Thursday, 24 April 2008

Friday 18th April 2008

After breakfast we had to pack our cases! I hate packing to go home. Even though we arrived with 2 we are going home with 4! When we were with Katie we collected one of the suitcases she took with her last August and put her skiing outfit, her ball gowns, scarfs etc., in it so that we could take them home for her and we also collected the suitcase that Lizzie had left there. We have filled that with new clothes for Frank and me!

After leaving our bags at the hotel we went back into NYC to do the uptown tour. The guy taking the tour was called Tony, he was 75 and came from The Bronx. He was so interesting. He told us loads about Harlem and The Bronx and what it was like when he was growing up there. We saw where John Lennon was shot and where Bill Clinton has his office! We were unable to travel the proper uptown route as roads were closed due to the Pope's visit. This meant we didn't get to go right around Central Park. We just drove up one side of it!

After the tour we had lunch then headed back to the hotel to get our luggage and then finally back to the airport. Our flight was scheduled for 8.30pm but it finally took off at 9.30pm. The flight was pretty uneventful - we only landed in Amsterdam about 10 minutes late and then we had a 2 hour wait for our flight to Birmingham.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Thursday 17th April 2008

We bought a ticket to see around NYC on an open top bus today. This included entrance into the Empire State Building so we did this first, missing all the queues because we already had tickets!!

The view from the 86th floor was good but it was a little hazy so we were not able to see as much as you would do on a clear day!

We then toured around Downtown NYC on the bus and got off to have lunch (at around 3pm!!!) at Katz's Deli - the place where Harry met Sally! We wandered through Greenwich Village and boarded the bus again to see more of the city. We got off in Times Square and joined the night bus which took us to Brooklyn over the Manhattan Bridge. The daytime tours were very interesting and we hope to do Uptown tomorrow before catching our plane. The night time tour guide was not so interesting!

Wednesday 16th April

Today we bought tickets to see a show on Broadway. We got half price tickets for a musical comedy whodunnit called Curtains. The lead man was David Hyde Pierce from Frazier. He was excellent as was the rest of the cast. The whole show was very entertaining and we had a thoroughly good afternoon.

After the show we went to World of Disney, then into Trump tower for a coffee at Starbucks. We also went into Borders for a while and then met up with an ex student of mine - Mike Chung - for dinner. He has been working on Wall Street for 8 years now and it is 10 years since he left college. We had a really good evening and a fantastic Chinese meal at a restaurant called Tao. It was really good to see him again.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Tuesday 15th April 2008

We took the car back to the rental place and then caught the airbus to Newark Airport. From there we got the NJ Transit for one stop ($7.75 each!!!!) and then finally got onto the PATH train to the World Trade Centre. We were on this train for about 20 minutes and it only cost $1.75 each!!

We walked along the banks of the Hudson River as far as where you get the boat to Liberty and Ellis Island. We queued for over an hour before catching the ferry! We had to have our bags scanned and the scanner picked up a letter opener (like a knife) in an envelope that I had ready for posting. Eventually they let us through after someone behind us had something in their bag that concerned them.

We decided not to get off at Liberty Island as we only had 2 hours till Ellis Island closed.

We took the guided tour around the Immigration Station and learnt that until 6 years ago New York State and New Jersey State were fighting over who it belonged to. As the original Ellis Island belonged to NY they now own the actual building but NJ own the surrounding land. NY are now arguing about this as the dirt used to extend the island came from NY subways so they claim it is theirs!
The chandelier on the left is an original from the building (1892) and is by Tiffany. When they refurbished it in the 1980s they only had to replace 17 of the ceiling tiles and none of the chandeliers. This is from the registry room.

Returning on the ferry gave us some wonderful views of NYC!

After eating in a restaurant called SouthWest NY we headed home to our hotel.

Monday 14th April 2008

We left Scranton, PA and headed towards New York to visit Uncle Larry and Auntie Kay.

We stopped off to buy some coffee to take home from Walmart and also to have a quick lunch. We arrived at Uncle Larry's at 3pm and they made us very welcome. We were given a wonderful meal of barbecued steak, mashed potatoes and green beens and lots of wine!

