Saturday, December 29

Time's Up

Well, thats it folks - my time for traveling in the US this time around has run out! I've packed my bags, bought my final gadgets, and I'm ready to go. I just have to work out how to fit my PJs and toothbrush in the morning, and if I can lift my bag, I'll be off! Fortunately Jac and Jo will be taking me to the airport. Its been lovely staying with them, and I've had a good mix of chilling out, playing PS2, watching DVDs, socialising with their mob - for multiple occasions of Christmas, a birthday and a necessary trip to Sushi Zushi (and another trip for lunch yesterday). We've eaten well, shopped well, and even did the touristy River Walk today - which meant braving unpleasant traffic conditions but well worth it for the pretty fairy lights! We drank prickly pear margheritas and Mexican Eggnog, Australian wine, pumpkin beer, English cider and Jac's favourite soda water... and ate all sorts of brilliant things. There are more posts stored up, but in the mean time, I'll be passing time in airports and on planes till I get back to sunny Sydney!

Although I do have a new toy to keep me happy! (But mine's packed safe in its sleeve, not locked in at the shop!)

Ice by Photo

While I was in the more Northern regions of USA and Canada, we encountered some expected, but none-the-less freezing weather. This brought with it some pretty stunning scenery - and aspects of life with ice and snow that were foreign to me. As such, I found these beautiful/amusing/spectacular etc and took quite a few photos. What I didn't capture on film is quite how slippery frozen puddles/sidewalks/steps can be!

River in Ithaca, NY State

Waterfall in Ithaca

Niagara Falls, American Side (looking away from falls)

Niagara Falls, American Side

Niagara Falls, American Side (area above falls)

Niagara Falls (area above American Falls)

Niagara Falls, Canadian Side

CN Tower in Toronto with snow (Higher than the Empire State Building)

Street with a little snow in Montreal - there were places with more but I liked the dome.

Nearby in same street in Montreal

Notre Dame in Montreal

Snowshoeing in Vermont - found some baby Christmas trees buried by the snow, and some stunning scenery.

Snow covered old (and I think historically significant) cemetery in Boston

Monday, December 24

Shops/signs/random things that amused me!

I was going to add a couple of other pictures but now we have to hurry off to dinner - we're having a sleepover with some other Australian Texams for Christmas! We just went to a Christmas Eve servcie - Jac and Jo's church combined with the ministers other church. It was interesting but of the 5 or 6 carols were unfamiliar or way too high to feel like a proper Christmas Service! Enough typing - now for pictures:

This is the Chelsea Market I think - in NY. I like this one because I like markets with food - and because I got told off for taking photos!

Niagara Falls: I was planning on wearing my raincoat... not throwing it out!

Me and my punny sense of humour - even in China Town.

Randy eh?

Our snowshoeing guide assures us there is no Martlett bird and what kind of bird would have a breeding area in the winter... but its more interesting than 'keep off'.
The Biodome in Montreal.. we couldn't find the real Sloth but it would have been cool to see.

On Tour - by (quite a few) picture

For the second part of my travels, I jumped on board (prearranged) a Trekamerica tour. We started in New York City, and went anti-clockwise to Ithaca, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Montreal, Stowe, Boston and back to NYC.
On our first night together we went up the Empire State Building. The glow you see is Times Square - which was busy whatever time of day we were there.

Here's me up the top trying not to look cold - but we didn't last too long outside!

A waterfall we stopped at near Ithaca (New York State) and were amazed at the short but snowy walk to it - our first proper play in the snow on the trip - and for some people on the trip, first time ever! There were some icy parts on the path though - they were dangerous!

Ice formations on the water just near the same waterfall.

One part of Niagara Falls on the American side. I think this was a minority of the water but we couldn't get as close to the other part. Then again - I wouldn't have wanted to as it was cold, wet and there was poor visibility! But I did really like the way the icy mist had frozen onto the plants and railings.

From the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, there was again poor visibility, it started to rain and I got drenched. Then we had another hour in our minibus as we tried to warm up and dry off.

