Hello world!

7 Comments

Hi everyone.  Not long to go now before we set off on our European and perhaps world adventure!

Our new home for the next nine months

The front cover of my first children's book .

The front cover of my first children’s book .

Advertisements

Day 6/54: Warmer

4 Comments

So that’s us back in our caravan in Vilanova I la Geltru. We are tired, out of sorts and certainly a bit jet-lagged but we are extremely happy that our trips to Paris, Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia and Boston all went so well and that there were no major mishaps. Some folk might say we were lucky but, y’know, the more experience you get doing that stuff, the more you can anticipate possible problems and avoid them before they happen. Accidents will always be possible but, with careful planning and a confident approach to travelling, negative outcomes can be kept to a minimum. Especially when it comes to getting around big cities, I think Lady Burton and I are fast becoming experts in urban transport systems and I can’t think of a Metro system that has left us scratching our heads …….. yet!

Breakfast at Gatwick helped us survive the journey back and we finally managed some sleep on the flight to Barcelona. With the wonderful Tom and Margareth picking us up at the airport again, we were soon back in the caravan. I very quickly crashed out for 3 or 4 hours (well, you would, wouldn’t you!?) but Mary is only now heading off to bed as midnight chimes in Spain. Guess what I’ve been doing tonight? That’s right, because it’s a Champions League night. I’ve been half-watching Real Madrid hammer the wee team from Cyprus but I’ve been doing something more important …….. Booking our next trip!! Yes, I’ve just bought 2 returns to Basel for the weekend of 8-10 December to visit the Christmas Markets with old pals Marc & Jud who live not too far from the airport but actually in France. I should tell you that those 2 returns with Easyjet have set me back the princely sum of ……… £127!! And that includes paying for sitting together! At those off-season prices, if you have the chance, you’d be a fool not to take it.

I want to thank everyone who has followed our over-the-pond adventure and a particular thanks to anyone who bothered to comment on what we’ve been doing. Georgeandmaryadventure will come to an end one day, but not quite yet!

Flying in to Barcelona

Day 6/53: University

Leave a comment

Simply a question of getting up and checking out. Easy as that. So when the maid knocks and comes in and you’re both lying in bed admiring the view over Boston harbour, you need to let her know she’s not yet welcome. We did!
Downstairs at checkout we got the final bill, except that it was double the price we booked at! Mary went for the jugular, letting the poor guy know this needed sorting …. and fast! Within 15 minutes all was in order and the guy was grovelling at Mary’s feet to be forgiven. But we’ll be checking our credit card carefully to see things have turned out well.

Next I gave the big case and my backpack to the “janitor” who tagged them, gave me my receipt and stored them away until evening. That left us free to take shuttle and subway back to “little Italy” where we had brunch in an absolutely classic American-Italian diner.

E2A7B39D-EE33-4A37-9858-23BCD802B9DE

The British are coming!!

Batteries full again, we retraced yesterday’s steps to the Paul Revere house where we learned much about the famous midnight ride of Paul Revere to alert the good folk of Lexington to the approach of British troops. This brave act was later of course immortalised by William Longfellow and the poem probably made Revere’s ride a legend more than the deed ever did.

We then continued down the Freedom Trail, firstly across the Charles river to see the USS Constitution built in 1794, known affectionately as “Old Ironsides “ because the British cannonballs reputedly bounced off its wooden, yes wooden, sides. It was really cold out today so we chose not to linger for too long down by the water where the wind was particularly sharp and biting. On up the slopes of Charlestown we climbed, our final historical target obvious as it towered above Boston at the top of the hill.
The memorial, very similar to the Washington Monument, commemorates the battle of Bunker Hill, won by the British but at a terrible cost in lives, and a huge inspiration to the Colonials to continue the war. Heavens it was cold up there on that hill, persuading us to search for the nearest Subway station to get back Downtown. iPhone maps found us one half a mile away and then obligingly showed us how to get there. Wonderful!

