Monday, August 03, 2015

Day 17 US, 07/07, To New York

Toronto suburban trains.

The UP Express arriving.

Along the way to the airport. We used our Presto cards and each of us had only a few dollars left on the cards. If I could be bothered trying, I wonder if they would refund the balance to you when you are overseas.

Wi fi and power on board.

Spaghetti roads around the airport.

We were held at the airport for perhaps 20 minutes waiting for New York airport congestion to clear. Our bags took quite a long time to appear at La Guardia Airport, New York. We paid for the express bus to New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal, with a station exit a few metres from our apartment door. The bus was due at 3pm and arrived at 3.15. It was a fast trip to the city, specifically Manhattan until the we reached Manhattan itself. I believe we used Queens Midtown Tunnel to cross under East River to Manhattan, and there we are, right in the heart of New York and mostly stationary. The traffic has to be seen to be believed. Traffic lights are as close as ten metres apart. Our driver was fortunately quite aggressive, so we did better than many other vehicles. Here we are, just inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal and in slight shock at the numbers of people and vehicles and the volume of noise.

We stayed in Times Square in West 40th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. After a decent wait, we were let in by a lass but not really shown anything. The flat was spacious enough, well equipped and spotlessly clean. R took the bed and I had the bed settee, which I found more comfortable to leave folded up for sleeping. There was a considerable slope of the floor and R's beds was on castors and each morning he would find the bed had rolled a couple of feet away from the wall.

The air conditioner was effective enough, especially as I turned it on and left it on for six days. It had light weight flexible plastic each side, which did not keep out the noise.

The door opens to the bathroom. The water pressure was awful and hot water could take over ten minutes to arrive. You had to plan ahead a little if you wanted hot water.

There were two flights of stairs to reach the flat. They were steep and without a rest point except between flights. I walk stairs at home at times, and these two flights are the equivalent of five flights at home. By the end of our stay, we had both lost weight and found the stairs a bit easier as our muscles built up.

We settled in and then went a couple of doors along to the Beer Authority for a drink and a snack. So many beers to choose from and we knew only one, Leffe Blond, apparently a French beer, but I always thought it was Belgian.

A passing shower did not relieve the humidity.

Food shopping to do, wine to buy, clothes to wash. We got busy after eventually finding a laundromat. We had misread the information and thought the flat came with a washing machine. We ordered dinner from the Chinese downstairs and a meal for one was big enough for both of us, with enough left over for another meal another night. A one hour and a half hour flight seemed to have taken the whole day almost and we were quite weary. New York rubbish is not put out by residents and businesses in bins for collection, but in strong plastic bags.

The sirens eventually died away and we slept well enough.

Here is another amusing ditty by The Arrogant Worms. If you miss some of the clever lyrics, they are written in the drop down box.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Day 16 Canada, 06/07, Niagara Falls

I had checked prices for tours to Niagara Falls while still in Australia. We fronted the concierge at the Royal York and asked him what he could do, and he did well. We booked the trip. I must say, while we booked the hotel very early for about 1/3 of the walk up rate, it is very nice to stay in such a classy hotel. Nothing is a problem for staff, even us saying, don't clean our room, we need wine glasses, we need coffee.

We discovered a place in Canada called Tim Hortons in Canada, kind of an upmarket McDonalds. McDonalds restaurants were no seen as widely as here. It was a good place for breakfast as the workers queued for their coffee on their way to work. opposite our hotel by 9.15 for a 9.30 pick up, which arrived somewhat later.

We then took a couple of circuits of pick up places, seeing our hotel three different times, paused at a bus terminal and then we were on our way with a hosted tour with Gray Line.

A top notch lunch at the Marriot Hotel in Niagara was option we did not select. The coach guide was quite good. The coach, ok. Noisier than our faithful Prevost, with a narrower aisle, but ok.

Just wait until the lights change and the onslaught of people coming across from Union Station.

We were given the option of before experiencing Niagara Falls in person, to view them from a helicopter. I've never been in a helicopter but not for any real reason. R was already making noises about his credit card but was very keen to see the falls from above. It with worth every penny.

Clearly I took the photo and did not have my hand on the blond lad who loaded us on to the chopper.

You need a lesson about the falls. Niagara Falls are right on the border of the US and Canada. There are two main waterfalls, the Canadian Horseshoe falls, as you can see here.

With lots of mist.

Yep, lots of mist.

To the centre of this photo you can see the American falls. Quite impressive, but Canada got the better deal.

Never seen this plant in Australia.

Exiting our coach, we were immediately covered in mist from the falls. We made our way along to the suggested best spot to take photos and we were really getting wet. It was hot, so it was quite refreshing.