In Toronto, some of us went up the CN tower which was... quite tall. It was taller than the Empire State Building - although we didn't go to the top, we were still higher than the previous tall building.
We went out for a drink after our meal in Toronto (some of the mob glad of not being restricted by 21+ drinking laws) and found ourselves in an Irish bar. I branched out and had a hot alcoholic drink with vanilla vodka and baileys or something - not bad!

Also in Toronto, we went to the 'Hocky Hall of Fame' where I saw more about ice hockey than ever before. The best part was having a shot at a goal or trying to defend the goals. It did give us a good insight into the hype about hockey - all ready for seeing a live game in Montreal.

In Montreal we went to Laser Quest for one round of free for all laser run. It was an awesome maze - 3 levels with plenty of mirrors, mesh and maze to get lost/shot in! Then we raced back the youth hostel/auberge de jaunesse and regrouped before setting out to get ourselves some tickets for the hockey. It was a fun game to watch although sadly the locals didn't win so the end was a bit of a let down when everyone just got up and left.

In Vermont, we stopped at the Magic Hat brewery. Being over 21 I could enjoy some of the free samples of beers such as 'Single Chair Ale', 'Circus Boy', and 'Fat Angel'. Nearby was the Ben & Jerry's icecream factory so naturally a visit there was also in order - despite the snow outside because its never too cold for icecream!

Still in Vermont, the state for huntin' shootin' and fishin' we stayed in a great inn where we had the place to ourselves, cooked a meal and watched Forest Gump. While we stayed cosy and warm inside, it was snowing lots outside - all ready for our snowshoeing adventure.
We walked through the winter wonderland to an old maple syrup evaporating factory - well hut. They used to have a fire going and heat the syrup to get rid of most of the water until it was just right. And when the weather was right for it and the sap was flowing, they'd just keep going to make as much as they could. We sat inside and lit the fire, drank warm spiced apple cider and ate local cheese and less local bikkies. So nice!

From there, we drove to Boston where we had a day looking around and in the evening we all went the home of our tour guide and his parents. Boston was pretty but cold. Very cold.
We did a tour of Harvard and nearly froze by the end - 1 hour outside was too much and we just went back to the hostel afterwards even though it was about 3pm! And that was that... more or less. Just a many hour drive back to NY and goodbyes.

Sunday, December 23

Comedy in Toronto

Whie we were in Toronto we went out on the town one evening. After an early dinner (cheap speedy BBQ place with Bulgogi) we chilled at a pub for a bit. We all had our ID checkced - but thats ok because in Canada land, the legal drinking age is 18. After a while, we wanted to head to another venue we'd sussed out earlier. Only problem is we got our ID checked on the way in - and it turns out the legal age in Ontario is actually 19 which not all of our group were. Not sure what the other place was checking for.... So live music plans aside and we found a comedy place instead which wasn't bothered so we paid our 'whatever you feel is apporpriate' small change and went into the gloom. It had just begun with the MC telling a funny story about his kid. The good thing about hte MC is he was on between each other act - and this was good because he was probably the funiest. There were about 3 other quite funny ones, about about 6 less funny verging on cringe-worthy ones (ie bitter, crude, not funny etc). But my most memorable highlight was this video clip which is a trailer (of sorts) for Bourne Ultimatum. Watch it regardless of what trailers you've seen before:

The Bourne Ultimatum?

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Saturday, December 22


So now that I'm in Texas, the weather here is about the same as Tasmania right now.
Rain, Wind: S at 21 km/h, Humidity: 94%
Today Sun
Chance of Rain Chance of Rain
20° | 8° 19° | 11°

Mostly Cloudy; Wind: N at 6 km/h; Humidity: 69%
Today Sat
Mostly Sunny Mostly Sunny
24° | 12° 21° | 2°

But after me telling everyone that it barely snows in Tasmania, and its not that cold - there is potential snow forecast for Tasmania at Christmas. Its summer there, and winter here... its supposed to be the other way around! Ah well - its nice here at least until Sunday. But my favourite part about the forecast are these wise words which I'll leave you with:

"The snowfall will depend on whether it is cold enough and has enough moisture around," Mr Pearce said.

Friday, December 21

Happy Christmas

I have some more photos of my own in store, but since I'd been reminiscing about playmobil i thought I'd include this picture - one of my favourite American shops, Urban Outfitters emailed me this: