Top of the Rock, Top of the Temperatures (Tuesday Part 2)

The most surprising thing about the Radio City Music Hall tour was that you didn’t exit through the gift shop … mind you it was just next door.  And they sold cold bottled water – hooray! (yes single use plastic water bottles are terrible but it’s still feeling like 35 freakin’ degrees, sorry. We are at least putting them in the recycling)

It was time for the next part of our Rockefeller adventure – ‘Top of the Rock’ – the high observation point that isn’t the Empire State Building, basically (we did that last time).  For Top of the Rock, Im glad we splashed out a little extra for the ‘VIP’ tickets that get you past the queues, else we would have waited at least an hour. It was worth it just for the time saved.  The lift ride to the stop starts interestingly.  The lights close, and suddenly the whole lift goes pitch black, before the disco lights come on in the ceiling and give you something to watch as you climb about 76 storeys into the air.



Before long, normality is more or less restored and you’re on the 76th floor – ready to take in some amazing view of New York City on this hot, humid, and hazy day.



A city and its tourists (kinda fond of this pic if I do say so myself)


Two more tourists



Loved the crazy mirroring on this building


..especially when viewed through a … batman mask?



There are worse views to have from your window

It was a bit surprising that even this far up, there wasn’t much of a breeze for the most part – it was just scorching, another “Feels like 37” day.   Wondering if the floor was going to melt beneath our feet, we didn’t stay up there for all that long. Just long enough to gaze at the lovely Empire State Building again, and get a glimpse of the lovely Chrysler Building as well. In the distant haze you could just make out the not-sydney-harbour-bridge Hell Gate Bridge, too.

When it came time to descend (with the lift doing it’s same pitch-black-then-disco-lights trick), we found the nearest Starbucks to sit in the aircon and cool off with a huge cup of their really-quite-lovely lemonade.

For old times’ sake, we headed a few blocks up to Central Park, to see how it was going.  Saw a few sights on the way.


Subway riders are into what now?


We reached Central Park and quickly reached a conclusion. It’s toooo darn hot.

But we saw a squirrel 🙂



Looks lovely – but was just o-pressingly hot, humid, and still.

We didn’t adventure on much further – even the squirrels had lost their seemingly boundless playful energy.  They were just walking from place to place rather than flitting about at 100 miles an hour.  We definitely we not capable of any flitting. Just sitting.  With an ice cream. In the shade.  We declared it an “at least we tried” – then turned around to get back to the hotel and it’s marvellous aircon.

We reached the hotel just in time for room service to come and make up the room :-/  But, not to worry, we’d put in some washing that we had to pick up so it was as good a time as any to do that.  On the way there, is a place proclaiming it had good coffee.  Can this happen in New York? I was determined to find out.


First good sign: it had Flat White on the menu.  Second good sign: Just look at the coffee!


It was a proper, good, flat white – with no cinnamon on top. I’d give it an 8/10.

After the little detour, we got back to hotel and just let the aircon bring us back to some degree of humanity.  Maybe it was with a degree of irony that the show we went to see tonight was Disney’s Frozen – The Musical.  Perry kinda bought tickets on a whim because they were cheap, and because hey yeah why not?  The seats were off on the edge with partially restricted vision, but that’s OK … just like the show.  I guess maybe if I were a kid it’d totally blow my socks off when Elsa comes on, but the big ‘Let it Go’ number somehow didn’t have the massive impact and gravity I thought it would.  The sub-second costume change was pretty nifty part way through the song, though.  If nothing else, at least I now know what happens in Frozen – it’s more than just one song.  All the cast performed really well and it was visually impressive and all that…just, I dunno, left me a bit cold (haha).

Sorry if those notes on the show are a bit short, but it’s late.  If I can think of anything to add, I’ll do it tomorrow.  More adventures in holy-crap-its-hot-here-in-New-York-City await!

Art Deco Overload (Tuesday, part 1)

Who am I kidding, as if you can ever get too much Art Deco.  More on that in just a second.  I’m splitting this day up in to more than one post as it’s getting way too long already, and this only describes events up to mid-day.

First the important stuff – breakfast.  Junior’s Cheesecake was the destination today – a nice big place doing much more than just cheesecake.  I had a huge plated of Corn Beef Hash, Perry had Eggs Benedict.  I also had a cappuccino. It arrived with a generous dusting of … cinnamon.  Lucky I noticed before I stirred it in.  The coffee itself wasn’t even too good – but they win a point for serving it with a sugar stick.  So, maybe 5/10 on the iScott Coffee Scale.  Probably a zero if I hadn’t noticed the cinnamon first.  New York does almost everything – except making good coffee easy to find.

Cappuccino ✅ Sugar Stick ✅ Cinnamon 🤮[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

We were well organised enough today to have two things going on in more or less the same place – at the Rockefeller Centre.  Mind you, the Rockefeller Centre is I think two full city blocks, so that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily close together.

First, was a tour of the Radio City Music Hall.  We ordered it on a whim the other day, after wondering if it was possible to see inside at all.  Sure enough, they do tours of the building, so this morning, off we went.  It’s yet another one of those iconic New York places (the poor city has so damn many of them!) – Radio City, the Rockettes, countless awards ceremonies, concerts, etc – so I was really keen to check it out.

It was good to get a bit of the history of the place, to help interpret the features within.  When it opened, in 1932, you bought a ticket for entry, and once you were in there were live shows, there was food, there were movies – you just entered the building, saw what you wanted to see, and off you went.  This helped explain why the Grand Foyer was so grand – as it would have people milling about in it pretty much all the time, not just for a scheduled performance.  But wow, Grand is sure the word.

The next area we were lead to was very much behind the scenes – the hydraulics room.  Almost the entire area of the stage is hydraulically operated – there are multiple sections, including the orchestra pit, and each can be raised or lowered over a range of about 40 feet.  There’s also another mechanism where some can also be rotated.  It’s pretty cutting edge stuff, for 1932.  The surprising thing is that all of the equipment there now, is the same stuff that was installed in 1932.  It works so well, to this day, that there’s still no need to replace it.  This technology wasn’t just for theatregoers, though.  In the second world war, the navy took an interest in this exciting new hydraulic lift platform technology – and adopted exactly the same system to lift planes up to the decks of the aircraft carriers, including the USS Intrepid that we recently visited.  Our tour guide even said that, during the war, there were soldiers permanently stationed around the theatre’s hydraulics room to ensure that no spies would get themselves in and work out how it was all done.  Pretty unexpected that something for the theatre would then go on to be used in the theatre of war.

We were then lead to the lounge area – another place for patrons to hang out between shows.  Since the theatre seats nearly 6,000 people, even back in 1932 they were playing close attention to crowd control.  From the stairs out of the main auditorium they added a few extra large diamond-shaped pillars to the lounge, to ensure customers wouldn’t all go the same way.  They called them ‘silent ushers’ – to split the flow of people and ensure they were more evenly distributed among the lower lounge area.

The lounge area face another challenge – being quite close the the auditorium, there was a risk that people in the lounge would disturb the shows going on in the auditorium if they were too noisy.  Instead of just trying soundproofing, they used design as a tool.  The whole area was decorated with dark paint and dark fabrics, and the lighting was kept relatively low, to create a relaxed, hushed atmosphere.  At the time, diamond shapes were said to induce calm and quietness in people – so the massive pillars, the lights, the carpets … everything had diamonds patterns on it.  An interesting approach – I guess it must’ve worked, it’s all much the same as it was back on day 1.

