Monday, February 25, 2019

Lake Louise, Canada - A winter wonderland - Part 2

We survived the first night and woke the next morning to look at the sun rising, and the fact everyone else was not lingering in bed when there was ice, snow, skating, skiing, and walking on (perhaps) thin ice to be done.

I was the first to brave the elements, it was about mins 10 still, or maybe a little colder, but I had come prepared with a hat, gloves, multiple layers of clothing and a (maybe) windproof jacket.

Of course, there was no wind, just cold.

Stepping out of the warm inside of the hotel to the cold outside was a shock, but after a minute or so to get used to it, I still didn't think I'd be out too long.

First, a photo of the hotel, it was immense, and it explained why there were so many people about.

Then it was the partly frozen trees.  I suspect there had been a little thawing of the snow on the branches

Then of the frozen lake, and it is quite a large lake, and incredible one so large could completely freeze.  I'd like to see it in summer.

Then the brave adventurers who, in summer would be rowing to the end of the lake, who now were taking a hike, and praying no doubt, there was no thin ice

Were they trying to get a close look at this mountain, or considering climbing it.  Yes, there were actual mountain climbers staying at the hotel, and though we didn't know it till later, there was a frozen waterfall which proved the most adventurous with an interesting challenge

More of course, on a unique feature at this hotel, the ice castle.

Lake Louise, Canada - A winter wonderland - Part 1


Bloody freezing.

We arrived mid-afternoon in a heated car, taking the last 500 yards up the icy, snow-covered, entrance to the hotel very slowly.

Outside, it was cold, and it took a minute or so to pluck up the courage to get out.  Of course, the approach of the concierge staff, looking very much like they wanted to unload the car and get back inside, hastening our entrance to the hotel.

Believe me, I thought it was quite possible to freeze to death in that short distance between the car and the front door.  After all, it was somewhere around minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

The foyer was cavernous, and thronging with people.

It seems the freezing cold does not deter a great many people.

So, what was our first view of the lake and so-called wonderland, much preferably taken from the window of our room,

An ice skating rink, an ice hockey rink, and a frozen lake.  Not to mention the astonishing and breathtaking view of the sun on the snow capped mountains.

Nothing and I mean nothing, can prepare you for the magnificence of the view.

And this was just from our room!

Later, it appears some very brave individuals were about to go on a sleigh ride.

That is probably the epitome of what I believe is central to being in the middle of a winter wonderland,

But it was not only one group of brave souls, but there were also quite a few groups.

At least they were all suitably rugged up.

I have to say I felt sorry for the horses.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Away for the holidays - Central Park, New York - Part 3

It's a place to go and spot the movie starts, or perhaps their dogs.

It's a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It's a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn't realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It's a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It's a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I'm sure there's a whole lot more there that I don't know about.

I have to say I've only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn't seem to deter people.


We escaped, before the real cold set in, and made it back to the hotel.  We're going to return because there's more to see.

Like statues,

Sir Walter Scott, of Ivanhoe fame, a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist,  He is regarded as a pioneer of the Romantic movement

Christopher Columbus, hang on, how did he get in this collection?

Fitz-Greene Halleck was an American poet notable for his satires and sometimes called "the American Byron"

And someone who's not dead, and not likely to freeze in the cold air, a drummer, who was doing his best to entertain the few people who stopped to list.

And he wasn't all that bad, either.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Away for the holidays - Central Park, New York - Part 2

It's a place to go and spot the movie starts, or perhaps their dogs.

It's a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It's a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn't realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It's a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It's a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I'm sure there's a whole lot more there that I don't know about.

I have to say I've only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn't seem to deter people.


From various points in the park, you could see the Manhattan skyline.  It was hard for me to tell what I was looking at, but I was always hoping to get a look at the Upper West Side, a place, I know, I could never afford to live.

Still, whatever part it was, it looked good in the afternoon sun,

There are also a lot of bridges to walk under, some with carve-outs and statues, others empty, perhaps once having a statue.

If only I had some idea where I was.  The trick is, you keep walking towards the buildings because they're on the edge, and then head in the right direction.

Ah, this seems to be the right direction, hopefully leading back to Columbus Circle.

Perhaps we should ask for directions.

I'll let you know how we fared in the next post.

Away for the holidays - Central Park, New York - Part 1

It's a place to go and spot the movie starts, or perhaps their dogs.

It's a place to go for long walks on idyllic spring or autumn days

It's a place to go to look at a zoo, though I didn't realize there was one until I made a wrong turn.

