Tokyo

We left our house at 10:15am yesterday. B went for a run before we left and also kindly went to buy some coffees for us. We went to meet some of B’s family in downtown Tokyo for brunch. They suggested meeting at the Imperial Hotel. We had a dispute with the younger members of our foursome about the quickest route there and so we agreed to separate. Of course experience always trumps age – if only they would learn.

D & M went off and found their own place and B & I met up with his family (who live in Manila and had come to watch the rugby for the weekend). There was a food market over the road from the hotel and so we went there and had steak and beer for brunch! We then walked to the Imperial Palace. While you cannot get in (because the Emperor lives there), you can walk around the East garden. We met back up with the other two in the garden. We had already goodbye to B’s family at that point as they were going to watch a game at the Yokohama stadium and it was the early afternoon game. B & I needed some more food and a coffee so we found a Starbucks.

We stumbled onto a Shinto Shrine (same road as the Starbucks). It was called Yasukuni Jinja and it drives away evil spirits. I could think of few that I would like gone (like the losing spirit of the Springboks!) but pretty sure these structures aren’t going to do it. Shinto’s believe humans are basically good (hard to believe that with everything going on in the world today) and that all you need to do is follow a ritual of purification, prayers and offerings to drive away evil spirits. I really wish it was that easy. It was interesting to see people perform the rituals though (including bowing every time you pass a gate).

We then decided to go and see the Tokyo Tower which is a replica (sort of) of the Eiffel Tower (they say ‘inspired by’). It is painted red & white apparently to meet safety standards for planes to see it. On route there we stumbled onto a Hindu temple. There was a lot of incense burning taking place and some interesting statues which are the patrons of children and spirits of still born children or children dying at a young age.

We finally headed to the old fish market in Tokyo to go to Sushizanmai which is apparently one of the top sushi places to eat at in Tokyo. They actually have a chain of restaurants but I was recommended to go to the one in Tsukiji which is where the old fish market was. The place is open 24 hours a day and there is usually a queue to get in. It is multiple floors. After a short while we got a table and then had to figure out how to order the sushi. The staff were friendly and helpful we managed to place an order. Wasabi comes built into the sushi as it is not correct to mix the wasabi into the soy sauce. I am not a big fan of anything hot but this was actually fine except the odd piece which cleared the sinuses. The sushi was very good and very different from what we experience at home (dare I say in a different league). We were also recommended to have Hakkaisan Sake with our sushi (which we also did). It was very good too.

It was actually only around 6pm at this point when we headed back to our AirBnB. We were pretty tired though we very sore legs and feet. 22500 steps for me by the time we got back (B was over 30000 with his run and trip to get coffee). We did make it back just before it started to rain much harder. There is actually a Typhoon off the coast of Japan at the moment (Typhoon Tapah) and it is pushing rain into the island. They are predicting more rain for today and strong winds and large waves. It seems though the Typhoon will miss Tokyo and rather hit land much further north around Sapporo (don’t worry we’re heading south after Tokyo so we should be perfectly safe).

Until tomorrow …

P, B (because the elders do know better), M & D

SA v New Zealand

Yesterday was the big game day for us as it was the SA v NZ game at the Yokohama International Stadium. We decided to leave mid-morning and go to the Kirin Beer factory on route to the stadium. We had read it was one of the main attractions in the area and so thought it was worth the visit. It took us about an hour to get there (15 minute walk to station; 30 minute train; 15 minute walk to factory). Unfortunately you need to pre-book (which we hadn’t done) so we just walked around their gardens and then went to their micro-brewer for a beer and two sharing platters (everything was smoked including a boiled egg).

We headed then for Yokohama which B had read had a waterfront area. When we got off the train D had a missed call from the lost & found about his iPad and so M & him decided to go fetch it (about a 90 minute round trip). B & I stayed in Yokohama and walked along the water area. Yokohama is a lot more modern than where we are staying with high rise buildings. Lots of people out and about. It was noticeable how many young couples (either dating or married) and young families were in the area. Japan is trying to encourage a higher fertility rate as there population is projected to shrink from 120 million today to below 100 million by 2040. The fertility rate is only 1.57 per couple. The government now offers free daycare until age 5.

