love Vietnamese food, and were disappointed we weren’t raving about it.

    After we finished our meal, we walked around town trying to find some jazz clubs. Josh had asked on Facebook if anyone knew of a good jazz place in Boston but he never got any recommendations. He had spent a long time in the car, looking up jazz clubs but didn’t find anything that interested him. We walked around for awhile, loved the Christmas light display in the market area, but eventually we called it a night, and took a cab back to the hotel. Adrienne and Josh were leaving to go back to New York in the morning (Sunday), we were flying back on Monday afternoon.

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    Forgot to say there was a Justin Bieber concert on that night, we passed the concert venue and there were at least 20 stretch limo's lined up outside. Stretch limo's are not a thing you see in Nelson and even in the bigger cities here there would only be a few.

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    Loving your report and hope you can provide some of your pics and videos, especially of the Jazz musicians (including your daughter and son in law? ) - jamming at the American Legion in Harlem was it?.

    Also - what great guides to have for NYC.

    Chuckled at your comments about having different food preferences - which reminds me of our family. I seem to think we all like the same stuff - and then once in a while - am surprised when I/we might love something and others are just so-so about it.

    As for bargain type hotels - nothing wrong with that IMO, assuming they are clean and comfortable and relatively well located. Rarely spend much time in the rooms anyway when traveling, unless it's looking at a great view while having some wine and cheese/snacks.

    Keep on trucking.

    FYI - a friend of mine joined the Navy after high school - and his ship (sub really) called in New Zealand - waaaay back when - and he loved it and the people so much that he was tempted to go AWOL for a few months. :)

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    Boston Sun 11 Nov 2012

    We loved the Free Tours by Foot walking tour we did in New Orleans and I had seen that they also had them in Boston. I booked the Freedom Tour for 10.30am, so we decided to try out the free shuttle to the T airport stop, from our hotel. The shuttle leaves on the hour, and half hour, so we made sure we caught the one leaving at 9am. We bought a one day ticket for the T, and had worked out we needed to get off at the Government Centre and change to the green line to get to Boston Common. Actually we could have probably walked from the Government Centre but we took the subway and got off at the Park St station. We had a bit of time to fill in, so stood and watch some workers putting up the Christmas tree on Macy’s facade.

    There was a bit of a hiccup before the tour started. Warren still hadn’t replaced his camera so we were using my little Nikon. As I was about to take a photo of the Boston Common, a message came up to say the memory card was full. Oh no, we didn’t know where to get another card from, but some people on the tour suggested Radio Shack or CVS pharmacy. Luckily there was a CVS in the next street.

    Our tour guide Brian was fantastic. I initially thought he was a bit over the top, with the way he was speaking, and waving his hands around, but as the tour went on, you could see the passion that he had for the subject of the Freedom Trail and the history of Boston in general. The tour lasted two hours, and started at Boston Common, went to the State house, Granary cemetery, Old Corner Bookstore, Kings Chapel, Old South Meeting house, site of the Boston Massacre, Park St Church, Faneuil Hall, and the old State House. It was easy walking, probably covered about a mile. After Brian finished telling us about the events that unfolded when 5000 people gathered at the Old South Meeting house before the Tea Party took place, we all started clapping. We were spellbound, he made it come alive. His telling of the Boston Massacre was brilliant also, he said John Hancock was a modern day spin doctor!! If you ever want to do a tour in Boston then this is the one to do.

    The tour finished at Fanueil Hall, near Quincy Market. We walked around there for awhile admiring all the Christmas displays, and then bought a ticket on one of the City View Hop On Hop Off Trolley bus. It also had a harbour tour included in the ticket price. This tour left from down by the Aquarium so took a leisurely walk down there, and looked at the boats until a bus turned up. We got off at one of the North End stops and had some lunch, then tried to find Paul Reveres house, but we never did. It must have been close by, but there were no signs, and we were hungry so gave up looking. After lunch we got back on the Hop On Hop Off bus, and stayed on for the complete tour. The bus driver was a character, and didn’t think much of helmet wearing cyclists!, or cars with out of state plates! We didn’t have time to get off at the USS Constitution as we still had the harbour tour to do. We also missed out a couple of stops due to the Veterans Parade but did get to go through Beacon Hill, and see the million dollar houses. We got back to the Aquarium stop just in time to catch the boat for the harbour cruise. This was a delightful cruise, a nice afternoon and some great views of the harbour. An excellent commentary too. We had another camera problem though this time the battery went flat. I resorted to taking photos with my cell phone. When the cruise was finished we hopped onto the T at the Aquarium station, which went directly to the airport stop. We then rang the hotel to be picked up. We had a bit of a wait as they obviously pick people up from the airport too, so must have gone there first before they came to get us. We waited about 20 minutes I suppose.

    Now that we were back at the hotel we couldn’t be bothered going anywhere else that night, so had dinner in the hotel restaurant, there was only one other couple in the restaurant. Seemed very strange but it was only 6.30pm. We had a nice meal though and a couple of drinks.