Regarding the authenticity – for a place built in 1932, that sees more than a million people through it a year, you can be quite sure not everything in the theatre is original.  However, as it’s a Landmark building (like being Heritage Listed I guess), everything that is replaced, is made using the same techniques as when it was done originally.  The carpet is still manufactured in the same way, the gold-leaf-look walls are still done in the same way (it’s just aluminium foil and shellac – clever!) – there’s enough work and material required to keep the supplying businesses in business, so everything stays as true as it can to how it was back in 1932.

There was even something here pre-dating 1932.  The original working scale model of the theatre, built for presenting to the Rockefeller before the design was approved.  It was a fully working model – the stages moved, the lights worked, a pretty good demo version.

And then the exciting part – seeing the main auditorium itself.  It really was a bit of a ‘wow’ moment, walking through those doors.  I’ll let the pictures do some talking.

The design is based on a sunrise – hence the red chairs, the golden tiers of the roof and walls.  It’s grad and it’s glorious, and it’s hard to believe now that such things were even possible on this scale in 1932.  No pillars, no supports, all just good solid engineering and stunning design.   They were setting up for the MTV awards, so there was plenty happening at stage level.  We were even there at the right time to see the orchestra pit section get lowered by the hydraulic system.  No creaking or groaning, still a quiet efficient system after all these years, running happily at about 1 foot per second.

The tour was much more comprehensive than I though it would be – there was still a bit to go.  We were ushered in to a small room – populated with some of the remaining original 1932 seats (surprisingly large and comfy) – to watch a small presentation about the theatre’s history.  The scary part of the the story was in 1978, where, due to the onslaught of TV over the decades, and more and more local picture shows, patronage kept declining until the whole operation was no longer commercially viable.  The theatre was shut down, and demolition plans were drawn up, and moves were underway to determine what would replace it.  Fortunately, it was rescued primarily due to people power, petitioning the Rockefeller and the local government – which is when it was made a Landmark building to keep it safe, just a few weeks before the wrecking ball was due to move in.  So incredibly lucky.  From that point, the Rockefellers tipped in a bunch of money to help restore and renovated, and the venue has been on the up and up ever since – destined to hang around for quite some time yet, I’d think.   The christmas shows have become quiet legendary, with the equally legendary Rockettes performing – up to six shows a day in the busy November / December period.  Lucky there are two teams of Rockettes to help manage the workload.

Another bonus in the tour – we got to meet one of the Rockettes.  She’s been a Rockette for 6 years, and told a whole bunch of stuff about life as as Rockette.  They have to re-audition every single year, there’s no guarantees that once you get in, you’ll stay in.  They have to be between 5 foot 6, and 5 foot 10 and-a-half.  They’re basically a team of incredibly capable athletes – training at least 6 hours a day, six days a week, in the leads to the christmas shows.  Elite, at the top of their game, in an extremely demanding position, fully committed, not allowed to put a foot wrong, performing time after time after time.

Much of the choreography for the Rockette shows is still based on works by the original choreographer, Russell Markert.  Fun Fact:  The Rockettes actually pre-date Radio City Music Hall.  They started in Missouri as the ‘Missouri Rockets’ – but when they toured to New York, showman ‘Roxy’ Rothafel ‘discovered’ them, and moved them to New York, where before long they found a new home in Radio City Music Hall, as the “Roxyettes”, until their change to the Rockettes in 1934.  Would you believe, Russell Markert stayed on as their choreographer, all the way up to 1971.

After the ‘meet and greet’ – and obligatory souvenir photo opportunity (I swear I would not be surprised if we walked in to a convenience store and were ushered over to a green screen to get a souvenir photo taken…), it was on to ‘Roxy’s Apartment’.  But first – the touristy souvenir pic!


Roxy Rothafel was instrumental in the design and ultimate success of Radio City – one the ways his thanks was shown, was that he was gifted a quite substantial apartment with the theatre complex itself.  With 20 foot high ceilings (covered in genuine gold leaf – no foil and shellac for this guy!), and luxurious fittings, it’s pretty striking even today.  The dining room is very smart – a perfectly domed roof, so even when a who is playing below, the acoustics ensure each dinner guest can be plainly heard.  The apartment has had plenty of famous visitors – Olivia de Havilland, Judy Garland, Walt Disney, even Liberace.  Now, it is of course not lives in – but is rented out for (very fancy, I would imagine) private functions.

Next thing you know we were thrown from the 1930s directly in to the present, as the tour somewhat abruptly ended.  But what an amazing experience – I was only hoping to see the main auditorium, but ended up seeing and learning so much more.  It was a real treat – can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re at least even vaguely interested in this type of thing.

That’s it for part 1…

Feels like 37

We’ve seen some of the city on foot.  We’ve seen some of the city by bus.  So why not see the city by boat?

That was this morning’s plan as we headed off for a Circle Line boat tour around all of  Manhattan island – after a quick stop off at a corner deli for a cream cheese bagel. I’m not trying to fit in some cliche, but new york cream cheese bagels are the best I’ve ever had.  Simple, fresh, and delicious, a perfect breakfast-on-the-go for all the people we saw heading to work this morning… but that’ll also be us soon enough.

As luck would have it, the pier we needed to be at was on 46th street, and we’re on 47th, so that made it very easy to get to.  Just make sure the avenues are increasing instead of decreasing, and you know you’re on the right track – just stop before you fall in the Hudson.

Glad we had plenty of sunscreen on today. (yes Michaela, we’ve been extremely responsible in this regard 🙂 ) We were a little early for the boat, so had to queue for while before the ticket booth opened, in the full sun, where it was already 29 degreed by 8:30.  We survived, got our tickets, boarded the boat and sat in a partially shaded area, so all good.

It was an interesting 2.5 hour trip (not a three hour tour, a three hour tour…) all around the island, with plenty to see on both sides. Well, as  much the this very hazy day would allow us to see.  The heat was kind-of a killer, but when it’s a choice between seeing stuff or going inside and not seeing stuff.. .we opted to see stuff.

I learnt a few things here and there – the Freedom Tower (replacement for the World Trade Centre) is shaped like it is, so it effectively has 8 sides, to represent both World Trade Centre towers.


We learnt a bit about Ellis Island, New Jersey, Hoboken, and of course, Lady Liberty.  I still remember 5 years ago I was feeling like crap on the day we took the Staten Island Ferry to sail past, so happy I could appreciate her a lot more this time around. So here are approximately a gajillion photos…

At this point our tour guide did make some rather pointed comments about remembering how modern America was founded on immigrants and the opportunities they seek – and that we should not lose sight of that.

Something I didn’t expect – stacks of people JetSki-ing on the Hudson.


Also funny to finally see this bridge in person (if hiding behind another one) – but it’s so little!


Speaking of bridges – New York has so many that are pretty…

And here’s a bunch of things we saw…


Tour guide suggested the architect was a fan of Kinky Boots. He has a point…

If you call this pyramid looking building a pyramid, apparently the architect gets quite upset. It’s a trapezoid!


Apartment block from the first Ghostbusters movie


I call this building “Jenga”


Unexpected so close to manhattan!