3D918169-F028-4481-B751-4A63A156DEFA

Bunker Hill Memorial

When we reached the city centre we continued north on the red line we had used when going to see Doug the day we arrived. It was my turn to say where we were going and I was absolutely determined to walk the leafy campus of Harvard University before leaving.

The subway took us right there and we had a delightful stroll through the famous area of American and international study.

714D582D-9760-4745-B24A-83256AC05ED1

Harvard Library

At one point and despite the sign at the door, we sneaked into the Harvard Science Centre and had some soup and a coffee, ready to make out we were visiting lecturers from the University of St. Andrews should anyone query our presence! Our final walk was round the Harvard Law School area and that was it.

D9EA9118-3C94-412A-AAD2-94937E843FF0

Touching John Harvard’s left foot. Lucky?

Our own tourist trail was over and all that remained was to return to the hotel, collect our luggage, give everyone a tip (5 dollars each, like it or leave it!) and travel to the airport.

Check-in and Security went smoothly, we had our dinner in the airport and then we boarded the Norwegian Airlines Dreamliner 787 to London Gatwick. Boy, is that a big plane! I think it’s probably the largest aircraft we’ve ever flown in. As I write this post, it’s 11 p.m. eastern time so 4 o’clock Tuesday morning to you. The backseat flight screen is telling me we’re 2115 miles from London and we’re 40,000 feet above the Atlantic. It’s a bit bumpy just now and Lady Burton is holding me just that wee bit tighter! But she should not have feared as we are now having breakfast in Gatwick Airport prior to our flight to Barcelona where Tom & Margareth will once again be waiting to take us to Vilanova.

My parting shot for today, tonight, yesterday(?) is entitled “Stating the Obvious!”

E8E0B628-A274-4A1A-BE8B-82057BA642A1

Boston Drain!

27579522-82C5-4153-AD27-E564CD785E0E

Day 6/52: Boston Massive Chew-Sets!

2 Comments

Having slept like a log last night, I was keen to have a good breakfast and, as Lady Burton was busy crunching her way through the last of her cardboard Weetabix, I decided to splash out on a Hyatt Regency Hotel cooked breakfast so got showered and dressed and headed downstairs. When I walked into the lift I was rocked back by the sight that greeted me: one of the main runways of Logan Airport!

BB54CCED-6018-49F3-B567-7AFB69ECD0A1

That’s a big one- niner, over.

The dining-room had a similar view from pavement level but my eyes were on the breakfast menu. What exactly are Buffalo Scrambled Eggs? Buffaloes don’t lay eggs so maybe the Buffalo bit refers to cheese made from Buffalo milk. I didn’t know. But I’d heard a lot about Americans and their Eggs Benedict so that’s what I plumped for. When it came, it was 2 half rolls with a slice of what tasted like smoked ham on each, topped with a poached egg and some yellow mayo. They were delicious!

But let me discuss with you paying your bill here (or “check” as Americans say). This came up last night when we ate out with Doug, a meal we insisted on paying for. When it came to paying, we paid by card but I slipped $10 in cash into the fancy wee wallet they bring you the bill in. After I handed it over, Doug commented on what percentage of the actual bill I had just left as a tip (about 10%) and said he would add ten more dollars in case the waitress chased us down the road. He added that the folk in the service industry are paid very badly and really need the tips to make a living. We just went along with this.

After we’d said goodbye to Doug and were travelling back to the hotel, Mary mentioned she thought that a 20% tip was a bit OTT and I had to admit I felt likewise. This was a place a bit like a Wetherspoons, the food was fine as were the beers but the place was crowded and busy and the venue was far from luxurious although we were both personally comfortable there. So, if the waitress is low-paid, is it really up to the customers to boost her earnings by paying 20-25% more than the bill demands? That’s a tricky point but appears to be the norm over here. Doug even said it would not be unimaginable for the waitress to follow you out to ask why she only got tipped 10%!! Personally, I don’t link the amount paid for the meal with the size of the tip and I’d NEVER give someone back home more than a tenner for doing their job. What do you think?

