Archive | June, 2018
28 June 2018

Orlando

We only had 3 days in Daytona Beach but it was more than enough. We really can’t see what the attraction is but moving on to Orlando its attraction becomes  obvious – THEME PARKS!!!!  Disney, Disney, Disney, Disney and then there’s Universal and Kennedy Space Centre plus many more smaller iterations. Disney is everywhere and all roads lead to Disney and occasionally Universal…

Disney has four theme parks (I think) one of which is Epcot which is supposed to be the future themed park. Frankly it was a bit of an overpriced let down, but more on that later.

The reason we were here in the first place is as a “prize” in an online competition which had as a stinger the obligation to attend a “time share” sales presentation. Our accommodation was paid for in Daytona Beach for 3 nights, Orlando for 7 nights and then 2 nights on the Grand Celebration cruise ship to take in Freeport in the Bahamas coming out of West Palm Beach. We also had a car provided for the duration of our stay so it seemed that the couple of hours listening to their sales prattle was a small price to pay. We’ve had a very interesting and enjoyable experience for really what has amounted to little cost, however, food and drinks were still to our account and none of that is cheap here. The ship experience was great – food was all included and it was absolutely the best we’ve had since we’ve been this side of the country.

Anyway, getting ahead of myself. The first couple of days were consumed with housekeeping, attending sales pitches, finding our way around (on the wrong side of the road and car) and I forgot to mention when we  picked up the car at Orlando Airport we left in pelting rain through which I couldn’t see the road and we were in bumper to bumper traffic at 50 (mph that is). Shit, that was scary and it persisted most of the way to Daytona Beach  1 1/2 hours away . OK so back to Orlando …. this is a big city but it seems to be full of resorts, time shares, hotels, condos and all sorts of accommodation. It’s also home to every conceivable fast food joint you could imagine and more than you would possibly know and all of it crap – we know, we tried some of it. On our second last night we did however find an Italian restaurant, albiet one in a chain, that was good. It was made even better by the waiter who was a real comedian…

and where I had the best steak since we left the Michaels. The waiter gave us a heap of good jokes most of which I can’t now remember but it was a most pleasant dinner.

Well we’re in theme park city so what do we do – well follow the masses of course. Look up the web – tickets to Disney 3 days and about $340 each. Hell, we don’t want 3 days and 4 theme parks and trains and trams between them and since I won’t go on the big scary rides it seems a bit of overkill to go to Fantasy Land. Bad luck mate thats what we’ve got. OK so what about the Kennedy Space Centre. Hey, looking good. Only about $80aus each for a six hour guided tour. So book it. Done. Now the only way you can get in is with a printed ticket and guess what – I didn’t bring a printer!!! Now you smartarses are gunna say – ‘download it to your phone’. They’re quite specific on that front too – NO! – printed ticket only. So I email the front desk and ultimately they’re kind enough to download and print our tickets. Down I go to collect and on return to the room is a second email from the ticket issuer telling me they’ve made a mistake and here’s the real ticket. Prevail upon the front desk again to print, which they happily did, so, all set, the next day we head out to the Space Centre. We join the queue, they eventually get to us and not only do they want our printed ticket but our ID and passports and we have to go through security inspection. They finally take our carefully prepared printed ticket and give us what – a f……. ticket!!!

However, the formalities over, the day turned out to be exceptional. This is a fascinating piece of American history and endeavour (perhaps we should call a space shuttle that) Some photo overview…..

at the entrance, a field of experience, a Saturn 9 rocket, launch frame before it gets moved to site, the same launch frame from the base, the rocket assembly building and the control centre for the Apollo 9 (I think that was the number) Moon Landing.

This is where the main camera battery ran out so all photos hereafter on this day are of slightly lesser quality…..

‘Us, the bus used until recently to ferry the astronauts to the rocket for the last 30 years or so, how do astronauts ‘go’, space shuttle ‘Endeavour’, shuttle booster rockets, stage 1 of Apollo rocket, moon vehicle, stage 2 of Apollo rocket, engines of same, size comparison illustration, launch pads 39A from which most of the shuttle launches have taken place and 39B where SpaceX is now launching from and from where recently Elon Musk put one of his Teslas into low earth orbit, the bottom of the launch tower under which the crawler is placed to take the tower and rocket out to the launch pad some  3.5 miles  away’. The crawler takes about 8 hours to travel the 3.5 miles and consumes fuel at the rate of 1 gallon per yard.