While there might be a ‘watefront area’, it was really a walkway along the water, an amusepark park with rides for kids, a ferris wheel (like London Eye type but smaller), some street performers and a number of modern shops (including a small mall). B & I found a Starbucks for coffee (we can already see that getting a decent coffee in Japan is going to be a challenge). Lots of rugby supporters around as well all wearing their jerseys with lots of banter every time you see a fellow supporter (we somewhat stand out in Japan).

Yokohama

B had read about the Cupnoodles Museum (not kidding real thing – https://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/en/) and when pinned our location for M & D to find us we realised it was close by. So we walked there to have a look. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay for a museum on Cupnoodles. I tried to persuade B that a 6-pack of cup noodles would make a great gift for his wife but he didn’t want to spend that much for a gift for her.

We met up with M & D on way back to the station and decided to have an early afternoon lunch of ramen. We found a place nearby that was advertised as having great ramen. It was called Tetsu (https://www.tetsu102.com/shop/yokohama/). You order from a window on the right side. 3 of us ordered the standard ramen (https://www.tetsu102.com/goods/ramen/). You then line up and wait for a space to sit. There are only 16 seats inside and so no lingering when you do finally get in and get your food. It is quite fishy in taste because of the broth but I enjoyed the noodles, meat, bamboo etc that comes in the broth. It is definitely a good Japanese experience.

As we had exhausted everything we wanted to do in Yokohama, we headed for the stadium. On route we experienced a Japanese train being overfilled – part locals, lots of rugby fans. Your personal space being totally invaded seems to result in conversations being struck up and so I got talking to 2 Namibians (in Springbok jerseys) and 2 Canadians (also going to watch the rugby but All Black fans). When we arrived at the stadium we were unfortunately on the wrong side so spent 20 minutes walking around to get to our gate. Security was very efficient and friendly and into the stadium without much hassle.

There were definitely more All Black supporters than Springbok supporters at the game but actually it was predominately attended (maybe 60%) by local Japanese. We had two NZ fans in front of us and we got talking throughout the game with them and enjoyed the banter. They were spending 2 months in Japan (they have tickets for all NZ games, QF, SF and Final). He said they expect to spend NZ$35000 over the 2 months (around R320 000). They are rugby obsessed. They hadn’t taken leave since the previous World Cup (which they also attended for the whole time)! It was a great atmosphere and despite us losing we enjoyed the game and the experience.

We thought it would be a crush to leave the stadium and get on a train so we exited immediately the game was finished. We got ahead of most of the people in the stadium (there were 65000 people present for the game) and managed to get onto a train relatively easily to get back to our AirBnB. 22000 steps later and pretty exhausted!

Until tomorrow …

P, B, M & D

World Cup Rugby

I have always wanted to visit Japan and the World Cup rugby seemed to be a good excuse to do that. We (M and I from our family, D – my nephew and B – my friend) left on Thursday to travel to Tokyo. D came from the US and the rest of us via Singapore from Cape Town. It was a 13 hour flight to Singapore, a 3 hour layover in Singapore airport and then 7 hours to Tokyo. We landed at 17:30 Tokyo time. Our flights were full of Springbok supporters.

Passport & customs were quite efficient and we met up with D. We had to get our Japanese rail passes converted into actual tickets for use on the Japanese rail system and once we had done that we booked tickets on the 18:48 Narita Express to Shinigawa station. At Shinigawa station we had to transfer to another local train and while we walking to the next train D realised that he had left his iPad on the train. He can see where it is but now needs to figure out how to get it back (he was on the phone doing that while I typed this).

We are staying at an AirBnB and it is about 1.1 kms from the Omori station. By the time we got to the AirBnB I was drenched in sweat (it was 28 degrees C when we landed). The other 3 went out to buy some essentials – beer & crisps – while I went for the shower option rather.

Outside our AirBnB

Our AirBnB supposedly sleeps 10. There is one bathroom on the ground floor with a room with a double futon (think sleeping on a rock), 2nd floor is the lounge and kitchen, 3rd floor is another 2 bedrooms (one with a double bed and other with double bed and 2 bunk beds) and a toilet. D decided to sleep in the lounge (chair bed type of thing), M & I are sharing and B has the other room. We left the futon room as unusable.

