May 10 part 1 – Cha cha cha!

To start off, I’ve run out of energy making up those little ‘departure board’ photos at the start of every post. It’s kinda fiddly squishing the letters in to place and, heck, I’m on holiday. So the frame and its hundred of little letter tiles might be another thing on the list of Things I Should Not Have Packed.

Secondly, it’s already past midnight so this is going to a bit short, more tomorrow.

After last nights festivities, today was a bit of a sleep-in day, but still made it downstairs in plenty of time for an easy hotel breakfast. Today’s forecast is for just a 30% change of rain at 1pm. So naturally as soon as we got back to our room after breakfast it started bucketing down. But it’s a good time to count my blessings, at least I am not the guy I can see through the window, using a foot pump to re-inflate one his car tyres in the pouring rain.

The morning was super quiet, did nothing after filling up with breakfast other than a preparatory nap for the afternoon.

Finland (Cha Cha Cha!!) we’re playing at the EuroVillage in the afternoon so we wandered over there to check it out, and ran into a few more Aussies (Hey Tobie!). On the way, near the Albert dock, there was a small platform made out of little stones, that people has taken to with a bit of extra decoration, which was cool, assuming it’s quite temporary.

Arriving at the eurovillage, we saw a slightly deflated “Turan TuranX”, the band from Azerbaijan, who failed to qualify at the semi final last night. Nice of them to still front up and play for us all, and the crowd did give them a rousing welcome.

Next up was a local band Keyside (a eurovision act fell through), but here’s a photo just in case these young kids become famous in future. 🙂

While all this was going on I was having a chat with one the locals who’d come down to see what all the fuss was about, was lovely talking to her, her primary concern was the prices going up for everything, and how terribly unfair it is. I said if she wants to see tourists being ripped off she should come to Sydney :). But it was great to see the locals getting involved rather than just having this rather odd competition just foisted upon them and them shunning it.

We were also accosted (if that’s the word) by this trio of absolutely lovely Dutch people, mad as hatters, but having the best time, they were such good fun.

Two Dutchies and one Aussie

And being in the village meant I got to take more photos of these beautiful buildings – The Three Graces.

As for the act we came to see, Kaarija from Finland, he certainly didn’t disappoint. Very funny, incredible high energy, and nice to hear some other songs for hi, apart from Cha Cha Cha – for which, of course, the crowd went completely bonkers. I’m still hoping it could win outright.

Next we grabbed a quick Pizza from a pizza truck within the EuroVillage, and then it was time to head off to the next instalment, the “Preview” show for Semi Final 2. But like I said at the top it’s already after midnight so I’ll save that for tomorrow morning. Suffice to say it was an incredible show!

Living it up in Livvo!

Ahhh. *rubs eyes and yawns* . Ten hours sleep was grand, feeling a bit feverish and waking up with a pounding headache, less so. But thanks to the magic of Panadol and caffeine I’m at least ready to drag myself out the door. Could do with a nap though.

We left our nice little room at “Hotel The Exchange”, trundled up the road to Amsterdam Centraal, and (once we actually found a ticket machine) was very happy with how easy (and relatively cheap!) it is to get a ticket for an airport train.

Waiting at Amsterdam Centraal

Sixteen minutes and one stop later, hello Schipol airport! Just managed to scrape in under the 23kg bag limit for this flight (by a whole 200g lol) so that was nice. We did the usual airport stuff, and even though I didn’t plan it this way I even had the opportunity to be felt up, er, patted down I mean, by a very easy-on-the-eye security guard 😂

After all that it was bit of hurry-up-and-wait for our KLM flight to Manchester. Good time for a nap.

To board, there was a surprisingly long bus ride to the plane, I was starting to wonder if the bus would head for the channel tunnel and drive us all the way to Manchester but no, we got to our plane and climbed up the steps (I know! Steps!), giving our farewells to Amsterdam.

The flight was just over an hour, smooth, pleasant, and good time for a nap.

We worked our way through Manchester airport, which has a train station, which I thought would make things easy. I swear it was a half hour walk for slow old me, I felt deceived!

Train station miles away from the airport! Rude!