This was an enlightening day and there is lots more yet between Orlando, Freeport, Miami and Key Lago but I must end now as we’re needing a nights sleep before heading back to Orlando for our shuttle to the UK tomorrow.

 

Goodnight John- Boy!

 

26 June 2018

Daytona Beach

Few names conjure up motor sport imagery as much as Daytona does. Frankly why I’m not sure – its still American banked circuit oval motor racing in cars that are no more stock cars than our V8 Supercars.

The Daytona 500 runs for about 3 1/2 hours (thats miles of course) and they just go around in circles. People pay 100’s of dollars to attend and the one race is all they get for the day. Boring!!! However the circuit, billed as an “international” speedway is gi-normous. It seats 105,000 in the one grandstand – no cover, 100 degree heat beating down on you for 3 1/2 hours – Oh the joy of motorsport…..

you’re seeing just half of the grandstand above….

but these are each way from within the grandstand.

There were a few cars out doing driver training, making a lot of noise but seemingly not a lot of speed. Our guide said they would probably only reach 160 as the cars were detuned (ring any bells Bob and Alex)..

The gallery of historical cars was certainly worth a look….

as well as a couple of bikes for George.

Daytona Beach is a resort city. The beach front runs for miles and is just endless condos and resorts and hotels and apartments….

and I guess there is a need as perhaps 200,00 people cram in for the Daytona 500 and several other events at the speedway throughout the year. It was also very busy during the time we were here over school holidays.

The beach isn’t that good although there were a few nice spots as seen from our hotel..

and we also got a fabulous view of an electrical storm on night one…

(a bolt to the right of the building and sheet lightening over the water – have you ever tried to get shots of lightening? It’s very elusive)

Food as we’ve continued to find is crap and overly expensive and I’ll say no more about the eating habits of Americans than their diets are fat.

Daytona Beach is not a place we would rush back to although there are some very attractive swamps ….

and some interesting history…

When you survey the swampland around this site you do begin to wonder WHY!

We were only here for  3 days and it was enough – we’re not beach babes any more so it didn’t have much to keep us. We did see the lighthouse..

and had lunch in a “diner”.

26 June 2018

New Orleans

– back again.

Forgot to mention – first night in N’orlins arrived at Hotel Lafayette (picked from the interwebby thingy cos it sounded French and was near the French Quarter) at around 9.30pm. Deposited the crap and went searching for food. It was 10 pm and all the nearby kitchens were shutting down so 2 weary hungry travellers looked like becoming poor little starving waifs. Got directed up some back alleys and what’d we find – ‘Gidday’ – an Ozzie bar and grill. Found our way in and eventually got shepherds pie with a Fosters in a 1 litre can and ended up chatting with owner Vic from Bendigo. Been here 30 years and still sounded like home. It was a nice touch.

There are some lovely buildings around town, some very small police cars, interesting photographs, horses heads on poles and the inside passageway of The Lafayette cos I don’t have an outside shot. The hotel was nicely oldy-worldly, if a little frayed around the edges but it was still the best part of $200.00 per night

But it was handy to everything and on the tram line so getting around proved easy. Trams are apparently modelled on our W class trams a coupleof which used to run here. Fares are $1.25 per journey but just $3.00 per day and you can change routes and hop on and off as much as you like. Proved to be a good way to get around.

and Lindy might be pleased to know that these are some of the most common cars on the road here.

We move on – next stop Daytona Beach and the Daytona 500.

23 June 2018

And Still N’Orlins

Earlier we rode the trolley car along St Charles Avenue, mainly cos we didn’tknow where to get off. The housing down this way is impressive…

and you can pick one up for a dottle – just a cupla mil (or 3). They’re beautiful and the gardens are very special. But, you’ve already seen the downside, the poorer neighbourhoods effected by the floods in the last post. One extreme to another. But I guess this is no different to any other city.

Not war museumed out we took in the Civil War Museum which is near the WWII Museum reported on last post…

to see an interesting collection of historical killing equipment from the period of the Civil War which if I recall correctly was around 1860. It is however a very interesting building, purpose built for this specific purpose.