After watching Japan win their opening game, we headed to bed at just after 10pm and I fell asleep almost immediately but woke at 12:48am feeling like I had slept a whole night. I fell back to sleep until 2:24am and M woke shortly afterwards as well. He had a similar experience. M fell asleep again about an hour later and I eventually fell back to sleep at 5am. We woke just before 8am. B said he had slept well and D woke at 5am.

We went to the local convenience store to buy some breakfast things and found what looked like bacon (but very different to what we eat at home), eggs, milk, cheese and juice. D & M went to find a bakery and buy coffee (and were successful with both).

We managed to cook ourselves some breakfast (French toast). Everything is a challenge. Figuring out how to turn on the stove, how to flush the toilet, turning on the taps, figuring out the shower – everyday usual things – they just don’t work like they do elsewhere and all the instructions are in Japanese. But we have managed to figure out everything (sometimes with the help of Google translate). People are very friendly, super polite and respectful and helpful. As an example, B asked a businessman about the train yesterday and he was very helpful and even came back to tell us how many stops before we needed to get off. At the store it is clear they can’t speak English but try really hard to be helpful and polite to us.

Everyone keeps asking us how many games we are watching. It is clear people know about the World Cup and know we are here to watch the games. Our first game is later today … we are looking forward to that.

Until tomorrow (and hopefully celebrating a Springbok win)!

P, M, B & D (he deserves last place for his iPad loss)

Island Pond

We planned to leave Burlington slightly earlier yesterday so that we could give ourselves enough time to find a nicer place for accommodation for the next 2 nights. We were concerned that given today is 4 July (Independence Day) we may struggle to find accommodation. We headed to NE Vermont which is described as the ‘Northeast Kingdom’ (named by Governor George Aiken in 1940s because he just loved the area and its people and he was a politician and I am sure it helped get their votes too!). Our plan was to go to Lake Willoughby and a town called Westmore as there seemed to be plenty of accommodation options on the lake.

On route we passed the original Ben & Jerry’s factory (at Waterbury) and so we had to stop. It was tea time and so we felt ice cream at tea time was appropriate. They do a factory tour but we noticed that while the tour was operating, the factory itself wasn’t producing yesterday so we decided to give it a skip and rather just eat the ice cream. They have a flavour graveyard where all the ‘retired’ flavours have gravestones and a little poem explaining why they are no longer in existence. It was a fun little interlude on our journey north.

When we arrived (around midday), we drove through the town once before deciding on our order of preference to check accommodation. S then went in and asked about availability. He did that for 4 or 5 places but unfortunately none of them had availability. C had found online a motel in a town called Island Pond called Lakefront Inn & Motel and so we decided to call them and check availability. While H was doing that, K spotted a black bear in the forest area and it had 2 cubs with it as well. We discovered later that it is not common to see bears and so we really were happy to have seen them (unfortunately no photos though as they were too far in the wooded area and were quite shy). H did get us accommodation though and that is how we ended up in Island Pond.

H described the town as a ‘frontier’ town and it really does look like that. The motel is on the lake (Island Pond though it really isn’t a pond!) and it has it’s own jetty. C was first into the water (though it is pretty cold in my view). They (SMC) bought tubes from the Dollar store and they all just floated around the lake for a good part of the afternoon. The rest of us sat on the shore sunbathing (or least the 3 other ladies did that).

There is only one restaurant in the town so we headed there for dinner but when we went in there was already a line of people waiting. So we decided to go to Westmore where we had seen another restaurant at one of the places we wanted to stay called Gil’s Bar and Grill. We decided to call to see if they had space (as it is about 20 minutes drive partly on gravel roads) and fortunately they did. It was so good a dinner that we asked midway through dinner whether we could book again for tonight. Our waitress was from the area and she told us where we should go today (and we are planning to do that). It was also from her that we discovered that bear sightings are not that common and moose sightings even less so. We even ended up engaging with the chef on moose sightings in the end. The food was also very good (I had scallops and they might have been the best I have ever had).

It really has struck us (again) that Americans are very service orientated. They really do make an effort and come across as friendly and helpful. For example, even when we couldn’t get accommodation at some of the places they were quick to offer some other suggestions for us to try. Even the deli (where I went to buy coffee this AM) has this service mentality. The guy making the bagels this morning noticed I was waiting at cashier to pay and he just stopped doing what he was doing to ensure I didn’t have to wait for the cashier to return. In SA you would have just had to wait

The weather is pretty mild at the moment. The evening and early morning (I have already been out for coffee this AM) are cool (currently 16 C) but during the day it gets up to high 20s (and today it is meant to get to 30 C). It is a lot cooler and less humid than NY and a lot more pleasant.

Until tomorrow

P, H (for phoning for accommodation and dinner), S (for going in so many times to ask including a walk down and up a steep slope for one of them), K (because she should have been higher yesterday and I forgot about it and for spotting the black bears – she can come to a game park with us for her spotting skills), C (for finding the accommodation online), M (for navigating) and O. (There was a lot of argument in the car yesterday about the order for today because everyone … except one … felt they had done something noteworthy!)

Burlington, VT

The quote of the day yesterday went to C. When she walked in for breakfast at the motel she said “Do we order the breakfast” after looking around. The breakfast was actually laid out but it was so sparse she really didn’t notice. Basically you could have a bagel, bread (or toast), yogurt and either oats (in a packet) or bran flakes. That was it. And everything was disposable – plastic knives, spoons, plates & bowls, paper and plastic cups (for coffee and orange juice) etc. It has really struck us how it doesn’t seem to matter about packaging and disposal of plastic etc in this country. We are really aware of it in SA (and so are the UK) but recycling and trying to limit plastic and packaging here in the US seems irrelevant to them. I’m not a big “climate” person but I do still think limit plastic waste would be a good thing for everyone living on this planet (that’s my preaching done for today!).

After we have packed up and checked out we headed into town as we had seen ‘Gap Outlet’ the previous day and wanted to see if they had anything of interest in the store. We quickly discovered they did and basically everyone except O found something they wanted to buy at vastly reduced prices. When I paid for what H, C & I had bought, the discount was $160 and the total was $120. I don’t understand why anyone buys from a normal store! We discovered a few more outlet stores including Polo/Ralph Lauren (I bought a jacket at 44% discount) and for the ladies – Kate Spade – apparently famous but I had never heard of her until yesterday (H & O each bought bags).

By this time it was midday already and so we started to make our way toward Burlington which is further north in Vermont. We made a stop in one of the towns on route at a Dick’s sport store (yes lots of innuendos and comments around that name) as the boys wanted to buy baseball gloves. They found some but too expensive but that didn’t stop them messing around in the store while they were there. H bought some Nike shoes while they were messing around though.

Another quick stop to get lunch for those of us that didn’t have cold pizza saved from the previous night. It was one of those towns where everyone knows everyone so at the checkout the cashier was having a long discussion with one of the customers and then closed the till to help her take her bags to the car. Just a stereotypical example of small town America.

We eventually only arrived in Burlington at 4:15pm and quickly realised that it was a big town and not a small quaint place like Manchester. Our expectations had been set quite high after finding our first nights accommodation. It was clear very quickly that we weren’t going to find something similar. M & O went into the tourist centre to find out what our options are. Burlington is on Lake Champlain so we were hoping for a place on the lake shore but it became clear that we weren’t going to find that at all. We did find one places in the islands above Burlington but after calling them we discovered they only had 3 rooms available and those could accommodate only 6 of us.

Eventually at 5:30pm I told them to book the Hampton Inn at Colchester (it is a Hilton brand and I have a Hilton Honors diamond membership) and so that is where we have ended up staying last night. We had dinner at a restaurant right across the parking lot – Lighthouse Restaurant. The food was pretty good value compared to previous nights. With the main meal you could get a soup (Clam Chowder or Cheddar Soup) or unlimited salad bar. Given we were in New England I went for the Chowder which wasn’t the best I have ever eaten and so I’m hoping for better in the days to come. M had the King Crab legs (as you can see).

H wanted to go to a pharmacy and we saw a CVS across the road. Only problem was that it was a double lane road and no pedestrian crossing. I doubt anyone walked to that store ever before last night!

Until tomorrow …

P, M (for his efforts to find us accommodation last night), H, C (for her breakfast comment), S (his navigation is becoming a little sketchy), K (drinking straight out bottle of apple cider), O (for saying it was funny to see me running across the road!)

Manchester

No we have not flown back to the UK – we are now in Manchester, Vermont. Yesterday morning we had to pick up our van from Budget Car Rental. Every time I said to people we are picking up a car in central NY they looked at me as if I was crazy to attempt driving in central Manhattan but it actually wasn’t that difficult. S came with me to collect the car and then helped direct me back to the hotel where everyone was waiting at the entrance so we could load up and then leave.