But eventually we made it and got on the train. Only a short trip, but a good time for, you guessed it, a nap.

First leg of our trip to Liverpool was great – then we got to Manchester Oxford road to find our connecting train was cancelled. Where is Deutsche Bahn when you need them! But full credit to everyone at the station, they rounded us all up and put us on a different train straight away. I get the feeling that they really are trying to to put their best face forward for the massive influx of crazy Eurovision fans that are turning up from all over the place. As a bonus this train was an express straight to Liverpool Lime street. Good time for… a nap? Why yes, yes it is. Except for a screaming baby that didn’t let up for the whole 50 minutes. I was still not feeling great, all tired and grumpy and very much lacking my usual “Ah well, babies are just gonna baby” attitude.

Liverpool Lime Street was full of Eurovision fans all trying to work out where they had to be and what they had todo. (un)Helpfully, a number of streets nearby were blocked off including the Taxi rank, which was super useful when there weren’t any signs. Still, a blocked off road doth carry no taxis, so I found an unblocked road, and shortly after, were in a cab to our destination. I kinda feared the worst, the taxi driver’s card machine just happened to be ‘broken’ so he could only take cash, and he didn’t set the meter, I figured he knew an easy tourist target when he saw one. But I kept an eye on my map on my phone and he did take the most direct route, and it was £16 – about a pound a minute, but honestly I was expecting him to charge a lot more. Still, whatever it was, there was no way I could have walked it, so all worth it.

The hotel is a little bit out of the way, but from a Eurovision point of view is well positioned between the Arena and the big Eurovision party zone. I was less than thrilled to find that we were on the 2nd floor (ie the 3rd floor) and there’s no lift, but eventually made it. At least the room was bigger than I was expecting, so that’s nice considering it’s home for the next 7 days. I was, of course, ready for a nap by this point, but managed to resist.

We had a bit of a wander along the Liverpool dockside, it was great to get my first glimpse of the famous Liver (rhymes with MacGyver) birds, but ultimateIy I couldn’t make it all the way to the ‘EuroVillage’ so I left Perry to check it out why I slowly shuffled myself back to the hotel. Along the way there was a lot going on, lots of food trucks, a sauna truck (yes really, every bit as odd as it sounds), a merry-go-round, and stacks of people having a pretty good time. The weather was really nice despite the forecasts of rain, so that was another bonus. It’s also nice to see the city really getting into it with the signage and the like.

Dinner was an easy trip downstairs to the hotel’s own restaurant – didn’t even know it had one! We both had bangers and mash, so I guess at least we did get into some of the local cuisine on day one this time :). And then over the road to Maccas for a cheeky Sundae, except, shock horror they don’t do Sundaes! A McFlurry had to suffice. Hopefully that sugar hit will keep going long enough to finish writing up the days events before falling into bed, where the plan is then to wake up fully refreshed and feeling 100% better because as Lizzo says, it’s about damn time!

Windmills! Tulips! Dutch treats!

Woke up after a very restful sleep last night, which was nice. But, not feeling on top of the world, which was not nice. So todays entry may be a bit short/low effort. Don’t worry, no headache or sore throat or cough though!

After navigating the space age (ok, Japanese) shower controls it was time to find breakfast. We had a tour leaving from the station, and if Frankfurt is any indication, big stations have tons of food options.

That’s probably also true with Amsterdam, but only if you have a ticket. Everything, other than the ticket machine, is behind the ticket barriers.

We also learned that Amsterdam, like me, isn’t that much of a morning person. We headed out at around 7, and there was basically nothing open, not even the “all day breakfast” place. So, desperate times call for desperate measures – maccas was open so that was that.

Much quieter in the mornings

Finding the meet up point for our tour – again, should be easy, but it’s on the opposite side of Amsterdam Centraal – and as far as our little tourist brains could comprehend, there’s no way through without a ticket.

We went around, down a road that I think was titled “no pedestrian access” and eventually found it. Woo!

We were herded into a group and into a bus, I mean, some people look down on “tourist things” but when it makes access to some where you want to go easy, sure, gimme a bus and the crowd and the person with the little flag on a stick!