    Boston Monday morning 12th Nov 2012

    We were flying back to New York at 3pm, so decided this morning we would go and have a look at Cambridge. We were getting good at studying the subway maps before we go anywhere, we had to take the Blue to Government Centre, the Green to Park St and then the Red to Cambridge. The Red line comes out above ground when it crosses the Charles River, which was good for more photo shots. We got off at Harvard Square and had a look around, relishing in all the old buildings not only here but in Boston also. New Zealand is a relatively young country, settled in the 1850’s so we do not have really old buildings, or houses. Some of the shop windows had Harvard university window displays, some football displays which we found interesting. We got back on the T and got off at Central and had a walk around there. It was nearly time to go back to the hotel, but Warren had spied a camera shop on our travels yesterday and wanted to go and have a proper look today. It was in Fanueil Hall market-place so I left him to it, and went into the Christmas shop next door, and then found a seat and people-watched. Warren ended up buying a Nikon point and shoot, a basic camera but takes a nice photo, and good quality video. We were debating whether to call the hotel and asked if they would bring our luggage to the Airport station to save us having to go back to the hotel and then back to the airport, but thought they probably wouldn’t be allowed to pick up luggage without the owner being there. The shuttle picked us up promptly from the station, once we got back to the hotel we collected our luggage, and then waited around until 1pm until the shuttle could take us back to the airport. Warren was fascinated by the fact that the shuttle drivers never went the same way twice. Some rides were a lot longer than others; I suppose it depended on the traffic.

    We had a very enjoyable stay in Boston, it would have been nice to have another couple of days for sight-seeing and to go to places like Salem. However two days is better than none.

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    There was a slight moment of panic when we realized we had carry on luggage for the flight and our bathroom toiletries such as shampoo. Toothpaste, moisturizer etc were all larger than is allowed when you go through security. We thought about throwing it out, but then just put it all in two zip loc bags, and hoped for the best. They all got through without any problems.

    We arrived back at JFK and seemed to have to walk for miles to get to the Air Train. It must have taken us at least 30 minutes. We were checking in to our studio apartment in Astoria tonight, so rung Jessica to let her know where we were. She gave us instructions on which subway station to get off at, and directions to get to the apartment. I must admit we did get a bit lost but eventually found our way there. The apartment was small, but had everything we needed. The queen size bed pulled out from a platform, and was virtually on the floor but was very comfortable. A bit of a struggle getting in and out of it though. There was a small kitchen, and free wi-fi. It was also only two subway stops from Adrienne’s place, which was very handy.

    A short time later Adrienne and Josh arrived with our big bags, which we had stored at their place prior to going to Boston. We then all went to see a band playing, at a bar in Astoria and had dinner there. One of Adrienne's friends was there also. The band was more country than jazz and we were surprised that Adrienne and Josh liked them. We love country music so thought they were great.

    Tuesday 13th Nov 2012

    I wanted to book a Broadway show through the TKTS booth in Brooklyn. We meet Adrienne at her subway station eventually. We had caught the R train and should have changed to the E or M at Queen’s Plaza but we forgot. We ended up at 59th St before we could get off, and find our way back. Adrienne was still waiting. We then caught the subway to Brooklyn, and got off at the MetroTech station. The TKTS booth was right there, but unfortunately the computers were down and they weren’t sure when they would be fixed. We decided to have a look around and come back a bit later on. We started walking towards the Brooklyn Bridge and came across a park which had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and also a beautiful carousel which has been restored. Unfortunately it wasn’t operating, as it only runs from Thursday until Sunday. I would have loved a ride on it. We also saw where the Battle of Brooklyn took place in 1776. We found a really nice place to have lunch (Archway), on the way back to TKTS. Adrienne and I had the omelette sandwich, Warren had the grilled cheese. It seemed a bit out of the way, but was lovely and nice to have a rest. It was rather cold out too, and every now and then there would be a snow flurry or two. We got back to TKTS but it was still down much to my disappointment. We decided to go back home as we were going out again later on that night. I went on to BroadwayBox.com and booked tickets to Nice Work If You Can Get It for tomorrow night, and tickets to Stomp the following week.

    A jazz organist Mike Le Donne was playing at Smoke tonight. Adrienne is a Hammond B3 player and had got to know Mike quite well. When she goes to see one of his gigs, she sits right by the organ so she can watch everything Mike does, just like being in a master class. It was very cold when we ventured out to get the subway to uptown. We had to walk several blocks from the subway to Smoke, and I was really pleased when we arrived at the restaurant. We had dinner there and stayed until the end of the first set. The band was great, Mike Le Donne on Hammond B3, Walter Blandings on sax, guitarist was Peter Bernstein and Willy Jones 3 was on drums, boy could those guys play.