It was raining this morning so we stayed in our room blethering and enjoying the peaceful view over Boston Bay. However, by 1 p.m. we were ready to rumble and made our way back to Downtown Boston where we had a brief lunch then set off on today’s quest. We were going to walk the Boston History Trail. This recommended stroll around the places which featured high in the War of Independence was Boston’s contribution to the history of those times.

A440063A-9F73-4424-B60F-523480FBB996

Boston Common

Our adventure started on Boston Common, a rallying point for colonial rebels leading up to the war. From there we visited 14 or 15 buildings which told the stories of the Declaration of Independence, the ride of Paul Revere and the Boston massacre (a bit of an exaggeration with 7 rebels shot dead). By now we had learned most of the facts of the conflict so we did the walking tour quite quickly with pauses for a cup of tea and visits to the odd church. Having been impressed by Harvard and all it stood for, I splashed out on a new hoodie with the University’s name and crest on it, so unlike me to go and buy clothes for myself.

0386F892-ED68-4A39-98A1-3FC0B44B2A9E

Massachusetts Mansion House

C5FF9269-71C7-4638-B16E-49CD846ABDFE

The Declaration of Independence was first read in public from this balcony

Before we travelled back to the hotel we bought two pasta meals “to go” and enjoyed our tea in the comfort of our gorgeous new room. The staff had moved our luggage there while we were out and, as promised, there were soft drinks and a cheeky wee bottle of red on the table. Don’t mind if we do! The rest of the evening was spent quietly in the room, watching TV and just relaxing before our long, long journey back to Europe tomorrow night.

5BA7F5EA-B561-490F-8E86-78475F0EAF1D

Paul Revere (but give the horse some credit!)

So that’s been our last full day in the great US of A. Tomorrow we’ll go back into Boston to visit Paul Revere’s house and maybe wander around Harvard University campus before fetching our luggage and heading the short distance to Logan airport for our flight to London at 9 p.m. That will be followed by a hop back to Barcelona and hopefully we’ll be back in our caravan in Vilanova before we know it.

Some of the subway names here in Boston are remarkable. One terminus is called “Alewife” pronounced the way it looks (I know because I asked someone on the platform!) but here’s Mary below our favourite one. Maybe she’ll change her name to Alice!

6BE4424A-FC9F-4E0C-B3D6-496A16727A00

Day 6/51: Marathon stramash!

Leave a comment

We were up on time, showered, breakfasted and down at checkout to await our taxi. In we got and for the next 10 minutes he drove round in circles, but not the old taxi scam this time because the station was 2 miles straight up Market Street so you couldn’t go wrong. Unless of course the Philadelphia Marathon just happens to be that morning and all, I mean ALL the streets east-to-west are closed. Executive decision time! “Drop us at the subway buddy” I ordered in my best NY accent.

After he’d taken $10 for driving us nowhere really, we plunged into the subway, found ourselves on the wrong side of the track, up and over and down again and along to the booth. “2 tickets please” I asked, to which he pointed a fat finger at the machines. “We don’t know how they work and don’t have time to learn so just sell me 2 tickets”. In the background we could hear the train approaching. “Do you want to buy 2 tokens sir?” “Will that get us on the train?” “Yes sir the token gets you on the train” “Ok give me 2 tokens” “5 dollars please. Now take the token out of the plastic wrap” Mary did as requested.”Where do we put it?” she asked. “Put it in the slot right here in front of you ma’am!!” WTF! The train pulled in. ” Now go through the access gate.” Which one?” “That one” he replied pointing to the farthest away turnstile. “Quick Mary, sprint!” We dashed through ( remember I’m wheeling a large 20kg case) and leapt aboard literally as the doors closed behind us. Made it!

When we reached the 30th street station, it was up then up again, out, over the road and into the main station. There was a queue waiting for our train to Boston but as soon as we joined it, it started to move and we took the escalator to the platform. The locomotive hauled the 10 carriages in on time and we climbed aboard but couldn’t find 2 seats together as it was fairly crowded so we just flopped down a couple of seats apart and caught our breath. It was hard to comprehend the chaos of that short trip from the hotel to the station despite our organised itinerary. But you can easily imagine what we think about marathons!