First stop was Zaanse Schaan, land of windmills. And not just for show, a number of them are still fully functional. The one we visited as part of the tour was a peanut mill., built in 1679. You’d never guess, it mills peanuts! This was primarily for the oil – as the mill could also make linseed oil for paint, and other oils that i would have remembered if I had written it down at the time.

The process was really interesting. First the peanuts were crushed under massive 5 tonne stones from Belgium. The same stones have been in use since the 1870s but they’re about half their current size now as compared to then.

Then they opened up a hole in the mill base and the ground peanuts dropped into a hopper, after which they were shovelled in to a big kettle, which was auto-stirred thanks to the wonders of windmill power. After cooking at 60 degrees for a while (to loosen up the oil) the crushed peanuts were out into two bags. The two bags were laid out in some filters which kinda folded over them, then the whole shebang was out into a press, where (thanks again to windmill power) a 150kh hammer beats the shi, er, oil out of the cooked peanut powder, releases all the natural peanut oil goodness.

Is there more to this fascinating (opinions may vary lol) process? Of course there is!! The now-presssed peanut remnants are saved, to be used as quality cattle food during the winter. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle since the 1600s! (Mind you I guess everybody did it back then out of necessity, blah blah modern life is so wasteful, etc etc) 🙂

The windmills aren’t just for us tourists to gawp at, the oils are still sold to companies to be used, as a way to help support the whole Zaanse Schaans operation, which is pretty lovely.

The whole end to end peanut oil process using a windmill takes a while. Alas can’t remember how much exactly but I think they could produce a reasonable amount in a day. What I do remember, is that nowadays in a modern non-windmill facility, it’s all in about ten minutes.

So understandably the world moves on, but it’s an absolute delight knowing these working mills are still, well, working.

Once upon a time they made all the difference to the Netherlands’ position and in the world. Sawmill windmills reduced the average time it took to build a boat from 3 months to the 3 weeks, much for the benefit of the Dutch EasT India company who was able to rapidly expand their trading routes, and with it their reach and their power. And, sadly, their involvement in slave trading.

Here are some Zaanse Schaans pictures

On the way to our next destination we learnt a few more things. Perhaps unsurprisingly winds can be really strong in that area, so many houses have tall pyramid shaped roofs, the most efficient way to cope with the high winds.

Next stop was the very pretty seaside town of Volendam. By the way it was described to us it sounded a little like Vaucluse or Toorak. Everybody is very rich and neighbours spend much of their time trying to one-up each other.

We learnt a bit about how to make Gouda, and the different varieties available. (yes they’re allowed to call it Gouda even though it’s not made in Gouda). They try to release a new flavour every year, I tried a little bit of the ginger one which was nice.

There was time to kill in volendam, and I was super keen to just sit down and rest a bit, so we found a nice looking restaurant (like all of them) along the dock. I just had chips and mayonnaise, Perry has croquettes, so super Dutch all around! There was a group of what I imagine we’re old friends nearby, having a grand old time and laughing and carrying on, was lovely to hear all the happy Dutch voices even though I don’t know what they were saying. The coronation was on the restaurant’s telly, and despite not understanding them I am 99% sure they were taking the piss!

Nice simple lunch in Volendam

While waiting It was funny to hear Dutch directness with a tourist at the waffle shop.

“Oh no I didn’t want that”

“That’s what you said. It’s too late. I am already making it. You will pay for it”

And, she did!

After lunch we also learned about Stroopwaffles. They came to be in the 1800s as a way to make use of leftover scraps and crumbs by sweetening them with syrup. Volendam say their ones are better (I’m sure they’re not at all biased) because they use a bit of cinnamon in the syrup that goes in between the two layers.

Speaking of layers I always through my stroopwaffles we’re just two of them stacked with syrup in between. But if you’re doing it properly you cut your stroopwaffle in half, quite a feat as they’re only a few millimeters thin.

And yes we got to try some of the freshly made stroopwaffle produced during the demo. What a winner!