It's a place to go for a horse and carriage ride, although it does not last that long

It's a place to go to look at statues, fountains, architecture, and in winter, an ice skating rink

I'm sure there's a whole lot more there that I don't know about.

I have to say I've only visited in winter, and the first time there was snow, the second, none.

Both times it was cold, but this didn't seem to deter people.


This time there was no snow, so there was a sort of bleak beauty about it

and, as I said, it was not enough to deter the people.

They could, of course, be there to play games, such as chess or checkers

Or be there, like us, to go to the souvenir building, or just to get a map

And, the closer to the building you got, the more chance you had to see the squirrels

who would sometimes pose for the photographers,

or run like hell into the nearest tree when they saw children coming

It adds a who new meaning to 'quick as a flash'.

More on the park in the next post!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Away for the holidays - New York - Philadelphia - Day 3

We are up early and I mean early because we decided to take on Philadelphia the next day, and instead of taking public transport because all the fares I could find were ridiculous, we hired a car.

Again the words 'or similar' foiled us.  All charged up and excited its quarter to eight in the morning we arrive at the Avis center just a five-minute walk from our hotel.

Shock number one.  We finish up with some crappy Nissan the desk lady was using as her personal car.

She lied about the car being full of petrol, it was not.

We asked for a GPS and all it was was a glorified phone.  She switched it on, the first didn't work but the second displayed a screen and that was enough for her to say it was set up and working.

You guessed it, another barefaced lie.

We put it in the car, switched it on, and it was in French.  She hadn't checked the language of the last user.

We took it back and she had the audacity to call us 'stupid', blaming us for breaking it, and then she couldn't fix it so she gave us another one which I'm sure she checked for English.

Question, if she could set these things up, why couldn't she instantly fix it.

Sorry, the woman was arrogant and very nasty, and not a good advertisement for Avis or the U.S.A as a place to visit.  I shall never use Avis in America again if she's the best they can put at the front desk.

Still seething from that encounter it was a good thing I wasn't driving.

I remember when I was writing Echoes From The Past I had a sequence of events starting in Lower Manhattan and ending up in Philadelphia.  In that narrative, I was not sure if the main character used the Lincoln tunnel, which, on this occasion, we did.

As it turned out the drive was reasonably accurate in that we also followed the i95 turnpike and a number of tolls along the way.  Unfortunately, our mode of transport was not quite as luxurious as my characters.

Once in Philadelphia, we managed to find the Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Square

 and parked the car outside the Free Library. 

From there we walked to the city center, what some might call City Hall, a rather large and impressive stone structure, and then ended up at stop number six of the big bus tour.

Big bus tour

There are 27 stops of which we got on at 6 and got off at 1, managed by a miracle of fate to get back on at 1 and got off at 8 where our car was parked.  By then we were frozen solid.


There's always an intervening adventure with our outings and the quest was to find the best place to have a Philly Cheese Steak.

Between stops 1 and 6 when we were not on the bus, we hailed a cab, deciding not to wander around the city looking for a Philly Cheese Steak place ourselves.

We had a side mission to the side mission and got the cab driver to take us back to the car so we could lengthen the parking time.  This done, he took us to what he believed was the best Philly Cheese Steak place.

It was a long and convoluted ride that showed us the real Philadelphia, where the citizens live, not the showpiece tourist attractions.

It was somewhere in little Italy. A place called Geno's steaks, a new and shiny restaurant where there was only seating outside.  Mid-afternoon, it was cold.

But were they the best Philly Cheese Steaks.  I'm not an expert so I don't really know.  What I do know is the cheesy steak in a roll was absolutely delicious.  Freshly cooked in front of you, the steak slices were still dripping juices as they were put on the roll with a layer of cheese and onions which you have to ask for.

And at ten dollars each, it turned out to be less than the cab fare to get there.

Of course being dropped in Little Italy in America on the 20th Anniversary of the Sopranos, conjured up too many nightmares to be walking the streets in the fading afternoon lights.

Two boys on bikes who looked like thugs in hoodies scared us into a cab and back to the bus stop to do the last eight stops before going home.

All in all, a very interesting if not at times scary adventure.


As you would expect, the adventure didn't end there.  Since the Maple Leaf's were playing the New Jersey Devils at the Rock, otherwise known as Prudential Stadium, it was someone's bright idea we should go there and see if we could get some tickets.

We got there at 4 minutes to 6.  The door to the box office closed at 6.  We make it by four minutes, get the tickets for considerably less than those for at Scotia Stadium at Toronto, and went home happy.