Still waiting for my ice tea…


Really surprising to think this is manhattan


I’ll always love the Chrysler building.


Since the pier for the cruise was pretty much right next door to the USS Intrepid museum, it was a bit of a no-brained to drop in there.  It’s a great place to be, on the top of an aircraft carrier, on a 33 degree day with clear skies … our phones weren’t lying when they said ‘feels like 37’ – if not more.  The things we went to see were decided more by ‘which has shade / aircon’ rather than ‘what is most interesting’.  Honestly don’t think we had a choice in the matter, it was just too hot.  We did see a bunch of cool stuff though. Plenty of aircraft up on the deck, which, with my great knowledge of military history, could effectively identify as ‘that’s a place’ and also ‘that’s a helicopter’.  Yup, I have the skills…

The USS Intrepid is celebrating its 75th year – now i don’t know much at all about warships, but it seems to carry its age well and doesn’t look that old…even though it was decommissioned back in 1974.  The crew’s quarters didn’t look quite so comfy as our room on the Westerdam, and try as we might we couldn’t seem to find the Lido deck 🙂

The museum also houses the Space Shuttle Endeavour – kinda the ‘trial’ one that never made it to space, but still, pretty cool to get up close and personal with a Space Shuttle.  So close, it was really difficult to take photos of.


Not only that, the museum also has a Concorde, probably the main reason I wanted to go visit (with the Space Shuttle a close second).  Walking up to it, I was surprised just how little it is.  And how big the engines are – but I guess to beat the speed of sound you’d need big engines.  The windows however looked absolutely tiny – I just found this like which gives you some idea:

Even though they don’t fly anymore, they’re still a beautiful, if perhaps a little impractical, aircraft.

After all that we just had to get out of the sun and chill (literally!) back at the hotel.  Perry had a quick nap, I went out and got myself a haircut nearby.  It’s always the sign of a good long holiday when you’re on your second haircut since you started! It was in the Hell’s Kitchen district, where I passed some amusing restaurants  – ‘Fresh from Hell’, and ‘Bottoms up’ …


What was next?  Just for a change … yep, dinner and a show. Dinner was at ‘5 Napkins’ burgers – amazing.  But you’ve all seen pictures of burgers  before.

Tonight’s show was a real treat – we’re so lucky its 15 week season coincided with the time were going to be here.  The Boys in the Band.  Apparently a bit of a classic, it debuted 50 years ago – and was pretty groundbreaking for its time considering it was play about a bunch of gay men daring to live relatively normal lives. Reviving the play for 2018 is cool enough in itself, but I guess what makes it really special is the cast.  Jim Parsons (yep the guy from Big Bang Theory), Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannels, Zachary Quinto, to start with.  Star power or not, it was an incredible play, at times hilarious and at others, devastating.  What starts as a fun party gets darker, and darker and people get drunker and drunker, and internalised homophobia comes to surface in damaging ways.  Indeed, one of the pivotal lines at the end of the play “Why can’t we just stop hating ourselves…” must have been achingly appropriate in 1968 – but for people who still have reasons to be afraid of coming out,  it can still ring very true today.  The play ran for a bit under two hours, straight through, no interval.  The performances were excellent – Jim Parsons isn’t just the guy from Big Bang Theory.  It was a great play – very glad we had the opportunity to see it.


After leaving the theatre, sure enough, it was still really hot and humid outside – but we’re so fortunate to be staying where we are as it was again only a few minutes walk home, mercifully avoiding Times Square this time.  All these tourists just get in the way sometimes, hahahaha 🙂

So that’s it for another day.  I’m totally in denial about that fact that slowly, but surely, this holiday will be drawing to a close.  But for now, still having the Best. Time. Ever.  Feeling like the luckiest kid in the world.

Summer in the city

It’s a hot town, this New York City.  This time, in the literal sense. I guess it could be worse, it only reached 33 degrees.  But at ground level, in the middle of a throng of people, you kinda start to feel it.  I don’t know people cope that aren’t used to this kind of thing.

We didn’t have a real early start – but I think we’re finally recovered from the mostly sleepless bus trip. One thing about the city that never sleeps, is that it’s not too difficult to find somewhere to get brekky.  Today it was Trattoria Daniela – .

They had everything pretty well planned for tourist trade – all breakfasts $16 – and all the favourites covered,  Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Pancakes, etc.  All with Coffee/Tea, and Juice. French toast was great, with bacon, and maple syrup.  And fried eggs, which was a bit of an odd combination but hey all good.


It gave us the energy we needed to sit down for two hours and do nothing 🙂  Naturally we just can’t get enough of buses now (lol), so we jumped on the Hop On Hop Off bus today, since we knew it’d be a bit less than 12 hours this time.  I gotta say, there could be more people on street corners trying to sell Hop On tickets in New York, than there are people in Vegas trying to sell visits to titty-bars, or people in Thailand yelling out “massaaaaaage?!”.  Anywhere near any of the bus stops there are two or three or more people along the one block trying to sell you tickets.  I want to get a badge or a t-shirt that says “We already have Hop On Hop Off tickets thanks”. :).  And so, we Hopped On and braved the full sun upstairs.

On days like these one great thing about all of New York’s tall buildings is that they afford a lot of shade.  I was bit hesitant to go the top of the bus at first but it wasn’t often at all we were in the full sun, so it was OK, if still a bit hot and humid.  Once we able to grab to seats right at the front, I took approximately too many photos, some of which are below.  They were pretty much taken all while on the move, and the front window was really dirty, so don’t expect greatness 😀

It was interesting to see how, even just on Manhattan, the landscape is so changeable.  It’s not just buildings buildings buildings – once you get toward the ‘bottom’ end, to the lower west side, it really opens up a bit along the river – a number of parks, lots of people jogging, it was kinda unexpected.

After doing a big loop (about 2 hours worth) we jumped off and popped in to Schnippers for a drink – a restaurant (ok, fast food chain)  that we grew very fond of last time we were here, so it was nice to pop in again even if it was just for a (wonderfully cold, and infinitely refillable) drink.


Ah, Schnippers, how we missed you 😀

Then we just kinda wandered.  Over to Bryant Park, for a moment to sit in the shade, then over to the city-block-sized Macy’s on 34th street.  A huge place, all of which was air-conditioned, so  very good place to spend some time walking around looking at stuff.


As part of the bus tour we were informed that Manhattan has no WalMart.  But it does have a K-Mart!  I don’t think it’s at all related to the Australia one, but it has a similar kinda vibe – cheap clothes and other stuff.  Not bad cheap clothes either, so we picked up some shirts.  Before this trip is over we’re buying another bag, we’ve got a good luggage limit on the flight home so dang it, let’s make the most of it! 🙂

We took an early dinner at a bit of a US institution, if every second TV show is to be believed:  Olive Garden.  It all begin a little strangely – you’re greeted downstairs, given one of the food-pager things like a pub bistro, then sent upstairs to a small lobby to wait. Then once your buzzer buzzes, someone will lead you to a table.  Even though we went for dinner at 5PM, the place was already lost completely full. Around Times Square there is no place that is lacking for people – so it’s understandable everyone tries to do things at weird times to avoid all the other tourists.  So waiting 5 minutes was no biggie.

