Saturday, 10 August 2013

Friday 9th to Saturday 10th August 2013

The last day.
We didn't have much planned other than being at the airport in time for the flight home.
The forecast was an 80% chance of thunderstorms so we made the decision to forego the beach in Cape Cod in favour of a tour of Providence.
It had started raining by the time we left the hotel. We hadn't hurried to leave but even so it was almost 10am before we did.
We took another tour of Ocean Ave, beautiful even in the rain, but too wet to risk the camera.
We turned towards Providence calling in at the Heritage Gallery in East Greenwich, run by three generations of one family, two painters and one glass artist. It transpired the glass artist was a fuser, who made wonderful landscapes as well as smaller coasters and jewellery.
The rain continued to pour down as we continued on to Providence, but got so bad it became dangerous on the road so we pulled off into a parking lot to wait it out.
After about half an hour it had commuted to light rain and we found somewhere for lunch, an Olive Garden restaurant.
Providence we saw, briefly, through the murk as one of the promised thunderstorms hit. There was no point traipsing round a city trying to sightsee and take photos in the pouring rain with thunder and lightening overhead. So we didn't.
We headed for the airport instead. We hit the traffic about 10 miles from the city and spent the next hour and a half crawling through it. The traffic going the opposite direction had even longer queues. We were helped by the express airport lane for HOV - high occupancy vehicles with two or more passengers; it saved us about half an hour.
As hoped our luggage was inside the allowed weight limit, glass and all, so after a meal and a lengthy wait we were on our way.
We'd changed into warmer clothing at Logan, just as well as it was 9 degrees and raining in Reykjavik.
Another hour and a half saw us on the plane to Heathrow.  
We enjoyed America and would like to go back, this time to the west coast. Some places reminded us of England, we felt right at home, others were very different.
I was glad Graeme was doing the driving, although I did drive for a (very) short time. The automatic helped!
Generally, we found the Americans polite, helpful and friendly. We never felt alienated or unsafe. We traveled on many different types of transport and I have come back wanting to know more of the history and geography of the places we visited, especially in New England.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Thursday 8th August 2013

After a breakfast of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs with cheese and toast, we bid farewell to Brooklyn and New York.
We'd left late to avoid the commuter rush but the roads were still busy with every road seemingly at a standstill.
Fortunately the interstate wasn't far, through Queens and the Bronx, but whilst it was moving, it wasn't moving fast.We didn't have a long way to go, 200 miles or so, but we wanted to get to quieter roads.
Our route took us along the Merritt Parkway, a garden highway, one of the first in the country, with pretty bridges, narrow grass verges and wooden crash barriers.
We left it to visit the Essex Steam Railroad Company, a charming little company that runs steam trains along the Connecticut river valley.
We literally just made catching the train - we paid after our ride rather than before.
There were a lot of old-fashioned carriages, open sash-type windows and mahogany woodwork.
We got a running commentary on points of interest along the route.
There is an option of getting off at Deep River and catching a steam boat, the Becky Thatcher, for a cruise along the river, but we stayed on the train. There is a further option of getting off and walking to Gillette Castle too, but we were going there afterwards anyway.
Aboard were the president of the railway, President Lincoln and Mary Todd, all in period costume, and they took the time to walk down the train and talk to all the passengers.
At the northern end of the line the train reverses and goes back to Essex, stopping to pick up and drop off boat passengers.
The whole journey took about an hour and was the complete antithesis of New York!
Of course we took the obligatory photos of a steam train! We visited the gift shop and had bratwurst in the cafe before continuing our journey.
Gilette Castle was custom built by an actor of that name and tours are available. It looks like a ruined castle.
To reach it we caught a ferry, with the car, for the short journey across the Connecticut.
A roll on roll off ferry, it takes about 10 minutes and costs $4 and is one of only a few car ferries that don't operate 24/7 on a highway.
Taking our leave we drove through Niantic to Mystic and the seaport there.
A short visit was on the itinery, but when we got there it cost $24 each to enter but we only wanted to be there an hour.
We didn't go in but we could see the various buildings and boats connected by a boardwalk.
Instead we drove the short distance to Mystic itself. This is sailing country and the inlets abounded with small craft.
A drawbridge guarded the entrance into the village proper, and a pretty village it was, shouting money from every quarter.
On our way out we were held up by the drawbridge being raised and our view was obstructed, not only by the raised road but the large bascules counterbalancing its weight.
Our hotel for the night was in Middletown, Newport. Two long, high bridges carry traffic to the islands of Rhode Island.
After booking in we went for a scenic drive round Newport's Ocean Ave. Bellevue Ave and surrounding roads, is full of mansions, in large grounds largely hidden from camera view. You get tantalising glimpses through gateways but nothing long enough to take a photograph of from a moving car.
We took a quick look at the harbour, with a great view of one of the bridges, and Fort Adams.
For dinner we wanted seafood and the hotel receptionist had given us an idea of where to find the restaurants .... but we couldn't park anywhere close. We tried! Backwards and forwards along two lane carriageways looking for a space, for roads in that we could search in.
Finding ourselves at the top of a hill, a long way from the harbour, we found a empty meter.
Luckily the perfect restaurant was just across the road. Clam chowder, lobster bisque, grilled shrimp and a steak washed down with beer and wine, perfect.
The night was warm, the promised rain hadn't arrived and were in a lovely town. Tomorrow is our last day.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Wednesday 7th August 2013

Our second and final day in New York city.
Today we were going to visit the places we had missed; but first the place that caused New York to hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Ground Zero.  
We caught the B line from Newkirk in Brooklyn to Dekalb Street.

The New York subway system is vast. There are numbered lines going north-south and lettered lines coming in from the suburbs. The stations are stiflingly hot, the trains icy cold.
The platforms are long and narrow and there could be three tracks side by side, the middle one being the through line.
The stations are small, just steps down, ticket machines, platform unless more than one line is present.
Travel is by Metrocard only and each journey, however long or short, is $2.50. Up to four people can share a Metrocard and, once bought, can be topped up easily.
The stairs from above go straight on to the platform and the platform either side of the stairwell can be just a few feet wide.
The trains themselves are no different to anywhere else, but the newer ones have digital displays for which train you are on, where it's going, the time and the next stop. They also have a list of stations the train is stopping at and how many stops it is from where you are. The older ones have nothing other than the line you are on and the start and finish stations.  

At Dekalb we changed to the Q, and then the R to Rector Street.
The World Trade Center was down in the lower west side, not the easiest to get to from Brooklyn.
We had booked our time, 10am, from home and there is only a 30 minute window. There is a lot of queuing, three checks that you have a ticket, but entry is free.
The route round the construction site eventually brings you out into a large open area with lots of trees, including the survivor tree which survived the destruction.
The memorials are large square pools, set deep into the ground, with a smaller square sinkhole in the centre. Water flows continually down the sides and into the sinkholes.
Around the top are slanting granite plinths with the names of everyone who died inscribed on them. It's a very peaceful place with lots of low granite blocks for people to sit on and contemplate.
There is still building work going on, but the Freedom Tower, on the new 1 WTC is close to finishing and will be the highest in the western world.  

We left and walked into the financial district, along Wall Street, past the Federal Reserve, Federal Hall, the New York stock exchange and paid a fleeting visit to Trinity Church. We found the original Stone Street, supposedly full of old buildings, but now so full of restaurant tables you can't see the buildings at all.

Heading towards the river we found the Charging Bull, symbol of the bull market in the stock exchange, but there were so many people crowding round it that we took a couple of token photos and moved on to the Bowling Green park next to it for a quick rest.

The river wasn't far and we took the Staten Island ferry across the river and back again.
The ferry gives you great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, and is free of charge. The statue is on the right going to Staten Island.

Staying with the nautical theme, once back in Manhattan, we walked alongside the river, past the old slips, to South Street Seaport aand Pier 17.
Here there are lots of shops, mostly selling souvenir merchandise, and food outlets.
We had lunch and I tried a corn dog, very tasty, whilst Graeme had a chili and cheese dog.

As our bus tickets were still valid, we hopped on one for a couple of stops, to where China town meets Greenwich Village, then walked through the Village to Lafayette Street where we stopped in one of the innumerable Starbucks for coffee.  
Onto the 6 line uptown to Grand Central Station for photos. What a building! It's impressive from the outside, but when you walk in it's wall to wall pale marble.
Huge, high-ceilinged areas, chandeliers, steps, even the tickets booths are carved marble and ornate.  

A walk of about eight blocks down 5th Ave brought us to Macy's, New York's most famous department store.
It's huge, and encompasses a whole block.
We had a wander around, but were flagging by this point so had some dinner there.
Revitalised, we carried on, and came away with my anniversary present.  

Heading back to the hotel we caught the B line and treated ourselves to wine and beer once back in Brooklyn as Chelsea were playing in the final of the Guiness International Champion's Cup; unfortunately they lost to Real Madrid.  

New York is an extremely busy city, a seething mass of humanity and an extensive city full of people of every description.
It truly never sleeps.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Tuesday 6th August 2013

New York city. This time  we caught the Q line to Times Square, putting ourselves in the heart of Manhattan.
A seething mass of people, in cars, on buses and on the sidewalks.
Busy, chaotic and vibrant.

We needed to convert our online purchase of a city tour package into real tickets at Madame Tussauds just off Times Square. It took about 30 minutes due to the queues, but once done we were free to roam.

We caught our first bus to Central Park West where we got off to walk across the park. It's a lovely retreat from the bustle outside its borders with lawns, rocks and even a mini castle and ponds. We didn't linger for too long as we had a lot of city to see. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was directly across the short side of the park so we headed for there and caught another bus opposite the Guggenheim Museum, itself an interesting, um, modern building.

This journey ended at the Rockefeller Center, a three block complex with shops and dining areas underneath. There seems to be ten food outlets for one of any other type, and that doesn't include the numerous food trucks, selling all manner of snacks, ice creams and drinks. We had a pretzel, but weren't impressed. The German ones are much nicer!

Lunch was in a deli near the Rockefeller Center before we headed for the Top of the Rock, a fast elevator ride to the top of the tower. Unfortunately we had almost an hour to kill before we could go up, and the irritating little bods checking tickets wouldn't let you loiter until your due time so we just had to spend some time looking at the shops in the underground complex. Hardship!
Finally our time came round and we had the privilege of queuing to enter an elevator to go up two floors, then queuing again to have our bags searched before queuing once more before shooting up to the 67th floor, but the views were worth it.
There were two more floors to climb for even better views.The day was warm and sunny and we could see for miles.
The view over the city was breathtaking and I didn't want to go down.

The bus tickets we'd bought were valid for uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, the night tour and a ferry ride out to the Statue of Liberty.
We'd covered the bits of uptown we were more interested in and had had two tour guides, one fairly enthusiastic, the other less so. When we got on the downtown tour, we found a gem in Jerry.
He was born and bred Queens and the passion he felt for his hometown shone through with every sentence. Not only was he well-informed, he was passionate about it too. From the history of New York to where to eat and how much it would cost, he was eloquent and entertaining.
He was our guide for the whole of the downtown, through Greenwich Village, China town, Little Italy and back to Times Square.

We were undecided whether to take the night tour or not as it was a two and a half hour trip, no stops, starting late. We didn't get back until 7.30pm and we hadn't had dinner, but when Jerry said he would be the guide, that was the deciding factor.
So, we went and bought a picnic for the bus, grabbed a quick drink in an Irish bar and were back to the bus within half an hour.
We were not disappointed. Jerry was indeed our guide and he didn't let us down.
Between him and the bus driver, Chester, it was a very enjoyable trip. The route covered some areas not covered on the day tours including a visit to Brooklyn via the Manhattan bridge and a slow/stop when we could take night photos of both the skyline and Statue of Liberty.
We were late back to the hotel, but we were happy.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Monday 5th August 2013

We bid an early farewell to Washington as our parking meter kicked in at 7am and we didn't intend feeding it.
As it was we joined rush hour, Washington-style, fortunately most of it going in the opposite direction.  

We left DC via Maryland, and passed Annapolis onto the Chesapeake Bay bridge, 4 miles over water, each carriageway having its own bridge.
We stopped for breakfast 2 hours later in Centerville, MD, just down the road from Middletown, DE .... our first Dunkin Donuts.    

We stopped in New Castle in Delaware on the Delaware river estuary. A quaint little town, with old buildings, a village green and a great park next to the river.  

Lunch was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the historic district.
We followed a walking tour round the older parts, with cobble streets and brick pavements.
The Declaration of Independence was signed here, and the Liberty Bell had a queue of people wanting to see it.
Lunch was in the City Tavern with iced water served in goblets. Charming place with waiters in period costume.

After a quick detour to visit the head office of Unisys on the outskirts of Philadelphia (or Phila on all the signs!) we hit the interstate again stopping for coffee in New Jersey, before arriving in Brooklyn, NY, via Staten Island (thanks for the scenic route SamSam).  
Our hotel is a privately run bed and breakfast very close to the B and Q rail lines between Brooklyn and Coney Island.

Once settled we caught the B to Brighton Beach, a Russian enclave. The shops were selling Russian goods, the train track was a loud intrusion and overhead (just like on TV) and it was very busy. We walked down to the sandy beach and had dinner at a Russian restaurant overlooking the sea and the wide wooden boardwalk. It was full of people strolling, chatting, relaxing and having a lovely time. After dinner a chill wind had started to blow so we had a brief stroll along the boardwalk before catching the train back.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Sunday 4th August 2013

Washington, home of the American president.
We were staying at the State Plaza and had a kitchen and dressing room in our suite on the 7th floor. No breakfast though so we set out to find some.

The White House was about 10 minutes walk so we went there first.
As it was still early there weren't many people about so we had a good unrestricted view of the iconic scene. It looked lovely in the sunshine and manicured gardens.

The quest for breakfast continued as we passed no end of closed coffee shops. It was Sunday, and a city that works Monday to Friday, so we were getting hungry until we asked a policemen and he pointed us in the direction of a tucked away Starbucks.  

The Mall is huge, both in width and length, ringed with museums for every taste. As we were only here for a day we chose two.

But first the Capitol building, dominating the east end of the Mall and next to one of two reflecting pools. There wasn't much reflecting going on as firstly it was a bit windy and the water was moving too much and secondly there was absolutely nowhere to sit if you did indeed want to reflect on anything.
A group of Bolivian dancers were getting ready to perform, braiding hair and donning brightly coloured clothing and headgear, but we didn't see them perform by the time we'd looked at the Capitol and walked round the pool.

The Capitol is impressive, in white marble and stepped in front with a white domed tower. Unfortunately they weren't allowing anyone up the steps.

The first museum we came to as we set off down the Mall was the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, one of our choices.
The museum has a large round atrium going the full height of the building, four floors, with three reconstructed canoes at the base.
We went up to the fourth floor and made our way down through all the exhibitions ranging from the early years, when the settlers arrived, right up to modern day and where they are now.
It covered Indians from North, Central and South America.
There were plenty of examples of clothing, implements and weaponry.
We had lunch here too, fry bread with cinammon and honey, and chili soup.

The Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space, our other choice, is next door.
This houses the history of flight ending in space.
There are interactive games and scientific experiments, flight simulations and a visit to a modern cockpit alongside the first ballon to circumnavigate the Earth and moon-landing craft.  
All the museums are free and open all year round, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.  

The obelisk-shaped Monument, commemorating George Washington, graces the opposite end of the Mall but was covered in scaffolding, like a number of the other buildings.
It faces the Capitol to the east and the White House to the north.
To the south is the Tidal Basin, an enclosed body of water with an outlet to the Potomac. Here you can hire a pedalo, but today they were fighting the wind.

It was blowing strongly as we walked round to the Thomas Jefferson memorial.
This building is large, round and white and dominates the basin. It's an attractive building that draws the eye.

Further round is a memorial to Franklin D Roosevelt.
At first glance it's just a wall, but then it opens out into a series of water features, or would have been if there had been any water. We guessed, due to signs saying no wading and coins ruin the fountains! Quotes of Roosevelt's were chiseled into the walls.

Next in line was Martin Luther King, unfortunately also shrouded in scaffolding, but the main statue of the man was clear and proud in white marble.
Again, his quotes were resplendent on the surrounding walls.

There was a memorial to the soldiers who had died in the Korean War, but we didn't visit. From what we could see it was a number of statues of soldiers in combat gear standing in grass.

After a brief cooling down break, that featured iced tea and ice cream, we visited the Lincoln  memorial, the largest of them all.
Raised up on steps, in white marble and surrounded by Doric columns, the memorial is very impressive. It reminded me of a Greek temple.
The statue of Lincoln is inside and you have to climb the steps and go inside to see it.
It looks out over a second reflection pool all the way back to the Monument and beyond, in the distance, to the Capitol. The White House can't be seen from anywhere except right in front of it.

It was decision time. Did we walk the five blocks back to the hotel or a further mile across the bridge over the Potomac into Virginia to visit the National Cemetary at Arlington?
The cemetary won out, so we hauled our weary limbs a bit further.

Straight off the bridge is a wide, neat road and at the end was a large wall, but we didn't have to go that far. The entrance came up on the left into a large airy building with a shop and information. Continuing through the building comes out in the cemetary.
Lines upon lines, in field after field, of white regular headstones. A sobering sight.
We walked to the grave of John F Kennedy which was on a little hill all by itself. With the grave of Jaqueline Onassis alongside, an eternal flame burned. We would have liked to have visited the tomb of the Unknown Soldier but by then our feet were protesting loudly and we considered catching the Metro back, but we had one more place to visit.

Back across the river we went round the back of the Lincoln memorial, past where the Vietnam memorial is planned for, and on to the Albert Einstein memorial. It is a large cast bronze statue, reclining against some steps, with a shiny nose where peole have rubbed it for good luck.

It seemed a long way back to the hotel, but it was only a few blocks, and we were glad to see it as we'd walked quite a number of miles in very hot weather.  
Dinner was in a nearby restaurant and afterwards we walked back down to the White House to take photos of it lit up. It was not to be. We could walk round the sides, but when we got to the place we'd been earlier in the day the police were moving everyone further away. We could only assume he was home.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Saturday 3rd August 2013

Back to a more normal day except breakfast was waitress served, not self-service as it had been up until now.
Biting the bullet I had a short stack of pancakes with maple syrup and 'breakfast meat' aka crispy bacon, with grapefruit juice. A short stack, I was informed, was two pancakes, a tall stack three. Thinking I could quite happily manage a couple of pancakes, I ordered the short stack, but forgot to include the American factor. They were both the size of a dinner plate and a good half inch deep. Needless to say, that although delicious,  I didn't finish. I didn't get offered a box either.

Once we'd checked out we wandered down to the farmer's market, just one stall, and giving it up as a bad job continued on our way.
The county we were in, and the neighbouring one, had a weekend long yard sale. Anyone could put goods out for sale along the roadside.

First stop was a double span, double width covered bridge, in Philippi, the only one left that has a US road across it. The US roads are classified in a number of ways: interstates, freeways, highways, county roads, US roads, state roads and common or garden town roads. They all have their own number, some have two or more if they are classified that way, plus the number is displayed with a different boder. US roads have a ' sheild', state roads are square with black numbers on a white  background, and county roads vary in colour.  

We found a couple of yard sales to have a look at before continuing on to US33 over the Appalachian mountains, a fun road, one US motorcyclists are particularly fond of, lots of bends, switchbacks and blind corners. Our Toyota Camry didn't enjoy it quite so much as, being an automatic with cruise control, it couldn't work out which gear to be in.  

Seneca Rocks, as a tourist destination, was a bit of a let-down, but great if you like rock-climbing as it's the most climbed vertical rock face in the US. We went for a walk down to the river, a very rocky, narrow creek.
Families were there, making the most of the weather setting out tables of food and playing games.  

The aptly named Spruce Knob, highest mountain in West Virginia, was our next destination.
For a change there were places to stop and take photos and we leapfrogged a pair on a Harley Davidson motorcycle all the way to the top, useful if you need a photo of the two of you.
There were, indeed, spruces at the top. All the other trees were deciduous, as the mountain was only 4860 feet high. A tall observation tower allowed you to (almost) see over the treetops in every direction.  

We fuelled up in Harrisonburg before visiting Luray Caverns.
This is the fourth largest cave system in the US and well worth a visit.
Costing $24 each, you enter as a group but once all the safety information has been imparted you are free to follow the path through at your own pace. Guides are situated along the way to tell you what you are looking at and what to expect next.
The caves were dry as the caves are at the top of a hill and water no longer flows through them. Lots of stalagmites and stalagtites, curtains of rock and some that looked like towelling.
The mirror pool was especially good as it was hard to believe there was any water there.
The piece de resistance was the organ; a large chamber named the cathedral housed a number of separate stalagtites and it was discovered that if they are tapped gently they resonate in a series of notes, hence the organ.  

It was getting late and we still had a long drive ahead with the Skyline Drive to look forward to; 100 miles of road along the top of the blue ridge mountains. We were driving 30 miles of it to Front Royal. It costs $15 to go along the road and never closes.
Lots and lots of overlooks, alternating one side then the other, with lovely views as the sun went down.
Best of all we saw two deer, one just a baby, but they were way too shy of the camera.
There is a speed limit lf 35 mph over most of the road but the Camry had trouble with that too.
We enjoyed the drive, made better with the sunset and low lying cloud.
Once again we had the road practically to ourselves and the peace and quiet in the hills was lovely.
It was over far too soon, even though it had taken us over an hour to drive.  