We chatted for quite a while and had a lovely time. We took some photos before heading off to our hotel for the rest of the holiday.

We left there at about 7.30 and according to the sat nav it was 1 hour 15 minutes to get to the hotel. We had petrol to last 20 miles more than our journey! After taking the wrong turn several times we decided to fill up with fuel and it was a good job we did. It took us 2 hours to finally get to the hotel and with all the u turns and quick changes of direction, by the time I got to the hotel I felt quite sick!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Sunday 13th April 2008

We left our hotel after breakfast and started our journey towards New York City. We planned on staying at Scranton in Pennsylvania for the night. This would leave us about 2 hours drive tomorrow to get to Frank's aunt and uncle, just north of NYC.

We stopped at a little town called Binghamton and looked around the Roberson Museum. This had a wide range of displays - from planes and a model railway to paintings of birds and local scenes. The museum also included a planitarium where we heard about other planets and the stars that we can see throughout the night in April. The museum was attached to the Roberson Mansion House which you were also able to walk through - some of the rooms were displaying furniture as would have been in the house originally and some were museum exhibits of more paintings.

We then drove the rest of the way to our hotel, crossing into Pennsylvania on the journey. Here is a photo of Frank NOT smiling (just to be silly!)

Tomorrow we will cross back into New York and then go and visit his uncle.

Saturday 12th April 2008

We arrived at Niagara Falls at midday! The first thing you see is the American Rapids and you can hear the roar of the water as you approach. We walked to the visitors centre and onto the observation platform to view the American Falls before taking the trolley ride to Goat Island to get a closer view of both the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. Left is Frank by the American Rapids, Right are the American Falls.

We took the lift (elevator!) down to see the falls from below. There is a pedestrian walkway that they build during April, ready for when the season begins in May, but as yet the construction has not been started due to the thickness of the snow. They are spraying it with warm water to try to melt it! And sadly the boat 'Maid of the Mist' doesn't start running until May either.

We then went to see the Horseshoe falls. This too was closed due to the thick snow - normally you can get quite close to the falls but it is fenced off now for safety reasons. It is good to see that normally you could get quite close - this would not be allowed in England now due to the ridiculous laws regarding Health and Safely. They would have to build an eight foot fence or something silly!

By the time we had seen most of what was open it was dinner time and for the first time we ate in Hard Rock Cafe. The prices we find prohibitive in UK but here they are dollars for pounds. We were very impressed with the meal and the surroundings. It was news to us to find that it originated in Britain!

After our meal we decided to take a walk into Canada. There is a footbridge across from USA to Canada and Frank took a photo of me at the border marker on the bridge! (see pic on right!) At the Canadian border we got our passports checked and stamped and we went to see the Falls from the Canadian side. They are much more impressive to look at from Canada as you can see all 3 of the falls at the same time. The gardens are well kept there too but glancing up the street away from the Falls, it looked like you were in Blackpool! We went to a souvenir shop before making our way back into USA. Crossing back into the US cost us 50c each and again we needed our passports checked.

By now it was getting dark and we went to look at the American Rapids when they are lit. We also took a walk onto Goat Island before going to find our hotel.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Friday 11th April 2008

Not much to say about today really!

We woke up to a lovely sunny day (typical!) and thought about going into Chicago again for a couple of hours. We decided against this though, as we would rather wait till we can get back here sometime for a longer visit.

Instead we went shopping! We went to Archivers and Jo-Anns - both scrapbooking shops for those who don't know! I had a voucher Sue had sent me but even so, I was very restrained and didn't spend much at all. We also found a shoe shop that had some shoes I liked.

We started driving towards our next stop - a place called Sandusky in Ohio. We stopped for lunch in Michigan City and visited the outlet shopping centre and found some jeans for Frank. I think we are done shopping now!

The rest of the journey was a mixture of sunshine and torrential rain. We finally got to our hotel around 8pm and for the first time this trip, tried out the pool.

Thursday 10th April 2008

Today we went into Chicago. Unfortunately it poured with rain all day but we saw enough of the city to know that we want to come back in the future and explore it more.

