Our retirement adventures


10 November 

Savannah. Skype Sarah and Harry, Ali off climbing. Harry’s talking is coming on fast with words being strung together. His understanding of what is said to him and his recognition of us on the screen is also fantastic for his age.

Drive the long drive to Orlando along the I-95 and the I-4, a journey of about 6 hours with stops at various Panera Breads for breaks along the way. 

Check in at Westgate – fast and efficient and we have the washing on within the hour.

11 November

Westgate Palace

Westgate Palace

The first day we have not had to get up with a breakfast deadline. Down by the pool before 10:30 to catch some rays before the sun goes behind the building. 

A visit to Publix results in a well stocked fridge; less dinners out now. 

12 November 

A day of only spending $5 and that on a pair of trousers for Harry! Another morning by the pool and a meal in. We are still tired! 

13 November

Too cold and windy to sit out by the pool today. Meeting Flic & Mel from Airport so try out journey without tolls, unsuccessful. Car has had a message for last few days saying “change engine oil now” so visit Budget desk only to discover that the car rental is only until tomorrow!  Help, panic! 

New car provided as old one required it’s first service but I need to contact CarHire tonight to see what the guys in Boston didn’t do properly.

(Why did Budget release the car for a long journey when it needed it’s first service? – Another stupid action by Budget in Boston.)

Collect Flic & Mel but it is dark by the time we get to Westgate so they don’t see much especially after a 15 minute wait in a queue of traffic.

14 November

Winter Park, FL

Winter Park, FL

Shopping day for the girls.

First though, visit Winter Park, for a ride on the lake and through the canals looking at wonderful canal-side houses.  This is apparently one of the most expensive areas for property in Florida.

Canal side property, Winter Park

Canal side property, Winter Park

Then off to Florida Mall, Premium Outlets and a few others for the rest of the day. Not brilliant weather, very cold for Florida at about 59F which is unfortunate for them. Dinner at Olive Garden, at request of the girls. 

Sort car out with another visit to the Budget desk at the airport whilst girls at Florida Mall. Person in front of me at car park exit has to pay $255 to get out, how long had she been there, I wonder. 

15 November

Strange car at Mount Dora

Strange car at Mount Dora

Girls off to Universal Studios to do the Harry Potter side whilst we go to Mt Dora, a lovely town so unlike anything else in Florida, more like the towns we have been through earlier; Blowing Rock and Chatham.

Mt Dora B & B

Mt Dora B & B

A nice B & B found by the lakeside, or so we thought by looking at it from the outside – unfortunately “Tripadvisor” says otherwise though.

Some car owner is obviously hooked on Betty Boop although not sure if the car goes, or is even roadworthy

Sal not well with a cold, how did she get another cold so soon after the earlier one in Washington?

Pick girls up from Universal and off to Bealls for more shopping. They had been on the Harry Potter ride twice and found virtually no queues for any of the rides so had “done” Universal in record time and were out early.

Not a good weather day though although warmer but wetter. Teach Mel how to play Canasta and she repays us by her and Flic beating us. They even get a round of 4 red 3s twice in a row.

16 November 

We opt for a trip on the Boggy Creek airboat rides today although sat nav lady wants to send us on a route that includes numerous toll roads, perhaps she is employed by the toll road association.

Not sure if they will actually go today as by now the rain is quite heavy and persistent, so unlike Florida weather we have encountered before. Wait in fish camp cafe with lots of Harley Bikers who were there for a Poker Drive, proceeds to charity!

Shy Aligators

Shy Aligators

We do manage to get out but am guessing we were the last of the day as the rain returned almost as soon as we had finished. Out over reeds mown down by previous journeys, our boat stuck to well defined tracks so as not to damage the rest of the vegetation and wildlife habitat.

Only a few Alligators seen, but some were babies, as young as a few weeks up to a couple of years old. Lots of birds scuttled away on the water as if they were walking on it as we approached at about 35 mph through reeds and other foliage growing in the shallow water. A couple of other birds were pointed out to us but with ear defenders on it wasn’t easy to hear our guide. 