The Stroopwaffle Zone

The tour soon moved on to the island (former island) of Marken, via a peaceful boat ride. Here, we were treated to a clog-making demonstration. I still fondly remember going to one of these school back in like 1982. Of course the process was the same, and fun to watch the clog take form as a big drill followed a template and carved where it needed to carve. Next minute, clog!

Back on the bus we go to conclude the tour back to Amsterdam, just in time for, yep, the next tour!

Keukenhoff is a beautiful tulip garden about 41km south west of Amsterdam. It’s only open for eight weeks a year, and this is one of those weeks, so we had to, right? Right.

On the bus, off we go, leaving Amsterdam’s ancient majesty behind for very modern infrastructure and beautifully kept expressways.

We had a few hours here, and it wasn’t long before I was feeling kinda worn out and all I was doing was slowing Perry right down, so I picked a bench and there I stayed, leaving him to see all the sights unencumbered and take lots of lovely photos. If he was waiting for me he probably wouldn’t have seen half of what he did, so, bit of a bummer but the right thing to do. The Kkeukenhoff is about 79 acres, and like a teenager in the early 2000s, I literally can’t even.

I’ll just take a brief moment of self-pity to say that all my still-not-shifted lockdown-weight and working from home nearly all the time, barely moving, was not conducive to a very sudden change in routine of doing 10000+ steps a day and being active for much of my waking hours. But that’s something I’ll have to endeavour to keep up when I’m back home.

The bench I’m on has lotsa pretty flowers nearby though 🙂 And, it would seem, plenty of people doing the exact same thing that I am.

A while later when Perry returned I got a nice cup of tea at a big cafe here – tea revives, right? It kinda did, and had a bit of a wander with Perry and we got some pics.

These are mostly Perry’s awesome work, unleash the floodgates of flower photos!!

I can’t help but think so many people were only there “for the ‘gram”, and, why not I guess. Seemingly endless seas of beautiful flowers, it was definitely a treat for the senses, enjoy it however you like.

A few hours after arriving the bus picked us up and whisked us back to Amsterdam.We just had a super simple dinner (chips again) at ‘Snack it!” next to the hotel. Time (already) to pack everything and get ready for the next exciting leg!

Also sorry I have a few more pictures but I can’t be bothered downloading them from my camera. They’ll come later.

Amsterdam is still lovely, I get the feeling it always will be.

Seeya Sydney!

The day started around 5am when the alarm went off. Ugh. Everything was packed, all I had to do was shuffle along like the sleep-deprived zombie that I was, get some coffee into me so I could make it out the door 🙂 Farewelled the cat, who was even purring, happy at the prospect of a few hours peace and quiet once we’re out of the way. Fortunately we have some lovely people house-and-cat-and-plant sitting while we’re away, so everything should be fine on that front.

Now get out and leave me be!

At the airport, check-in was fine, the “smart gate” worked, I don’t miss the old days of filling out departure forms to hand to angry people.

Minutes later we arrived at the Skyteam Lounge to wait for our flight. The lounge has been refurbished since we were last here back in 2015, it looks nice, there was some standard Bain-Marie food (bacon, mystery sausages, solid scrambled egg), plus the usual bread and little pastries. It was all tasty though and helped to pass the time.

I’m not a plane nerd (despite being an almost-everything-else nerd) but our plane for the first leg is an A350-900 if anyone finds that kind of thing exciting. The bit that I find exciting is that we’re fortunate enough to be travelling business class, the extra room and comfort are very very much appreciated.

Boarding was delayed a bit, but with 6 hours to wait in Ho Chi Min we weren’t in a panic – and soon enough, we are on the plane. Since Business is still a bit of a novelty, so gotta admit it was nice to ‘Turn Left’ upon boarding, to find our comfy seats.

One thing I found a bit unusual – it’s quite normal to be expected to turn your phone etc on to Flight Mode, but this time anything that was capable of transmitting was not allowed to be activated – so, no Bluetooth, no Airpods, no nothing. Felt a bit weird. They did supply their own (wired) noise-cancelling headphones, which weren’t exactly noise-cancelling, just noise-politely-suggesting-could-you-please-tone-it-down-a-bit-thanks. But they were better than nothing so shouldn’t grumble.