At Sue's suggestion we took the trolley ride around the city. It enables you to get on and off when you want and the driver gives a detailed commentary about the city as you travel along. The architecture is fantastic - a real mixture of styles - and there are many sculptures around the city. Sadly, because of the weather it was difficult to take many photographs! Here are two of the many sculptures however.

Our first stop was the theatre district. We saw the Chicago Theatre - they used the frontage of this in the film.

We went and booked a show for the evening. We decided on the Drowsy Chaperone. This is on at the West End starring Elaine Paige and it would be interesting to see how it transfers to London.

Back on the bus - we waited around 20 minutes for the bus and it was by now raining even harder. We stopped on the bus as it took us around the museum area and got off for a look at Navy Pier. As it was still raining heavily we just looked inside at the tourist type shops rather than look at the ships and boats on the lake.

Our next trip on the bus took us over the river that flows the wrong way!

We drove along the Magnificent Mile which is where all the expensive shops are and got off at the water tower. Here is the worlds first vertical shopping mall. Again - expensive shops!

We also looked in the Hershey's shop and walked past Ghiradelli's! Our final trip on the bus took us to the restaurant that we planned to eat at that evening. This is thanks to our daughters who found it when they were there in January. It is called Brazzazz and is a Brazillian steakhouse. We ate at a different Brazillian steakhouse in Orlando a couple of years ago and if you like meat then this is the place for you!

After our meal we got wet again walking to the theatre. The show was very good and very funny. Well worth seeing!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Wednesday 9th April 2008

We checked out of our hotel and picked up Katie at 8.30am. This was going to be our last chance for breakfast at IHOP! Katie had a regular breakfast with ham, eggs and pancakes, Frank had sirloin tipps and onions with pancakes and eggs and I had T bone steak, hash browns, eggs and pancakes. We then returned to the university and Katie gave us a tour of the campus. We saw the Chemistry department, the Maths dept., the Bell Tower and the Engineering dept., with the statue of Neil Armstrong outside. We all had our photo taken with him - first of all standing in front of him and then Katie climbed up to sit next to him!

We then walked up to the Purdue Football Stadium. It was closed as the season has finished so we went to take a look in the shop - the nickname used is the Boilermakers and there is a huge statue just outside the stadium - Purdue Pete is their mascot!

We went back to the union and had a coffee at Starbucks and then took Katie back to her apartment (flat!). We left her there in time to go to her class! It will be mid July before we see her again.

We visited Walmart and Hobby Lobby in Lafayette before setting off for Chicago. I sent Sue Benner a text message on the way there and she called me when we got to our hotel room. We arranged to meet in a lovely restaurant called White Fence Farm - it serves farmhouse style fried chicken and came with sides of bean salad, coleslaw, cottage cheese, pickled beetroot and corn fritters. We had a delicious meal and it was really good to meet Sue. She told us a lot about Chicago and made suggestions of what we should do tomorrow!
Left photo: Bren and Sue; Right photo: Sue, Bren and Frank

One thing that Frank got excited about was that we had to drive on Route 66 to meet Sue!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Tuesday 8th April 2008

Breakfast and then we started our journey back towards Purdue. One stop on the way for a drink and a break and then we headed into Lafayette for a very unhealthy snack of a Krispy Kreme donut for lunch!

We parked near to the hotel and dropped off our luggage. Katie then took us to the bank to cash some travellers cheques and she called in to get a smoothie from one of the uni cafes. We took a look in the university bookshop which sells lots of Purdue stuff and then I went back to the hotel to do some washing, while Frank took Katie back to her 'apartment'!. I had just put the stuff in the machine when the electricity went off. It was off for about an hour so when Frank and Katie returned to collect me (we were eating in one of the Uni food halls and meeting her friends at 6.30), the stuff was still in the dryer.

We met her friends in the food court and Katie showed us all the stuff that we could have. Frank chose chicken and I chose a stirfry. It was a very nice meal but I can understand how they get fed up with it after several weeks.