    Wednesday 14th Nov 2012

    Adrienne and Josh had three gigs in Columbus Ohio starting tomorrow night. They wanted us to go with them to see a bit of the countryside, but we didn’t want to drive both ways as it is an 11 hour drive. We decided to fly there on Thursday, while they drove down today. As we were checking out of our apartment for four days we needed to take our big bags and store them at A & J's place. Carrying them up and downstairs in the subway is not a lot of fun, but we managed it. Once we had dropped the bags off we went to have a look at Central Park. Last time we were there in April 2007 it was all brown, not what I had expected at all. ( I forgot that it would be winter). However this time there was still some leaves on the trees, the grass was still green, and I liked it a lot more. We got off the subway hoping to be close Strawberry Fields, but got off a bit further up so had to walk back down. It was a nice day, and there were lots of other people doing the same thing, as well as people running and a lot of cyclists. We came across the Reservoir, and then made our way to Strawberry Fields. We took a photo of the plaque there. There were a lot other tourists doing the same thing. There were also a lot of people trying to sell photos, and memorabilia. We kept walking until we came to a lake where there were a couple of people boating. It was a beautiful setting and we took lots of photos looking over to the buildings on the other side of the park.

    We found a place to have lunch near the park, and then had to find the Imperial Theatre on 45th Street as we were going to the 2pm matinee of Nice Work If You Can Get It. We had to pick the tickets up at the Box office, and were very surprised when the attendant asked if we wanted to change our tickets to 6th row from the front in the centre. I quickly said yes. What fantastic seats, we could see the expressions on the actor”s faces. We thoroughly enjoyed the show; we knew a lot of the Gerswhin songs, and loved how Matthew Broderick was actually playing the ukelele at one point. The actress who ended up swinging form the chandelier was very funny. A nice way to spend an afternoon.

    I had been telling Warren about the revolving restaurant at the Marriot Marquis hotel, so was very surprised when we got out of the show at 4.30pm to find we were right next to it. We decided to go up and have a drink, but once we got there and were handed a menu decided to have the dessert and cheese buffet for $ 19.00 each. As weren’t sure we would be able to find our way back to our table without getting lost we took turns at going at getting food!! Warren took a lot of photos and video as the restaurant was revolving, it took about an hour to do the revolution. Our dessert buffet was very yummy too. That was our evening meal. I had always wanted to have dessert as a main meal.

    We left about 6pm and as we were close to Time Square thought we would go and have a look. To us Times Square is what New York is all about. I know Native New Yorkers would be horrified at that statement. I suppose because we see a lot of Times Square on TV with all the billboards, bright lights, the crowd etc it is New York to us, as well as the honking of horns and the yellow taxi cabs. We eventually made our way back home and spent the rest of the night downloading photos. Tomorrow we were flying to Columbus Ohio.

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    Thursday 15th Nov 2012

    We were leaving from LaGuardia airport at 11.30am for our flight to Columbus. We had to get off the subway at Jackson Heights and then we could take the bus to the airport, this was part of the subway ticket. I was amazed how we could get to the airport for a cost of $ 2.50 each compared to $ 15.00 for a cab from Queens. Yes you have to manhandle your bags up and down steps but as we just had one carry on each it wasn’t really a problem. The bus dropped us off at the terminal so arrived in plenty of time for our flight. This was not a direct flight, there was a change of plane and a short wait in Philadelphia. There was a slight delay but we eventually arrived in Columbus about 3.30pm. Adrienne was there to meet us, (they had made the 11 hour car drive yesterday). Adrienne and Josh had lived in Columbus for about eight months in 2008, and make frequent trips back to play gigs. Adrienne was keen to show us around and drove past the house they used to live in, in Hudson St, and also their favourite cafes and vegan bakeries.

    A & J were playing a gig at a new casino, as it didn’t start until 9.30pm and finished after midnight, we decided we would give this one a miss, as we could go to their next two gigs the following nights. We were staying at the Baymont Inn and Suites, the first place Adrienne and Josh stayed at when they first came to Columbus. They were reminiscing!!. The staff were pleasant, the free breakfast was okay, free wi-fi, but the hotel does need updating. We needed to find a place for dinner, there was a supermarket just over the road, and on our way there we came across an Asian restaurant called Helen’s Asia Kitchen. We really enjoyed our meal there, got great service, as it was not very busy. When I mentioned to Adrienne that we had been there for dinner, she said they had been there for lunch and it was crowded.

    Friday 16th Nov 2012

    This morning we went to Easton where there is a huge mall. Well huge by New Zealand standards anyway. There was some beautiful Christmas decorations and a very tall Christmas tree. We had to have the obligatory photo taken standing in front of it, we looked very small. We spent a bit of time looking at the shops including Macy’s and Nordstrom’s. In NZ you get very limited choice if you are not very tall, these shops had a great selection of petite size clothes.I didn’t buy anything but Adrienne bought several things.