We returned the car to Avis.  You see, if it doesn't come back full they charge you like wounded bulls for the petrol you didn't put in it, which because we couldn't find a petrol station on the New Jersey side, and the only Manhattan station was in the middle of a fuel delivery, so the eventual cost for the days hire was close to 300 dollars.

Not something I would do again without knowing all of the pitfalls, which I hope we now have covered.

Back at the hotel, all we had to do was figure out how we were going to get there on Thursday.  Public transport was the go so investigations would be necessary before then.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Away for the holidays - New York - Day 2

Today we have a mission and get up earlier than yesterday.  I can't remember how much earlier though.

My early morning walk has now been dubbed the coffee run, running the gamut of New York's finest baristas to get Rosemary what we call, in Australia, a double shot decaf skinny latte.

Ok, they get the double shot, they get the decaf, and they get the latte.  Skinny milk, never heard of it.  Here I think there is whole milk, 2%, and 1%, which I think refers to the amount of fat.  I'm still not sure.

And when it comes to the size of the cup, small medium or large, not even pointing directly at it gets what I want. Day 1 was right, day 2 I got a small.

Then, just to totally take the 'barista' out of the comfort zone, I asked for a small Black.

What the? 

You mean an expresso in a small cup.  Is there such a thing?  Fearing the worst I finally get what I asked for.  I guess some things they can't get wrong.

Oh, and by the way, the art of the true barista has been lost because all they do is press a button.  No wonder the coffee is sometimes terrible.

Our mission since we accepted it, is to find Toys R Us in Times Square.  Years ago we went there with Catie our eldest granddaughter and she rode in a Barbie car on a huge Ferris wheel inside the shop.

If it's still there, we need to buy a pixmi unicorn, an expensively priced stuffed toy unique to North America.

We all get to walk down to Times Square via 7th Avenue, and when we get there it appears to have undergone major changes since our last visit, and where toys were, hoardings and a 'to rent' sign.  We'd heard the company had failed and closed down but we expected some of the franchise stores would still be open.

Not so for the Times Square store.

What was an eye-opener was the number and size of the advertising signs most of which are almost television screens.  Certainly, they advertise not only Broadway productions but also cable tv offerings, with the odd McDonalds and Hershey on the side.

And then there was the one advertising razors.  It was borderline when it comes to being too risque.  Still, it got the message across, even if it does offend some sensibilities.

Far from being exhausted from that quest, and seeing we haven't had breakfast, and, equally, it was about lunch time, we went to the Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Times Square.  It was opposite a Red Lobster, but we didn't go there.  Not today.

I started with a large Samuel Adam's lager, the first of many over the coming week.  This was followed by their Classic American burger, medium rare, and it was simply meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and it was delicious, probably one of the best burgers I've ever had.

To burn off some calories after lunch we walked back to Central Park, and this time ventured as far as the Sheep Meadow before deciding that was enough exercise.

Heading back up 7th Avenue we stumbled upon Rockefeller center and a confectionary and toy store called FAO Schwartz.  A lot of confectionary.  It gives us ideas for the granddaughters when we return another day.  The most interesting, a large slice of Pizza made up of confection.

It is near the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, so we watch the adventurous and not so skillful skaters for a few minutes before heading back to the hotel.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Away for the holidays - New York - Day 1

After arriving latish from Toronto, and perhaps marginally disappointed that while in Toronto, the ice hockey didn't go our way, we slept in.

Of course, the arrival was not without its own problems.  The room we were allocated was on the 22nd floor and was quite smallish.  Not a surprise, we just needed space for three, and the fold out bed.  It was tight but livable.


We needed the internet to watch the Maple Leafs ice hockey game.  We'd arrived in time...


There was no internet.  It was everywhere else in the hotel except our floor.

First I went to the front desk and they directed me to call tech support.

Second, we called tech support and they told us that the 22nd-floor router had failed and would get someone to look at it.


It turns out it didn't seem to be a priority to them.  Maybe no one else on the floor had complained, whatever the reason,

Thirdly, I went downstairs and discussed the lack in of progress with the night duty manager, expressing disappointment with the lack of progress. I also asked if they could not provide the full services we'd paid for, I would like a room rate reduction or a privilege in its place as compensation.

He said he would check it himself.

Fourthly, after still no progress we called the front desk, there was still no internet, so we were asked if we wanted a room on another floor, where the internet is working.  We accepted the offer.

The end result, a slightly larger less cramped room, and the ability to watch the last third of the Maple Leaf's game.  Can't remember if we won.

We all went to bed reasonably happy.

After all, we didn't have to get up early to go up or down to breakfast because it was not included in the room rate, a bone of contention considering the cost.  I'll be booking with them directly next time, at a somewhat cheaper rate, a thing I find after using a travel wholesaler to book it for me.