Whilst we were waiting for the ride, one of the staff, Cody, a local who also lives near Stansted (UK) and performs magic shows, shows us a baby alligator rescued from a zoo and invites us all to hold it, not that scary though as his mouth was taped. Cody gives a good talk as well as £20 to Flic and a $2 note to Mel.

Flic in a shop, where else!

Flic in a shop, where else!

Off to Celebration for a late lunch at Antonio’s in by now heavy rain, but still muggy and probably the first really bad weather day we have had since we arrived in the USA. Quick view of the shops and off to Downtown Disney. 

Cirque de Soleil tickets for tonight bought on line last night but opt for the cheaper seats in Row KK which is high up at the back. Virtually as soon as we sit down we are upgraded to Row B, right down the front. Wonderful seats, you can virtually touch the actors and we only paid under half of what row B would have cost.  ($67 each we paid, $146 each would have been the cost had we booked Row B!)

As always, a wonderful show that you could watch over and over again as there is so much going on – loved the diablo girls. As it had by now stopped raining, we walk around as much of Downtown Disney as we could, it was crowded and as a result lively, even though a few parts covered in boarding whilst they re-develop. Good performances by Lady in Red and later, Man in Red near the Lego outlet. All of us shattered but they still manage to beat us at Canasta.

17 November 

Suite has a service today, the first we have needed. A much better weather day today and Richard takes Flic & Mel to Discovery Cove for their swim with Dolphins. Swim not till 2:45 so agree to pick them up at 4:15. We go on a luggage search for Mel as she and Flic have bought so much another suitcase is needed – now there’s a surprise. Night time visit to Shopping Mall for Flic & Mel. 

18 November 

Phone call from Service department, “do we want our rooms serviced?”  “No” is the response, “we had one yesterday”. More shopping for the girls and eventually Mel finds some shoes for Debbie’s wedding and a suitcase to take all her purchases back.   

Back to Westgate to try and watch the rocket launch at half one. Too cloudy though, so nothing to see, shame. 

Afternoon for both in Sea World followed by dinner in Planet Hollywood. Call in at a camera shop but put off by salesman calling a Canon lens “a piece of shit”.  Won’t be going back. 

Back at Westgate and we have had our rooms serviced despite the phone call! They even left a message on Flic’s bed to say they couldn’t do her bed and we should put a note outside if we don’t want a room service. Oh well, fresh sheets for the 2nd day in a row. 

Finally beat Flic and Mel at Canasta. 

19 November 

Flic and Mel’s last day with us.  They have only been here 6 days but have crammed so much in to it. Today is their 2nd visit to Universal Studios and we go off to Florida Mall for a JCPenny look around. Get tempted by a Sigma lens in the camera shop near JCPenny but decide to look on-line first. Glad I did as price about the same. 

Pick Flic & Mel up at Universal Studios, again no queues and they had done everything in 6 hours. Off to airport for their flights back to the UK; no chance of upgrade though but the good news is the luggage for Mel’s onwards Flybe flight to the IoM is under 20kg.

Return via Publix, a long traffic jam to a dinner at “home”. There is so much traffic in and around Orlando as compared with the other places we have visited. The lights at intersections seem to stay red much longer and a few intersections are just not phased properly in some instances. 

20 November 

Need cash. ATM downstairs charges $6 for the privilege. Collect Eagles tickets for Saturday, pay for parking and off to Altimonte Springs to see if we can find a Kuhl jumper – no joy, right colour but wrong size. Back to Florida Mall to get shirt & trousers for Harry, and back to Westgate for a lazy afternoon/evening although not good enough to sit outside.

21 November 

Another grey day and not worthy of even venturing into the pool area.

Loch Ness monster at Disney?  (no wonder they can't find it in Scotland)

Loch Ness monster at Disney? (no wonder they can’t find it in Scotland)

Have a mooch around Disney Downtown for a couple of pressies after a walk around the lake at Celebration.

Now off to the Premium Outlets at Vineland; what a horrible place this now is, hardly a word of English spoken, rudeness by many people and a veritable scrum in Carter’s.