The train remained crowded up through New Jersey and Newark but when it reached New York pretty much everyone got off and a whole new band of travellers got on, by which time I had moved opposite Mary and that was us together for the rest of the long journey up to Boston.

045ABFFC-5694-43B7-9327-D8CD34D0D6B1

We passed some interesting places on our way to Boston including New Jersey, Newark, New York, Newhaven, Mystic (Hooray, a name that doesn’t start with”New) and simple Route 128. Just after 2 we pulled into Boston South Station, found a cab and had a 10-minute drive to the Hyatt Regency Harbour Hotel. Our excitement was at tingly level again!

E7BF944C-25AA-4DD8-B9A9-8FFFE16C19AD

Lady Burton reaches Boston

But they couldn’t find our booking and took an hour to organise a room for us, at least promising an upgrade tomorrow. However the temporary room turned out to be really cool with loads of space and comfort and a view to die for.

7C2E49B9-58E2-4558-88F9-13C634D434C8

Boston from the room!

We settled in quickly then prepared ourselves for our trip back into town then out to Harvard to meet Gavin’s old buddy Doug Paton. A hotel shuttle bus, a regular bus and a subway train later we met the aforementioned Doug and he took us to one of his favourite bars where we treated him to a meal and a couple of beers. It is always a delight to see a familiar face in a far-off land and it was no exception tonight.

E751A5F0-36D4-4510-9ABD-1D490C279F61

Doug, Mary and I

We caught up on how Doug’s research job with mosquitoes at Harvard has been progressing and more importantly how his recovery from ill health is going. We have to say he looked fit and well tonight and he told us he does 10-miles a day on his bicycle.

Our journey back to the hotel was fine until we reached Logan Airport Terminal 1 from where we called the hotel shuttle. It took ages to arrive and we were knackered by the time we got back. But we can’t let all the mishaps cast a shadow on what has been another wonderfully exciting and adventurous day.

8E4BBC8B-94CF-4D4C-9537-F6D2D4F78490

Mary recreating a scene from “Airplane!

Day 6/50: Independence Day

Leave a comment

Breakfast is included in the price of this hotel but I rather pessimistically assumed that their boast of “a free Continental breakfast” would mean a cup of coffee and a croissant. Not at all! When we went down at 08.30, we were very pleasantly surprised to find cereals, fruit, eggs, dairy products, bread and all the usual extras to go with the tea or coffee. As a result, we were still there an hour later and I was on my second boiled egg and third coffee (Decaf) over the Philadelphia Enquirer. I’m sure we’ll do likewise tomorrow morning before we leave.

First stop once we’d hit the streets of Philly was a row of preserved terrace houses on a cobbled street just round the corner from the hotel. This place was cute but I spent my time watching the grey squirrels doing acrobatics between the pavements and the treetops. I should have said earlier that this part of the USA is squirrel city going by the huge numbers of the little beasts running around the green areas of the cities. On our way to see this lane of houses we got a great view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge over to New Jersey.

9A1EDE06-EE51-4802-8687-5405952C0FB6

Moving further uptown we came to the cemetery of Christ Church, the building of which was closed, but we strolled around the graveyard and found the star turn, the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin. It was a very humble slab, just as he had insisted it should be at his passing. This graveyard also contained the graves of several of the original signees of the actual Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776.

29835573-9B62-4AFB-A665-89738A78B79E

The signees of the Declaration

Leaving the tombstones behind, we sought out and found the big attraction of Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell, which to be honest turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. However that was all soon to change. Deciding it was coffee time, we went into a nice place and ordered tea. Does that sound right to you? Anyway, halfway through our Earl Grey, Mary got the call she had been waiting for all day: it was son Scott reporting he had got the manager’s job he had interviewed for on Tuesday! We were giddy with excitement at his brilliant success and stayed on the mobile extra long telling him how proud we were of him. Well done, Scotty!