    We had subway for lunch, not my favourite food, but good choices for vegan/ vegetarians. Afterwards Adrienne wanted to go to one of her favourite shops Marshalls, they have designer clothes at bargain prices. She buys a lot of her gig clothes from here. I bought some clothes for our two grandchildren. I was also looking for a large hand-bag so I could take more carry-on on our way back to New Zealand. Warren had fun looking around a huge computer shop, Radio Shack, and a music shop that was in the Plaza. He was also looking for some twin core shielded wire to fix Adrienne’s Nord keyboard but couldn’t find any anywhere. (he eventually found it a a 99c discount store).

    Adrienne and Josh’s gig tonight was at Giant Eagle in the Market District. This is actually a giant supermarket and has a café upstairs where people can sit and eat the meal they have bought at the supermarket downstairs. They can also buy wine or beer and drink it upstairs. Every Friday they have a live band playing. What a great atmosphere, a lot of couples with young children, there were two tables of Adrienne and Josh’s friends, in fact the place was full. The music was terrific; the drummer on all three gigs was Jim Rupp, who has played with some famous names in his time. He owns a drum store now in addition to playing lots of gigs. The three band members really gelled and the crowd loved them. Three little girls about 8 or 9 years old danced until the gig finished at 9pm.

    Saturday 17th Nov 2012

    We drove about 30 minutes from the hotel to deliver the key to Adrienne's house to a guy that is renting it while they are doing their cruise ship gig around NZ at the end of the month. Then we went to the Short North Market ... a large food outlet. There were some great food stalls here, lots of different ethnic food, ice-cream, chocolate, cheeses, spices, everything you could want. Then we walked about the town. Not far from the market was Goodale park, Adrienne and Josh had played a couple of gigs here when they first shifted to Columbus. We walked until we came to the pond, it was a warm day,not as cold as I thought it might be.

    Columbus is a strangely laid out town. It is the capital of Ohio, but has no rail system. There is no shopping centre as such in the town itself. The main street goes for miles and every so far often there is a group of shops. Where we were there were a lot of galleries, and craft shops. There are several large malls in the suburbs and most people shop there. The town is not very high-rise, but very spread out. A vehicle is essential. It is also very flat.

    The gig tonight was at the Worthington Inn, an old historic building which had been lovingly restored. This used to be a regular gig for A & J, We had a lovely meal there and met up with a lot of Adrienne and Josh’s friends. For the last two songs Pete Mills joined them playing his tenor sax. We had a great few days in Columbus, it was good to see the places Adrienne had talked about when they lived here, and to meet some of their friends. I am not sure I would want to be there in winter though, a think it would be a bit too cold for me.

    Sunday 18th Nov 2012

    Today the job was to get home to New York, On the road by 9:30am and got out of the van at 7:30pm. We did have several stops for food and to stretch our legs. We travelled over 500 miles and most at 70 mph. In New Zealand the top speed limit is 100 kph, which is 60mph. Warren drove for one stretch of road for about 1.5 hrs. Passing large trucks on the inside at 70mph was very scary at first but he was getting used to it by the time he finished. He stopped before the big intersections came up so he didn’t have to think about which side of the road he should be on. Adrienne took over for the last section and traveling around inner NY at 60mph is quite scary. I can see why a GPS is useful, it lets you know which lane you should be in and takes some of the stress out of driving in a busy city.

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    Please continue. I check in every day to see if you have added another installment. I've enjoyed following your family's trip and would be very disappointed if you stopped now!

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    Okay here it is!!!

    New York Monday 19th Nov 2012

    Now that we were back in New York and here for another seven days, it was time to cross a few more things of my ‘To Do’ list. One of them was to walk the Highline so we decided to do this today. Adrienne had done it before but in the summer time and said it was a very nice walk, with great views. As it was coming in winter now, it wouldn’t be as pretty but we were keen to give it a go. It had been extended too since Adrienne and Josh had walked it. For those of you who may not know, the Highline is an old train track built in the 1930’s that delivered freight into New York buildings at the third floor level. This removed the dangerous rail system from ground-level and made it safer for pedestrians, and cars in the downtown meatpacking district. The last train stopped running in 1980 but in was used less and less in the 1960’s as large trucks took over. When it became known that this rail line was going to be demolished a group of people got together to try and preserve it and get the City’s permission to use as it as a public park.

    It was a lovely walk, some of the gardens had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy and one of the elevators wasn’t working, at one of the entrances, but the majority of it was up and running. We entered at W 30th Street climbing the stairs rather than taking the elevator and walked towards Gansevoort Street. The views were fantastic, and there were staging areas where you could get a particular shot, or just sit and admire the view. As we got towards Chelsea, Adrienne said we had to go down and see the Chelsea Market.