Washington next. It was over an hour away and darkness had fallen and, on top of that, the drizzle that at started at the caverns, and had stopped on Skyline Drive, suddenly became heavy.
So were driving on I-66, in the dark and in the rain.
Good job we had SamSam to show us the way because we could barely see the road, never mind the white lines (that sometimes had cats eyes and sometimes didn't).
I was a bit terrified, mostly because I couldn't see a thing. It turns out we came in across a bridge over the Potomac. I never saw it!
We made it though. The hotel was 2 minutes from the interstate. The concierge found us a parking space on the road for free (no charge for parking on Sundays), and we were here.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Friday 2nd August 2013

Today was going to be long, hot and probably very boring!
As we'd bought tickets for the Chelsea game after working out our route, we had to drive the equivalent of two days in one.
Instead of staying overnight in Portsmouth, Ohio, we were now aiming to be there at lunchtime.
It also meant we would have to miss out some sightseeing and some other places would be closed by the time we arrived.
Chelsea were worth it though.

We drove to Cincinatti, Ohio, leaving Indiana behind.
The cornfields continued as did the fields of soya beans (not mint after all).
The Ohio river runs along the border between Ohio and Kentucky, and we were going to be following the river for a while.
Cincinatti has four road bridges, the first one being a mini replica of Brooklyn bridge in New York. It was the most interesting as the others were big steel structures although, one was a fetching shade of pale yellow. We meandered our way over three of them, not because we wanted to go over as many as possible, but because that was the way our route to the Ohio Scenic Byway took us.

The scenic byway really isn't scenic unless you like trees with an occasional glimpse of river, and if you are lucky, a river boat like an old-fashioned steamboat.
Once again it seems that Americans don't get the opportunity to pull over and take in the view.
We managed to find a small view by the edge of a town, but they make it very difficult.

The road was quiet, bordering on empty and, with no real view to entertain us, it quickly became tedious. We stopped at a diner, at Fort Shawnee, for lunch and coffee more to keep us awake than any hunger. Villages or towns along the road were few and far between, having no centre with occasional houses strung along the way.

We arrived in Portsmouth, famous for the murals on the floodwall. Fantastic artwork depicting the history of the area and honouring prominent local people. They took 20 years to complete and were done by one artist. We popped into the visitor centre there where the lady was delighted we were English as it is a place she has always wanted to visit but never done so.

We crossed the river a few more times passing a few corn and soya bean fields and lots of trees before crossing into West Virginia.
More trees and the Blenko Glass Company.
We were too late for the glass blowing demos, unfortunately, but we had a look in the shop at the wonderful vases and glasses in a whole rainbow of colour.

Our next port of call was Charlston, capital of West Virginia. The golden dome, on the state capital building,  was spectacular to look at in the sunshine. We had intended to stop but, due to lots of one way roads and no parking places, we couldn't get close. There was also a multicultural festival going on somewhere but it either wasn't on or had finished as we saw no sign of it.

Deciding we'd had enough of Charlston we headed for the hotel.
Looking for coffee we turned off the interstate only to find the advertised food and fuel was 10 miles further in the wrong direction.
The hotel was in Buckhannon, a sleepy little town. There was a party going on in the park so we strolled down to have a look; a live band and stalls selling food and craft items.
We had dinner in the hotel, yummy potato soup, fritatta and meatloaf with buttermilk pie for dessert.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Thursday 1st August 2013

Got up a bit more leisurely today as we were staying in Indianapolis.
We had planned to move on, but then found out Chelsea were playing Inter Milan at the Lucas Oil Stadium tonight and had bought tickets. A unique opportunity to see our team that we weren't going to miss. I'd even bought a football shirt for the occasion.

First thing though was to check out Indianapolis itself. Its claim to fame was the Indy 500 race circuit, nicknamed the Brickyard, as it was originally paved with bricks, and now keeps a yard wide strip of bricks across the width of the track as a tribute. We paid it a visit, being very surprised that you could drive into the circuit to visit the museum.
After that we drove across town to the stadium to pick up our tickets for the game, and then into city to have a look around.

Indianapolis is a slow-paced city with wide streets, well-lit at night. It has a lovely relaxed feel with few tower blocks.
It is built on a grid system, which makes it easier to navigate and disperses the traffic, so it is never too busy. The roads alternate in being one way so I didn't have to think too hard about which way to look.
The more major intersections are controlled by pedestrian lights too. You walk on the white man, stay put on the red hand, and it tells you how long you have to cross in a countdown. You aren't supposed to cross after the hand starts flashing.
In America they have a rule at lights which says you can turn right, on a red light, if the way is clear. It makes the traffic flow much better because you don't have long queues waiting for lights; you just have to watch for pedestrians as well as cars. You have to give way to pedestrians.
In fact Americans are immensely patient and courteous with pedestrians, the cars keep well back and wait whilst you cross even major roads.  

We'd planned a walking tour starting with the Monument in the centre. This is surounded by fountains and steps and is in the centre of the city. We stopped for a coffee in the Chocolate Cafe near the Monument. I needed the restroom and went out the marked door to find it, straight into the lobby of an office building. Being told I needed the basement, by lift, I pressed the button. I went to 10, picked up two people, 5 picked up another one, 2 to drop one off and back to 1, where I'd started, to drop off 2 then down to B. Found the restroom, locked! Fortunately a lady appeared with a key. Graeme thought I'd got lost.  
All the shops are in one shopping area, the Circle Centre; the rest is made up of office buildings, grand government buildings and other public ones such as musuems and libraries.

On one side of the city is the canal, a peaceful, pretty area with a static canal; home to ducks, geese and fish. There weren't many benches to stop and have lunch, or just admire the view, but we enjoyed strolling along it. You can hire a pedalo if you like, we didn't.
We made our way back towards the centre, visiting the city market, but it sold food and we weren't hungry just yet. The day was hot, climbing to about 29 degrees, so suntan cream was the order of the day. I managed not to burn, an achievement in itself!  
When we had looked at everything the city had to offer we drove to Broad Ripple Village, an artsy area our host said might interest us.
We had lunch in the 3 Sisters Cafe, also recommended by our host. And what a lunch. It would have done me breakfast, lunch and dinner. Graeme had an enormous toasted turkey triple sandwich and I had taco salad, a dinner plate with a mountain of white, red and black tacos interspersed with refried beans, chili, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and a side of ranch. The rest of the plate was filled with salad. Very tasty but way, way too much food. However the mango ceylon ice tea was delicious. It was our last meal of the day!
Afterwards we visited a fairly expensive clothes shop with a very nice lady, who'd visited England, and a vintage clothes shop where I bought a waistcoat. Then it was back to the hotel to get changed for the match.  

We walked the 15 minutes to the Chatham Tap to meet up with the Indy Blues and had a drink before walking to the stadium.
Soccer isn't a much played sport here. American football, baseball and basketball are more popular. Soccer is played in school, but interest seems to peter out after that, so it was both surprising and pleasing that 42, 000 attended the game.
The stadium can hold 62, 000 and had been specially turfed for the match. Free flags abounded and people were carrying a handful. We were given one by a kind gentleman. We had excellent seats, row 11 just near the halfway line, and because the seats stepped up at row 8, an excellent view.

Now Americans don't watch much soccer, a fact that became apparent once the match started, as they all stood. Not much use when you have a good seat and wanted to watch. Thankfully a man with a very loud voice requested, very politely, that they sat and the vast majority got the idea and complied. A little group didn't for a while, they were some of the Indy Blues. So excited at seeing their team for real I guess but they sat down in the end.
Of course everyone got up and cheered when we scored - twice.
We were sitting next to a local family on our right, who had been to the London Olympics, and the son was a Man Utd fan ... On our left was a man from Milwaukee who always travelled to watch Chelsea play in America.

It was over far too soon, but we were the victors, and we joined the throng leaving the ground. By the time we'd got to the far side of the town it was down to just the two of us as we walked the two miles back to the hotel.