19253714-A5C2-4ED8-9070-EECA4A2FA129

The underwhelming Liberty Bell

Refreshed by tea and cookie (Mary had a banana!) we headed down Chestnut Street and crossed over to the American Museum of Revolution. We were hoping to learn much more about how America escaped the clutches of the French, Spanish and British to become an independent country in itself. At reception, I winced at the $19 a head entrance fee but we paid up and went in. The good news is that this museum was probably worth twice that price and gave us everything we had hoped for …. and more! By the time we emerged into the gathering gloom of dusk, we had a much-improved vision of the events of the 1770s on the eastern seaboard, how the colonials rebelled against the British rule of George III, put together the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the 7 years of war that followed before they won full independence, the role of the French in defeating the British, and what was owed to the main protagonists, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It was indeed an education to both of us.

AB3EDB48-9425-46CC-B33A-4B6D7FAA6C75

The most famous bit of the Declaration

Tea tonight was taken in a wee Indian restaurant which served wonderful food at half the price of last night’s Cuban feast. On our way back to the hotel, we stumbled on a store and bought some provisions for tomorrow’s 6-hour train journey to Boston. It’s up at 7 tomorrow to have breakfast, get packed and get to the station for 08.30. With a bit of luck we’ll be able to catch up on sleep on the train journey but will be wide awake as we skip through New York. Should be fun, eh?

Don’t ask me why, but we spotted this mammoth in a wee park!

1086D1BC-CB9B-4CF5-932A-2FE0ED3400A8

 

Day 6/49: “I hear that train a-whistling ……”

Leave a comment

Our next travel day started with breakfast over at the local market store before we checked out and took the Metro back down to Union Station for the last time. Because now we were heading for Philadelphia on the Amtrak train.

We got to Union with time to spare and made our way to the waiting area which reminded us of a boarding gate at an airport. Some folk were in a makeshift queue in front of a roped-off area while others, including us, were sitting waiting nearby. 10 minutes before departure a guy in uniform came out to announce he would be escorting all those travelling Business Class onboard first. That was us so we moved forward and took the stairs to the latform where the train was waiting.

Getting on with the big suitcase required a bit of an effort but we managed ok and found 2 very roomy seats together. I mention this as the ticket guarantees you a seat but no specific one. We pulled out of Washington DC bang on time.

4947081B-1485-4FFC-B307-E81B8CAAEDBE

Lady Burton gets settled

1FA9D9E1-3EE1-422A-8AE1-62EFAE5DB150

Bye! Bye! Washington

The journey was comfortable enough despite clanky points and 2 hours later we were at our destination.

77833FFB-84EF-4334-A956-1A68B9B5F981

Philadelphia freedom!

At the Station we decided to have lunch before heading for our hotel. The first person I spoke to was from Belfast and a staunch Hoops supporter while the next man we asked directions from was a Scot from Hamilton and a Rangers supporter! Would you believe it? Anyhow we took a cab (that’s American for a taxi!!) to our hotel, the Penns View, down by Penns Landing where William Penn arrived prior to founding the State he named after himself! The hotel is beautiful and of the Colonial style like the one we had in Cobourg.

We settled on, had a short siesta then went for a walk around the local area before choosing a Cuban restaurant for dinner. Mary had a kind of paella while I tore into an Argentinian steak! Both were excellent.

We’re now in bed and the Sandman is hard at work on our eyelids so I’ll leave you for today with the hotel we should have stayed in (just to say we did!)

8F635A70-2D92-414F-BAE1-A71FC71E244D

Trump that!

 

Day 6/ 48: “Oh, say can you see….”

Leave a comment

We’ve been in a whole load of Metro systems over the years but Washington’s wins hands down purely because all of the announcements in the trains are delivered by ……. Barry White! Yes, we’re sure it’s him even though he died many years ago. We think they must have got him to do all possible instructions for passengers on tape or something because he’s the only guy we’ve ever heard who talked liked that. So, we’re sitting in the carriage as it reaches a station and Barry comes on the loudspeaker “Listen here, people, the next stop is DuPont Circle. Please stand away from the doors (Can’t get enough of your love, babe!)” No honestly, ok maybe I’ve subliminally added the last bit but we’re sure he said at the terminus ” Union Station, my first, my last, my everything”!!