Take photos of a couple of things Mo wants, to check if they are the right ones and exit leaving about 20 people in the till queue. At Guess, queue for over 5 minutes only to be told that the staff member who greeted us and told us that all the store was 50% off was lying! The item Sally wanted was not included!

A few items bought in Publix for dinner restored some faith in the area, the guy who served was very friendly. 

22 November 

A slightly better day but only just. Did manage a swim but no sun again. Off to Barnes & Noble for a book for Sal, a DVD (Once) and a pressie for Mel.

Chinese Beer

Chinese Beer

Dinner tonight at Ming Court, a favourite of ours when we are here. At first, lots of tables free but we obviously just beat the rush as by the time we left there were hardly any free tables. The meal ranks high among the meals we have had so far this trip. 

The TV has many programmes devoted to the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death and all American flags are at half mast. Lots of books and magazines in the shops but not sure how many people are buying them – perhaps the press are more interested than the American people.

23 November 

Our last full day in Orlando. There is really not a lot to do here when there is no sun unless you are into the expensive amusement parks and the shopping. The traffic is considerably slower moving and greater in volume now than we recall it was when we last were here, 4 years ago with increased waits at traffic lights and it is absolutely outrageous that the price of gas has increased over the last two days by 10c a gallon presumably because next week is Thanksgiving week.

Hey, that's a swimming pool for humans, not for ducks!

Hey, that’s a swimming pool for humans, not for ducks!

Glad we are not here on Black Friday as the shops will be even madder than they are now. 

Probably the best day for taking in the rays that we have had since we arrived in Orlando, not a great advert for Florida sunshine.

Not only do we manage a swim but a couple of ducks follow suit afterwards.

Finish packing and all set to go off to the Amway Centre for an Eagles concert. Mo sends message as to what she wants so drive to Premium Outlets at the top of International Drive but there are cars queueing to get parked so after a couple of minutes in the queue, give up and join the queue back to International Drive, up the I-4 passing virtually stationary traffic in the other direction and out to a Red Lobster for our last Orlando meal. Crab legs is a first for Richard – not as expertly eaten as Jim would have done. 

Eagles in Orlando

Eagles in Orlando

Off to the Orlando Amway Centre, easy prepaid parking but our concert seats are high up & sideways (to stage).

Bottled water at $6.25 a small bottle –  extortionate!

Warm up act quite good and get their CD free in exchange for my e-mail address. One song is in a film due to be released on 25.12.13.  We shall see if it is memorable. 

Eagles are tremendous, especially Desperado, Tequilla Sunrise, Hotel California and Take it Easy. Some guy nearby insists on harshly whistling for much of the concert which upsets Sal’s ears and two couples in the row in front nearly come to blows over leaning forward and obstructing the others view but otherwise a full house of appreciative fans. 

Leave halfway through the last song of the 2nd encore to beat the crowds and are so thankful as we are out of the car park in 5 minutes and down the I-4. Stop at garage to fill up with gas for tomorrow.

Quite a few customised cars circulating around, looking very smart with their wide wheels, jacked up suspension and bright colours. Not being racist, it is noticeable though that they are all occupied by young black people in, sometimes, outrageous clothing and I must say it was a little intimidating. Back at Westgate, the car park is virtually full for the first time in the two weeks we have been there.

Off early tomorrow for the drive to Miami for the last leg of our adventure, a cruise to the Caribbean.

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Blue Ridge Mountains to Savannah

2 November 

After the last few days in cities, we are now moving into country areas with the suburbia of DC making way to masses and masses of trees on the roads to Woodstock, Shenandoah for an overnight prior to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check in early, dinner at Sal’s Italian in nearby Edinburg – just chosen for the name but, as it turns out, possibly the best meal we have had so far. Mel sends e-mail, her car has a flat battery!

3 November

Summer time over and clocks back an hour but winter nowhere to be seen, blue sky all around. HIE we stayed in was very clean with a fully stocked breakfast following a quiet comfortable night. 1st stop after Check out is Walmart for a few goodies but not the guns that they have on sale here although lots of locals had other ideas!

Head for Luray via Fort Road at Edinburg; a wonderful road full of interesting twists, turns, houses and some coloured (although past their best) leaves but with views to die for.



Eventually manage to get onto Skyline Drive at it’s junction with the 211 and follow with even better views south towards Waynesboro.  Stop at Skyland “service area” for a wonderful lunch overlooking the valley towards West Virginia. Absolutely wonderful views with trees for miles changing colours although probably past it’s best as they are a bit wind affected.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

Get off Skyline Drive and head for Charlottesville and Lynchburg, our next overnight.

Lots of light industry by the side of the road but more undulating hills rather than the mountains. 

Lynchburg not a particularly inspiring city from our first viewings but the hotel is comfortable albeit not well populated. Hotel has a Peruvian themed restaurant, dinner good.

Lynchburg red trees

Lynchburg red trees

4 November

Outskirts of Lynchburg better than what we saw yesterday with some nice houses and also a few red leafed trees.

Head for The Natural Bridge, a natural archway that is stated as being taller than Niagara Falls.

Walk up, underneath bridge and on past the Lost River (we saw it but no one knows where it comes from or goes to) to the waterfalls that shed water from the plain above into the James River.

The Natural Bridge, VA

The Natural Bridge, VA

See a couple of wild turkeys grazing by the river completely oblivious to us humans. 

Back past another Bedford to stop at a shopping mall, nothing interesting here! Dinner in an Olive Garden with a student waitress (Sarah Lynn from Ohio) who was much more interested in what we had been doing than many others have been, thank you. 

5 November 

Travel day along some interesting roads that get us eventually to the Blue Ridge Parkway at Fancy Gap. The drive along Virginia’s 860 (or 680) for 7 miles was particularly good, showing a few reclusive shacks and virtually no other traffic.

Follow Blue Ridge Parkway for a number of miles, forgoing lunch but stopping for photos in many places. The views from some of the lay-bys (most over 3400 ft) are breathtaking even if the weather is a bit cloudy. Sadly, most of the colour has now gone in the trees and we are left with rusty browns and yellows. 

Reach Blowing Rock and find hotel which is amid major roadworks and a bit worrying as to whether we will have a restful night. Meal at a local Outback and it is so noticeable that the twang of the local dialect is more Southern Country rather than E Coast city.  We are of course really only about 20 or so miles from Tennessee. Thankfully, no noise overnight from the roadworks. 

6 November 

Foggy!!!  Our first inclement weather day so retail therapy is called for. Fog clears mid morning by which time we had reached Boone, a typical American town but now with locals who speak with a Southern twang.  Boone is a University town so is quieter in late June to early September but in early November is vibrant and full of youngsters.   

Had heard that Hob Nob Cafe was good, but unfortunately it was closed so resorted to Panera Bread for lunch. Clear blue sky now so head for Grandfather Mountain. Entrance to the park includes a CD provided as part of the admission price ($30) which is a neat way of explaining the history, the nature and environment as you drive up the mountain.

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Walk over swinging bridge to other side and on upwards another 100 or so ft. to top of mountain.

Mile high Bridge, Grandfather Mountain

Mile high Bridge, Grandfather Mountain

I have never experienced the top of a mountain so still.

Contemplation on top of wind free Grandfather Mountain

Contemplation on top of wind free Grandfather Mountain

Wonderful panoramic views and fantastic for contemplation at over 5300 ft. The adjacent mountain had cloud intermittently swirling so why there was no wind was quite remarkable. Started chatting to three siblings all in their 50s who were running around like school kids.   

Drop down to the animal area and watch a bear mooching around, a couple of bald eagles and an otter doing somersaults. On way down, see a few deer but no “wild” bears.

Six Pence pub, Blowing Rock

Six Pence pub, Blowing Rock

Dinner at Six Pence Pub in old town Blowing Rock which was good.

The town is quaint and with lots to see by way of shops, statues and museums although we have to move on tomorrow. We will have to be back. 


Morning mist - Blue Ridge Mountains

Morning mist – Blue Ridge Mountains

7 November 

A long drive today from the NW corner of North Carolina to the SE corner of South Carolina, mostly on Interstate but some state roads past typical American non-descript towns most of which have the ubiquitous gun shops and pawn shops.

A dramatic change on the way as we leave the Blue Ridge mountains area at about 45F and head for the lowlands of S Carolina at about 70F.

Some scary driving moments in the 287 miles but arrive in one piece and collapse in the comfy Crowne Plaza just outside Charleston. Dinner in the Sweetgrass restaurant in the hotel. 

8 November

Charleston waterfront house

Charleston waterfront house

Drive to the waterfront in Charleston, parking difficult but locate something and walk past many grand waterfront houses, some of which are single occupancy houses and others converted to hotels and guest houses.

Take a tour around the Edmondston-Alston House on the waterfront for half an hour. The artwork and other items inside this, one of the oldest houses in Charleston and one where, supposedly, the first shot fired in the Civil War was watched from, is quite something, especially the piano and the cutlery carrier. To be recommended but no photos allowed inside. 

A quick drive over the impressive Mark Clark Expressway bridge to Mt Pleasant for a 2 hour Segway tour. Our guide was very thorough with his safety instructions and after 10 minutes or so we went off around old town Mt Pleasant, just Sal and I and the instructor with the first stop adjacent to some sweetgrass plants.

The old town is oozing character with some expensive housing and hardly anything out of place in the yards. I doubt if many coming to Charleston would know of the existence of this place let alone come here to visit – their loss!

British involvement in early Charleston life recorded at Hibben House

British involvement in early Charleston life recorded at Hibben House

A full history lesson was expertly given detailing many of the events surrounding the early settlers, showing us some of the important houses of the time, the British involvement, the Civil War, the splitting of Carolina into North and South and the seceding of South Carolina from the Union in 1860. 

We overrun our two hours and head off to a cafe in Pitt street, Mount Pleasant for a very belated lunch followed by a ride around some of the back streets of Charleston and a sort of tea/dinner at the local Panera Bread.

Charleston house at dusk - European looking?

Charleston house at dusk – European looking?

Some wonderful houses and with lights on we were able to see inside a few from the road. Many houses have a couple of outside gas lamps burning, a quaint sight and not at all what you would expect from any American city. 

9 November

Drive to Drayton House on our way out of Charleston south towards Savannah. Drayton House is the country’s oldest surviving un-restored plantation house just outside Charleston.

Drayton House

Drayton House

A long drive up to what is akin to a stately home in sumptuous grounds.  

After a walk around the river fronted grounds, take tour around the building with a guide who is obviously passionate about preservation.

The house has virtually no furniture but is a preservation work in progress rather than a restoration.

Inside Drayton House

Inside Drayton House

Original paintwork from the late 1700s is still on the walls and there are some original floorboards, banisters and ceiling plaster.  An excellent way to spend a morning although how the initial occupants coped with the summer’s soaring heat, the midges and other wildlife, who knows!

Onwards to our last hotel pre Orlando, a Candlewood suites just outside Savannah. Our research had let us down as it had been the Savannah Marathon earlier that day which is why we could not get a hotel in town.

Savannah house

Savannah house

As an additional consequence, everywhere was ultra crowded with nowhere to park. Maybe just a night was, in the circumstances, just about right.

Drive around the downtown squares to see some of the houses which are as good as they were in Charleston, many of which had, as it was now getting towards dusk, gas lamps as outside lights like Charleston yesterday. Very atmospheric.

This city though has a centre, like a British town centre but there was nowhere to park. 

Dinner in an out of town Applebee’s, much better than the last one we went in and avoids all the crowds and probable waiting at in-town eateries. 

Off tomorrow all the way down the I-95 and I-4 to Orlando.

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New York to Washington

Times Sq. NY

Times Sq. NY

26 October 

After a week or so in the countryside in New England, this is a day for a big city visit.  We have been to New York before and really wanted to do something different so today’s visit to the big Apple is by train from Stamford into Grand Central Station as we had never been to GCS before. The train is crowded even though they put on extra trains on Saturdays, but get a seat to watch the world go by.  The train does not exactly go fast even though it is an express, probably a maximum of 50mph, about half the speed of a UK commuter train.