Niagara Falls is big business.

The volume of water has to be seen to be believed.

The American Falls with the Rainbow Bridge across to the US.

Maid of the Mist, a US boat for passengers to view the falls.

Beautiful gardens, of course.

The mist.

The US falls.

We are to see the falls from the Canadian boat, The Hornblower.

Everyone was issued with these ponchos which went in to bin after the tour, hopefully recycled.

While people were in front of me and in the way of my photos, I stayed quite dry. Those at the front  did not.

For the whole time we were there traffic was almost stationary on Rainbow Bridge as people slowly cleared US border controls.

After we left the boat, we had lunch nearby and then headed up the steep hill full of attractions, rather like Blackpool Pier on steroids.

There were some nice seats in the shade in the park. We then bought a few souveniers and it was back on to the coach. The day had not finished yet.

A popular place to get married, on the side of the road.

We stopped for a break at the wonderful little town of Niagara on the Lake. Niagara River links the higher Lake Eire to the lower Lake Ontario, so it is not very long, but certainly famous. This town is at the mouth of the Niagara, Lake Ontario. I was feeling faint in the coach and almost asleep before we reached here. So were other people and we realised the aircon was not working. The bus stopped restarted and the air con began to work again.

Back to Toronto via a stop at a winery. Rogers was a surveyor and very famous with many things named after him.

Just to make mention, the day before we wanted some wine and scotch for our room, but there was no sign of any liquor outlet. I asked the doorman and he directed me down York Street to a modern building and within was an LCBO outlet. It seems the sale of alcohol is a government business, controlled by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. There is a serious move underway to open up the sale of alcohol more widely, with the usual screams from those with vested interests who want to maintain the status quo.

Goodnight Toronto. Tomorrow we fly to New York.

Here are a couple of short videos to give you the an idea of the water flow at Cananda's Niagara Fall.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Day 15 Canada, 05/07, Toronto

Our hotel looks mighty impressive viewed from down here. We had popped in to Union Station to buy our public transport Presto cards.

The shores of Lake Ontario are this way. Let's go. I want some breakfast. It is actually a harbour where we went. Down York Street we strolled. It was still cool enough on the streets.

It appeared three trams routes use this line.

Ah, older trams too. Strangely the old and the new are still using poles to connect to the electric wires, rather than pantographs. It is quite expensive to convert the trams and wires but with pantographs, there are fewer delays caused by the pole coming off the wire. As you can see, we found somewhere for a bite.

We wandered along the waterfront.

There are islands offshore before you reach the massive Lake Ontario. The far and not visible shore of the lake is in the United States.

I am not against phallicism.

The islands are for pleasure. Had we another day in Toronto.............

Why is the car on the tram track? One of two we saw. I am sure this is not right, but it happens here in Melbourne too.

Armed with our Presto cards, we boarded the 510 to get closer to the hub of town. We can't use our card on older trams and had to pay the uninterested driver, who I am sure would have been happier had we not put him to the bother of having cash paying customers.

The Gardiner Expressway is old and tired and a decision has to be made, demolish and invent new roads, or repair and reinstate the freeway. While it is very convenient to get out of the centre of town, I may slightly favour demolishing and reinvent the roads. The freeway is an ugly and dividing blight. I really do not like above ground roads and train lines, as practical as they can be at times.

We left the tram at the corner of Queens Street West and Spadina Avenue and wandered, east west and north south.

There are some great old buildings and gardens but it was getting hot and we becoming tired of wandering. R stopped someone on the street to ask them where 'the action is'? They too were tourists but told us go to a particular street corner. I should have planned this better but we had no idea of what we would do when we left our hotel. I saw one street with tram tracks that abruptly ended and I then looked up and there was no overhead wires.

We ended up at a square on the corner of Dundas and Yonge Streets. Plenty was happening and this rapper from Vancouver wasn't too bad as we refreshed ourselves at the Hard Rock Cafe.

We had look around the nearby mostly underground shopping centre, blah, just like at home, and then caught the subway back to Union Station. Lordy, finally our Presto cards get a job to do.

With not an expert eye, but an experienced one, the subway was pretty damn good. It was rest time for us, in the heat of the afternoon. All over Canada the weather had been unusually warm and I recall in one place we visited back in BC, it was 38 degrees.

This new pathway with an exit/entrance opposite our hotel had just opened. I should do the research, but I am not, so I will guess these pathways are underground passages to get around town by foot especially in really cold weather.

The CN Tower is omnipresent.

We walked up York Street to find somewhere to eat and I think where we dined was another Earl's place, popular and we had a nice meal.