New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Angels

We arrived 30 minutes after the game started to find the Yankees in the lead 6-0. Fairly quickly, we realised we didn’t have a clue what was going on and should have booked basketball instead! The game appears to be a mixture of rounders and cricket, with a rest every two minutes. On the plus side, we managed the journey without incident – that’s one train all the way! On the negative, the officials at the stadium came across as really rude. John spent several minutes muttering ‘welcome to New York’!

The Yankees won the match, although they play it again the day after so it might change. There were some very loud and interesting characters on the subway on the way back and we were relieved to leave the train before the fighting broke out.

Tomorrow is an early start for a cycle tour of Central Park

Shop until you drop

I We are not a family of shoppers but it feels like today has turned us into one. The day started simply enough with breakfast at the local deli before a wander around the Murray Hill market. The market was an eclectic mix of crafts, food and bric-a-brac stalls and went almost to the entrance of Grand Central Station.


Then we decided we had to do Macy’s and that was a mistake. Surely the largest store in the world could keep us entertained for an hour so we split up. 30 mins into that hour we had all found our way to the meeting point and decided the store was not a patch on John Lewis!
A brisk walk took us to The High Line, an old railway line which runs above the city, it’s been converted into a pedestrian walkway with plants growing in between the old tracks.


We experienced our first Peanut butter ice cream sandwiches which sustained us until we managed a late lunch in Chelsea Market.


It was a long walk back from W15th to E34th but the grid system made sure we didn’t get lost – a bit like Milton Keynes! We took time to look at the Flatiron building looking very impressive in the late afternoon sunshine.


It’s 6:30 pm, we have tickets for baseball at 7:15 and all we want to do is sleep……

Staten Island Ferry to Times Square

I bet you didn’t know you could do that!! Ok, you can’t but that’s how we spent Friday evening.

The ferry was not too busy so we were able to sit outside and watch as we sailed past ‘Lady Liberty’ and into Staten Island. 


A brisk walk through the terminal saw us back on the same ferry for the return trip. The mist was descending so views weren’t great but the Ferry’s free so we weren’t complaining 
A walk up Wall Street took us back for another battle with the subway, only three trains for the return journey which felt like success for us!
Despite feeling very weary, we decided Friday night was for Times Square. Slightly refreshed after a meal of cheese on toast with tomato soup, we walked to Times Square via Broadway and Macy’s (we must go in there before we leave). The ‘square’ appears to be one long road rather than a square. The generation gap became clear, Matt was in heaven whilst we were wondering what on earth we were doing there! Bright flashing neon lights, packed streets and weird street artists.  Would you get topless women in Trafalgar Square? A walk back down 5th Avenue took us back to the apartment. 



See Forever….

….well, a few miles depending on humidity!

After the emotion of 9/11, we were off to the top of the world! 1 WTC Observatory was our next stop (thank you, Sarah, for the tip). It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and has recently opened a viewing platform on floors 100-102. The lift can take you up in 48 seconds which we agreed was blooming fast for a lift!
We have discovered that, apart from the museum, New York likes to keep you waiting and guessing. Not for them a simple queue that takes you to a lift, you have to join a number of queues, be herded through an exhibition and then, if you’re really lucky you can get in a lift. Obviously us English are far too impatient! The exhibition was a simple walk listening to stories from some of those involved in creating 1WTC as a symbol that the New York spirit wasn’t crushed by 9/11, in fact it brought New Yorkers together as community. The lift was very clever – very fast and ear popping. The visuals on the way up showed you how Manhattan has developed since 1776 and it would have been great if the journey had been slower to be able to take that in.
We arrived on 102 to be treated to another show before, ta da!, the curtains were raised and we were treated to the view. Luckily the skies had cleared, after earlier rain, which felt a little symbolic when we thought about how we’d spent our day so far! Finally we arrived at the viewing deck which was spacious and prompted a conversation/row ‘Shard, Heron Tower or 1WTC’. It was amazing but, for Kim, you cannot beat an aerial view of the Tower of London.