We were back on the streets of Washington by 10 again this morning but today with very specific targets. First we took the red line bus back to the Lincoln Memorial where we stopped for a coffee before switching to the purple line bus for a trip across the Potomac river to the Pentagon. However we didn’t get close enough on this route and anyway we could hardly take any decent photos as we were freezing to death on the open upper deck of said bus. I wanted to see the 9/11 memorial to those killed when the 3rd hijacked plane flew into the Pentagon that day but the bus just did a wee circle and drove off without stopping.

 

image

How many sides does the Pentagon have?

When it did stop 5 minutes later it was in front of Pentagon City Mall, hardly a historic icon let’s be honest, but with a 30-minute wait we left the bus and went in (if only to warm up). Right next to the bus was a wee stall run by an even weer Chinaman who charmed me into buying an American cap. Mary was looking longingly at a mug with Donald on it but I put my foot down at having anything Trump in the house or caravan. Indeed the Mall was big and beautiful but it was simply not for us so we quickly wandered back to the bus.

The next stop was our main visit for our last day in Washington – Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. For once it wasn’t just us weirdos who wanted to spend holiday time in a place full of dead people. There were hundreds of other visitors; military folk in full uniform, civilians, veterans, men in suits and school parties. We were quickly struck by the respectful demeanour of everyone in the cemetery and there was a total absence of loud talk, laughter, screeching and high jinks associated with kids on a school trip.

image

JFK’s resting place

 

We made our way up the main path and found the last resting place of the Kennedys: JFK, Jackie, Robert and Edward. An eternal flame burned between the assassinated president and his wife. I mentioned to Lady Burton that I was a bit surprised to see Jackie laid to rest beside her first husband, especially after remarrying to Aristotle Onassis, but then again maybe that was for the best.

image

Not a sound was heard

Moving on, we climbed the hill to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just in time to catch the very formal changing of the guard ceremony. Hundreds were beside us watching this yet you could honestly have heard a pin drop! After it was over we had just enough time to take in the rememberance building before a smart walk back down to catch the next purple line bus. We missed it by seconds so we’re faced with an hour’s wait in the cold but yours truly saved the day by persuading another bus company to take us back across the river ….. for nothing! Yes, I know, what a hard neckèd git, Now we needed a drink: for me a beer and for Mary a large Bells!

image

Safely over the river and back yet again at the Lincoln Memorial, we had a quick lunch then took the red line bus back towards Union Station, but got off at the American History Museum. The next 3 hours were a history lesson for us in how the United States of America came to be via the war of Independence, the American Civil War and the rest. The military history also covered Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the 2 World Wars, both of which they entered late. We now understand how the colonials got fed up with British tax burdens, leading to unrest and eventually revolt starting at Lexington. However, had the French and Spanish not joined in to help the Americans, it’s unlikely there would have been much freedom or independence at all.

It wasn’t just military history in this museum however. One of the exhibits showed me how to get into Lady Burton’s purse!

image

Fort Knox vault door!

There were lots and lots of other things to go and look at, so when we were thrown out at 5.30 we’d only seen the half of it. Good excuse to come back, eh? Deciding to walk back to Union Station, we were struck by the imposingly floodlit bulk of thr Capitol ahead of us so we changed our mind and climbed the hill for a closer look at the American Seat of Government. We’re glad we did because the building was wonderful, illuminated against the darkening skies.

image

Mary on Capitol Hill

The Metro took us back to the hotel but we had tea in the Market opposite again before coming to our room where I’m writing this. Tomorrow at midday we’re off on the train north to Philadelphia about which we know very little so that’s what Lady Burton has to learn about tonight.

I leave you with Indiana Jones’ hat and whip!,

image

 

 

Older Entries