I didn’t have great expectations just coz it’s a massive chain restaurant – now I’m no gourmet  restaurant reviewer but I was really really impressed with the food. Right after you sit down a basket of bread sticks appear, and, perplexingly, a huge bowl of salad.  Can’t complain – it’s all tasty – and those bits come free!  We skipped entree (sorry, ‘appetiser’), I had a delicious ‘entree’ (argh that’s so annoying how they call the main dish the entree) of  ‘Chicken Piccata’ – chicken with lots of garlic and capers and peppers and lemon, and some sliced of crumbed zucchini.  Really flavoursome!

Perry’s meal was a sight to behold – the ‘Tour of Italy’ – why serve you one Italian dish when they can serve you three at once?  Chicken Parmy, Fettucine, and a Lasagne, all on the one plate.  Genius! Perfect if every you’re feeling indecisive 🙂  So there you go – Olive Garden, pretty good!



Tastier than it looks, trust me


And we even had time to scope out more souvenirs – this was amusing, no, neither of us bought one…


Also saw a nice old Corvette Stingray, so had to take a photo of course.



Tonight’s show – another old favourite – The Book of Mormon.  We first saw it five years ago in this same theatre – the Eugene O’Neil.  This is the 5th time we’ve seen the show, and of course, it’s still awesome.  They had a great cast, but, to be nit-picky, this is the first time the show hadn’t been end-to-end perfect.  Their sound people missed a few cues so microphones weren’t turned on in time, and half the band seemed to have issues for a moment during one of the big numbers.  But like I said, nit picky.  Still a great show, and I think a little different to when we saw it last – some of the songs seem to have been expanded a bit by a few bars here and there.  Kinda of like the differences we noticed over the years with Kinky Boots, but on a smaller scale.  It’s all good – thoroughly enjoyed it.  But it makes me realise I am turning into a crank old “you damn kids get off my lawn” type of guy.  There were quite a few people around who didn’t seem to realise that you do not talk while you’re at the theatre.  You. Do. Not. Talk. Especially when you’re that close to the front.  You’re not at home watching something on the telly, you’re in a theatre where you’re distracting the audience and maybe even the cast.  Have some respect. Grr!  A person in the front row was even playing games on their phone even after the second act started. Yes,  #firstworldproblems and all that, its true.   Anyway, many worse things happen in life – and the show did go on 🙂  I felt sorry for the cast at times – it was a bloody hot day and the theatre was also really really warm inside, they did a hell of a job wearing all those costumes, plus all the performing, in that heat.   Hasa Diga Eebowai! (see the show, people!)


It was kind surprising to find, once the show finished, that outside was even hotter.  Still around 30 degrees and close to 10pm.  We fought our way through the crowd , and stopped at Starbucks for a lemonade


Questionable coffee, but groovy signage…

(… yep, Starbucks does great lemonade, if only they had nice coffee haha), then back to the joy that is a well air-conditioned room at the hotel.  Phew!  Ready for more adventures tomorrow. And, you’ll be shocked to learn, another show 🙂


Harry Potter and the Greyhounds of NYC

Where did we leave off yesterday?  Oh yeah. In Toronto, with travels plans in disarray, and the only feasible option for getting to NYC would take 12 hours.  Our 5:30pm Greyhound from the airport left at 5:15 (with us on it) to get us to Toronto , where we would change busses for the one to goes to New York at 7:00pm… which becomes more like 8:00pm.  I went to the canteen at the bus terminal to grab a sandwich, but really didn’t need to rush. Basically they just line people up and whoever is in the line fits on to whatever bus turns up.  So we ended up on the 8PM one – but they at least we’re on a bus, no dramas.  Its all first-come-first-served when boarding, so only a small number of lucky people get the window seats (not us) , and we have to sit apart.  It’s OK, my neighbour keeps to herself, and we all settle in for the journey.

There’s not too much to be written about long bus trips . I’d heard some kind horror stories of Greyhound journeys, but our little team of passengers weren’t too bad all things considered.  There was one person who maybe thought we wouldn’t all notice he was puffing on a special cigarette in the loo a few times… it’s not my thing, but if you’re stuck on a bus for twelve hours you probably can’t blame ’em.  There was also a guy, older than us, who was looking at naughty pictures of gentlemen on his phone – we only knew this coz an even older lady a row or two back gave him a good ticking off about it, as she was sooo disgusted.  But of course she had to sticky beak, right?! Anyway, just another few aspects of life’s rich pageant, I guess.

We got close to Niagara Falls again which was amusing, and before long it was time to cross the border.  I wondered what would happen – and is pretty darn efficient considering what we had to do.  Everybody off the bus.  Everybody get their luggage (both handheld and checked baggage) and into a room where we’re all processed and interviews by US Customs, and get all our baggage scanned and x-ray’d. Then all the checked baggage goes back under the bus and everyone returns to their seats – but again it’s a free for all but this time Perry and I ended up together.  This was also a bonus coz only the window-side people had access to power, so I would no longer need to keep my phone on like 1% brightness to make sure I didn’t run out of battery 🙂  Welcome to the USA!

Our next stop is Buffalo – only ten minutes away.  This is when we learnt of a change of plan.  Everybody off the bus again, everybody grab your checked baggage again, everyone stand in a big room again .. they must shuffle things around to make sure they have the most bums on the most seats at every opportunity, as a fair few people were only going as far as Buffalo.

This inconvenience paid off though – we had a nicer bus, and we thought we had spare seats, and we both got a window, woo! But then other people came on and filled up the gaps, but so what, I had a phone that was charging so hey, priorities, right? 🙂  Happily Perry was also in the same kind of situation. A window, and a charging outlet.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I maybe slept an hour – more than I was expecting, really.  Most of that was probably after 6AM, as I saw a pretty sparsely populated area, and when I woke up, we were only 10 minutes away from our destination, Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City.  We made it.  We felt like shit, and possibly looked worse, but, we made it!

Then we had to walk, with our roughly  65 kgs of luggage, to the hotel, about 5 city blocks away.  It was uphill, but at least it was a very very gentle hill. We were really quite lucky – because for much of the tail end of the bus trip the rain and weather was fierce, probably the rest of what had shut down most flights going to LaGuardia.  But when we found the way out of the bus terminal and on to the street … it was dry.  A little bit before 7 we reached the hotel, feeling equal parts triumphant and exhausted.  And really hungry, and really really thirsty.  (A good tip that we took – don’t drink much, there aren’t many wee stops and apparently the onboard bus toilet can be pretty nasty).

So, yay, New York City, hello again at last!!


We’re staying at the Hotel Edison.  For New York, the room is a good size – maybe a little bigger than the one we had at San Francisco, but smaller than everywhere else we’ve stayed.  The view, well, it’s a view directly into windows about maybe 5 metres away.  But at least we can tell if it’s night or day.  Mind you, in New York, that doesn’t often matter.


Selfie in the hotel lift

Once we were settled in the hotel the most important thing was a nap.  A fractured sleep of one or two hours isn’t the best way to face the day, so a couple of hours solid sleep were most welcome.  After all, we had a show to see, the reason why we had to get the bus and couldn’t wait for the next available plane.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts One and Two.