This evening we took to the water in the PS Creole Queen. An original (well early) paddle steamer. This was a jazz and dinner cruise on the Mississippi and a good night out it was even though it rained for most of the trip. Dinner on board which of itself was not great, the ambience was. Met Pattie and Janine at the adjoining table had a great chat and then went upstairs to hear the band. Bit wet with everybody crammed under cover it was a bit hard to appreciate the music but again it was a good experience. Also a bit hard to get photos but here is some of our record of the event….

On board at 6.30pm, set sail about 7.oopm and back to dock about 9.30pm, total cost including drinks about $200 ($280.00 aus).

Nothing here is cheap, in fact it is quite expensive overall – food and entertainment and then there are the “gratuities” on top all suggested at between 18% – 20%. We did not tip to that level – at no point did we get service that remotely warranted significant reward. We know it is a standard US form of remuneration but it is not very effective.

There is no gambling allowed in Louisiana so this is not really a gambling casino it is a “gaming” house. You can run a gaming facility if you have a gaming licence!

OOOHH!! only in America!

I played a 1c pokie and lost $5.00 in two pushes of the button – I have no idea how that worked but clearly I don’t know how to ‘game’.

The bus to the airport is picking us up at 5.15am so the last night has not been a biggie – a quick meal down Frenchman Street for a last bit of jazz …..

then early to bed.

Next day Daytona Beach and a real change of direction. But, more later.

 

 

 

 

21 June 2018

M’Orlins

The WWII museum is brilliant, but you’d have to believe that the Yanks won the war by themselves. Whilst there are a few passing references to other participants (Allies) the focus is definitely on what America did. It is a HUGE musem spread over several buildings….

and whilst I only captured a bit of the outside its when you get inside that you can appreciate the scale…

yeah I know it’s very ‘plane’ but these are just hanging from the ceiling everywhere. This is really a big kids bedroom. The entire museum follows this pattern – its big in every way….

but all of the various displays of individual theatres of both the war in Europe and Pacific are so fragmented it is impossible to get a photographic overview. Suffice to say they are both telling and moving – there is no softness, the stories tell it like it was.

This museum is really worth a visit but you do need to devote at the very least a full day to it, possibly even more. Despite its Americacintricity I found it very moving.

I think this is Saturday and we’re off to the Whitney Plantation. I know it was a bloody early start as we had to meet the tour bus at another hotel further up the road at 8.00am. We were actually early and the concierge at the Hotel Modern, Geoff, took pity on us and invited us in for breakfast. He also booked us a bus tour for  Monday. Very accommodating and friendly. Anyway the bus finally arrived at 8.30am and we headed off to the plantation.

The Whitney Plantation is billed as a tour ‘from the slaves perspective’. The present owners aquired it a few years ago and have turned it into something of a shrine to the slave labour of its history. It is certainly interesting and somewhat enlightning. There are memorials set up to remember the 100,ooo or so slaves brought to Lousinia and seperate memorials to the slaves engaged on this plantation. Much of the infrastructure is original or has been replanted from elsewhere to represent the period of its early operation (mid 1800’s) and our guide took us through all of the history…

This was a sugar plantation and in its day all of the cropping and processing to refinement was done on site by slaves. They tell us the average life of a slave in the field was just 7 years and they were put to work by age 10. Horrendous. The domestic staff apparently fared much better though.

An interesting observation by our guide however was ‘America was built on the slave economy, that it owes its success and wealth to the slave labour of the past’.

There’s more to N’orlins yet. We’re presently in Orlando after several days in Daytona Beach where we had no connectivity so I’m trying hard to catch up. California wine is catching up with me right now but as a final point of interest Californian wine here is dearer than imported Australian. Hard to choose!

18 June 2018

N’orlins

Yeah right!

Southwest Airlines worked – no engine failures no windows blowing out no passengers out windows and it was on time AND our luggage arrived with us.

So we’ve arrived at one of those places that’s been on our bucket list for ever – New Orleans Lousiana US of A. Jazz, creole, Cajun, Jumbalaya, Mardi Gras, Mighty Mississippi, slaves, plantations, sugar, cotton, river boats et al. Plus of course the “French quarter”.

Lets start by saying ‘ Katrina did N’orlins no favours’. Eleven years on and there is still significant damage. The whole place looks and feels run down. We took a bus tour which covered areas still showing serious damage but there is evidence everywhere of the effects of cyclone Katrina. As was pointed out to us it wasn’t the cyclone directly but the subsequent flooding when the levies around the city failed. A  lot of N’orlins is below the level of the river and the lake and the built in the late 1800’s drainage/pumping system fed all of the rain water into the lake. When the levies broke the water all came back. Most of the city was 2 feet at least underwater with some as much as 12 feet deep….

