Due to some limitations we have moved the blog to
Location: London, England
40 and still keeping on...
Thanks to everyone for the cards and phone calls.
Best man Mark was out here for the week, and so we weren't home much.
On my actual birthday we went our for a nice meal at a restaurant in Wandsworth called Chez Bruce. Sounds like a quality french restaurant doesn't it? It is consistently rated in the top 10 restaurants here in London. One of those places where you can only book one month in advance and you have to be on the phone by 9:05 am to get a table.
The portions were french small, but the quality was excellent. If the food there was a disappointment I think we would have given up trying to get good food in this country.
Present wise, Jo went mad as usual:
* tickets to Carmen in Prague in December
* tickets to Goodwood Revival in September (classic auto show/race)
* tandem skydive
* funky magnetic ball bearing clock
not many photos. however, quite a few that the censorship board refuses to release to the public.
Location: New York City, USA
well we decided that perhaps you don't want to read lots of "we went to this place and did this and then adn then" so hence Mike's slightly more querky version of our NY trip. I did think you might want to actually know WHERE we went, in case you're thinking of dropping by the Big Apple in the future. Don't worry, I'll be brief....
One of our first sights of Manhatten was Ground Zero as our train pulled into the WTC stop. Bit strange, but not being locals it didn't really mean as much to us, although it was quite eerie. Some weirdo was trying to sell photos of the actual burning buildings. When he showed them to me I was so shocked I didn't know what to say, except "Are you serious?"
As Mike said the buildings are fantastic and being a bit fan of Art Deco I/We were in visual heaven.
Visited the MOMA (museum of Modern Art) - really cool.
Heard about this how fantastic the Guggenheim building is and spent a day ambling our way through Central Park, taking in the views, stopping for a rest and enjoying the sunshine. Get to the guggenheim and of course it's covered in Scaffolding.....bummer!!
So, went inside and bought the postcard!
Took a few photies of the inside.
Lots of great dinners and of course drinks out - great service and nice to have water on the table again without having to beg for it.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on the Ferry with thousands of tourists. Did the free National Parks tour and actually learned a thing or two about the lady.
Walked over the Brooklyn Bridge - took about half and hour then we got lost and were late meeting Cath for dinner.
Had a fantastic lunch with family friends Tom and Ann that I haven't seen probably since I was 15 ish.
More superb examples of ARt Deco in the Empire State Building and brilliant views over the city. If you ever get to NY, just wander around and visit the great buildings and admire the Architecture.
Time Square - bit like Piccadilly! just much bigger..
Didn;t do the shopping thing and that's not cos Mike was with me.. As we said if we had just arrived from Perth or Canada, we probably would have been more in awe of the commercialism and availability of EVERYTHING!. Went to an affordable clothing store - T-shirts $70 (really affordable - NOT!).
Lots of great food and of course a drink or two. The Greenwich Village Area is really funky and recommend it for evenings out!
Location: New York, USA
Well, its been a while between posts.
Your resident blogger has been getting over a chest infection and an allergic reaction to the prescribed antibiotics.
Suffice to say that i looked like one of those low budget aliens in the original Star Trek. But that doesn't make for interesting reading, so I will move on.
Jo and I went to NYC for an extended long weekend at the end of April. Five days in total I think.
If you couldn't be bothered reading my normal dribble I will summarise if for you.
(start of summary)
I've been to quite a few places in the USA, and NYC stomps on the rest of them. Aside from a few quibble, which are mentioned below, it rightly deserves it's reputation as one of the worlds great megaopolises. Visits are highly recommended. Just make sure there is some room on the visa card.
(end of summary)
We were staying with Cathleen Waters, whom some of you might remember from her one year hiatus in Perth a couple of years ago. Cathleen's flat was just across the Hudson river in Jersey City, so it was a short 20 minute train ride into Manhattan.
Cheap accomodation is such a bonus is a place like NYC as prices are on par with things here in London. Thanks Cath.
I think I know part of the reason that many americans has such large posteriors. You would need a butt with some extra padding if you had to sit on the hard plastic seats on all NYC trains every day. Maybe it's supposed to be character building? Maybe that's why everyone getting on or off the subway always looks really pissed off. Ouch. I guess it's easy to wipe vomit and other bodily fluids (ick) from such a surface, but it is hardly conducive to a comfortable journey.
But as with London, it is far better to walk around rather than gopher around using the subway.
A lot of Manhattan was built/rebuilt in the early to mid 20th century, so it doesn't have that awful red/beige "if it's not victorian, it's crap" brickwork that plagues a lot of london.
The architecture of that era in NYC was always intended to inspire and motivate people with grand frescos on the front of equally grand buildings.
Waiters look after you in NY. My water glass was never below half empty/full, you could set your watch by the intervals between when you got you menu and they came back to take your order.