Wednesday 31st July 2013

We have a lot of distance to travel today, a lot of driving down to Indianapolis.
The weather was cool and dull with rain expected.
If it's going to rain I'm pleased it's on a day we are mostly in the car. And it did rain, quite heavily at times. Then the sun would come out for a bit.
We stopped briefly at a lakeside to stretch our legs, but didn't stop again until we spotted Rachael's diner in the oddly named village of White Pigeon. Obviously where the locals socialise, it cost us the princely sum of $2 for a couple of cups of coffee.

Indiana is cornfields, interspersed occasionally with a few trees, plus some other small crop about a foot high which we think maybe mint (but we really aren't sure!). And farms, quite a lot of small farms, looking clean and tidy with tall silver silos and carefully painted farmhouses and outbuildings.

Our first, and it turned out our only, stop was at Amish Acres, a working Amish farm. We paid for a tour package of a brief documentary film, the house tour and the wagon ride. Unfortunately the wagon tour became a walking tour as the grounds were slowly being taken over by marquees for a two day festival starting tomorrow. Unfortunately too as it had been raining and it was a tad muddy, with me in Birkenstocks.
The documentary was brief and informative, charting the beginnings of the Amish exodus to this country. We were the only ones in there ...
The house tour was worth doing. There were about ten of us in this group and we were shown all the different buildings the Amish use in their day to day living - smoke house, food drying hut and bake house, and the living areas. The Amish do not use electricity so everything was a throwback to the 19th century.
They speak Pennsylvania Deutsch and pray in High German.
The walking tour took in more structures in the grounds of the farm including a school house and ice house.
Of course we had to visit the bakery and fudgery before we left, especially as we didn't get lunch :)  
We saw a few Amish houses after the farm, and one or two horse-drawn carriages on the road.

We were planning a visit to the Kokomo glass factory, as we were passing, but we'd been so long at Amish Acres that it would have been 6pm before we got there. As I'd spent (ahem too much) at the Gathering, I didn't mind missing it too much. Plus they make sheet glass and maybe wouldn't be suitable anyway.

We were pleasantly surprised with Indianapolis. We'd come in along highway 31 and the houses were huge and beautiful. And so many of them. There were a few tall buildings but not many as we'd come to to expect in American cities. The hotel is one of those clapboard, interesting houses we'd been looking at since we arrived in America. It has steps up to the large porch, which also contains a set of table and chairs and a swing seat. The house is very large, with high ceiling airy rooms, tastefully furnished in the style of a bygone era with polished, wooden, creaky floors.

We walked the 15 minutes into the city to Mass Ave, the street for restaurants and bars. We had dinner in Macnivens, a Scottish pub, before going to the Chatham Tap where the Chelsea fans meet up to watch matches on the big screens there. They made us very welcome and we shared a few beers (they sell Strongbow *happy me*) whilst talking all things Chelsea.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Tuesday 30th July 2013

We said goodbye to Toronto with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and croissants, toast and jam, tea and pastries.
Finding the road out was problematic as there are no signs, no place names to aim for and no signs telling you where the road we needed was. As said before, Graeme has a wonderful sense of direction and knew roughly which direction we needed to go, so by trial and error we eventually found the right highway. And it was busy as it was 8 am and rush hour.
We headed off the main highway eventually, onto the more minor roads with corn fields either side and much, much less trafic. Bliss!  

Our first stop of the day was Munro Honey and Meadery, being fans of the odd drop of mead. It was in the town of Alvinston, down 'back' roads lined with corn. The speed limit was 90 km/hr and that is what we were doing, following a police car. The traffic built up a bit behind us, until one guy had had enough. Graeme said 'he'll see the police car and pull in behind it' which is exactly what he did, but then, for some inexplicable reason decided to overtake the police car - at which point the blue lights came on and he got pulled. Baffling!
The meadery was lovely. A small shop full of all things bees and honey. We had a browse then picked up a bottle of mead to buy with our remaining Canadian dollars. We got talking to the lady serving us and ended up tasting three different meads of varying sweetness (the sweetest was my favourite of course!) and one callled Melomel, a blend of mead and fruit juice. Then she showed us the bees, hidden behind a board in the shop. She explained all the different moves they do, the way they dance to tell the other bees where the nectar came from and how plentiful it was, how the queen has a red spot painted on her back and how the queen lives three to five years when the workers live about forty five days.

As we were crossing the border into the US at Sarnia/Port Huron we thought it would be good to see our third great lake, Lake Huron. We left the main highway and plunged into small town Cananda to take a look. We found a gem. A  pathway led down a grassy incline to a sandy beach with a few people sunbathing. An idyllic spot. I would have liked to stay and sit for a while. Blue sky, blue lake so large it looked like the sea.

But we had an appointment to keep, and not knowing how long it would take to get through the border, we had to go. As it was, customs was a formality. Did we have anything to eat in the car? No. We wereback in America - and welcome back SamSam. We'd missed her gravelly, deadpan American voice telling us where to drive.

Lunch was Tim Hortons, this time chilli and mac and cheese. They do combos of sandwiches/soup with donuts, pastries and a drink. Two combos cost us $12 with tax so a good cheap meal. Tax is awkward because you aren't sure how much it's going to cost. The amount of tax varies each state and some don't charge it at all. At the meadery the tax was included, usually it isn't.

After fuelling up we continued our journey to Dearborn, close to Detroit, and the Henry Ford Museum. We'd booked tickets for the Rouge factory tour. We parked our car at the museum and caught a free shuttle bus for a 15 minute drive to the plant. After a couple of video presentations on Henry Ford and the rise of his car production company, we got to see the production of F150 trucks for real. Gantries overlooked the production line and we could watch workers fitting door panels, wing mirrors, headliners, steering wheels, etc. It was very interesting, not only to see how the production line worked and the order in which a car is put together, but to realise how efficient the process is. Each worker does a tiny part, at a work staion equipped with the tools and parts required. They don't move far but if their work takes a little longer their platform moves along with the car. Some tasks require two or four people to complete it. It looked boring and repetitive for the workers, we had no way of knowing how long their shifts were or how often they got a break, they worked on their feet. But for us as visitors it was fascinating. Trucks without doors trundled on conveyor belts, doubling back on themselves, being raised up or lowered down depending on which bit was being worked on next, being lifted up above our heads before coming back down, the bed of the truck was worked on seperately as were the doors. This particular truck has been the best seller in the US for 47 years. We could take our time in this section. There we plenty of mini videos and information boards explaining what was being worked on at that particular point. It must be distracting for the workers to have a succession of people peering down at them all day long ...

We jumped on a bus back to the museum but didn't go in, deciding we'd seen enough for today. Instead we drove to Ann Arbour, home (for those that are interested) of Starkidz. It is a charming little town, with a university, and has a thriving town centre. The shops are open until 9pm, there are numerous cafes and restaurants and full of life. We loved it.
Dinner was at an Israeli restaurant called Jerusalem Garden. We had hummus, kofta kebab, falafel and mixed salad with lemonade (no alcohol) and the waiter sat at our table whilst he took our order. Very friendly atmosphere, we ate outside as it was a warm (76F) evening and then took a stroll round to look at the shops and find a fairy door. There are fairy doors are all over Ann Arbour. There are about twenty in total but hidden away, you have to go and find them. Luckily we knew of one just off Main Street, a little red one, mirroring its giant counterpart.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Monday 29th July 2013

We took our leave of Niagara Falls after a superb breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage, hash browns, fruit, yoghurt, toast and crepes. Don't think we'll need lunch.
First stop was the whirl pool where the Niagara turns a corner and results in a swirling eddy that you can take a cable car over. We didn't as you can get a good view of it from either side of the basin, which we did. The water was a deep aqua and white.

