New York - Extended

Friday 14th March

Today we did another bus tour, but this time we did the Uptown loop. This included the Upper West side, where people like Madonna and Oprah have apartments. It was truly beautiful. This was also where John Lennon was tragically shot, the bus drove past his building where Yoko still lives.

From there we went up through Harlem, which surprisingly was not as bad as I had thought. The "projects" were much cleaner and in better condition that the commission flats we have in Collingwood!

This bus tour went for two hours, but the female tour guide on the microphone was driving us all crazy so we decided to get off a couple of stops early. Wizzy and Carlo headed off to find Yankee Stadium, and Gav, Ash, Missy and I went to get food! We found this great little diner on 6th Avenue and had Clam Chowder which was excellent!

From there we had two missions, find Ash a long NY coat and find Popeye's Chicken!

We took the subway to China Town as we thought this would be the best place to go. It was a little disappointing, except for the raid that was going on with the street vendors. Detectives, cops everywhere, very exciting for us out-of-towners!

From there we walked, I don't know how many blocks, and came upon a store called Daffy's. Now we were told that Daffy's carried designer gear, and the longer it stayed on the floor, the cheaper it got. We certainly found that out as we got Ash an ankle length designer coat for $40!! What a bargain. Mission accomplished.

Our next mission was to find Popeye's Chicken. We asked countless people if they knew where it was, and most people had never heard of it. We were told though that to ask a question, you should always ask 3 New Yorker's. If you end up with the same answer twice, then the information is correct. We proved that theory.

We jumped on the subway again, I think this was the third time, and came to 23rd Street. Ash was sure that Popeye's was here. As it turned out, it was on 14th Street, hey, just another 9 block walk in New York - a walk in the park! We had found Popeye's - mission 2 accomplished!!

We were pretty much exhausted after that, so had a relatively early night back in the hotel, which was nice for a change.

More of New York

Thursday 13th March

Today it was an early rise again. We were going on touristy bus trips today to see more of the city so we walked down 57th Street to get to 8th Avenue where the bus headquarters was located. You know, I always looked at maps of New York but never really understood how the city worked. Once you are here, it all makes total sense.

Anyway, we got to the bus terminal and took the "Downtown loop" first. This bus took us through Greenwich Village, China Town, Little Italy etc. We decided to hop off the bus at the Ground Zero site. It was quite sobering to see the enourmous hole in the ground, and the tributes to the many brave firefighters that died in the tragedy.

From there we walked to Battery Park on our way to see the Statue of Liberty. We did find out that you could take the Staten Island Ferry which goes past the statue for free, so of course that was our option. I was quite surprised at how small the statue was, I thought she would be much larger, but she was very beautiful. We arrived at Staten Island and got straight back on the ferry to go back to Manhattan.

We then boarded the tour bus again and continued the downtown tour. When we arrived at South Street Seaport, we changed tour buses and took the Brooklyn tour. We went across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn. We couldn't take the Brooklyn Bridge as the height of the bridge was lower than the double-decker bus that we were on. Besides that, we had a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge from where we were, so much better photo ops!

In the evening we headed back down to Times Square, looking for pizza for dinner. Had to try some authentic NY pizza! Now for those that know, one of the main things I wanted to do in NY was to hug a NY cop. We were walking down 7th Avenue, and there were two of them standing there watching the foot traffic. I got some dutch courage and asked them if I could have a photo with them. They were both so sweet and obliging, I even got to wear a police hat! Then not only did I hug one NY cop, I got to hug both of them! Now I really love NY cops!!

We did end up getting our pizza. Huge slices of pepperoni which was thin but really pretty good. We headed back to the hotel exhausted once again from a very long, full day.

New York, NY

Wednesday 12th March

OK, so let me firstly say OMG! I can't believe I'm in New York!! I have wanted to visit this city since I was about five years old, and you know, it was worth the wait! There are no real words to describe this town, the only word I do use, and quite often, is AWESOME!

We arrived at the hotel at around 7:30pm. By that time it was down to about 2 degrees celcius. Considering we had just come from 30 degree temperatures, it was quite a shock to the system! The temperature meant nothing though, we were in New York!

We dropped our bags, freshened up and headed for where else, but Times Square. We are very lucky with the location of our hotel as it seems that most things are within walking distance, particularly Times Square.

You know, before we arrived we had heard that New Yorker's were rude, that the city was dirty etc etc etc. I am here to tell you that every person we have come across, even those that we stop in the street to ask for directions, has been nothing but polite, patient and extremely helpful. Great accents too!

We were heading back to the hotel after dinner and sight seeing and this dark skinned man walked out from the darkened shadows of the street and whispered "you want bags? Louis Vuitton, Chanel?". Wizzy was so excited, the only thing she really wanted in NY was a good fake handbag. She ended up with 2! Ash purchased a Chanel as did Missy. The whole experience was hysterical! It was more like a drug deal than a handbag purchase.

When we returned to the hotel we couldn't believe that we had only been in NY for four hours! We were exhausted from no sleep the night before, but wired due to the buzz of the city.

Shopping and other close encounters

Tuesday 11th March

Today was another glorious day in LA! For Spring, the weather is very summer-like. I think it got to 30 degrees celcius today, it sure felt like it!

Today was our "finding Nick's star" and shopping day. We did find Nick's star and I'm sad to say that is probably the closest I will ever get to him (sob sob). Down on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Kodak theatre is (where the Oscars are held), there are street performers that dress up like different characters. People have their photo's taken with them, and you give them a small gratuity. There are sometimes queues for the popular ones! We were heading down this morning looking for Nick's star and there was the Incredible Hulk and Flash! They spotted Ash and the proverbial tables turned! They came across and asked if they could have their photo taken with her! Out came their camera phones and the said photo's were taken! Then we came across Captain Jack Sparrow. He was determined to take Ash "clubbing" and begged us to be able to keep her. I think now I need to put Ash on a leash, but she was certainly enjoying the attention.