It was a nice change compared to the sulky eye-rolling bastions of apathy and bad manners trussed up like Neo-Nazi fashion turkeys that pass for service staff here in London.
Flags. You know the ones. Stripy with white stars. Bloody everywhere. If you are taking a photo of anything, it is virtually impossible to frame them out of the composition. Why does a great building like Grand Central station need a tennis court sized flag hanging from the ceiling? Then if you try of get a shot so that the big flag is on edge so it's not a visible. They put another, not quite so big one, perpendicular to it. AAARRRGGHHHH!!!!
Why do the figures on the front of the NY stock exchange have to be COMPLETELY obscured by an equally large tennis court sized flag. I tell you, somebody made a killing selling flags post 9/11.
Huge. REALLY huge. Homer Simpson pork chop chokingly huge.
And then they ask you if you want dessert. If just eaten half a herd of livestock and you want to feed me dessert. Just a sec..(burp), well, i'll have a look at the menu...
Appallingly bad cab drivers from Newark airport. We had to give ours detailed instructions on how to get from the airport to Cathleen's place. She just happens to live on an a little not insignificant road in Jersey called JFK Boulevard. Nope, no clue this guy. When we gave him the address of where we wanted to go, his reply was "where you going?", to which we would reply 111 JFK Boulevard, Jersey City. Seemed pretty clear to us, I figured maybe he didn't speak Australian, so I thought I would give it a go. But he kept coming back with "where you going?". At which point Jo says to him, "You're going to have to ask me a different question, because I don't know how else to answer you." His reply, after a long pause, yep, you guessed it, "where you going?". Thankfully, Cathleen, having experienced this herself a number of times, had included street by street instructions on how to get to her place from the aiport. So here's this clown driving 65mph on the expressway, reading 10 arial type in a semi-lit taxi swerving occasionally to stay in his lane. We nearly t-boned a bollard at one point. All highly entertaining. After Cairo, nothing is frightening.
Oh yeah, and we went to some park, a couple of galleries, rode a couple of elevators up to the top of some building, snapped some pics, bought some fridge magnets and generally had an excellent time. (Apart from the chest infection)
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Caught another overnight bus from Dahab to Cairo.
Arrived at around 7 in the morning. Cairo is as insane as it was when we were here two weeks ago. But after being in the country for a while now, it's not as intimidating.
We caught a lift with the people going on the Egyptian museum tour.
Sheriff was leading the group. He was looking more exhausted, blinking more and not remembering things we had asked him 30 minutes before. I really hope he got some sleep.
We basically milled around downtown Cairo, walked back and forth across the busiest streets we could find. Refused the "helpful advice" of a number of schoolteachers who claimed to be able to take us to a shop that charges fair and reasonable prices for things. We politely declined. Directed a couple of lost tourists who were looking for the museum. had a fresh snack at one of the downtown hotels, and then met up with the group, outside the museum.
Later on to a perfumery, bought some flower essence and then back to the hotel.
had a meal in the hotel because we were too tired after the bus trip to go out anywhere.
flying out tomorrow, so our egyptian journey is nearly at it's end.
Location: Dahab, Sinai peninsula, Egypt
Back in Dahab.
Went snorkeling up at the Blue hole, saw a lot more fish than i did at 30m under.
If you put your head completely under the water, you could hear the fish munching on the coral. I didn't realise what it was at first until i swam past a fish biting the ends off some of the hard coral.
Some of the larger fish also took great delight in laying down giant swathes of fishy poo. That slowly drifted into us. No escape...whatever you do, don't take the snorkel out of your mouth. Whew, made it.
Did the overnight hike up to watch the sunrise from the top of Mount Sinai. 2.5 hours from the base to the summit. Man was it cold. My body was saying, "Do you realise it's 3:30 in the morning, you're awake, you have no alcohol in your system, and you're making walk up a mountain??? "
Saw the cave where Moses stayed for 40 days.
Then on the hike back down we took a wrong turn and ended up taking the 4289 steps of repentence down to St Catherines Monastry. The monastry was built around the burning bush that god spoke to Moses through. The bush is still there. Lots of people were touching it and saying short prayers. It needs a good burn to get rid of all the dead material in it, so I guess god hasn't been feeling very talkative lately.
Also saw the remnants of the golden calf that was carved into a mountain near the base.
Back to the hotel, for a quick nap. then out for dinner.
Location: Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan
We don't seem to be getting much luck with the weather.
Very windy today, so it made the climbs up on the mountains above Petra very cold. Had tea prepared by a Bedouin woman over an open fire. Man do arabs love sugar in their tea. or should i say tea with their sugar. My spoon could almost stand up in my cup. Apparently, sugar is a recent arrival to the middle east and is put into everything.
No sugar seems to translate to "only 4 tablespoons please.
Late in the afternoon, we head off to Wadi Rum.