The rest of the afternoon saw a walk through Battery Park and a trip across the harbour on the Staten Island Ferry as a way of seeing the Statue of Liberty without paying.
Interesting facts:
Battery Park was created from the spoil dug out from the original WTC construction site
The damaged sculpture, ‘The Sphere’ once stood in the original WTC plaza, after being recovered from the rubble of the Twin Towers it was relocated to Battery Park.

You can keep Kim quiet for hours if you put her in front of some water
Sorry, no photos from Ferry until we’ve worked out how to get the from camera to iPad

Remembering 9/11

Grand Central Station was our first stop after breakfast. It was pretty, clean and shiny and, of course, completely eclipsed by the Apple Store! The store is on one of the mezzanine floors and is as big as Clophill it must be open 24/7. Either that of the staff are very trusting and no-one steals the products….

The 9/11 memorial and museum was our next stop. Saying that we’d conquered the subway was a big, fat lie. We only had to travel down the ‘green’ line but we got on and off four trains to make a straightforward trip, it would have probably been quicker to walk!
The museum and memorial were well worth the journey. Before we’d got through the door, John had told us the story of Richard Rescoria. Born in Cornwall he was the fire officer responsible for Morgan Stanley and his insistence that fire evacuation plans were regularly practiced meant that 2700 people safely left the building before he went back inside, like so many others never to be seen again. We’d invested in a guided tour of the museum which was brilliant. The stories told, both sad and happy, together with the twisted remains brought the experience to life which was emotional and sobering.

The memorial is visually stunning but still tasteful and touching. If you’re wondering about the tree, it was planted in the original WTC Plaza and was found during the clean up. Named The Survivor Tree, it has been nursed back to health and stands as a symbol of survival. As I write, the tears  are streaming and it has been surprisingly difficult to put the experience into words.

King Kong, where are you?

Empire State Building at night ticked off the list but the monkey, along with the advertised saxophonist, were both missing! No sign of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr reuniting either. It felt like commercialism at its worst but the views were fantastic. We missed seeing the sunset as we were ‘persuaded’ to do the NY Skyride first. It would take too long to complain about the scam but it generated a lot of muttering from us! Just to reassure you, Matt is alive and well, just missing from the photo having abandoned us at the first opportunity.

Wearily, collapsed into bed at 10:30 (3:30am in real time!) after discovering we only have a coffee maker, not a kettle!
This morning, NY is starting to look better. Kettle ordered from reception and breakfast in a local deli. We declined healthy oatmeal for scrambled egg, cheese and ham croissants, yummy! We’re off to find Grand Central Station before visiting the 9/11 memorial and museum and observatory at 1 WTC should Matt ‘I’m going for a run’ Bray ever join us! He is on the hotel treadmill rather than pounding NY streets – this is especially for Diane and Dot so they don’t call NYPD

New York Subway conquered…..

….. hotel finally discovered! We know we’re in the right city – yellow cabs, sirens and steam rising from pavements.

Flight was effortless and we’d recommend Delta -the safety video was hilarious and Oscar worthy, they kept plying us with food and drink and the entertainment selection was fab.
Our journey from JFK was traumatic. The queues at immigration were hideous – never again will we be smug when we sail through customs in the UK. The Airtrain from JFK to the subway was fast and scary – no driver and a steep drop down one side. As to the subway, what dippy system has gates that go both ways so you don’t know if you’re coming or going? A misleading map and poorly signed trains equalled a cheap but stressful ride. Customs and Subway officials grumpy and rude, locals in NY lovely and helpful. Taxi to be booked for the journey back, we think!
Hotel has a complimentary wine hour every evening so there go the plans for exploring for a while. We also have a huge room!
Tickets booked for the Empire State Building today which we shall do at dusk, drunk or not! Dusk feels a long way off……

Heathrow Snow Depot…..