We returned to the hotel, took the washing out of the dryer, booked a hotel for Chicago and then collected Katie again and we went to an Irish pub - the Nine Irish Brothers. Katie and I both had Strongbow Cider (English!) and Frank had Murphys (Irish). It was a very pleasant evening and the bar was lovely. There was Irish dancing when we arrived and the atmosphere was good!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Monday 7th April 2008

Today we wanted to visit Frank's aunt and uncle! We called them again before we left the hotel but sadly there was still no answer! We decided to drive across to where they lived just in case we could find them in as our hotel was only a few miles from where they live. We pulled up outside the house and Frank tried knocking but there was no answer. Katie went to see if they were on the deck in the back but they weren't! We knew we had the right house though, as there was a picture of a shamrock in the window!

We were about to pull away when a car came around the corner, and I recognised Johnny from photos I have seen of him. We waited till they had put the car away and knocked again. As you can imagine, Nuala was shocked to see her nephew from England! They were so welcoming! They had been on vacation and had just arrived back from a week in Houston, Texas. We were given tea and cake and it was really lovely to finally get to meet them. Frank has seen them before but neither Katie nor I had ever met them before.

Nuala is so like her sister!

We left Detroit and our overnight stop was to be Kalamazoo. We stopped off at the Kalamazoo Nature park and took a walk in the woods there, down to the Kalamazoo river. As it is just the very beginning of spring most things were still showing no signs of life! It will be very pretty there in a few months time. They cater for lots of birds and wildlife of all sorts there.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Sunday 6th April 2008

We breakfasted in the hotel and left Findlay at around 9.30am. We stopped at the tourist centre when we entered Michigan and looked at the information about the state, then continued on our way to Detroit. We arrived at the Henry Ford museum at around midday.

It is another place where you could spend days looking around. Greenfield Village is still closed for the winter but the museum kept us busy until closing time. We looked at the various types of transport on display there - planes, cars, bicycles, trains .... , and various other exhibitions. Some of the presidential vehicles are there - The car Reagan was in when there was an attempt made on his life (which is the same vehicle that Gerald Ford was in when someone tried to assassinate him!), the car Kennedy was in when he was killed and other vehicles used by presidents.

There are some bicycles which include what we call Penny Farthings in England. It was mentioned that they were made in Britain but no mention of their name! I don't suppose US folk would understand why they are called that - These bicycles are the ones with a very big front wheel and a tiny back wheel. And in Old English currency, the farthing was a very tiny coin whereas the penny was a large coin.

Another part of the museum is dedicated to Liberty and Justice for all and includes information about Independence, Freedom and Union, Votes for Women and the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibits include the chair that Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot and the bus that Rosa Parks was riding in in 1955.

The part of the museum dedicated to America in the 20th Century includes the Dymaxion House We were given a guided tour of this circular house and shown just how forward thinking they were back in 1946. The house had a built in kitchen with a fridge built into the cupboard drawers , a freezer, dishwasher and laundry area and the bathroom was self cleaning.

After checking in to our hotel we went for dinner at a little Greek restaurant called 'Little Daddy's Parthenon'. It was a very pleasant meal with American sized portions of course!

We called Frank's aunt and uncle but had to leave a message on their answer phone as there was no-one home. We will try again in the morning and if they are still not home, then we will head back towards Purdue!

Saturday 5th April 2008

We picked up Katie at 8.30am, went to IHOP for breakfast and then headed towards Ohio. We stopped briefly on the way for coffee, and then for lunch and finally arrived at Wapakoneta (Neil Armstrong's birthplace) at around 2.30pm.

We spent a couple of hours looking at the exhibits there and learning a bit more about the trips to the moon. It seems that if you want to be an astronaut you stand a much better chance if you have been born in Ohio! More astronauts seem to have come from Ohio than any other state.

We left the museum at 5pm and travelled for about an hour to Findlay and to our hotel. This evening we ate at 'Olive Garden' which is an Italian restaurant recommended to us by Katie. It is good having her with us as she knows what is good and what should be avoided. Tomorrow we will be in Detroit, all being well!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Friday 4th April 2008

We left the Universtity Inn at Kentucky University, which was VERY nice and started heading north. The Interstates all look the same and I can't remember what number it was, but it took us past the Edinburgh outlet mall so we called in for a look around. And there was a Van Heusen store! Every trip to US we find one of these and stock up on stuff for the years until our next trip over. And that is what we did again! Trousers, shirts, teeshirts, jacket, ties ...... Plenty of stuff for us both.