    Chelsea Market was amazing too, lots of different food shops operating in an old biscuit factory, there was one big shop which was full of funky craft stalls, jewellery, T shirts, dresses, hats, old LP’s, etc, etc. We spent some time in this area, just looking at the range of clothing and crafts. We carried on through the market, the Lobster café was packed out, it smelled rather gross, very fishy!!!. The lobsters that people were eating were huge. They are called crayfish in New Zealand but are actually rock lobsters. We went into Jacque Torres and had a REAL hot chocolate. It was delicious, very hot and very rich. It warmed us up though as it was a rather cold day. We enjoyed looking at all the shops and stalls, Adrienne bought some peanuts from one of the places. She was very disappointed because when she roasted them at home, they were rancid, she thought they would have been good quality.

    We took the elevator back up to the High Line to finish the walk (my legs were getting very tired by now), and exited at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, I was dying for some lunch and a cup of tea. Adrienne had a particular place she wanted to take me too, and we seemed to walk for ages before we came to it. We went via Washington Park, we saw squirrels, (I love them) don’t have them in NZ either). There were signs in the park that said there was filming going on, there were cameras and a lot of people but don’t know what was being filmed. We walked through the park , down a block or so and ended up at the Tea Spot, a place that specializes in tea, and has around 30 tins of different varieties of loose leaf tea. The place had been in existence for over 100 years.
    We had a very welcome pot of tea here as well as some grilled cheese sandwiches. It sure did hit the spot. We then went back home to our little apartment in Astoria for a bit of a break, as we were meeting Laurieco a fellow Fodorite for dinner. We decided on P J Carney’s in Midtown for the GTG and had a great time having a few drinks, and getting to know each other. Isn’t it amazing when you get to meet internet friends in real life!!

    We left there about 7pm, Laurie also lives in Queens so we ended up going back together on the subway. We were going around to Adrienne’s place so got off at the Court Square station while Laurie carried on further up the line. Adrienne had been wanting Warren to fix the switch on her Nord keyboard but he hadn’t been able to find the correct wire. He ended up taking a bit from an old RCA cable which Josh had lying around. He also fixed a curtain wire, all things that Dad’s seem to be asked to do when they come to visit, even if it is a few thousand miles away.

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    Tuesday 20th Nov 2012

    Today we took the 7 train to Flushing. This is part of the subway system but is actually above ground. We met Adrienne at her station, and then walked to the other end of it where you catch the 7 train. We passed the stadium where the US Tennis Open is held every year. Flushing is home to a very large Chinatown, and Adrienne and Josh go there regularly as it has great variety of food for vegans. We went into one of the supermarkets; all of the labeling was both in Chinese and English. We also went into a couple of the 99c discount stores it is amazing the variety of things you seem to be able to buy there. We do have them in New Zealand too but they are called
    $2 shops. The quality in Flushing seemed to be a lot better than in our shops. Josh had made some dumplings for us the other night, and Adrienne thought we should now try the real thing from their favourite place in Flushing. They were very yummy. We had a mixture of pork and chicken, while Adrienne had vegetarian. We got back on the subway, and headed to Jackson Heights. This is known as Little India. As we were walking down the streets, we were constantly being given vouchers to go into different Indian restaurants. Adrienne was looking for a particular shop to buy some new curtains for her kitchen window, but she couldn’t find it. We had walked a long way to no avail. We went back to her house, for another cup of tea, (yes I am a tea addict), and have a bit of a break before we went to have a look at Hunters Point. Hunters Point is in Long Island City (about 15 -20 minutes walk from where Adrienne and Josh live.) This used to be an industrial area, but is being redeveloped with a lot of new apartments, restaurants, a new school is being built, new parks, and the waterfront is being completely re-done. Nice walkways, playgrounds, and seating. Adrienne hadn’t been here in a few months and was amazed at the change that had taken place during that time. It is a lovely area to visit, especially so in the summer time.

    Tonight we were going to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This just blew us away, the magnificent theatre, a great show, and the two big Wurlitzer organs that played at either side of the stage at the beginning of the show and at the end. Warren is an organ player and just loved this. The show itself was a lot of fun especially when you put your 3 D glasses on and saw Santa arriving into Manhattan on his sleigh. The dancing was fabulous too, especially the toys in the Nutcracker section. After the show we went outside to view the magnificent Christmas decorations in the next block near the Rockerfeller Centre. There were crowds of people and a great atmosphere.

    We had a bit of a restless sleep after we got home. The heating decided to turn off and we only had only light blanket on our bed. When the heating is going it is very hot in the apartment, and we only need one blanket but last night is was very cold. Thankfully the heating decided to kick in a bit later on in the morning.