Part One started around 2:00pm.  I won’t do spoilers, I will indeed #KeepTheSecrets as they keep urging us to, but if you’re even vaguely interested in Harry Potter, do go see it.  Great performances, the way they use the stage and indeed the entire theatre is amazing, inventive, unexpected … really cleverly put together.  It’s looks just stunning, and it does have its share of ‘how on earth did they do that’ magic.  Really, really smart.  Loved it.  And a brilliant cliffhanger.  I want to go on and on about it, but I’ll be good, and stay quiet.  And it might be a funny thing to mention but Andrew the guy just serving drinks at the theatre bar seemed every bit as excited as us customers about the show. It was a really nice way to begin.

After Part One finished, and we picked our jaws up off the floor, we went back outside in to the crazy heat and humidity.  It was feeling like a Sydney summer – hot and sticky.  But this was one of the free weekends where in NYC they close of parts of the city to traffic, for ‘NYC Summer Streets’.   8th Avenue was closed to traffic for ages and there were tons of street markets stalls selling all kinds of stuff – food, souvenirs, trinkets, clothes..all sorts of good stuff.  We had a wander through, and at a place selling sunglasses this couple started picking out glasses for us, having a ball.  They assure us they had nothing to do with the stall owner, they were just having fun picking styles for people. Well, it worked in the stall owner’s favour, I did end up buying a pair of sunnies for the very expensive price of $7 – mainly because I’d left my sunnies at the hotel, as it was overcast when we left for the play.  For $7, lets see if they last for seven days.  One strange thing about this market was that even though the Avenue was closed, the streets weren’t – so for an unsuspecting tourist it would be easy to talk down the avenue and not realised that a car might zoom right across at any moment – seemed a bit odd but didn’t hear of anyone getting knocked down.

We also enjoyed a slice of pizza from another stall, (and yep we did the ‘new york fold’ of course), and some fried ice cream. All good!

By this time to beat the heat we went back to the hotel, but not for long because it was time for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part Two, starting at 7:30.

I gotta say I have so much respect for the cast – because it’s all the same cast from the first play.  Man that is a LOT of lines to learn – and perform – in just one day.  Very impressive that they have to energy to do that.  Andrew our drinks guy was also there, just as enthusiastic as before, and just as excited to see the show as every customer he served.

It was just before Part Two that I learned of a company called ‘Ordertorium’. They work in conjunction with the theatre – basically, you order stuff, and they deliver it to you either before the show or at intermission.   The app was simple to download and setup so I gave it a go.  Sure enough, as soon as intermission started, just like magic someone appeared with an armful of paper bags, one of which was for us, containing two ice-creams, as ordered. Lovely!  A clever idea, sure beats queueing.

So yeah, again no spoilers, but I do recommend seeing both parts on the one day if you can -you won’t want to be left waiting.

After that, well it’s late night at Times Square, and that means a stupid amount of people.  It took a heck of a time to get back to the hotel, but we managed it eventually, so all good. It will be something to keep in mind though – allow plenty of time when trying to get to anything near or on the other side of Times Square.  It’s hectic!

Speaking of which I think our first day in NYC has been hectic enough… so time to hopefully get a proper, not-on-a-bus, night’s sleep.  Night! 🙂

…and then it all goes a bit wrong

Ah, Friday. Our final morning in Toronto. We kept it simple, having breakfast at the hotel buffet – not too bad.

We then headed back to the room to finalise the last of the packing, before checking out and heading to the airport – the hotel organised the transfer and for a hotel-organised thing, it was a pretty good price. So we were all organised and ready for the fun and games of New York.

Then the email came through.

Oh, poop.

Since it was nearly time for us to head off we decided to keep heading off and go to the airport anyway – to give us the best chance of getting ourselves on any flight that may be available.

In the car on the way to the airport, bing goes the phone, another email comes in, from American Airlines. Our flights have been rebooked. (Yay!) …For Saturday.

Oh, poop.

It turns out going to the airport was a good idea – at least we were closer to the action and hopefully get better info about what’s going on, We spoke to the lovely staff at American Airlines, and even though they had no other flights available, they were able to get us on to one of Westjet’s flights instead. They even still let us into the American Airlines Lounge so we could wait out the next 5 hours til our new flight was ready.

The lounge was pretty nice – not a ton of food, but great choc chip cookies 🙂 We settled in to while away the hours. After an hour or so, Perry did a check on how the Westjet flight was going. And he found…our Westjet flight had also been cancelled.

Oh, poop.

We queue to speak to the Westjet people. Hundreds queue to speak to the Westjet people. The Westjet people walk the queue and say – don’t queue to talk to the WestJet people. There are no flights. Phone the westjet people to re-book. For some other day. No flights today.

Oh, poop.

Plans are falling apart all around us. Holidays are collapsing. Homecomings are not-coming-home. Weddings are probably in peril. People are falling apart around us, too. Some are shouting, maybe hoping that yelling can fix the weather. No. No flights today.

We’d checked in our baggage about two hours ago. At least now we know what happens in this (suit)case. It gets regurgitated out at arrivals … eventually. In hindsight it’s lucky we were just able to walk in and get it – once it finally arrived. As always happens with luggage that goes in at the same time … one bag will always take forever before turning up.

While we were waiting we checked our options. No flights of course. There’s a train – but only one a day and it leaves just before 9am. We really need to get to New York. We have shows booked up the wazoo and don’t want miss a single one. Especially the two we’re seeing Saturday. Which we won’t see if we get a flight (afternoon only) or the train (which would arrive Saturday night)

So we’re getting a Greyhound. Ridin’ the bus. Why take a 100 minute flight when you can take a 12.5 hour road trip, right? Still, when ya gotta get somewhere, ya gotta get somewhere.

Did I mention it’s also a long weekend here in Canada?

Anyway we’re kinda lucky. There’s a bus stop st the airport. We just had to find our way over to the other terminal but st least the train was free. And, being Canada, the people were helpful.

We’re on the first bus now – we have to transfer at Toronto for another one which should then take us, eventually, to New York City.

Ah well, this is not ideal by any means. But hey, let’s drink a toast to new experiences! Fetch the … wait, they don’t serve champagne on this bus?

Oh, poop. 🙂

HOToronto. And squirrels.

It’s a warm and humid day!

We didn’t set out for breakfast until about 9:30, where we learned that Toronto is also not a town that does breakfast. Pretty much everywhere opens for brunch at 11. Eventually we did find a place – “What a Bagel!” Just in time, I was getting kinda hangry. Or at least desperately in need of caffeine. It was also nice to get out of the heat and humidity. Coffee was kinda ordinary – a 5/10, but wow, What a Bagel!

Cream cheese, lox (smoked salmon) capers, onion, and a massive salad … delicious! A good way to start the day. Perry’s healthier option was any looking pretty good.

Our plan for this morning was to follow a tip given to us by our tour guide yesterday – Kensington Market. Should be easy – it’s just off Spadina Ave, we’re having breakfast on Spadina Ave, so off we go, enjoying some quirky public art along the way.

There’s a lot of thimbleism in this work..,

To cut a long story short (lest we reach 2000 words like yesterday) Kensington Market isn’t so straightforward to find. A bit of a hidden gem. It’s not even a typical market – rather a number of streets in the neighbour full of an eclectic mix of shops and eateries. But eventually we did find the right place. Pretty bohemian / alternative, with lots of second hand clothing stores, little eateries, and a few fruit and vege shops as well. And also a cat on top of the world. Just because.