The most amazing sight so far is the Heathrow Snow Depot, what do all those shiny trucks do for 360 days of the year? Anyway, we’re off to a flying start! Arrived at Heathrow with 50 mins to spare and, just as we got off the bus, Kim announced she’d left the travel docs in the car! Cue a panicky bus ride back to the car park for Kim with the lovely driver leaving early especially.

We were the last to check in and are now safely stowed in the plane.

Tigers hiding in the grass?

Our claim to fame is flying home with the Australian Olympic BMX Team, it means we are almost Olympians.

After the apprehension of a 12 hour flight and 7 hour time difference the flight was almost pleasant compared with the outward journey. With our limited experience of flying long-haul it looks like Quantas is a good choice.

Many thanks to Ken, Kim’s Dad, who got up a 3am to collect us from Heathrow. We were out of the airport in less than an hour from touchdown and home in less than two hours. That must be some sort of record or have border controls been relaxed for the Olympics?

Thanks also to Diane, Kim’s mum, for filling up the fridge so that we came home to bacon and mushroom sandwiches for breakfast but we did have to cook them ourselves which came as a bit of a culture shock! Despite all this, they let themselves down – the grass is only half cut and the weeds are having a party! Any volunteeers for gardening while we sleep??!

We’ve had a fantastic time, although the kitchen looks awful, which brings us full circle back to where we started.

Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go

But in the meantime it’s non alcoholic (Gunner) cocktails by the swimming pool!

Our final day and we’ve had to vacate the room, we still have four hours left until we head for the airport so it was a choice of a shopping mall or asking nicely if we could retain the use of the hotel facilities which luckily the hotel agreed to.

Despite our good intentions to eat breakfast out, we succumbed to the luxury and air conditioning in the hotel before wandering back into the city to see some of the buildings and sights we had previously missed.

Today’s adventure was using the MRT, Singapore’s underground system, which was cheap, quiet and very clean. The platform is sealed from the track with doors that open on both train and platform once the train comes to a stop, it was so much easier than walking in the heat.

See you all soon x

China Town, Raffles and the Singapore Flyer

The Market Cafe at the hotel does the most amazing buffet breakfast, it’s almost worth the journey and humidity just to experience it! Certainly a civilised way to start the day.

Apart from the usual extensive range of fruit platters, cereals and continental pastries cheese and meats. Cooked options include strange items such as vegitarian noodles, chicken sausages (very aneamic looking) and fish fingers which were defintly not from Captain Birds Eye. Asian choives were, Indian Roti Prata with Dahl Curry, Dim Sum, Pork Congee and Fried Carrot Cake with pickled raddish. All this for breakfast! It was hard and exausting work but we had our moneys worth.

Next stop was an indoor market where we experienced our first determined barter style sell of the day. We innocently wandered past a camera stall and were pounced on, we would get an exclusive special price as first customers of the day. Matt asked a simple question and an hour later came out with a lens converter, significantly cheaper than the original quoted price. Despite several attempts to leave we never quite managed to escape but agreed the vendor had worked hard for the sale and we’d enjoyed every minute!

It’s amazing what can be purchased in the markets, all types of strange food (seaweed flavour crisps were a disappointment) and medications for every ache and pain. Then there are the ‘fake’ goods, Mp3 players which are exact copies of iPods at £20 instead of £150 in the UK, Blueberry (rather than Blackberry) phones and many other items all at a fraction of UK prices.

Next stop China Town. It was fantastic, little shops and market stalls selling everything and anything at bargain prices, particularly if you need 36 keyrings for $10! it was almost worth buying them, just because we could…

Lunch was in the China Town complex where we were brave and ate ‘proper’ chinese food and fresh fruit juices. All for under £3

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing by the pool before tarting ourselves up for a Singapore Sling at Raffles Hotel. We were relieved of £60 for three drinks but John and Matt did get to play a game of snooker in the Billiard Room. Very grand and so evocative of a different era – a beautiful building in a very modern city.