Then we paid a quick visit to the floral clock, near the hydro-electric plant, made to offset some of the ugliness of the industry there. There are also botanical gardens.

This is another wine region, famous for its ice wines. The grapes are frozen at some point during the process and I was eager to try a sample so we called in to one of the numerous vineyards for a tasting. We came away with a bottle of ice wine and another of Riesling-Gewerztraminer blend.  

We had a brief look at Fort George - the 1812 war was a major factor in this area's history - before continuing on to Niagara on the Lake. Very pretty town with flowers everywhere, a monument in the road and lots of boutique type shops. It was also very expensive, probably due to the fact that a lot of wealthy people own property here. The houses along Queen Street reek of wealth, large and opulent in extensive grounds, and you'd want to own one! We weren't very impressed with the town. It seemed locked in time. Not the buildings so much as the goods for sale. There was a British shop there with, amongst other foodstuffs, Atora suet, Marmite and  Colemans mustard for $6 an item.

A canal unites Lake Erie with Lake Ontario and very large ships take 12 hours to pass along its length at a cost of approx. $40, 000. There are a series of locks the ships pass through and visitors can stand on a gantry overlooking these locks and watch the progress. We were hoping to be fortunate enough to see one in action so went to lock 3, near the town of St Catherines. But it was not to be. The next ship wasn't due until 4.30pm.

Then we got a phone call from our last hotel to say we'd left all our US currency in our room. Luckily we hadn't gone far and it only took us 20 minutes to go back and get it!

Finally we turned to Toronto, having lunch in a Tim Hortons, a chain of fast food restaurants doing sandwiches, soups and bagels. The main highway took us in along Lake Ontario and the hotel wasn't far off the highway. After booking in we drove to Kipling station, left the car and caught the subway into the city.

There are only four subway lines, the main ones going north-south and east-west. We went to Union and walked to the CN Tower from there.
The CN Tower was the tallest free-standing structure for 34 years. For $32 each we rode straight up the tower to the observation deck. From there you get a view over most of the city and the bay including overlooking Toronto City airport. It is possible to go higher but it cost another $12 each so we didn't bother.
One floor lower was an all-round platform and a glass floor to look straight down the tower. The only problem with the lower level is that it is outside and has mesh, not glass, to look through meaning photos were less than ideal.
There was the usual souvenir shop selling all things CN.  The themed photograph here cost $23 for two large photographs and $33 to add two small ones. You couldn't buy just the small ones.

Toronto has an underground world. Below the streets, shops and towering office blocks is the Path. A subterranean walkway where the citizens of Toronto can reach their work places, shop and eat without going outside, especially in the long cold winters. It is very easy to navigate, has maps and signs for each block above and plenty of entrances and exits.
We walked from the CN Tower to China town underground and found a charming Japanese restaurant for dinner. Red dragon roll and tapas with a beer and wine for $35. Not bad for the largest city in Canada.
After China town was Kensington Market, recommended by our waitress, but it was mostly closed by the time we got there. Walking through the university area to the subway meant we had walked the equivalent of seven subway stops before getting on the train at Spadina back to Kipling.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sunday 28th July 2013

Rain. Again. But intrepid, hardy and soon to become soggy travellers that we are didn't let that deter us and we set off for Letchwoth State Park, bought and built by a wealthy man, by the name of Letchworth and a good job he did too.
Beautiful parkland, surrounded by trees with numerous views over the Genesee river and the Mount Morris dam.
Surprise, we had it practically to ourselves, and as Americans don't walk anywhere (we've been told) all we had to do was get out of the car, take the photo, and get back in the car again.
We stopped for coffee at the Glen Iris Inn, overlooking the middle falls. They were preparing for a wedding that day, and what a wonderful location. The ceremony would take place on the lawn in front of the house with a backdrop of trees on the other side of the river.
The weather, whilst not conducive for long views, was excellent for atmospheric cloudy ones.

Buffalo was our next stop, home of the Buffalo Bisons and the best hot wings according to Pete Lattimer. We parked near the art deco city hall, not the prettiest building you will have ever seen and reminded me of one that was used in Ghostbusters.
There was a bike race in progress, through the city centre, so we had to scoot if we wanted to cross a road. It was very quiet, no-one around, but a warm sunny day for following a short walking tour.
Lunch was in Starbucks, having just missed the chocolate cafe we were hoping to eat at. Getting back in the car we tried to find the only glipmse of Lake Erie we were going to get, and managed it, just.

Turning the car in the direction of Canada, we headed for Niagara Falls. We were staying on the Canadian side and used the Rainbow bridge to cross the border. It took an hour of queuing.
Then we hit a bit of a problem. The Garmin satnav we'd bought with American maps didn't have Canadian ones. We managed to find the hotel using a tourist map and the tiny map printed on the booking sheet.
Lovely hotel. Just a bead and breakfast, family run by a young couple, Dan from Croatia and Alexandra from Serbia. We got a guided tour of the hotel and a lot of information about the best places to see the falls, to eat and where to avoid. The room was lovely, the bathroom was lovely, and both full of touches like robes and slippers to use, moisturiser, sweets, a fully-fitted kitchen to use and a fridge full of soft drinks and water, all complimentary. Wi-fi was free, as it has been all holiday.
We walked to the falls, about 15 minutes, and WOW. The falls are just WOW. There are two. The American falls are pretty much regular falls but huge with enormous rocks at the bottom, and the ones we saw first. Further along the river is the Canadian, horseshoe, falls. A breathtaking arc of thundering, spray producing water. The roar of them both together is tremendous.
We headed straight for the Maid of the Mist figuring that if we got soaked we had the rest of the day to dry off. The cost was $19.25 each and for that you get a bright blue poncho and a ride on a boat past the American falls up to the horseshoe falls, turning around at the base of those falls and a ride back again. We didn't get soaked but we begain to get wet far sooner than we anticipated near the horseshoe falls. The spray extends further than you think! It's a bit crowded on board, and of course everyone wants to be on the top deck next to a railing, and not everyone gets there. The ones that don't get something to hold onto are thrown about a bit. The running commentary is next to useless as you can't hear a thing, even less the closer you get. But then we aren't there to listen, but to see and experience this wonderful natural phenomenon as closely as we could. I loved it.
Once back on dry land we could buy the photo of us, dry, before we got on board. They cost $30 for two photos.

The other 'up close and personal' experience is Journey behind the Falls'. For another $16 each you get to go into tunnels behind the water, and that's exactly what you do - look through a hole in the wall (twice) at falling water, from a distance of about six feet. You could be anywhere. You can't see through the water, but you do get an idea of the force of the water. For those that are interested, there are information boards all along the tunnel with lots of facts from how far the falls have receded to how the hydro-electric power is generated. I wouldn't like to try and read it when it was busy.
But the best bit was going out alongside the base of the falls. Wettest experience of the lot. They do give you a fetching bright yellow poncho to keep you drier and you get a real sense of just how much water there is and how strongly it flows.

Outside again you can see the entire river basin, it is extensive and the water looks impressive, deep and powerful. The photos we took will not do it justice. They wanted another $25 for a pair of photos ...  