We got to Katie at about 5.30pm. It was easy to find her flat as Lizzie had told us that Katie's friend Jen, who lives next door to Katie, had a Welsh flag in the window. When we saw a window with a Welsh flag and a Canadian flag, we knew that was Mira and Jen's flat. It was good to see Katie again after so many months and we met Mira, Jen, Ashley, Danielle and some of her other friends, albeit briefly.

We went and booked into the Purdue University Hotel and the took Katie to the Outback Steakhouse for dinner. Tomorrow we are heading into Ohio so we are picking her up at 8.30 and then going for breakfast!

Friday, 4 April 2008

Thursday 3rd April 2008

We stayed in the Holiday Inn last night, in Johnson City! We were given a nice non-smoking room except it smelt horribly of cigarette smoke! The lady on reception moved us to another room, which was even better, and didn't smell! And she gave us a complimentary breakfast each. However, the extractor fan in the bathroom didn't switch off so it kept me awake most of the night so I was not a happy bunny this morning!

We had our free breakfast (very nice thank you) and then drove to Davy Crockett's birthplace. The State park that it is in is fantastic! A wonderful place for families with young children to have lots of fun. We were just leaving and it started to pour with rain. And I mean pour! We set off towards Kentucky on our 4 hour journey. We stopped for coffee at Wendy's and then about an hour and a half from our destination, we stopped for a meal and tried Cracker Barrel! Very nice it was too!

We arrived at the University Inn Motel in Lexington at around 6pm. It is next to the University of Kentucky and what a hotel! It is really lovely and very reasonably priced. We then went to Walmart to find some fruit to eat as that seems rather lacking in our travels. Sadly no fruit or vegetables in Walmart but some very nice jeans and teeshirts which I had to buy! And Frank bought some too. We then went to Krogers to get the fruit we wanted and are now going to relax and eat it, have some coffee and watch a bit of TV before hitting the sack. Last leg on our journey to see Katie tomorrow! It will seem strange to be with her again after about 8 months without her!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Wednesday 2nd April 2008

We left our hotel after a lovely breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage patties. We drove to the Fallingwater Cascades and walked down through the forest to see the waterfalls. It was not quite so easy walking back up but it was well worth the trip.

Starting our journey to our next stop took us through a little town called Buchanan. This was so pretty we stopped here and had a wander down the high street. We stopped at a soda fountain and treated ourselves! Frank had a coke float and I had a caramel sundae.

After another couple of hours on the interstate we stopped for a coffee and cookies and filled the car with 'gas'. We got to Johnson City, Tennessee at around 4.30pm. We has seen a place advertised called Jonesborough which is the oldest town in TN so decided to take a look around. It was an old Frontier town and was worth seeing.

We called in at Dixie Barbecue for dinner which was fantastic. A tiny little restaurant run by one lady and the cook. Not at all a tourist trap and not part of a huge chain, so well worth trying!

Tomorrow we hope to go to Davy Crockett's birthplace before heading north for the night, somewhere in Kentucky!

Tuesday April 1st 2008

Despite the date on the blog site, this post was added on Wednesday 2nd April at around 9.15pm. The computer is on UK time, which is currently 2.15am!

On Tuesday 1st April we left our hotel and headed towards Harpers Ferry - there had been an accident on the freeway so we stopped at a Starbucks for a doughnut and a coffee and watched for the traffic to start moving a little more freely. It was just before 11am when we arrived at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, and what a fantastic place that is (Thank you so much JUD!).

It is such an interesting place with so much history there and so pretty too. We spent about an hour and half there (we could have spent much more but had a long way to drive) and then set off for the Blue Ridge Mountains. The weather, which had started off horrible got better as the day progressed and it was a beautiful day by the time we got to the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We drove the 85 miles through the parkway to our hotel. We stopped numerous times to take photos of the views and to take little walks and got to our hotel - The Peaks of Otter - at about 6.30pm. We went to the restaurant for dinner, which like our room, overlooked the lakes and the mountains. Unfortunately the lake had been drained but that didn't really detract from the view.