And then, the food! If Vietnamese Airlines has a secret, this would be it. I was really surprised by just how darn good it was! Yes I’m one of those people who takes pictures of my meals (on holiday at least), so here’s the ones I manage to get pictures of before scoffing them down.

The flight itself was uneventful, hardly any turbulence the whole way. Since I couldn’t use my headphones I watched ‘Jumanji Welcome to the Jungle’ on the in-flight system, which was a fun enough way to kill some time. The cabin crew asked if they wanted me to prepare my seat for sleeping – so I thought sure, why not. This basically involved them chucking a thin cover over the chair so… ok, guess I’m ready for sleep now. But it was all good, I pushed the buttons to make it go from a seat to a lie-flat bed. There’s juuuuust enough room to sleep, though I kept jamming my elbow in to the side of the seat which wasn’t real smart, or comfortable. But seriously, shouldn’t complain, did get to sleep for a bit of time so all good.

Actually Time is one of those weird things about flying, you’re kinda in a few time zones – the one you left from, the one you’re flying through, and with any luck you’re already thinking about the time at your destination, so the hours kind of stretch out in all directions, but I guess the most important one is ‘time to destination’ – weirdly when I saw it was only 2 hours I was like ‘almost there!’, unlike regular me who gets annoyed when the microwave tells me I have to wait a whole 15 seconds.

With around 2 hours to go we were served a light meal, I had a delicious chicken mushroom pie and after that, time to get ready for landing. Next minute, here we are in Ho Chi Min! It was easy finding our way to the international transfer bit, and on to the lounge, which is lovely. Overlooking the airport, it’s s always fun to watch the planes come in, check out the interesting food/drink on offer, and also fun to see some of the ground staff getting around on bicycles – which, in the 36 degree heat, is a good effort.

Since it’s 6 hours to the next flight, we’ll be here a while, which seemed like a perfect time to write a bunch of stuff in the blog. So, job done! Hoping to get more sleep on the next flight, to arrive at least half fresh and relaxed early in the morning in Frankfurt. See ya then.

Index – USA / Canada 2018

WordPress lists things in “newest first” order – it makes sense while on the holiday, but not when you’re looking at blog after the holiday is done.

Here’s the whole trip,  in order from start to finish.















All good things…

Our time in the Asiana business lounge passed quickly – probably coz I ended up sleeping through some of it. I’d hit the wall by that stage, or maybe hit the wall, bounced off it, and hit it a few more times. I’d been awake nearly 24 hours by that stage so my body was all “nope, not doing hat any more”. I knew as soon as I got on the plane I could sleep to my heart’s content, so all good

Model plane in the Asiana lounge

Our 777-200 looked so little compared to the A380 we’d just travelled in – but inside it was basically the same. Spacious and comfy enough. Service was again excellent. I skipped dinner (except for a drink) and went to sleep. Slept like a log – it felt like a short flight. The lie-flat seating was pretty good – had bit of a lump at about calf-level where the seat meets the footrest but seems churlish to complain since I slept so much.

Two hours before landing it was time for brekky – it was the only meal From Asiana that I wouldn’t regard as spectacular. It wasn’t bad, just scrambled eggs, veges and a sausage all crammed in to the one dish where it all gets heated together and takes on the same flavour. However it was also served with coffee and a choice from a basket of pastries. Everything’s better with pastries!

The sunlight breaking over the horizon was very pretty.

We also had a free tour of Sydney is we flew past, chucked a u-turn and came back north again to land – and here I’ve gotta give Asiana some credit – both flights had perhaps the smoothest landings ever.

Perry’s awesome photo of Sydney

One small wrinkle – here we were in Sydney, but also in limbo. We had to wait about 25 minutes on the tarmac because our gate was busy. Basically, the larger version of circling the car park waiting for a spot.

Once we were parked, the most problematic part after that was figuring out what to buy from the duty free shop, and before we knew it, we were here. Home.

The cat, of course, did her best effort to be indifferent about the whole thing. But after half an hour she warmed up and decided she did know us after all, before curling up for a nap.

We’re so incredibly grateful to come home to a perfectly clean, and even improved, home thanks to the efforts of Perry’s parents. And thanks also to Perry’s niece for her help keeping the cat fed and entertained.