We struck lucky for dinner. Opposite the American falls was a building with several food outlets, one of them being a fairly non-descript buffet. It was great. In effect all you could eat: soup, salad, main course and sweet for the price of $15 each. In a town like Niagara Falls it was a bargain.

As darkness fell a live band played and at 10pm there were fireworks over the falls. Spectacular. The town was heaving with people by now. More people than we'd seen in total since we'd left Boston. Even the light rain didn't deter anyone just before the fireworks started. We were pleased we hadn't taken the recycling option with our ponchos. We sat on one and wore the other!

Niagara Falls is akin to Vegas in parts but the real attraction, the water, is definitely worth a visit. The souvenir shops are plentiful but inside large shops and quite imaginative in what's on offer. I would go back, not to go on the water again but maybe to try out the skywheel or the sky tower.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Saturday 27 July 2013

The day of the Gathering.
Bit of a lie-in, up at 7am. Breakfast was ... scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, but I was good and had a toasted bagel. The dining room was small and therefore busy as it's a big hotel.

We visited the High Falls in Rochester city centre, but it looked neglected and sad.
So it was on to the convention centre for the technical and commercial vendors in Empire Hall. One of the first people we met was Linda, also from the UK. We were at Arrow Springs stand. I bought glass and frit and a couple of tools.
We had a wander round - torches, findings, tools, glass, frit, murrini, there was a bit of everything. I bought some Double Helix glass and a bit of murrini.

Then we moved on to the commercial vendors, the bead sellers, approx. 50 of them. The variety, size, shape and colour was huge. I loved walking round, chatting to the sellers, admiring the beads on offer, marvelling at the skill. Everyone was very friendly, willing to talk about their work and let me take photos. It was great to see Sharon Peters again, meet Marcy Lamberson and her cute seahorses, meet Kristina Logan and see her beads in real life, ditto J C Herrell.

We had our lunch there and got chatting to two local ladies, Wendy and Farress - jewellery makers not lampworkers. It culminated in Farress inviting us to her house for dinner.
After lunch we looked at the remaining stalls, including quite remarkable insects in 104, including the most delicate stag beetles and, my favourite out of everything, fish with jelly fish in.

Then it was time to leave and head off to a Native American festival at Ganogdagan. Not arriving until 3pm meant we'd missed a lot of the live shows but were in time to see a tribute to a member of staff of the Ganodagan trust and a musical show by Arvel Bird. We looked round the stalls. Lots of silver and turquoise jewellery and dream catchers as I expected. I didn't expect everything to be as expensive as it was. $20 for a pair of small woven seed bead earrings. As we'd already eaten, we didn't partake of fry bread, beans and hand-pulled pork, but it sounded interesting. It rained heavily during Arvel's performance but was only drizzling as we walked back to the car.
It was very warm and humid, and stayed that way all evening.

Dinner was at the home of Farress and John. She did us proud with typical 4th July fare - fried chicken, beans, corn on the cob, hot dogs, potato salad and coleslaw with apple pie for dessert. We had lots to talk about, we asked questions about all things American and they about all things English. John also had a renovated 1941 Chevrolet truck in his garage. It was an enjoyable evening.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Friday 26 July 2013

New York state.
Houses still clapboard, but the trees have been replaced with grass and corn fields. A very large truck on the interstate tried to drive through us and anyone else in his way as he thundered along. I'd hate to think what his stopping distance is at that speed. Cayuga Lake is in the Finger Lakes region of NYC. It is lined with vineyards and we visited the one that opened first, Cobblestone House.

They were still setting up when we arrived but we browsed the many sauces, salsas, pickles, oils and wines on offer. We tasted six, from a dry red to sweet white and bought three bottles. One in particular, Country Porch, tastes very similar to sangria. The  creamery we'd picked out for an ice cream didn't open until 11am so we visited Taughannock Falls while we waited. It was billed as an overlook so we were expecting to be above the fall. In fact we had a spectacular view of the whole waterfall, the tallest single drop in north eastern USA. There were some cool trikes visiting too, driven by women.

Back to the ice creams, cherry jubilee and maple pecan on waffle cones. There is so much choice, not just for flavours but cone or dish, cone regular or waffle, plain or sugared. Those eaten, next stop was Watkins Glen state park, Watkins Glen claiming to be the home of motor racing in the US.
Cost was $8 for the car but we ended up parking across the road as it was so busy. The kids had obviously finished school for the summer, something that had not been apparent in the other states.
It was hot and sunny so the gorge offered shade and, as we passed under the cascade, a brief shower. We climbed up innumerable steps with views of rushing water, to the top where the falls began. It was a small river, the force of the falls coming from the narrow gulley and the height the water fell.

A very unusual waterfall was found at Montaur. In the middle of a residential area, and surrounded by far more large churches than you'd think was necessary, was a large wide fall, down a sheer face of rock. Parking was limited, but of course Graeme found a spot right alongside.

We were hungry by this time, after all that walking, so we found a real life roadside diner called Chef's Classics. It looked just the same as on TV, with an enormous menu - every eating place seems to do a menu several pages long. This one, amongst other things, offered a monster burger - 2 lb burger, which with all the trimmings weighing in at a massive 4 lbs of meat. We had roast beef hash and a Texas special (two hot dogs with meatloaf, cheese and tomato on top). With drinks, the entire bill was about $10. Bargain!

Then it was time to go to one of the places I'd been looking forward to. Corning Glass Museum. We had to park at the welcome centre and take a bus the 5 minutes ride to the museum. We could have walked, but it was hot :)  It cost $17 each to get in. I'd already booked paid for my 'Make your own glass' flower session at 4pm and as it was already 3 we sat and watched a demo making a glass bowl and started looking at some of the wonderful exhibits before we had to go. I was asked the colours I wanted for the flower - green for the stem and (naturally) purple and blue for the flower, before donning leather covers for my feet, long arm covers, a leather apron and safety goggles. These guys were taking no chances! Then it was my turn. The young guy explained what was going to happen then did a quick demo in clear glass. He got my gather, coloured it in green frit and I got to roll it whilst the glass cooled. The next colors wer added to the next gather, it was paddled flat (by me), reheated, then I pulled the petals out. It was reheated and pulled into a flower shape before curling the stem and heading for the kiln. We still had a bit of a drive to go so after looking at more exhibits, watching a talk on fibre optics and browsing the gift shop it was time to leave. We needed longer to do the museum justice, but we didn't have it to spare.

Driving to the hotel we drove along eerily quiet roads past farms and cornfields. We had diner in a little German restaurant, Rheinblick in Canandaigua. German food, American sized portions so we were pretty full! We hadn't found any other blicks today.
The Americans don't seem to want to stop and look at the view. Nowhere was available to take photos of the beautiful lakes, we drove along three, over 20 miles long and the only parking areas were in heavily wooded sections where you, quite literally, couldn't see the lake for the trees. There were few cars too and even less on foot. Baffling!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Thursday 25 July 2013

Our last day at the Marriott and I was determined to have waffles for breakfast. I learnt how to use it the first morning but already had enough to eat; there was too big a queue on the second morning,  but today was my chance. Pour the ready made mix into the waffle maker, turn the whole pan over on the spindle and wait 2 minutes until it beeped. Easy. Unfortunately it didn't live up to expectations, a bit thick, a bit dry, but if I hadn't already had scrambled egg and sausages, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. Never mind, we were due to visit a maple syrup sugar house later. I'd go to town there.

First stop of the day was a double span covered bridge.We'd had a few to choose from but this one was more on route. It was very pretty, white, open criss-cross sides and a bright orange roof, over a fast flowing pretty river. Then we went to find where the first self-propelled vehicle was produced, a small town called Hinsdale, but there wasn't much there bar a sign. Obligatory photo taken, we moved on. Brattleboro was where we filled the car up for the first time. Less than £30 to buy us 500 miles of travel.

A quick detour past an elementary school revealed the world's largest chair, a wooden ladder back. Another photo later we headed to the French King Gorge, travelling all the way down to the river to take a photo of the new bridge across the gorge from the old one. The new bridge saves the local residents 45 mins in travelling time

The Connecticut River took us to Shelburne Falls, a lovely little town that had three things to interest us: a bridge of flowers, glacial potholes and a glass artist's studio. The studio was in fact a gallery showcasing work of artist's living within 50 miles with everything from textiles to ceramics. The glass artist in question, Josh, creates planets including a 100 lb one commisioned by the Corning Museum of Glass.  

The glacial potholes can be seen right in the centre of town, next to the road bridge. But the jewel in the crown is undoubtedly the bridge of flowers. Crossing the river alongside the roadbridge is an old trolley bus bridge, decommissioned and planted with an array of beautiful blooms. Visitors can walk its length free of charge, which we did, and took no end of photos. There were some curious bugs crawling around on a lot of them. To my untrained eye they looked similar to grasshoppers, black and brown ones. Another flower teemed with bees.

Lunch was in the West End Pub, a misnomer if ever ther was one, being light and airy. Rachel, our waitress, was very patient with my inability to understand the menu fully. I heartily recommend the broccoli slaw. Delicious!

We continued along the Mohawk Trail. Trees, nothing but trees. The only time we could see any distance was at the Eastern summit. There was a shop there, selling all sorts of goods, run by a very grumpy woman. The shop was smelly..

After that there was more trees, even after dropping down into North Adams. This a mill town. Whether or not the mills are still active, we weren't sure. They didn't look it. I felt I was back in Lancashire, the mill buildings were identical in design, and looked as much in use. We visited the root of the mills, the Natural Bridge State Park, where marble was mined for many years and has a marble waterfall and bridge.

Then the long drive, over 100 miles into New York state, to Syracuse. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant, 20 mins walk from the hotel. Lovely food, starter & main course for $20. The waitress tried to relieve us of $10 when she short-changed us but it was sorted when we pointed out her 'mistake'. Of course we still had to leave her a tip so she got her $10 back, such is American culture!

The hotel was lovely, a suite with lounge area and kitchenette, complimentary tea, coffee, cerreal bar and ... popcorn. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and sausages, again, think I'm going to get fed up of that.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Bit of exploration today. We could have gone back to Boston and picked up all the places we missed but decided that wo
uld take up most of the day, so instead we went upstate.

First stop, Cantebury Shaker Village, passing a tortoise crossing sign on the way. A preserved group of houses and other buildings dating back to 1800s. We chose the history tour, one of three to choose from, and Darryl was our guide. Basically, the Shakers were Puritans who came to America from Manchester, UK, and started their own brand of Puritanism. It consisted of pacifism, celibacy and commual living. Men and women co-existed, but lived seperately. Today there are only 3 Shakers remaining, the main purpose of their religion, mutual support and benefit, dying out with the rise of the benefit state.They got their name from 'shaking' whilst dancing during worship. It was an interesting and informative tour, cost us $17 dollars each, and includes the tour and access to any open buildings.

We headed for Lake Winnipesaukee near Gilford. We had search very hard to find a roadside view, the viewpoint being completely hidden by trees! We snuck down a holiday home road to take a couple of photos. Saw two baby deer in a grassy area, had lunch (grilled cheese sandwich and hot dog) at a diner come shop then continued on to Nubble lighthouse in York, definitely a holiday destination. The beach was crowded with bronzed bodies, the types of tan I will only dream about. There were plates from as far away as California and Quebec. The lighthouse was built high on it's own island, a stone's throw from shore, with a pulley system reminding me of 'The Lighthouse Keeper's Lunch'. Then we had ice cream from Brown's, billed as the best ice cream for miles. A huge helping for $5.

The wiggly bridge, the world's smallest suspension bridge spans the end of a small dam into a harbour area. Very picturesque and peaceful.

On to Salem. We arrived after most of the shops had shut, but there were a couple of diehards still open, enough for our wants. Salem was a bit of a disappointment. Modern town centre, I was expecting a quaint area steeped in witches. They seemed to pay lip service comercially. The old witch house looked well preserved though. We had dinner at The Lobster Shanty before heading back towards Boston. The houses in Maine, whilst still clapboard, have more of a Dutch barn look to them with the roof coming down the sides of the house. The day had been hot and sunny, little wind. The countryside is reminiscent of England, rolling with lots and lots of trees...

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Rain. Lots and lots of torrential rain. We sat on North Billerica station, waiting for the train, watching the rain. By the time we got to North Station in Boston it had slowed to a drizzle and within minutes the sun had come out and we were peeling off our waterproofs because we were boiling hot. It was very humid.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday 21 July 2013

Iceland. Rugged, brooding, mist shrouded. It was cold after the UK. We hired a car, necessary to get around and visited the land bridge where the American and European plates are pulling apart. Very windy. But the place to go when it's a bit chilly is the Blue Lagoon. Warm/hot geothermal mineral waters. Like a huge healthy bath.  After that we were off to Reykjavik for a ride up the tower of the enormous chuch and dinner in a lovely little fish restaurant. It's just got dark at midnight.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Friday 19th July 2013

Last day of work, odd finishing before the end of term, and left hoping I didn't forget to do something ...
Had my first spray tan to bring my pale body up to hot, sunny holiday standards. It had better not get washed down the drain in the morning!

I am taking a lot of focals away with me, to have as swap beads at the Gathering. I do hope people will swap with me, even though it's not official swap day.

So now I just have to hope I don't forget anything vital.
Next stop: Gulidford

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Wednesday 17th July 2013

I'm pleased the hot weather arrived at last. It would have been odd, for me, going from the disappointing temperatures we were having earlier in July to the much hotter ones we are heading for. Gave me the chance to try out my new holiday clothes which head for the suitcase at the earliest opportunity.

I won't be going on my torch until we are back now. Too much else to do. But I have a big stash of focals to take to the Gathering  for swaps and, if I don't swap them all, I have a big stash of focals to sell when I come back.  I've really enjoyed using my new pastille press from Perlenpresse, the shape is easy to use and has provided my imagination with a new canvas.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Exciting times

At the end of the week we are off to America, calling in for a day to Iceland to visit the Blue Lagoon and Geyser.
It's a three week trip with highlights of the Gathering in Rochester, Niagara Falls and Chelsea v Inter Milan in Indianapolis.
I'll (hopefully) be posting lots of photos and will be keeping a running account of where we are and what we are doing.
This a special holiday, celebrating 25 years of marriage to my gorgeous husband Graeme.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

19th February 2013

I bought a tutorial on shards and have been hooked ever since and have made little else all week. Luckily it's half term, with few commitments, so have had time to experiment with my own colours. Some have worked, some really haven't!  As I'm lousy at cleaning beads, they haven't made it as far as the camera yet but I'm getting there.
I've also been trying to come up with a really cool bead for the GBUK ompetition. That hasn't gone quite so well as what is in my head isn't translating so well into glass. Could be I won't be entering this year.