The graveyards have tombs all above ground cos as the bus driver explained “when you bury Bob you don’t want him bobbing up when the water gets to Bob’s level”. All tombs carry a supposed maximum of two bodies in a two year period but you can drop the bones of the earliest in a bag and drop the bag in a pit under the tomb and put the next body in year on year. (The temperature is such that the body decomposes in the year). Some of these tombs carry dozens of people…..

 

and there a thousands of these tombs in various cemetaries all around NO.

Footpaths are all unlevel, road surfaces are still damaged and the place just feels ‘grotty’.

However we still had fun. On Saturday night we caught a parade in Canal St (the main drag!!!!)…..

I think even the horse was gay (well happy anyway).This went on for an hour or so with loud music and huge crowds all wearing some rainbow ID. We felt positively queer!!!

This was at least to me to be a food taste test. Jude is not terribly adventurous on this front as we all know but I’m always up for a bit of a lark so we tried several different places – none of them lived up to my expectations and all of them were bloody expensive for what they really offered eg a rabbit ragout for about $30 aus which really was mostly pasta and perhaps as much rabbit as one could fit into a matchbox, or a blackened chicken jambalaya at about $30 which was nothing more than a paella. Didn’t try it, can at home, but a ‘decent’ steak listed out at usually around $60.00 (and you want sides with that sir?) Everything was bland – I expected spicy, hot, tasty (the best experience so far foodwise was roadside tortillas in Mexico – they had a bit of bite). However the jazz was good – its everywhere…

(The kids tap dancing to music in his own head)

There were bodies on the streets everywhere – I don’t know how they put up with the noise and the crowds.

There are trams everywhere but ya gotta be a bit of a genius to work out the system. It does sorta work!..

Theres more yet -WWII museum (brilliant from a yanks point of view), Whitney Plantation (from a slaves point of view) and the Creole Riverboat cruise (from Judes point of view)

 

11 June 2018

Lake Powell

Northish of the Grand Canyon and due north of Phoenix at the state border, Lake Powell/Page is both water supply and hydro electric power supply to lots of Arizona and abutting states. Strangely it’s also home to a massive coal fired power station and the home of the Navajo Nation.

The Colorado river is dammed here and still again further down at the other end of the Canyon. The resulting waterway (Lake Powell) is 198 miles long but only about 2 – 3  miles wide but quite a bit narrower at some points. The setting is quite stunning….

You might notice that I have actually remembered to get a photo of the two of us in situ. Also this last shot shows the smoke stacks of the coal powered electricity plant at the side of the lake. But there’s more…..

… a Linda and some very expensive houseboats and marina and “Navajo tapestries” on the canyon walls and a Bute and another very big rock and a very narrow channel to come home by.

The boat trip around a small section of the Lake took 2 1/2 hours and was most informative. You can Google the details if you’re interested enough but suffice to say it is a major tourist and holiday destination. It’s quite beautiful.

Whilst on the boat a couple of ladies showed us photos of canyon “slots”. Looked stunning so decided we best check it out for ourselves so booked an afternoon tour with the Navajos. $312.00 for four people took a bit of swallowing but after what Gary and Linda have spent on our entertainment it was the least we could cough up for. So at the appointed hour we climbed aboard our truck…(which I don’t have a photo of) and we head up country.

The photos tell it all……

Caused by water and wind over squillions of years it is really just a fissure in the sandstone but it is spectacularly beautiful.

Well all this natural beauty tired us all out so it was back to the house and a few more reds (and a water).

‘Twas back to Phoenix the next day (Tuesday) but via Gary and Lindas best mans home at Prescott (Bud and Ardene) to also see Garys brother Melvin (Mike) and wife Dee who were visiting, then on to another brother in the same area, Bruce who was entertaining other brother John and their respective wives. So, a real family catch-up then back to Sun City to re-cap on our 9 day long adventure (over a few more reds and a water)

Wednesday was washing day and getting ready to move on. Gary and Linda resumed their grandchild minding duties and we discussed our adventures over a few more reds. Thursday was off to the airport to head to New Orleans.