Reality was upon us – clothes to wash, suitcases to empty, and no musical to see in the evening.

The holiday is over. It was brilliant, and experiencing it with the incomparable Perry. makes it all the better.

And I still remember the five types of salmon. 🖐

Start spreading the news…

…we’re leaving today. Or rather, we’ve already left. Greetings from Incheon, Korea!

There’s not much to write about for today – we had brekky in the Café attached to the hotel, where I was surprised by really good coffee – 8/10. It was accompanied by “eggs with style”… and bacon. Bacon never goes out of style.

Then it was back to the room to do the very last bits of packing we had finished the night before. We left home with two half-empty bags … suddenly we find ourselves returning with four very full ones. We also left our standard koala calling card upon checking out …

This time, I overpacked. You know how the rough guide is “pack your bag then take half of the stuff out” … it’s sound advice, which I didn’t really follow. I packed a pair of pants, a pair of shoes and a shirt that just spend six weeks in a suitcase.

We used good old “dial7” car service to get us to the airport. So called as their phone number is basically keep hitting 7 until someone answers. Leaving New York… well, I know I’ll sound like a spoiled brat here, but leaving … it sucks. There are more shows to see, more places to go, things to do … but I guess pretty much everyone on a holiday kinda wishes it could go on forever.

It took about an hour to get the airport – the first half of that was just getting off Manhattan. Our driver, like all in New York, use the horn as a kind of local language. Go, stop, wait, move you idiot!, there are beeps galore but it all seems to mostly work.

Check in at the Asiana desk was great. Very friendly, and they suggested moving us up a row as the seats had “better privacy”. They also noted that there would be a baby at the back of business class, “just so you are aware”. I can’t get upset at crying babies on planes – there’s not much anyone can do about it, but interesting that they went to the trouble of pointing out.

We hung out in the Swiss Air lounge which was ok, the only thing it really lacked was power outlets. It had nice cookies, and the machine-made cappuccino wasn’t horrible either.

A few hours passed by and eventually it was time to board our big A380. It’s always nice to “turn left” on boarding – but I junk that’s mostly because the upper deck boarding door is not quite up the front of the plane.

The seats are big enough and comfy enough, and we finally realise that the aforementioned “privacy” meant “from each other” – there’s a metre or so of desk/storage between our seats in the middle part of the plane. But not to worry, we can still smile and wave 🙂

There’s a reasonable size tv screen, a nice big fold down table, and fun stuff like a pair of slippers and a little amenities kit. The headphones are comfy, but not noise-cancelling – i guess it doesn’t matter as much in an A380. Maybe it’s because we’re sitting in the middle but this time I noticed that the A380 does seem quieter than most planes – previously I’d always thought it about the same.

The cabin crew are all very polite and professional, and the food is really impressive. Fancy appetisers, and a really flavoursome Korean bibimbap for mains. It was delicious. Note to self: have bibimbap more often.

There’s no wifi which is a bit of a bummer but I’ll live 🙂

The first leg of the flight is 13 hours, the second one around 10 hours. I’ll try and stay awake on this first leg, then sleep through the second one as it arrives in Sydney around 7:30am. It kinda feels like we’re being cheated to leave New York on Friday morning then boom it’ll be Sunday morning when we get home – but guess we had to pay back our 36-odd hour long July 4 eventually.

At the time of writing, there’s still quite a few hours of his first leg left, so time to watch a few more movies – there’s plenty on the plane, haven’t even had to dig out the iPad yet.

The hours passed and eventually we landed – a very nice, uneventful flight. Very happy with Asiana Airlines so far.

Just a few hours to wait in the Asiana lounge at Incheon, then we’re off, the fi al leg … next stop, Sydney!

Stop trying to make Fetch happen! (Thursday, Part 2)

Tonight’s show is the last one we get to see on this (pretty extraordinary) trip. It’s time for Mean Girls.

Surely you know the story – it was a movie, released in 2004, starring Lindsay Lohan, about a new arrival to a High School and all the shenanigans that happen with the various cliques.