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    Wednesday 21st Nov 2012

    This morning we ventured out on our own!! When we were in NYC five years ago, we had gone on the Staten Island Ferry, been down to South Seaport, Wall St, Top of the Rock, but hadn’t been up the Empire State building. We decided that seeing we were here and had time why not do it now. I thought if we got there early we would avoid the queue. We arrived about 9am and there were lots other people there, but didn’t really have to wait for long, only for a few minutes. Had to go through the security check, bags through the X ray etc, and then took the lift to the 85th floor. Had to have our photo taken, which we hate, (didn’t buy it either), but then went outside to enjoy the views. Wow they were fantastic. So high up, we were trying to work out a lot of landmarks but weren’t really sure what we were looking at a lot of the time. We took a lot of photos!!. When we did the Top of the Rock we did it at sunset and that was amazing.

    After Empire State we just decided to do a bit of shopping. We weren’t far from Macy’s and I wanted to see if I could a New York sweatshirt or jacket for our 5 year old grandson Harry. I am afraid the size of department stores in the US generally are a bit intimidating for us, having to go to the 7th floor for example to look at their Christmas display, and then to the basement to get a pie dish (Adrienne was baking a pie for Thanksgiving and didn’t have a dish). is a bit daunting. The large selection also gets you very confused and you seem to stand there for hours trying to decide what to buy. We did eventually buy an expensive pie dish, and managed to get something for Harry.

    Warren wanted to check out a couple of music shops, including one, which was just a piano accordion shop. He played on a couple of the accordions, but they were very expensive. Adrienne was wanting one but only for a $ 200 - $ 300 not
    $ 1500. I think she will have to look at Craigs list. We went to Sam Ash’s also to check out electronic keyboards but there wasn’t anything there that interested Warren. We took the subway back to Adrienne’s and then went with her to do some Thanksgiving shopping. We were going to one of their friends, and needed some wine to take along. We drove to a wine shop next to Costco’s in Long Island City, and were very adventurous and bought some NZ Sauvignon Blanc. There were quite a few people there, and we watched as one man dropped an armful of bottles, straight onto the floor, hmm a basket would have been a good thing to have. The smell was rather overpowering too. We then drove to Greenpoint Brooklyn to get some groceries. Adrienne was making a fruit pie for tomorrow, so needed 5 cups of fruit. She got a variety of berries including cranberries. It wasn't until she was putting them into the pie that she realised they were quite bitter. She halved the amount she was going to put in. She did some other supermarket shopping in a shop she hadn’t been to before and thinks it might be her go to place from now on. Greenpoint is not far from where they live, especially if they drive.

    Tonight we went to the percussion show Stomp. We just loved this show, so clever, and hardly any dialogue. The fact that they can make music from virtually anything from paper, cigarette lighters, brooms, sticks, trash can lids, hands etc is just fantastic.

    Tomorrow our first Thanksgiving.

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    I am still following too, and enjoying it. I am traveling right now and only have my iPhone to reply on ( I find typing anything of length on it quite tedious) so haven't been writing replies, but, rest assured you still have this reader.

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    I am just now catching up. Love your detail.

    Our son and family lived in NYC for quite a few years, continue to work in the city but now live in the burbs. Every time we visited we found so much to do. I am a huge NYC fan.

    Has many times as we have flown I have also forgotten to pack our large toilet items in the checked luggage and promptly had them taken away. Glad your items got thru.

    Thank you for taking the time to report your holiday.


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    Thursday Nov 22nd 2012 Thanksgiving Day

    Today we were celebrating our first Thanksgiving at Becky’s place ( a friend of Adrienne and Josh’s), but that was not until 4pm. We debated about walking Brooklyn Bridge in the morning but by the time we decided it was getting a bit late, so instead decided to go to Roosevelt Island. Roosevelt Island is a small island in the middle of the East River, two miles long and 800 feet wide. We took the F subway there, got out and there was a football game going on at the park. There are a lot of apartment blocks on the island, it would be a very interesting place to live I would imagine. You get great views of Manhattan and Long Island City. Not sure what the rents would be like, probably a bit cheaper than Manhattan itself. Instead of taking the subway back, we took the gondola, which goes from Roosevelt Island to 2nd Avenue at the bottom of Manhattan. It only takes about 5 minutes, and each carriage holds about 100 people. People with bikes use it too.

    We got back home just in time to catch the subway to A & J’s place, and then caught the G train to Brooklyn. This took about 30 minutes on the subway and then another 10 minutes walk. Becky lives in a very nice part of Brooklyn called Park Slope, near to Prospect Park. Her apartment is a lot bigger than A & J's but so is the monthly rent. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, kale salad, and Josh roasted some potatoes. There was fruit pie and pumpkin pie for dessert. A delicious meal. Loved the pumpkin pie, not something that we have in New Zealand. We have things like pavlova, and trifle. There was quite a selection of wine too ranging from sparkling, to dessert wine. Becky had some other friends around also. One of them (an astro-physicist) had been to New Zealand and he wore his Maori design shirt and greenstone pendant in our honour) He also bought his own plate, which he made when he was 6 years old!!!!! )I think he thought Becky was going to be short of plates. She was short of wine glasses, but wine drunk from a beer mug is just as good!!!! We made our way home about 12.30am it was amazing the people walking the streets and waiting in the subways at that hour. A great day.