The wind has gotten worse. We stop at a lookout over Petra on our way out of town, but we cannot hear our guide over the wind so we all just shrug and run back to the bus.
Once we get out into the open at Wadi Rum, the blowing sand is peeling the outer layer of our skin off. We are huddled in the back of a 4x4 toyota ute/pickup tearing across the desert in an attempt to reach our camp. (see photos)
We sit around a fire in a sheltered spot between the rocks, sip tea to keep warm and watch the flames.
I used to sit in front of campfire's every summer growing up, but hadn't done so it quite some time.
So that brought back some fond memories.
Later we retired to our tent, had yet another delicious meal.
Jordanian food and egyptian food are very similar.
Jo was feeling a bit weird, so she hardly ate anything.
She keeps making the same joke that she might be pregnant, but i'm not laughing.
With the wind there was a lot of dust around, the trick was to sleep on your back, move as little as possible, and only breath through your nose.
Early rise the next morning.
We were up about 30 minutes before our guide.
The wind thankfully has died off, and so i was able to get some photos.
Then back to the ferry terminal and on the boat back to Egypt.
This has been a bit brief but that is more a factor of me writing this almost a month after our return. And i'm just trying to get this done before it becomes totally out of date.
Jordanians are quieter and more conservative that Egyptians. But they still have that friendly inviting demeanour, it's just not as immediately obvious.
Location: Petra, Jordan
Spent most of the day traveling to the ferry terminal, then on the ferry to Jordan, and then on the bus to Petra. Arrived late in the evening
another meal and then off to bed.
Early start tomorrow walking around the lost city of petra.
(just gonna combine these entries)
Petra, more impressive than the pyramids. a city carved out of cliff faces. check out the photos. nuff said.
Location: Dahab, Sinai peninsula, Egypt
Mike had a free day today.
Jo finished her dive course.
I did virtually nothing all day. I had a great nap in the shade on a couch outside the door of our room.
Man i REALLY love afternoon naps sometimes... ok, all the time. :)
Nothing much else to report really.
The day by day stuff doesn't really work in Dahab as we weren't doing much other than relaxing.
Location: Dahab, Sinai, Egypt
Second and final day of my dive course.
Today we did a two deep dives and one shallow.
But i could be wrong about what dives happened on what days.
It doesn't really matter as i did 5 dives in 2 days.
The first was at the canyon, see the links on the preceeding entry.
The drop down into the canyon is only about 3 metres wide, so not for the claustrophobic. Not many amazing fish but the coral formations were impressive. Lots of variety and colour.
The second deep dive was at the blue hole.
The site itself drops down to 88m but we only went down to 30, which is still deep enough. Pretty amazing really, the formation is literally a hole about 10m from the shore that drops straight down. It is a sheer cylinder of coral all the way down. Not too many fish at 30m, so i amused myself by swimming upside down and watching my bubbles float back towards the surface. With the sun overhead it makes for a pretty impressive view. An no dear, I didn't look at any of the bikini clad snorkellers at the surface.
(mike just receives poke in the ribs)
I should also mention that in spite of her initial fears and a certain amount of trepidation, I am very proud of Jo's efforts in her class.
Or I am told i should be proud anyway, as I haven't even seen her in her wetsuit, so i have not evidence that she has even been scuba diving. Well, actually the fact that he hands were the only part of her body got sunburnt was a pretty good clue.
But seriously, in spite of the occasional bout of "this is too hard, i don't want to do this". she coped very well.
My last dive of the day was a peak performance buoyancy dive.
This is basically where you fine tune your ability to dive with minimal effort by getting your buoyancy absolutely neutral. Again, some really good skills to apply to later dives.
Another yummy evening meal, and then another few runs past the gauntlet of guys on the main shopping strip trying to sell you crap.
We hold firm.
Location: Dahab, Sinai peninsula, Egypt
9am start for both of us on our dive courses. There is not a cloud in the sky today and the sea is incredibly clear.
My course does it's dive briefing on the third floor patio of the dive shop overlooking the sea. Not bad at all.
Our first dive of the day is an underwater naturalist dive. Which is basically, be one with the fishies, or hey what sort of fish is that.
We went to a site called the islands.
Lots of great fish and a great variety of coral. Site is so named because you are swimming between "islands" of coral rising like buildings up from the sea bed. Nice long but shallow dive, so we had about 50 minutes of bottom time. Cool. Saw a unicorn fish.
Second dive of the day was our underwater navigation dive.
Not that exciting, as we were diving over a sandy bottom. But learnt some really useful skills, that will allow me to get to harder to reach dive sites in the future.
Umm, not much else to report, went out for another excellent meal.
The rest of our group is hiking up mount sinai tonight. We cannot go due to the nitrogen in our blood from diving, so we will do it next week when we get back from Jordan.