We headed due north out of Manhattan aiming for Albany, NY and then into Vermont. We drove through New Jersey and then back into NY state. We have now been in 5 states (one tenth of US) since we arrived. We started by taking the interstate and then S directed us off so we could take a more scenic route (which it was) passing through some smaller towns. We stopped at a town (and a Walmart) to buy some lunch and then found a picnic spot on the side of the river to eat our lunch. We then headed on to Manchester, VT.

Our drive took about 6 hours in total and we arrived in Manchester around 4pm. We didn’t have accommodation booked so we just drove around the town and looked at the various options and then picked one we liked the most. We used to do this when I was a kid and my Dad had to go in and ask the price, then when he got the answer he would say “I need to check with my wife” and if it was too pricey we would simply leave. These days you have Google that gives you a rough idea but M still went in to ask the pricing and said “I will check with my Dad”. The lady on duty said “I know what that means if you don’t come back!”. But we did and we are pleased we chose a good place.

We are staying at Palmer House Resort Motel. It is in some ways a typical American motel but in other ways it isn’t. It has a 9-hole mashie golf course, a shuffle board and a croquet lawn. We have used all three. After we had checked in the younger ones all played croquet (S was the winner) and then 5 of us played golf (S, K, M, O and myself). The girls did surprisingly well for people who don’t play. And S actually managed to connect a few balls way to well and into the bushes. M would want to me say that he won so I’m begrudgingly doing that!

C incredibly has a university friend working nearby and she got dropped off at the motel to catch up. She is working at a summer camp at a ski resort for the next 10 weeks. Quite random that a South African and a Brit studying together at Kings College in London would meet up in Manchester, VT! She came with us to dinner and then after dinner we drove her back to her house that she is staying which is in the middle of nowhere (and included a 7-mile long strip of dirt road).

We walked into the town to have dinner (0.25 miles only) and went to Christo’s which did pizza and pasta. O needed a pasta fix. The pizza’s were massive and none of the people who ordered them finished them but that seemed to be their plan to eat it for lunch today. I don’t like pizza and so the thought of eating cold pizza doesn’t grab me either.

It is much cooler in Vermont (mid-20s C) and this morning it is actually heavily overcast but not raining at the moment.

Until tomorrow ….

P, S (for coming with me to fetch the van), M (for going in to check the prices), H, C, O & K (she deserves last spot today … earned for her dismissive snort of a comment I made while driving up)

New York Day 3

We had breakfast on route to attending Church yesterday at another coffee shop recommended by my nephew. We (excluding heathens S & K) headed for one of the Redeemer Church sites (they have 4 around the city). Redeemer was planted by Tim Keller and a few years ago they split the Church into 4 smaller churches spread across Manhattan. We decided to attended Redeemer Lincoln Park because it suited us both in terms of location and time. Michael Keller (apparently Tim’s son) is the pastor there. It was only planted in 2017 (as an offshoot of Redeemer West Side). While I couldn’t see how many people were in the balcony, I reckon there were at least 400 people in attendance (not bad for a Church planted 2 years ago only).

When we walked in and sat down we noticed that Tim Keller was sitting right behind us (he was just attending the service). The service was very thoughtfully done. They produce a booklet for each service which includes the full order of service including the full music of the songs being sung. I am not sure how much that costs to do each week but I am sure it quite substantial. What did strike me was that while the singing was good, it was not as good as our home church and it was definitely done with a lot less expression.

After church, H and I headed to Banana Republic (I love their shirts – they are non-iron so H loves them too!) and managed to have the Pride Parade walk right past us (we were trying to miss the parade). What was even more frustrating was that H found more clothes at Banana Republic to try on than I had and we went for me! They had a sale on and we ended up saving over $130 on the sale – Helen got a dress that ended up being marked down by 75% because she got a sale on a sale situation. Given the quality of their shirts (they really are the best shirts I own), the price I paid was probably 50% of what I would pay back home.

