Monday, November 30, 2009

In the District of Columbia!

In one fell swoop, I added a few more states to my list. Whohoooo. Okay I travelled here by Acela Express is Amtrak's rail service that uses high-speed tilting trains. Acela operates in the Northeast United States between Washington, D.C., and Boston via Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. The tilting design allows the train to travel at higher speeds on the sharply curved rails without spilling my coffee, by lowering lateral centrifugal forces, based on the concept of banked turns while they attain speeds of 150 mph (240 km/h).

So... how fast is 150 mph I hear you say... You better watch this video then!

Okay, I am ensconsed in a Red Roof Inn and because it was booked on one of those 'blind' websites... It is situated on the Red Line and yes, the last stop, which makes it halfway to Florida! Well, in Maryland anyway. Only 39 minutes from Downtown. :-)

Okay, so I spent the day in an open top tourbus... IN THE RAIN! Plus side, no tourists, bad side, wet shorts from sitting in a plastic bucket seat. Was good though. Went to dry off in the International Spy museum and it must be one of the best museums ever! I also trawled through the Smithsonian Space and Flight Museum and the Museum of African Art. Both were very good. Oh, and the squeaky shoe is still at it. Haha, all quiet and reverent museum and then all you hear is squeak, step, squeak, step...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

New York!

Okay, my last New York hotel... it is actually in New Jersey across the Hudson. This is my first (and last) stay at a Howard Johnson's or as they insist on calling it... the HOJO!

Oh my gosh... Note to self. NEVER travel to New York on Thanksgiving weekend. IT WAS PACKED! Good Lord, the city was bursting at the seams and anywhere there were easily a few hours wait. So I hopped on a hop on hop off tour bus and spent the whole day happily driving around observing the chaos, only getting off to change busses or to catch the Staten Island Ferry.

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade 2009 photos

Friday, November 27, 2009

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade!


I got up at 5am and checked out, stored my luggage and rushed the 12 blocks to my chosen site just up the road from Times Square. Now, let me explain for you armchair travellers out there. When 12 blocks equals an inch or two on a map it translate to a lenghty walk in real time... Good Lord! I walked and walked and walked, and with each step, it seemed I involuntary picked up speed, building up momentum if you will. All the streets were blocked off so catching a cab was out of the question. Eventually I stumbled across 7th Ave and though it was not my chosen spot, my legs threatened mutiny, claim that spot, or die basically. I might have rounded the corner huffing and puffing and a bit wild eyed, because the sea of humanity (it is still 3 hours before the parade for crying out!) opened up before me. Wondered if Moses felt the same way at the Red Sea? Anyway I found a spot just one person from the barriers. Tried to control my breathing and calm my shaking legs a bit and prepared for the long wait. People actually camped out over night and laid out blankets and chairs to stake their 'place'. Well, lets just say that a certain chair got slowly inched to the left with gentle nudges... inch by inch. Could see the look of surprise an hour later on the guy's face when he realised his 'property' got a lot smaller... ANYWAY...

By 8am there must have been a good 12 rows of people behind me already and by 9am it was jam packed. I had a brilliant spot and was worth the wait. The guy in front of me kept sitting in his chair so I had unobstructed views. (I will add my own photo's and video later)It was pretty awesome. Float after float and band after band, it just kept on coming. It was well worth all the hassle.

Now I am in New Jersey across the Hudson and will trek in every day to the city and return at night.

The adventure continues...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chicago to New York

I was a bit sad leaving Chicago, I do like that city. But, I did, and I did so on a sold out Amtrak train. have you ever been on a 21 hour trainride where EVERY seat has been sold out, the whole trip. When one butt got off, it was immediatedly replaced with another.

Immigration Issues...

So at 6am the train pulled into Erie, PA and I woke up from some heavy footsteps coming down the isle and saw these two guys in greenish uniform that kinda looked familiar... and the next moment I heard "are you an American citizen" from the back... They worked their way up the isle and I reached for my passport, when they asked the guy behind me. They had to wake him and preceeded to ask him again. All groggily he passed his greencard and the immigration guy phoned someone for confirmation... The other immigration guy reached me and I handed my passport even before he could ask... he looked at it and handed it straight back at me and looked me in the eye and thanked me for being proactive! his friend was still on the phone and all I could hear was 'uh huh, uh huh' he then asked the guy how long has he been in the country. The guy said 12 years, the immigration guy then said, we'll your card is fake and you are here illegally. They gave him one minute to gather his stuff before they hauled him off the train. Gosh, I know he was illegal etc, but imagine, 12 years of looking over your shoulder, he told his seat mate that he has two little kids and he was returning to them for Thanksgiving etc. He would most likely get deported back to India. 12 years is a lifetime about to get yanked from underneath him and his whole family.

Anyway... New York is crazy as ever! More so with millions of people here for the parade! Okay, continueing with my evaluation of hotel amenities... First hotel I stayed at was the Chelsea Star Hotel in Chelsea. A budget hotel as you can tell by the unused ammenities. Uhm, stained and opened bottles. Great location hough as the hotel is only one block from Penn Station/Madison Square. Another plus is that there is some great and cheap ethnic restaurants close by. Great Thai food was consumed!

Next hotel is the W-New York. The opposite of last nights experience. Super hip and cool. Located in Midtown west on Lexington it is a really nice hotel, and i got it for free with miles. Anyway, they give you BLISS spa products and it is nice... I am on the 15th floor and this is the best hotel i will get to stay in. Tommorrow night it is off to a Howard Johnsons accross the river for me, as befitting my missionary budget.

Thanks to my circle of benefactors in Texas for sending me off to see 'Wicked' at the Gershwin Theatre. Oh my, did i enjoy it! Wicked tells the story of Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch of the West and her relationship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Their friendship struggles through their opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, their reactions to the Wizard's corrupt government, and, ultimately, Elphaba's public fall from grace. The plot is set mostly before Dorothy's arrival from Kansas, and includes several references to well-known scenes and dialogue in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz as a backstory. IT WAS AWESOME! If you ever get the chance and you love the wizard of Oz, gu see Wicked! Go, RUN!

Okay off to bed and the Thanksgiving Parade tommorrow! Whohoooo!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Last days in Chicago...

The Noggeler Guuggenmusig Band from Lucerne playing Jingle Bells at the steps of the John Hancock Building in Chicago. Sunday 22 November 2009. Invented in the first half of the 20th century, carnival bands have a long tradition in Lucerne. Instruments played by amateurs who try to play famous tunes from pop to the latest hits alog to traditional swiss tunes, carnival band play almoust everything in a unique, not-always-right-sounding way, which makes the difference to a professional brass band.

I went to church to the Fourth Presbeterian Church on Mag Mile and what a stunning church and good sermon. The bits I paid attention to... you see... it is the same church where the wedding scene from 'My Best Friends Wedding' was shot. So, right throughout the service I replayed the movie in my mind. Or just when I got into the service, a flash back occured with me unwittingly wispering 'Of Course' making the old lady next to me twitch. I was tempted to pull a Brick wisper from 'In The Middle'on her "FROM THE DEVIL" just to see how well she would cope, but I resisted.