Now, some 14 years later, it’s finally been turned into the musical it was always probably just dying to be. It works so well as a musical.  Snappy, hilariously funny, and really brought up to date.  Social Media wasn’t (much of) a thing in 2004, but the story has been tweaked to bring the selfie generation on board, with a few brilliantly pointed comments that received thunderous applause from the audience.  Like, “Maybe we should just teach  our boys not to do that rather than telling our girls to be more careful”.  It follows the plot of the movie, with these embellishments, and did a great job.  Perry and I didn’t really agree on the staging – most of the sets were just video projects across the whole stage.  I thought that was, dare I say a tiny bit cheap and a bit lazy, where Perry thought it was a brilliant idea as this show really is about today’s screen-addicted generation. At least it did allow for super-fast changes of scenery to keep the story moving at a good speed.  It wasn’t just screens, there were a  props and furniture and the like, maybe I’m just being old-fashioned.

The woman playing Regina was great – her Mum was two rows in front of us, she must have been feeling super-proud … which is probably why everyone within a couple of rows of where she was sitting, knew that she was the Mum of the star of the show 🙂

The actors playing Janis (‘art freak’) and Damian (‘too gay to function’) were just brilliant, they really helped carry the show. All the iconic moments from the film where there too of course – “Stop trying to make fetch happen”, “on Wednesday’s we wear pink” and of course … “she doesn’t even go here!!”. Oh go on, watch the movie, it’ll make sense then.

At the end, there was a full-theatre standing ovation, tons of riotous applause – the crowd really got into it, it’s fair to say.  A very good show, well worth a look if you have the chance.

After it finished, the usual things happened.  It took forever to get out of the theatre, there were dozens of bicycle-rickshaw riders all lined up and ringing their bells trying to get anyone’s attention for a $3.90/minute ride somewhere.  There was that dumb person who stops in the middle of the footpath for no reason  (Is it not the case, everywhere, every time, be it a musical, a sports event, or just at the mall  …there is always at least one).  Slowly but surely, the happy crowd dispersed in to the New York night.  We did the same, but it was a bit different know that the show’s pretty much over, holiday-wise.  A bit sad to have that last walk back to the hotel, through the bustling streets, the honking taxis, the sirens, the heat, the crowds … and people still trying to sell you hop-on-hop-off bus tickets.

Tomorrow, well, it’s time to go home.

The Bronx Zoo. (Thursday, Part 1)

Today we escaped Manhattan – we managed to leave the place that you’d kinda never want to leave, and head north, to the renowned Bronx Zoo.

It wasn’t too tricky to get to – though every time we’d ask Apple or Google we’d get different instructions every 5 minutes, depending on which train had left which station at which time. Not to worry, we took the suggestions, and they worked a treat.  Jumped on the 5 train uptown, which went up , up, (but not away), past central park, through Harlem, all the way to 185th st.  Then it was a quick matter of figuring our how to turn a train ticket into a bus ticket (create a ‘transfer’ ticket at the bus stop – easy once you know how), then all aboard the bus for a short trip that stops very close to the Zoo itself.  Again, no drama on the subway, all pretty clean and quiet.

Ah, the Zoo.  You know what zoos are, what they do, why they’re there.  Bronx Zoo is a huge one, established in the late 1800s, covering around 169 acres I think they said.  It’s never something you’d be able to cover in a day – but here’s some of the things we managed to see – I’ll let the pictures do the talking. (Sorry they’re in random order, they upload that way and I’ve been too lazy to reorganise)


Who knew the Bin Chicken has a flamboyant cousin – the Scarlet Ibis


Nearby train station had rows of stained glass


Monorail (bona-fide, electrified!) through part of the zoo.


We exited the zoo at a different place that was close to a subway station. Was kinda amusing to see hat the subway was more super-way – it was elevated high above the street rather than running underground. Again it was pretty easy – took the 5 train to 59 St, then caught he N train to 49.

The tickets are still old fashioned magnetic stripe things that aren’t too reliable – but could be worse.

Yeah I guess I’m a public transport nerd – this boring stuff has to be interesting to someone, right? 🙂

Anyway – Bronx Zoo – well worth visiting.