Our final destination of the evening was the Singapore Flyer, a revolving observation wheel bigger than the London Eye as we were constantly reminded. The city, rivers Marina, bridges and buildings all looked amazing at night and we wondered at the ingenuity of the minds that had designed it.

As we had spent so much money on just three drinks earlier in the evening, a value dinner was required to balance the finances so we ‘dined’ at a ‘Subway’.

Ice cream was our traditional night cap, you should have seen John’s face when he tried his Durian flavoured ice cream. It was a picture. He had chosen the most revolting flavour ever, the taste of which lingered long after the ice cream had been binned!!


We arrived last night to 33 degrees and over 90% humidity which came as something of a shock to say the least even though we were expecting it. We had been tempted to continue on our journey home by staying on the plane rather than stopping in Singapore and were beginning to wish we had.

We had been told about how clean and safe Singapore is with no litter or chewing gum allowed, and there are no ‘Ali Ba-Bas’ as they have all been locked safely away. As a result of this there are very few police officers as they are not needed. We are sure there is a flaw in this arrangment but so far its not obvious.

Our hotel overlooks the river and Clarke Quay which is THE place to be, but only if you’re 18-30. Lots of bars and restaurants which were noisy and heaving with people and loud music. It was all a bit much for Kim and Matt who were muttering about not leaving the hotel again until the heat and humidity get a little more accepatable, which as we are less than 80 miles from the equator won’t be any time soon.

From over a land down-under

As we fly over Australia on our way home, a few thoughts before it all becomes a distant memory.

Would we want to be one of the £10 Poms? We understand these were people from the UK who were offered the chance to move to Australia for £10 , including moving their furniture and subsequent hostel accomodation for up to two years. In summary probably not, while the weather is tolerable at the moment (winter) all of the indications are that heat and humidity in the summer months would be unbearable for us and we’d be eaten alive by the insects.

With a climate capable of growing most crops, together with substantial oil and mineral reserves (highly sought after by China), used wisely there should be a buoyant future in Oz for a good few years.

Therefore the ideal situation would be a double aspect apartment overlooking both Sydney Harbour and the Opera House with the wealth to fly ‘First Class’ for holidays. We just missed one of the apartments, it sold to a Mr Russell Crowe for only $17 million.

There is no doubt that Oz is a very expensive place to visit, $9 for a small bottle of beer in one bar! Most items appear to be about twice the cost when compared with the UK apart from petrol which is 30% less.

We don’t have much luggage with us as we are supposed to be travelling light, to make it easier on public transport. So is the bulge which has appeared in Kim’s suitcase a pair of shoes, a kangaroo or a can of petrol?

Bye bye Brisbane

Today’s our last day in Oz and we’re starting to feel ready to come home.

Yesterday we asked a simple question about how long the South Bank had been developed, only to find that it had been completely devasted by the flooding, here, 18 months ago. In fact the river rose so high that it reached our hotel foyer and brought Brisbane to a standstill for several weeks. It’s difficult to imagine, our hotel is at least 500m from the river and 20m higher. The clean up and restoration was completed in only 8 months and the whole area looks fantastic.

Breakfast at Poppy’s, as usual, while we psych ourselves up for our public transport adventure to the airport. The new Airport tunnel opened yesterday but it’s the Airtrain for us! It sounds very futuristic and we have high hopes of gliding silently through the sky.

We hear rumblings of strikes and delays at Heathrow….perhaps we’ll stay here after all!!

Ice cream rules!!

Another warm sunny day in Brisbane so we decided to hire bikes and cycle along the river boardwalks. We had a 30 minute walk to the cycle hire, past pirates at the Maritime Museum and an unusual pelican sculpture in the river. When we got there, we were treated to some of the worst maintained hire bikes ever!

Nonetheless, we spent the morning negotiating determined cyclists, runners and pedestrians as we made our way along both sides of the Brisbane River . Kangaroo Point looked lovely and could win the vote for the place we’d most like to live in Oz.