As always every morning while Rosemary gets ready, I go out for a walk and check out where we are.

It seems we are practically in the heart of theaterland New York.  Walk one way or the other you step on 7th Avenue or Broadway.

Walk uptown and you reach 42nd street and Times Square, little more than a 10-minute leisurely stroll.  On the way down Broadway, you pass a number of theatres, some recognizable, some not.

Times Square is still a huge collection of giant television screens advertising everything from confectionary to TV shows on the cable networks.

A short walk along 42nd street takes you to the Avenue of the Americas and tucked away, The Rockefeller Center and its winter ice rink.

A further walk takes you to 5th Avenue and the shops like Saks of Fifth Avenue, shops you could one day hope to buy something.

In the opposite direction, over Broadway and crossing 8th Avenue and beyond that Columbus Circle, is an entrance to Central Park.  The approach is not far from what is called the Upper West Side, home to the rich and powerful.

Walk one way which we did in the afternoon, takes you towards the gift shop and back along a labyrinth of laneways to 5th Avenue.  It was a cold, but pleasant, stroll looking for the rich and famous, but, also, they were not foolish enough to venture out into the cold.

Before going back to the room, we looked for somewhere to have dinner and ended up in Cassidy's Irish pub.  There was a dining room down the back n and we were one of the first to arrive for dinner service.  The first surprise, our waitress was from New Zealand.

The second, the quality of the food.  I had a dish called Steak Lyonnaise which was, in plain words, a form of mince steak in an elongated patty.  It was cooked rare as I like my steak and was perfect.  It came with a baked potato.  As an entree, we had shrimp, which in our part of the world are prawns, and hot chicken wings, the sauce being hot, and served on the side, for those who are a little wary of how hot that sauce can be.

The beer wasn't bad either.  Overall given atmosphere, service, and food, it's a nine out of ten.

It was an excellent way to end the day.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Away for the holidays - Toronto to New York

After leaving Toronto, we just had enough time to have breakfast and get to the car, another sedan, just managing to fit everything in.

By now we have finally realized the booking agent at Flight Centre had made the wrong type of car bookings for us in Canada, and I will be waiting with interest what cars we get in New York.

We went to a special section of the airport where Air Canada planes depart for the USA, and where the customs and immigration were completed on the Canada side and we just walked out of the terminal into the USA.

The plane trip was undertaken in an Embraer 175, twinjet, a small plane with 27 rows of 2 x 2 in coach, the American equivalent to economy.

Today we are traveling from Toronto Pearson to Newark Airport, somewhere near New York, USA.

The flight, a relatively short one, was supposed to take 56 minutes flying time, but as we all know, that's not usually where the problems lie.

Here is the flight's running sheet:

Boarding completed at 12:08

Push back at 12:18

Advised of a 45-minute wait at 12:41, something is holding us up.

Engines are shut down and we are sitting on the tarmac somewhere within the airfield.  Snacks are handed out.

Take off is at exactly 1:30 pm

Landed 2:40 pm after taking the long way to Newark.  Follow the course tracker as we approached Newark was like watching a drunk wander home from the pub.

Taxied for 8 minutes only to discover our parking bay is still occupied, so waiting to see if it is a long or short wait.

We have been plagued with difficulties.

Engine shutdown, or so I thought, at 2:56 means we are in for a long wait for a gate.  Turns out the engines were on slow idle so they could power the lights and air conditioning.

Here we sit on the tarmac at Newark airport and going nowhere.  Other planes are seen to come and go.

A 3pm announcement, another 20-minute wait for a gate.

3:40 pm we can now go to our gate.

4:15 we exit the terminal and find the car, and set off for the hotel in New York

Suburban 7 seater, very sedate driver, didn't go over 45mph.  Finally, we get a car that fits us and our luggage.

As for the ride from the airport to the hotel...

We were picked up by a Chevrolet Suburban, driven by the most cautious driver in America.  Hoping to get a glimpse of the US countryside on the way from Newark to the hotel, arriving after 4 and getting dark by 4:30, most of the drive was in the dark

As far as I could tell, after taking the Manhattan tunnel, we drove around the outside of the island till we reached the nearest street to our hotel.  It took about 45 minutes but at least it was warm, comfortable and better than any limousine we've had so far.

And then the Manhattan club...

I can't help but think on first sight that this was once a night club, you know, the type that existed in the 40s and 50s where it wasn't a social crime to smoke and drink and then drive home though I suspect most of the customers those days had nearby apartments.

Yes, a different and now lost forever, age.

As for the truth...