From Hollywood Boulevard we headed down to Sunset and Amoeba Records. Gav got himself a couple of vinyls and we also got some DVD's that we can't get back home, so that was great. We then decided to take a bus to get further down Sunset. OK, what an adventure! It was crowded, the driver was rude, people wouldn't move down the bus, and I laughed my ass off! It really was fun! We then deposited Gav in the "guitar district" and the rest of us headed further down to Sunset Strip. I must say it was quite a disappointment and we didn't spend long there. Nothing like I expected actually. We headed back to pick up Gav and there he was with his newly purchased Sitar! It was the only thing he really wanted over here so it was great that he got it.

From there we headed down to Melrose. That was much better, some really great shops! We did purchase boots which are really very cool, and very hard to fit into our already stuffed suitcases! We were a bit over shopping by that stage so we decided to wait for a bus to take us back to Hollywood Boulevard. After a 40 minute wait an extremely overcrowed bus pulled up and we just managed to get on. The LA public transport system is far worse than Melbourne's, I intend to stop complaining when I get back home!

A dip in the hotel pool was welcome relief to tired feet. Wizzy did some great bombs which cleared the pool of the other guests, so we had it all to ourselves!

We then headed back to Hollywood Boulevard for dinner and to see the lights of the town. Another highlight here! We were sitting in Johnny Rockets having dinner when Wizzy spotted Seth Green! Ash and Missy went out looking for him, and there he was buying ice-cream! They ran up to him and he was incredibly sweet to them. He gave them autographs, had photos taken with them, introduced himself and his lady-friend to Gav, and said that he thought very highly of Australi! Well Seth, these Aussies also think very highly of you too!

Well, that was our last night in LA. We will miss it as it is quite an amazing place. We're off to New York in the morning, the transfer bus is picking us up at 5am so it's going to be another long day!

When You Wish Upon A Star - Disneyland!

Monday 10th March

Today started once again with Jose and the Hummer! We were on our way to Disneyland! I remember watching the Magical World of Disney as a kid and always wanting to visit the magical land. Now, even in my 40th year, the magic and excitement that is usually reserved for the young is still very much alive!

As you walk through the gates of this other world, you can hear and feel the life of the place. Everyone smiles, everyone says Hello as you walk past, it is truly a version of the Twilight Zone, but in a very nice way.

We had planned to spend only 4 or 5 hours at Disneyland and at the California Adventure land next door, however after spending 20 minutes inside the gate, we called Jose to pick us up at 10pm instead of 5:30. Yes, we spent over 10 hours there and still only scratched the surface.

The highlight of the day was when Ash rode the "California Screamin" ride. She so desperately wanted to go on but there was fear there. She sucked it up, grabbed her single rider pass and on she went. Gav and I went to the viewing deck where the carriages took off, and there she was in the very front seat! My heart was probably pounding more than hers. Three minutes later she was back on the ground, yelling about how it was the most awesome ride ever, and very proud of herself that she went through with it.

The second highlight of the day were the fireworks at the end of the day. They truly were the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen! Each set had a theme from a different movie or genre and the fireworks were in perfect sync with the music. It truly was the perfect end to an amazing day.

Santa Monica

Sunday 9th March

Sunday evening we ended up going to Santa Monica for dinner, and what a great decision! It's such a gorgeous, vibrant place. There were buskers in the streets, people everywhere, restaurants, cafes and a vibe that was unique to the place.

The evening started on an absolute high. We asked the desk clerk at the hotel to order us a taxi to take us to Santa Monica. Gav and I slipped outside for a ciggy to wait and this gorgeous Hummer rolled into the carpark. We were marvelling at the machine when the driver got out, walked up to us and asked if we were the people going to Santa Monica. Our response was "No way!!" We ran inside to get Ash and Missy and they too were blown away.

So as it turned out, we travelled in this amazing Hummer (with the music pumping on an incredible sound system) with a gorgeous driver who's name was Jose! He also returned to pick us up to take us back to the hotel. It was a fantastic night!!

Hooray for Hollywood!

Sunday 9th March

We landed at LAX just before 8am on what was Sunday the 9th US time. I love the fact that we left on Sunday, arrived in LA, and got our Sunday back! Our trusty driver Carlos picked us up and delivered us to the Holiday Inn in Hollywood. Gav likes to affectionately call it "Hotel Hell". Not that this hotel is particularly bad, but he has had experience with this chain, but that's another long drawn-out story.

As we were so early we had no expectations to be able to access our rooms, but as luck would have it they weren't particularly busy so we were able to get in straight away! After 14 or so hours on the plane it was great to be able to shower and wake up a little!

We wanted to explore straight away, so we headed out of the hotel with the thoughts of jumping on a bus and heading down to Venice Beach, mainly to check out the muscle men pumping iron (a little something for the ladies...). However we hit Hollywood Boulevard and that's where we stayed! It's quite bizarre actually, as Hollywood is by no means a clean tidy place, but it has this.... feel about it. It draws you in and your heart pumps just a little bit faster...

We wandered up and down the Boulevard, spending money immediately. It's amazing how fast the green back can fly out of your wallet! The day is gorgeous, brilliant sunshine with a nice breeze, about 20 degrees celcius, in my mind the perfect day!

We were exhausted though, particularly Gav who really didn't sleep on the plane, so we headed back for a short siesta. We're heading back to the Boulevard to check it out under the night lights for dinner this evening. Should be fun!