    Friday 23rd Nov 2012

    Black Friday, the worst shopping day of the year apparently. We didn’t intend to go shopping today but our DIL had e-mailed and wanted us to buy a Google Nexus to bring back as a Christmas present for our son. We decided to go early, and do the Christmas market at Grand Central Station at the same time. We had been a few days ago but Adrienne was with us then, she liked one or two things that we thought we could get her for Christmas. One of them was a photo of the Queensboro Bridge, printed on gold leaf. We thought if they ever came back to live in New Zealand it would be a lovely reminder of where they used to live, close to the bridge in Long Island City. We then went to Staples to buy the Nexus, got it at a bit of a discount because of Black Friday. The streets were starting to get busy so decided to go back home. Just as we got home Adrienne text and said she was in Manhattan and did we want to go to the Christmas market at Union Square. We had a quick lunch and hopped back on the subway to meet up with her and Josh. By this time it was about 2pm and was getting very busy. We looked around for a while, bought a couple of quirky things for the grandchildren. Adrienne wanted to check some more music shops to see if they had any piano accordions. Unfortunately they didn’t. Warren had fun looking at the keyboards, and sound gear though. We decided to call it a day and made our way home. The subway trains were getting very crowded. This was the only time we had struck packed subway cars where you had to push yourself on and off.

    Later on that night we went to an Italian restaurant in mid-town called Sophie's and saw a very nice piano trio. We sat at the bar close to the band, and had a few drinks and some nibbles. We sure made use of our 7-day subway pass. We probably did at least 3 return trips a day the whole time we were in New York.

    Saturday 24th Nov 2012

    Last night I had asked a question on Facebook in the Fodors Friends group as to which museum was the best to go too if you weren’t really museum people. Several people suggested the Metropolitan Museum and also gave us an idea of what exhibits to see. By now we were getting good at sussing out which subway route to use. Only occasionally did we forget we had to change trains and end up at a completely different stop. We avoided the crowds at the Met, even though it was 11am. It was huge and a bit overwhelming. We saw the Egyptian Wing, the American Wing, the Temple of Dendur, some amazing furniture made in the 1700's, with lots of secret drawers and compartments. The Christmas tree decorated with ceramic cherubs, the Andy Warhol exhibition, and the Faberge and Tiffany exhibitions. The circular painting of Versailles was amazing. Warren took lots of photos, his new camera had a museum setting which worked very well. He tried to take one of the Christmas tree with the angels but got yelled at. He also got told off for taking a photo of the cloakroom!!.

    We went back home for a rest and to Skype our son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. I was glad it was Sunday morning in New Zealand as staying up to midnight to Skype during the week was a bit tiring. We went back into Manhattan to go see a jazz band at the Bar Next Door. This was next to the Tea Spot where we had been a couple of days ago. The band was the Jack Wilkens Trio, consisting of a guitarist, double bass, and drums. Jack Wilkens the guitarist had been out to New Zealand a few years ago and gave a master-class at Massey University where Josh and Adrienne were doing their music degrees. Josh as a student thought Jack was a great guitarist but was disappointed in his playing tonight. We did have a meal there, there was also a $ 12 cover charge and you had to pay this for each set. We left after the first set, and went to another Jazz Club called the Garage, to see Champion Fulton, the jazz pianist we saw on our first night in New York three weeks or so ago. Tonight she was playing with her normal band, and her Dad who plays the trumpet. The Garage is a very nice place to have a meal and to listen to music. We eventually got home about midnight.

    Sunday 25th Nov 2012

    Our last full day in New York City. We went to the Morgan Museum this morning to see the Beatrice Potter Exhibition. Adrienne has loved Beatrix Potter ever since she was very small. She named one of her cats Jamimah after Jamimah Puddleduck!!! We now have this cat, as we inherited her and Japetto when A & J moved to the US. Adrienne came along with us to see the exhibition that showed the original picture letters Beatrice Potter had written to the children of her old governess. Later on in her life she got them back again and used them as a basis for a lot of her stories including Peter Rabbit. We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and also the Morgan museum itself. The library, which held thousands of first edition books, was incredible. As was the décor, murals, the magnificent ceilings and chandeliers in the four rooms that had been restored in 2010. We were also told about the secret staircase that linked the library and the house that Pierpont Morgan lived in next door. You could just see it by looking between the bookshelves.

    After the museum visit Adrienne decided she wanted to have lunch at her favourite Mexican restaurant in Greenpoint. We were in mid-town and had to get to Brooklyn so this involved two different subway trains. I was very boring and just had the French Toast it did have a slight Mexican touch. Warren had a burrito, Adrienne had a Mexican version of fried eggs, with rice and beans.