On sundays they close of a number of the streets, to make it more into a real market, I can imagine it would get really busy at that time – a cool little slice of Toronto.

Cool wasn’t really on the menu for today – it’s hot! Only 24 degrees, but it felt like 30 – maybe it’s the humidity, plus the fact we’d been walking nearly non stop for the past two hours or so. As luck would have it we chanced upon a nice park nearby – Grange Park. Nice and big, a fountain with really really cold water, some more art, a (kinda small) fenced-off area for unleashed dogs, and a bunch of trees with squirrels.

Squirrels are hilarious. I could watch them for ages. And so we did.  It in the shade and there was a small breeze, so seemed as good  place as any to spend a few minutes.

To get out of the heat for a while we headed back to the local Cineplex, to see Ocean’s 8. It was better than I expected – really enjoyable.  And two hours indoors, with aircon! 🙂

Walking back to the hotel we stopped in someone we had no chance of getting to last night despite out best intentions:  Sweet Jesus, the ice-cream shop.  Last night the queue was so ridiculous we walked straight on by, but today there were only a few people waiting so in we went. And indeed after the first taste, Sweet Jesus!  I had a ‘Hella Nutella’ and Perry had a ‘Red Rapture’ – mine’s pretty self-explanatory but Perry’s was a huge vanilla soft serve covered in red velvet cake crumbs, cream cheese sauce, meringue, and raspberry sauce.  Woah.  The person before us bordered a ‘Birthday Cake’ – a massive soft serve that comes complete with a lit candle on top.  Crazy, but crazy good! Now I completely understand why we couldn’t get anywhere near it last night just after the show finished.  Do check out

Making good use of the ice-cream-induced sugar rush – it was time to re-pack the suitcases.  It’s our last night in Toronto so time to see if we can squish everything back in for our impending journey tomorrow.  So far, so good. I’m very grateful that our remaining flights all have a 32kg-per-bag limit. We might need it!

Our last dinner in Toronto was at ‘Penelope’ – a great Greek restaurant not too far from the hotel.  Amazing saganaki cheese, tasty spanakopita, a fitting meal to farewell the city.


So, that’s about it for Toronto, which to be honest is a bit sad.  We don’t leave until about half way through tomorrow so we still have a bit of time to experience this lovely place.  I’m really impressed by Toronto – mainly I think it’s the people. It’s a happening, vibrant, diverse and accepting city, with plenty to do an explore. We’ll be more than happy to return one day.

This also (very nearly) marks the end of our visit to Canada 😦  We’ll come back, eh!


What we’re seein’ from the CN

TL;DR version :

We did another tour, saw a show, it was all pretty awesome! The end.

The somewhat longer version  – sorry, this one’s wordy!

Today was a another good opportunity see and learn more about this vibrant city of Toronto.  We had a very small tour – just 4 tourists and our guide, which was nice.

The weather was a little cloudy, but none of the forecast rain ever eventuated – so we continue to be some of luckiest tourists ever.   Our first stop the day was …

CN Tower

I’ve kinda been itching to view Toronto from this tower since day 1.  But this day is near enough 🙂  Some days the cloud cover is low enough that you can’t see anything at all – but we were fortunate because despite the clouds, we still had a great view.  The fun part about the glass-walled lifts is that parts of the floor are glass as well.  For the easily freaked out they can instantly turn the glass parts opaque which is clever.

The whole tower is 553.3 metres tall.  The observation tower is about 350 m above sea level. For comparison, Sydney tower’s observation deck is about 268m above. So yep, it sure is big, and still dominates the city skyline.

The observation deck is surprisingly spacious – and of course offers some pretty amazing views.  There’s also an ‘open air’ deck just below, but its closed-in with a lot of wire.  It was a lot less windy up there than I thought it would be, and still pretty warm just like at street level. This lower level also housed a glass floor which was fun to walk on – we must have psyched ourselves up sufficiently after hesitating on the one at Calgary.

Exiting through the gift shop (of course!) we made our way back to our little tour bus and on to a very different destination:

Casa Loma.

But first, some history. (Or as Glinda said in Wicked last night, “Why can’t you teach us some history, instead of just harping on about the past…”)

Back in ye olde days of the late 1800s, there was a pretty smart cookie by the name of Henry Pellatt, who made his first fortune in daddy’s stockbroking business, but really got into the money when he foresaw that this fancy new ‘electricity’ thing really might have a future. We all know how that turned out – and as the sole electricity supplier for Toronto, he naturally made an absolute mint.

Well, as the very wise Jane Austen once said, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” And so, Henry married Mary in 1882. But where to live? For the richest man in Toronto, moneybwas. I object so he ended up building his own grand castle – Casa Loma. Built over a period of three years, it’s a gothic revivalist confection of 95 rooms, 30-odd bathrooms, ballroom, conservatory, lavish gardens, and, for the era, all the modernest of mod cons. A telephone in every room (yup, 95 telephones…), fancy modern flush toilets in all-marble bathrooms, and in his own ensuite a kind of power shower equipped with six different taps (and, we were told, a full time shower tap attendant to turn them). It was the first building in Canada to have a centralised vacuum machine. Also, of course, it had the modern wonder of electric lighting throughout.

All this, for just Henry and Mary – and for a short time, their son Reginald, who moved out after a few years.

It also has turrets, towers, seperate but equally grand stables, the works. In later years the government of the time put a road through the estate, cutting between the stables and the main residence. This so incensed the very-rich-but-slightly-eccentric (and snobby) Mr Pellat, who saw it as a grave offence to have to walk on a public road. So he had a massive tunnel dug under the estate over to the stables, so he wouldn’t have to debase himself by walking on a road that the common folk would also be able to access.  Sounds like a bit of a dick, right? Well he also did some good things, like personally pay for the first few streetcar lines in the town. So … I guess one needs to draw ones own conclusions.

I figure he must have upset a few people in government though, because what they did sounds pretty much like revenge to me. They raised property taxes from $600 per year to $1000 per month.  They ‘public-ised’ (i.e. took) the electricity network from him without compensation, leaving him with no source of income.  He ultimately had to give up Casa Loma – but not until the indignation of having all his person effect auctioned off at trifling prices; some lucky bugger bought themselves a Rembrandt for only $25.  So yes, his financial downfall was about as huge as his fortune once was.  Ultimately, he only lived in Casa Loma for about ten years.  After that, it sat derelict for a while, the city tried (unsuccessfully) to turn it into a hotel, unit in the early 1930s it was purchased by an entertainment company, who still owns it and runs it to this day.  Understandably, it’s a very popular wedding venue, and our tour guide said some scenes for the Harry Potter films where shot there – though 30 seconds of Googling didn’t lead me to any tangible proof.

But what of Henry Pellatt?  When Toronto became too much to bear, he simply moved on to one of his other larger properties.  He passed in away in 1939, and the people of Toronto lined the streets to pay tribute to his funeral processing, and he was buried with full military honours.  His son (his and Mary’s only child) did not have any children, so that kinda the end of the line for the Pellatt’s.

Sorry that’s a lot words but I found it a really interesting story, and an amazing, fascinating place to visit.  Loved the secret stairway hidden in the study, and the tunnels to the stables were pretty cool, if a little slippery.  Casa Loma was quite the house, that’s for certain.

Having drink all that in, and exiting through the gift shop … it was time for lunch.  Where’s a good spot for lunch in Toronto? Why, that’d be …

St Lawrence Market

It’s no Pike Place, but it is much easier to get around.  A huge big old shed, St Lawrence Market was founded in about 1803, and since then a number of buildings housing the  market have been built, the current one is mostly from 1968.  It was here that we were able to sample one of most famous Canadian foods.  Poutine? No.  Maple Syrup? Nope.  Then what is it ?  Behold, Peameal Bacon Sandwiches!

Layers of thick bacon, some relish and some onion, nice bread and ta-da – a whole big package of deliciousness ready to go.  I swear there were at least 6 or 7 layers of bacon… so how could you fault it. 🙂

The other famous food is the ‘Butter Tart’ – though its usually made with raisins or with pecans.  In short – tasted like a pecan pie.  But that’s no bad thing – pecan pie is delicious!

We didn’t have a whole bunch of time here but long enough to wander around and check it out (except for the fishy area), seeing the lovely produce and all the good stuff Toronto has to offer.  Sydney keeps trying but failing to come up with  great market like this – maybe the one at Carriageworks is coming close nowadays, but, Melbourne, Adelaide, Seattle, Toronto … all these places have markets that seem heaps better than those Sydney can manage at the moment.

Facing the onset of market-jealousy, it was now time for a relaxing boat trip around the shores of Lake Ontario and the small islands near there.  It really was relaxing, and a bit of fun being so close to the smaller Billy Baxter airport, seeing the planes come in close by.

And just like that, our tour was at an end.  A stellar job by Tori of SeeSights Tours – thanks a lot! It was also nice to hang out with Erin & her husband from Chicago.  Very nice people, all of them.

Naptime / Wander time

Back at the hotel, Perry opted for a nap, and I went out on a bit of a random wander to see the city, and re-visit an area that looked pretty when we’d driven past it in bus previously – around the corner of University and Queen.  Ultimately there wasn’t too much more to that corner than what we’d seen from the bus.  Some fountains, a garden, a statue of Adam Beck (instrumental in taking the electricity network away from Henry Pellatt, so …), and I thought that was about it.  Pressing on a little further north was nice though – the 11 people, a great piece of art regarding the jury system – with the viewer of course being the 12th person.  A clever piece of public art, simple, but made the message clear that the decisions you take have power.  A second after taking the photo a friendly Canadian said hi, clearly seeing I was a tourist I guess, and had a quick but pleasant chat.  People in this city are so nice. All those things they say about Canadian manners and hospitality, looks like it’s all true.



I returned to the hotel in time to go out to diner – I took Perry to Red Tomato since I enjoyed it so much last night. Sure enough, excellent pizza was on offer, and a cocktail, because holidays.  The bubbly lady serving us had lived in Australia for a time so it was nice have a big old chat about it, and how it compares.  We get more holidays and they don’t get long service leave, just in case you’re ever considering moving to Canada…

…and a show!

“Come from Away” was tonight’s show – conveniently playing just a few doors down at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.  I knew next to nothing about this show, other than the most basic outline of the story.  After September 11, 2001 – all planes currently in the air were directed to land, and anyone outside US airspace was not able to enter.  This mean the little town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada – a town of about 9000 – suddenly saw itself with 30-odd planes and around 7000 newcomers from all around the globe. What on earth do you do when that happens?  That’s what the show explored.

It was an amazing musical – 100 minutes long, no intermission, and after seeing the show it makes sense why it’s done that way.  It has an incredible energy that just does not let up, the music almost never stops, the songs keep coming and coming, the story runs along at a rapid pace, and it’s so funny in parts the place was roaring with laughter. Staging was simple but brilliant, the 12 main cast took on so many roles I don’t know how they remember who was who, and the whole thing was just brilliantly put together, end to end.

Normally, when a show concludes, the energy levels sink, there are some bows, everybody goes home.  This show ended on what I thought was a high – there was a theatre-wide standing ovation, everyone was cheering, it was awesome. But as the cast most off the stage, the musicians (who had been playing in a corner) took centre stage and lifted the energy even higher by continuing to play a rollicking Irish-inspired tunes (I think it’s fair to say there’s a fair bit of Irish culture and influence in Newfoundland. No I haven’t read anything of its history as yet).

Nobody left the theatre – instead we had 1200 people all on their fleet, clapping along, everyone finally leaving the theatre on a high once the music stopped.  Just brilliant.  And I think being able to see the show in Canada itself added a bit to it as well.

After that, back to the normal routine:  Hotel, Blog, Sleep, Repeat 🙂  Loving it!


Toronto and a show

“Breakfast at Timmy’s”. Wasn’t that a movie? OK, not quite, but was a convenient way to shove food and coffee into our gobs, not far from the hotel.

We had a go on the subway – very clean, pleasant, slightly confusing – the last of which is pretty much standard for any mode of transport you visit for the first time.  But we now have our Presto cards to add to the collection of Opal / Clipper / oyster / AT Hop / etc, etc.  There was some cool buildings and fun public art near St Andrew station.


We were aiming for the Queen St shopping district, and after a few short stops, there we were.  The subway had a cool little map showing where the train was headed and what the next stop was – very handy.



Exiting at Queen Station (hey, it seemed appropriate! 🙂 ) we started wandering.  Before long we noticed it wasn’t quite the shopping mecca we thought – but seems there’s a very big distinction between Queen St East and Queen St West.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the East End 🙂 After a few blocks, we decided to Go West (life is peaceful there haha).  It’s more than just shops though – old city hall, new city hall, a number of pretty places all around.  And a dude cleaning the floor of a pond in a little floor-cleaning-golf-buggy thing. Nice!


How handy - a self-captioning photo :)

How handy – a self-captioning photo 🙂



Not a very deep pond. Also an ice rink in winter I think.


Building reflected in a building

We had a good wander around, popping in to the occasional shop, and having a break for a cold drink, before wandering again. Then we happened upon a couple of dickheads holding what they said were picture of aborted foetuses and spouting a bunch of nonsense, probably trying to somehow justify how a woman should not have a right to what happens in her own body.  Like I said, dickheads.  Because I’m nice, and kind, and quiet, I couldn’t help but call out “Shame on you!” as one of them tried to hand me a brochure.  Ugh.  Go away, you awful, awful people. But enough of the lunatic fringe, which seems to find a way to infest all corners of the planet.  It was beautiful sunny day, so we just kept a-wandering a while longer.

After returning to the hotel, Perry opted for a nap, and I went for another walk around to sample one of the many hip-and-happening coffee places that I’d seen.  I settled on “Strange Love” coffee which was nearby.

As soon as I saw they had flat white on the menu, once again I knew I was in good hands.  Sure enough, a few minutes after ordering I was presented with a cup of coffee that tasted just awesome.  Close your eyes and you could have been in a little Melbourne laneway somewhere.  Deeeelicious.  At least a 9/10 on the iScott Coffee Scale.  Coffee fans – get yourself to Strange Love if you visit Toronto.

I also a few more sights on my travels around the place, including some people hand-painting a giant Apple advert mural on the side of a building.


Considering we both skipped lunch, we headed out pretty early for dinner, catching the train (or, since there are 5 different train networks, we caught the TTC) up to Dundas (ie Times Square). There we found a thing that all cities should have. Or at least Sydney. All-you-can-eat sushi, oh yea it’s a thing. A very good thing!! They basically throw you an iPad, you press a bunch of buttons. And delicious sushi and other Japanese delights keep arriving at the table. Brilliant! All you can eat? Challenge accepted!