Hello, Dolly? You Bette!

We started the day with breakfast at a different branch of Juniors. I started the day without cinnamon on my coffee. Winning! And when I ordered French toast, our waiter handily educated me about what Canadian Bacon is in the US. Ham. So I dodged a ham-shaped bullet there I guess, and enjoyed my French toast with normal (well, normal-American) bacon. Delish!

After breakfast we jumped on the hop-on-hop-off bus to travel way downtown.  Except with the traffic it was just crazy-slow, just we hopped off the bus, and hopped on the subway to get there a heck of a lot faster.  Even with delays on the subway I’d say we easily saved a good 30-45 minutes.  Just like Sydney, the platforms were stupidly hot but the trains were nice and cool inside.

Longest train ever??

We visited the September 11 memorial / museum.  On out last visit five years ago the memorial was complete but the museum wasn’t.  There’s not really too much that can be said about the whole thing that hasn’t said before, over and over and over.  It was one of rare places in New York where you could a find a lot of people, but all being very quiet, and sombre.  It didn’t really feel right to take photos – indeed, they were a number of sections where it was not permitted.

Next on the agenda was the nearby Century 21 store … a great big clothes shop full of crazy bargains, and absolutely nothing that would have any chance of fitting either of us :-/ … except for shoes.  So we ended up three pairs of shoes richer from the experience, all  at crazy-cheap prices.  So at least my feet still fit into something! 🙂

We jumped on the Subway (or to pretend that I sound like I know what I’m talking about, we caught the W train uptown to 49th and 7th) to visit another clothing shop with a good reputation, where Perry picked up some stuff.

We wandered in and out of other shops, had a bit of a meander, and had a late lunch of frozen yoghourt, because, you know, why not. Holidays!

Dinner was at ‘Smiths’ – which had a menu exactly the same as ‘Roxy’s’, where we had dinner last night.  I wonder just how much of that goes on – maybe there are like three or four restaurants in the whole city and that’s it 🙂 Whatever, dinner was still delicious – good old fashioned meat loaf.  I was going to race through it like a Bat Out Of Hell … but I Won’t Do That.

And then it was time for the show.  Something I’ve been stupidly excited about for months – talk about antici……..(wait for it)…….pation!  No, not Rocky Horror, but rather, Hello Dolly.  Starring Better Midler.  In New York City. On Broadway.  So, basically, died-and-gone-to-heaven stuff for anyone that likes the occasional musical.   And thanks to Perry waiting up until the very second tickets went on sale after the return of Bette Midler was announced, we had perfect seats.  A few rows back from the front, and dead-centre.  Could not have asked for a better spot. As for the show itself, of course I could just sit here gushing about it for the next thousand words or so, but will try to contain myself.  It’s a bit different to the movie version – but I think a lot of design is loosely based on that 1969 production.  New York of the 1870’s had at times a distinct of 1960’s flavour.  Not that I’m complaining, it was all fantastic.  Great sets, beautiful costumes – and I still can’t figured out how they got a near-as-dammit life size steam train and carriage into the theatre – that was a real surprise.

Bette Midler of course was just brilliant – still all singing and dancing, and by the looks of it having an absolute ball.  I guess when you have a theatre full of 1500-odd people all giving you a standing ovation and it’s still only part way through the show, you’d definitely be feeling the love.  She was great – and looked like she took plenty of time to kinda slip out of Dolly Gallagher Levi’s character and just be Better Midler – throwing food to the orchestra, throwing salt all over co-stat David Hyde Pierce, generally having a whale of a time – as were we.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much joy contained in a room – now I know what it means when they say “the crowd were eating out of her hand”, so to speak.  The entire rest of the cast were also great – excellent dancing, singing, you name it.  It was all really really well done, and unsurprisingly, we loved it.  Definitely a highlight of the whole trip.  Never mind why the tickets cost (no seriously I’m trying not to think about it), it was worth every penny.  I guess it’s something we’ll never see the likes of again, definitely a moment to remember.

The view from our seats. Just perfect.

Certainly something to help distract us from tomorrow – our last full day in New York, our last proper day of this whole entire trip..eek!