Gary &  Linda – Thanks! Fabulous hospitality and we hope the cementing of an enduring international friendship upon which we hope we can build with a return visit. A real joy and priveledge to meet with daughters Gina and Tiffany and their respective husbands John and Matt and all of the gremlins, Reanna, Reilyn, Ember, Ryder and Avery.

Home is where the heart is and I guess this is it for G & L …….

Downtown Sun City Arizona USA and looking back from a great height.

(That’s PM in the back yard at the BBQ, most days have so far topped 100)

10 June 2018

Now I Can Draw

It’s taken a bit but I’ve taken a lot – pictures that is.

So without further ado, here is a pictorial journey so far……

and we’re heading for Mexico from Phoenix. We thought we had an exclusive on arid outback but this is eerily similar until you cross the border then its arid squalor…..

but out of the blue pops condos.

Wealthy Mexicans and southern  Americans flock here for their annual leave. The beaches and shopping are major attractions…….

and of course there’s the ATV’ing……

this could have been real fun but I was carrying an anchor (mind you, so was Gary).

Our time in Mexico was only a bare 4 days but we crammed in a bit…..

including some house hunting at La Cholla (believe it or not – million dollar properties) and getting “Wrecked at the REEF” – a drinking hole right on the beach (I wasn’t getting real wrecked at their prices). Its a whole different world.

At some point we shopped and bought bottles of wine for as little as $7.00 and it wasn’t real bad. I was so pleased to discover that Linda and Gary are both red drinkers – personally a great relief cos I thought I might have had to convert to spirits. Jude still stuck to water though.

Building codes don’t mean much in Mexico – if indeed there are any. Have a look at the chipboards walls backing onto seawater and the placement of aircon units on the thatch and the wiring hanging out into the street. The above photo of us is in front of a restaurant stuck up on sticks out in the water, behind the shop chipboard walls.

But its interesting and different and I’d go back to see more. We’re told the “cartels” run everything so you gotta be a bit careful where you set foot but none of this was evident.

OK so back to Phoenix on Friday arvo, a day at home and then off to Page. I must mention at this juncture that we have been due south of Phoenix to reach Rocky Point Mexico and we are now heading due north to Page and Lake Powell which collects water from the Colorado River before it travels the Grand Canyon. Linda has rented a house in Page for the couple of nights we are to be there. Good job too.

Well, north of Phoenix is desert too but some of it is spectacular….

and then we’re in Injun territory……

where all kinds of genuine made yesterday artifacts are on sale. We did succumb to a bit of ‘arm twisting’.

This is gettin’ a bit long for y’all ta take in so I’ll sign arf fa’ now and see y’agin tomorra.

4 June 2018

Ole’

We finally made Phoenix around 11.00pm Monday 28th May. Jude’s case didn’t.

Gary & Linda did meet us though and we were so pleased cos’ it’d been a looooonnnnnggg day. They had us heading to Mexico the next morning but we had to delay departure for Jude to buy some clothes. Quick trip to JC Penny, Linda’s old employer and a weeks worth of new undies and stuff cost less than the discount given – bargain. Headed off for Rocky Point around 11.00 and got in about 5.oo – what an eye opener! Luxury resorts in the midst of squalor but what an exciting experience. Beautiful beaches, swimming pools etc very accomodating resorts great bars and fantastic ATV experiences through the sand dunes (photos will have to follow cos’ I’m doing this on the iPad and I don’t know how to upload to it). Four great days and we were joined on the second day by Gary & Linda’s daughter Gina, husband John and grannies Reanna and Reilyn and two of the girls friends. Made for a lovely homely experience.

However,many attempts to contact airline to ascertain whereabouts of Jude’s luggage met with maximum frustration. Wasn’t until we returned to Phoenix on Friday that we got the first indicator of a possible retrieval. Finally picked up from the airport at 11.00pm Saturday night. At least Jude’s a bit happier now. Thank you Kat and Kathy and the Michaels.

A day in Phoenix and a dinner catch up with other daughter Tiffany and husband  Matt with their 3 kids and friends Terri and Tim, a boisterous night, then on the road again to Lake Powell some 6 hours north of Phoenix for a cruise on the lake. Stopped along the way at various Indian roadside stalls and bought things to take home – and we’re only at day six.

Its been a hectic first few days but more detail to follow when I can upload pics.