That was only round one – we managed a bit more after that. One thing I really liked though, was that they had a food wastage charge – in other words if you go completely stupid and order way too much, you will get charged for wasting food – and rightly so. The food was all delicious, too. And no, we didn’t waste a single bit.

To waste a bit of time we walked around some of the Eaton Shopping complex – a pretty ginormous mall.

Nordstrom has some pretty crazy things – like rather diaphanous Burberry scarves for only $600. Good grief. The mall also had an Apple store so of course I had to take a souvenir snap lol.

Next thing we knew it was time for the show – Wicked. The Ed Mirvish theatre is very pretty – it’s no State Theatre but still a good dose of grandeur about it.

Yes we’ve seen Wicked a bunch of times but it’s always a good show so why not see it again. Sure enough, it was as good as ever. Brilliant performances from the whole cast, and while it wasn’t the strongest Elphaba we’ve ever heard, she still gave it her all for Defying Gravity, the defining moment of the show. At the end I think basically the entire theatre was giving a standing ovation, so yep all the audience was pretty thrilled with it. It was also great hearing a few people gasp at a pivotal moment – there are still people seeing it for the first time.

After that we eventually made our way out the theatre (that was kinda hard work!) , then jumped on he wrong train platform – oops, ah well that’s $5 in stupid-tax coz we had to load more money on to the presto card. There’s no such thing as “tap off” – so as soon as you tap on you have spent your money, and we needed to tap on again to go to the other platform. Never mind, all part of the learning experience 🙂

The train trip was no trouble – and maybe this is a small thing, but it always heartens me to see: a (I will take the liberty of assuming) couple, girlfriend and girlfriend boarded the train, having a bit of a snuggle and whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ears, and nobody batted and eyelid. It’s one of things that can say a lot about a city. So, Toronto, well done you. There are still plenty of times and places in Sydney where this kind of behaviour is met with verbal abuse or worse, and it’s something you kinda need to be a bit wary of every day. But good on you Toronto in this instance. Always makes me happy when people are allowed to be themselves.

We made it back to the hotel with no dramas, other than having to swim upstream against all the people who had just exited a performance of The King and I nearby. The end of another great day.

Tomorrow – finally we’ll get up that big tower and have a look around. And much more besides. Stay tuned!

Niagara (really, really) Falls

Forgive me father, for I have gone to Starbucks and not Timmy’s for breakfast. It’s attached to the hotel so it was convenient for a nice quick breakfast. They even had Flat White on the menu, and it was, well, passable. I’ll give it 6.5/10.

Happily this all happened after a nice long sleep, think I’m finally recovered from the 4am start the other day.

Breakfast was a bit of a quick affair as it was time to join another tour. I think we were both a bit excited about this one – as you might’ve guessed from the title of today’s entry, it was time to visit Niagara Falls.

We met our friendly tour guide, and after a few more hotel pickups we hit the highway and headed off on the roughly 90 minute drive. The urban sprawl gave way to masses of power pylons, and eventually, things turned a little greener.

As the traffic built up again, we knew we must be getting close. Ok, well it was kinda obvious when our tour guide, (doing her best to talk over a noisy crowd of people behind us who were all sure they knew more about their chosen field of work than the person with whom they were loudly conversing ) did her best to let us know.

Much of the traffic was due to people wanting to cross the “Rainbow Bridge” to the USA – as the Niagara Falls spans the USA and Canada.  Our tour bus stopped at the top of the Canadian (of course) part of the falls – also known as the Horseshoe Falls.  Spectacular.  Even from the top, the ridiculous amount of water just washing through and dropping off the edge was amazing.  As was the amount of ‘mist’ being thrown up in the process.  It was like proper rain, not mist! But wow, what a great sight to behold.  It’s one of those famous things your always hear about but in a way you never think you’d actually get there to see it.  It was kinda like when we went up the Empire State Building five years ago.  An amazing feeling to really be here, at the actual thing, taking it all in.


In this case we couldn’t really take it all in as we only had about 15 minutes to grab photos.  All, however, for a good cause – because the next stop was the boat that takes you up close and personal to the falls themselves, at the face of it, where it all happens.  After only a small amount of queueing we were handed our lovely red plastic ponchos – and with about 698 other little red riding hoods, off we trotted, on to the boat.  Does anyone remember the old computer game Lemmings? It kinda looked a bit like that as we all walked along the snaking queue.



Next minute – we’re off!  First, past the American part of the falls.  It really must tweak the Americans that they have the deeply inferior part o the bargain here.  The falls aren’t terribly wide, and it’s not a big drop – mainly on to large rocks rather than straight down the lake below.  The Canadian side, however, is this grand big magnificent horseshoe waterfall throwing tons of water off the edge every second, resulting in a lot, and I mean a LOT, of water being thrown back up as ‘mist’ when it hits the bottom.  As the boat drew close tot he bottom of the falls, the ‘mist’ became ‘torrential rain’ and the little red riding hoods we had on became very welcome indeed.  By that stage you could hardly see anything such was the volume of water hitting your eyes, but it’s all part of the fun.  Amazing to be that close to it, hearing the roar of all that water even when you couldn’t really see a thing.  The bot ride was only 20 minutes, but that was enough – any longer and I think even the red anorak wouldn’t have stopped all the water.  It was such fun though.


After exiting through the gift shop (of course) – we had about an hour of free time before the lunch that was part of the tour. At this point it was surprising the see Clifton Hill.  I know it’s fully expected that Nigara Falls would be very touristy – but this was border on Vegas tacky levels of touristy.  Flashing lights, big signs, the works.  But it did have an ice cream place called “Sweet Jesus” so that was a least amusing.

Lunch was a buffet at the nearby Sheraton Hotel – and a very good buffet it was too.  It wasn’t too hectic despite the busload of people who were all arriving at the same time.

After enjoying lunch and getting back on the bus, next stop was the lovely, but not exactly nearby, village of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  What a lovely little town.  It’s like someone found a village, then carpet-bombed it with several thousand litres of Quaintness.  Lovely old buildings, lovely old shops, lovely gardens, lovely hanging baskets full of flowers, more lovely than professor lovely of lovely university with an electric lovely-ing machine.  Lovely.  It also afforded a good opportunity to just sit in a park for a little while and chill.

There were a few more stop-offs on the tour – another gift shop, a place that sold nice ice cream (hurrah!), and a winery, before the bus finally made its way back to Toronto proper, arriving around 7:30 in the evening.  Another big day – sitting in a bus doing pretty much nothing can still take it out of you!

Perry had done a good job with the buffet lunch (it was a pretty late lunch) and so wasn’t up for dinner – but I wandered across to the road to what is kind-of the other half of “Fred’s not here”, called Red Tomato.  A pizza and pasta place – and sure enough, delicious pizza.  A glass of Californian merlot didn’t hurt either.

Even though it was nearly 10pm when i went back to the hotel, the restaurant district was still buzzing, plenty of people out and about, having a good time.  Always nice to see.

Tomorrow isn’t chock full of plans, but the evening should be good – time for a New York warm up of sorts, we’re off to a show 🙂