Two weary Brays spent the afternoon snoozing by the hotel pool while the athlete made full use of gym and pool facilities.

Our final night deserved a good meal in a lovely Chinese restaurant on the South Bank, Obsession. Dessert was ice cream overload! We wandered to Movenpick, had two scoops of ice cream each before deciding that we needed to indulge in the deluxe tasting plate of 6 more scoops!

We waddled back to our hotel for our final night in Oz. Next stop, Singapore

Some other Pom…..

Last night was spent watching the sun go down from Fraser Island before an early night. We had to be up at 6.30 to make our transfer back to Brisbane!

We caught the ferry before 8am and had a great time chatting to the Island’s resident photographer. He kindly rang a mate to find the final results of the Tour for us. Apparently a couple of Poms came 1st and 2nd and some other Pom won the stage!!

We were met by a lovely cheery coach driver who made the 4 hour drive a real pleasure. He shared his local knowledge throughout the journey and was a joy to meet!

It’s good to be back in Brisbane, lots of cafes that stay open later than 8.30. we’ve missed the hustle and bustle although after 2 hours in a shopping mall the beach did seem appealing.

It may be the cafe life all day tomorrow or we may hire bikes. Only time will tell…

I’m not a celebrity but get me out of here!!

Our last night on Fraser Island and we feel we’re ready to return to civilisation. This place has the most wonderful breakfast which is a very civilised way to start the day…

After sorting out our nourishment we hired a 4wd to visit Lake Mckenzie which is fairly spectacular. We did find ourselves comparing it to Lake Windemere. We shared the journey with a lovely young Irish couple that we met on the first night whilst lost trying to find our room. It was great to have some company other than ourselves!

We’re back to civilisation tomorrow and will relish the internet, cafes that don’t close at 8 and (Kim never thought she’d say this) no sand between our toes!

We’ll upload some photos when we’re back in Brisbane. In the meantime please have some sympathy for us, we’ll be up by 6:30am tomorrow to catch the 7:50 ferry back to ‘Mr Grumpy Tours’. We really didn’t plan this part of the trip very well at all!!

We’re glad we did Fraser Island but feel no need to come back. If we want remote and quiet, we can stay at home. If we want hot,sunny pools, we can do the Med….

ust checked the weather in the UK, good to see you’re having better weather than us. We hope it last til we get home

Fraser Island redeems itself

Daylight dawned and the sun came out. we are staying in a room on stilts with views over a creek, across to the ocean. We had a lovely leisurely breakfast in a very calm relaxed environment. It was wonderful.

Matt went off on a guided canoe paddle around some of the creeks while Kim and John settled down to toast by the pool. Most visitors come to see the stunning scenery and wildlife so disappear off the day leaving the resort lovely and quiet. A warm relaxing day was just what was needed by the older Brays.

We wandered down to the jetty for the sunset which is meant to be spectacular. Not tonight though, the sky had clouded over but we were treated to the sight of a dolphin swimming just off the beach.

We should have checked the map!

Friday started in a lovely sunny Brisbane. Breakfast in Poppy’s Deli was followed by a walk along the river, around the pools and artificial beach. This is Kim’s type of city – clean, lots of cafes and a day that doesnt seem to start until after 10am. Very civilised.

We drove out to the airport to pick up our transfer to Fraser Island and were met by the world’s grumpiest driver. We were expecting a 2 hour drive, after 2 hours Mr Grumpy let us leave the coach for a comfort break. No more than 10 minutes or he would leave without us! 4 hours after leaving Brisbane, we arrived at Hervey Bay. We were abandoned with ‘your bus will pick you up here, don’t know what time but you’d better be waiting for it’. Off he went into the sunset leaving us rather bemused, tired and hungry. We were in big trouble with Matt because we’d assured him the journey was not much further than Australia Zoo!

It felt like we’d been abandoned in some backwater trading post from a wild west movie.

Currently we’re waiting patiently, hoping the stage coach arrives, we wouldnt want to spend the night here…….