    We came back home for a couple of hours, then went back to Adrienne and Josh's to have a farewell dinner. Josh cooked some yummy vegan corn fritters. We then decided to go to Harlem 132nd Street to the American Legion, where A & J had played a couple of weeks ago but on a Thursday night. Every Sunday night Seleno Clarke runs a jam session there. This was the first place that Adrienne and Josh played at when they came to New York in 2009.

    Here is a piece from the Village Voice about this regular Sunday night jazz session.

    "This city is renowned for its famous jazz clubs, but they're usually packed with well-strapped tourists for a reason: The cover charge can sting. Luckily, there are more economical options available here, like Seleno Clarke's weekly show at American Legion Post 398. Organist Clarke has a career that stretches back to the '50s and a sound that harkens back to '60s r&b. For 14 years now, he and his Harlem Groove Band have hosted a Sunday-night show with guests including legends like George Benson, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Jimmy McGriff. This regular gig has led to him downtown bookings and international tours (where he's known as the "Harlem Ambassador of Jazz"), but the best place to catch him is in his home turf. Get there early though—the venue holds 100 inside and on the patio, and already some savvy tourists have flocked there to hear him. 248 West 132nd Street, 212-283-9701 (10027)".

    We took the A train......... Adrienne and Josh got up to play a few songs. We stayed and listened to some of the other musicians, including Seleno. He is about 70 now but can still play the Hammond B 3, Josh played two or three songs with him. It was a great night of music. Everyone is so friendly. It was funny that sitting across from us at another table were a couple from Auckland New Zealand.

    Tomorrow we leave JFK airport at 3.30pm, get back to Nelson Wed 28th Nov at 12.20pm.

    Monday 26th Nov 2012.

    We did our packing this morning, and managed to get everything in, without having to buy any more bags. We had borrowed Adrienne’s hand scale and relieved that we were still within the weight limit.

    We took the subway to the Air Train. It was a bit of a struggle with the two big bags, and the two carry-ons. More for Warren than me as he had to carry the bigger bags down the subway steps. Someone helped me with the carry-ons. I must have looked helpless. We had to change trains at Queen Plaza but thankfully there was an elevator up to the next track, so it wasn’t too difficult. There weren’t a lot of people on the train either so plenty of room for the bags. We got off at Sulphin Boulevard and took the elevator up to the Air Train platform. We managed to get through the turnstiles okay, we were a bit worried about how the bags would get through, but they fitted fine. We bought tickets for the Air Train and got off at Terminal 7. It was crazy that Adrienne and Josh were also flying out to Auckland today, but two hours later than us, they were flying Qantas. They weren’t supposed to be catching the Sun Princess until the following Thursday but got called up unexpectedly. Their flight was going to be three hours longer than ours as they were to go via Sydney.

    We made a bit of a fuss at the boarding gate about not being seated together, and just before we boarded Warren’s name was called and he had been allocated the seat next to mine. I think it must have been premium economy as there was lots of legroom. We arrived at LAX at 5pm and had to get to terminal 2 and go through security again before boarding at 6.45pm. We thought about waiting for the shuttle but asked someone official for directions, who told us to walk through the car park building, take the elevator up to the third floor, and we would be at Terminal 2.

    There was quite a bit of turbulence on the flight from LAX to New Zealand. The pilot did a good job avoiding a storm and apologized for what turbulence we had. We were in the middle row of 4, but there was an empty seat between myself and another passenger sitting in the other aisle seat. It was a long flight back, a lot of clock watching. We both got some sleep but were very glad when the plane landed at 7.30am. We finally got back to Nelson at 12.30pm Wednesday. As we were flying in, we flew over Farewell Spit, a miniature version of the spit at Provincetown. The only difference is Provincetown is populated, Farewell Spit is not, but is home to a large number of sea birds.

    We had a fabulous trip, got to see some wonderful places, experienced lots of new things, tried different foods, heard and saw some fantastic music.

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    Enjoying your report Nelsonian!

    Note: American bacon isn't meant to be cut, it's meant to be picked up with the fingers and gnawed upon.

    <The immigration officer was very nice and polite, and welcomed us to the US.>

    Good to hear that you weren't abused by the immigration goons.

    <it was about twice the size you get in New Zealand for half the price.>

    You gotta love the US!

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    Thank you for the great report nelsonian. I'm so glad you had a good trip to the US and I am sure that A & J loved having you here and showing you all their favorite haunts.

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    It was so much fun to read this TR in one sitting. I took notes and lost them all as the power went off and back on.

    So, I will just say how great that you heard so much music and Took the A Train (with a nod to Duke Ellington, eh?) and had nice visit with family in NYC.

    Very enjoyable TR!

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    How marvelous that you were able to visit with A&J and then be able to Skype your son and family at home. If A&J stay here I do hope you will return for another visit, plenty more places to visit.

    I thought you were both so brave to continue with the train back and forth to the airport. Not the easiest with suitcases.

    Glad you arrived safely home after a very long flight.

    Once again many thanks for sharing your fabulous trip.


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