A quick stop to pick up some lunch on the way back to the hotel (the others went to Wholefood Market again to get their lunch) and then a few hours rest before we headed out to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. We had seen the Memorial on our last trip but the museum was still being built. As some of you might know, 9/11 has significance in our lives as I was flying into America on that day on a United Airlines flight and so our family was directly impacted by those events. There was a period of time when H didn’t know whether I was safe or not. I was stranded in Canada and US for about a week before I could finally get home. The museum was therefore especially moving for us.

At points it is quite overwhelming seeing the photos of each person killed, reading the stories of individuals who survived and those who didn’t, listening to voice messages of loved ones before they died, seeing some of the preserved debris from the buildings (and even from the planes), the destroyed firetrucks, the video footage (which I am sure many of you saw on TV that day and the day following), the bent metal columns from when the buildings collapsed, the preserved staircase down which many people fled to safety and so much more. I am not an emotional person (as many of you will know) but there was more than one occasion when I was tearful and reminded that it could have been my picture on that wall. I am thankful that it wasn’t and it was good to remember that others were not that lucky. People from 90 different nations were killed in those attacks.

After the museum we walked down to Pier 11 (walking down Wall St past the NYSE) to catch the ferry to Brooklyn. It is a pretty short ferry ride but you do get a good view of lower Manhattan and also the Statue of Liberty. We met D & B (nephew and girlfriend) and then walked up the Brooklyn Bridge for some iconic photos of the bridge and Manhattan. Back down again and to the spot where you can take a photo of the Empire State building framed by the bridge and then we had dinner at a nearby restaurant. After dinner a walk along the water’s edge to take some sunset photos of Manhattan skyline. It was well past 9pm at this point and 5 of us (excluding M & C) headed back to the hotel in an Uber while M & C joined D & B to go to Williamsburg (which is where D & B live).

We got back to Times Square at just before 10pm and it was still very busy and the traffic was (as K always says) ‘hectic’. We were all pretty tired and headed to bed (M & C arrived home at just after 10:30pm – not actually too long after us).

That was our last day in NY as we head out to New England from today.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (for organizing the 9/11 tickets), C (for stamina to go to see Williamsburg after dinner), H & O (for coming to church with us), S & K (they bunked church to go see Grand Central station rather so this spot is rightfully theirs today)

New York Day 2

It seems everyone had a decent night sleep and the jetlag woes are gone for all of us. Yesterday we all walked a lot again and so I doubt anyone wouldn’t have slept well again last night.

We had our first decent coffee since arriving in the US yesterday morning at breakfast. My nephew recommended a place (Gotan) which we also had breakfast at before heading out. M & O decided to stay near the hotel and go see some of the buildings like Empire State; Grand Central Station etc and the rest of us headed to walk The High Line. It is a walkway on the West side of NY that was a railway line. Instead of destroying it they have made it into a park and walkway. It is 2.33km long and we walked the whole thing.

We then headed down to Washington Square Park to meet D. You walk through some of the districts of lower Manhattan including Greenwich Village. Today (Sunday) is a big LGBT Pride March to mark the 50th anniversary of riots that started at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and we walked right past that on the way to the park. People were queuing up to have their photo taken next to the plaque and there was at least one celebrity (though we had no idea who he was) that was greeting people and having his photo taken with various people. We did walk past a Milk Bar which is apparently famous from some cooking show and so we stopped in for S, K, H & C to buy Milk shakes and a slice of Milk Bar pie.

H, C and I decided to head back to the hotel in an Uber as we were tired and didn’t really feel like lunch but D, M, O, S & K went off to a salad place. S & K eventually also opted out and walked back up to the hotel stopping at a few places on the way (one of them being the Lego store!).

We went for dinner at a Brazilian restaurant near the hotel called Via Brasil. According to their website they are NY’s oldest and most authentic Brazilian restaurant. Beside C & I (who had paella – which was very good), everyone else had different choices. S went for the traditional Brazilian stew, M went for Picanha steak, O & K had risotto and H had some kind of chicken dish with palm hearts. The food was plentiful and tasty and the service was pretty good as well. The ladies then headed off to H&M to do some shopping, S&M went off to a sports store and I headed back to the hotel.

At least one reader asked what the weather is like. Hot and humid is the answer to that. It has been well into the 30 degrees C since we arrived and even yesterday after it rained in the afternoon (a very brief thundershower), it didn’t really cool off much and was mid to high 20s in the evening.

Until tomorrow ….

P, S (for going for the traditional Brazil meat & bean stew), H, M, C, O & K

New York

We left yesterday at 9:48am from Nashville to New York. That was the precise time on our boarding pass and that was the precise time we departed. Incredible for a US flight that we left exactly on time especially since the incoming flight arrived over an hour late. The flight was uneventful and we landed in NY just before 1pm, collected our luggage and went to find a taxi to take us to our hotel. LaGuardia Airport is a total mess though as they are doing construction and so you have to take a shuttle bus to get to the taxis. We had to take 2 taxis and arrived safely at the hotel and after checking in we went to find some lunch.

S & K headed off separately because they wanted to go to M&M world and they did the NY thing and got a hot dog from a vendor for lunch. The rest of us went to find a coffee shop but it was closed and so we headed to Wholefood Market (the Amazon owned supermarket) to get lunch instead. You can get every type of ready made meal or you can make your own meal or salad as well. After we got the food we headed to Bryant Park and sat on the steps and ate the lunch while watching the world walking past. It was already past 3pm by this point.

H & I decided to stay in the hotel (we are staying at the Millennium Times Square) while the rest of them went to explore Central Park. We agreed to meet up at 6:45pm at the Bethesda Fountain. H & I left the hotel at 6pm but initially walked south instead of north, quickly corrected ourselves and then headed up north. The quantity of people on the streets is just overwhelming though. It was quite ridiculous. We got the fountain (after a fairly brisk walk) right on 6:45pm. M had taken O & C on a row boat on the lake – I was pretty impressed because I didn’t know he knew how to row even (and apparently – as O explained later – he didn’t but he got the hang of it).

We had agreed to meet D (my nephew) and B (his girlfriend) – they both live and work in NY – for a picnic dinner on the The Great Lawn. They had offered to arrange the picnic dinner. A whole lot of groups were playing softball (there are about 8 pitches on the Great Lawn). We enjoyed a relaxed dinner of chicken and salad (and cheese and biscuits) until we were chased off the lawn as they close the lawn at dusk (just before 9pm). We then started the long walk back to our hotel with a stop (not quick because there was a lengthy line) at Grom (Italian gelato) on way back to the hotel. We got back to the hotel at 10pm with everyone moaning about their feet and tiredness.

The good thing is that H & I slept until 7am which was the first decent night in since we got here and hopefully the others did too.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (because he rowed the boat ashore), S & K (because they tried the quintessential NY thing and had a dog from a street vendor), H, C & O.

Louisville to Nashville

We are flying to New York from Nashville so we had to head back to Nashville yesterday. We left at the check out time (10am) and decided to not take the interstate but rather to take the back routes to get back. It was obviously a lot slower (took over 4 hours) but it was much more scenic and pleasant drive.

We stopped on route back for lunch at Cracker Barrel which is a Southern chain restaurant. As we were in Kentucky we thought it essential to at least have Southern Fried chicken on one occasion. Only S and I had the fried chicken in the end but M, O, C & K had chicken strips (so it was close to fried chicken) and H had a grilled chicken salad (healthy option). Of course you also get the local ‘sides’ of a biscuit or corn bread and then a choice of another 2 sides as well. You’ll never lack for food in America! The other amusing thing was that before C had even drunk 1/4 of her iced tea, they brought her another refill! When we were finished eating the amount of leftover could have probably fed another family. I guess that all just gets dumped afterwards and so it really is a lot of wastage. It really strikes us when we are in the US as this just doesn’t happen in SA.

We got to the Embassy Suites hotel at the airport at just after 3pm. We decided to stay there as our flight was in the morning to NY (in fact we are at the airport now as I type this) and it would be convenient to get rid of the car last night. After we had checked in, S came with me to refill the car and then take it back to the airport and then we caught the courtesy bus back to the hotel. We had dinner in the hotel last night. When S ordered a beer they asked for ID and he had to go up to his room to get it. When I ordered one the waiter also asked me! While I could be flattered, I actually think that is somewhat ridiculous as I am clearly over 21!

We are now at Nashville airport waiting to board our flight. The incoming flight has just arrived so I reckon it will be a few minutes before we board. In order to send this before we board I am posting it now without pictures and will try do a few pictures later.

Until tomorrow …

P, S (because he ate fried chicken with me and helped me return the car), H, M, C, O & K