Do not dwell at GCS but wander down to TKTS @ Times Square. No point in queueing for a musical matinee, too many people already had that idea so ask a security guy where the queue for the plays was and was ushered to the front of the adjacent queue and get tickets for “Time to Kill” for half price.  

Lunch in a hotel’s cafe with an extremely rude waitress (aren’t all New Yorkers rude?), a wander around an adjacent market and a couple of shops before settling in for the play.

Theatreland, NY

Theatreland, NY

A play set in the Deep South of America in the early 1980’s would not have been my first choice but am glad we went.  An interesting story with many un PC references to women and blacks set in a Court house. 

As many people in New York as I had imagined, with noise and people everywhere.  Vowed to get back to NY sometime for a longer experience. 

Back to GCS (walking over, not down 5th Avenue) and take the self guided tour for $6 each for about an hour which was well worth the money.

Deli at Grand Central Station

Deli at Grand Central Station

The food market within the station would probably never have been found if it were not for the tour.

Grand Central Station, NY

Grand Central Station, NY

Buy food from Market for eating in our hotel room after another crowded and slow train (again an express!) back to Stamford.  New York cheesecake, Yum! 

It is puzzling that virtually all the seats on both trains face one way (out of town).  Unlike most UK and continental trains where the seats are multi facing.

27 October 

A day of R&R with a short drive to Bedford for a coffee.  A lovely little village (they even have a village green). With clapboard buildings but again, many electric wires blocking views for photos.

Bedford clapboard church, NY state

Bedford clapboard church, NY state


Onwards to Peekskill just as somewhere to go, deviating from the main route several times to view the houses and leaf fall.

Mounds of swept up leaves dot the road in many places which hopefully will be sucked up soon.

9/11 Firefighters Memorial

9/11 Firefighters Memorial

Not so many Halloween houses here, probably as the occupants think it is beneath them!! 

Nothing really expected at Peekskill but we did come across a moving memorial to all the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11.

Stop again in Bedford for a late lunch / early dinner.  Far too many chips (fries) so a great waste but a lovely restaurant in a lovely little village. A head cold now forcing itself on Richard so an interrupted night will probably occur. 

28 October

Bad start as not a lot of breakfast items available 20 minutes before closure so ask reception to locate staff to provide some items.  Lady surfaces a few minutes later mumbling that the breakfast bar is closed, listening to her headphones but does deliver some bread and butter.  Immediately starts clearing items away; no word of apology. 

Report problem to reception who apologise and deducts from our bill, the 3 nights car valet parking of $36 which was good. 

Try following Interstate that does not go through NY and get off route a couple of times but eventually reach bridge over Hudson River and onwards to Philadelphia.

Manage to Skype Mel at a Panera Bread en route using their free WiFi. Dinner in Hotel but not great service and strange surroundings. Although around the Hudson River there were many nice coloured leaves, by the time we reach Philly, nearer the coast, many had disappeared. Hopefully, better in the Blue Mountains next week. Could have done more but bad head cold, probably caught at the Shaker village taking it’s toll.

29 October

Philly transport

Philly transport

Walk to train station (5 minutes from Holiday Inn) and catch train to Market street. All the seats seem again to face backwards and again, there is a conductor for each carriage, what a waste of resources.

Leaves on the line US style

Leaves on the line US style

Do like their poster for leaves on the line though.

At street level head towards an older building past a grand looking Macy’s and into a large building that seems to be more like a city hall.

An information booth inside reveals that the big bus tour goes from the Marriott hotel every 20 minutes.  We find the Marriott but obviously at the wrong entrance although the bus does stop when we flag it down. A good tour around the compact city, on the top deck ducking the overhanging branches and low lying tram cables with a guide who talks down the Brits in a lighthearted funny way.

Liberty Bell, Philly, PA

Liberty Bell, Philly, PA

Get off at the stop by the liberty bell museum and take 20 minutes or so around the museum before re-boarding for the rest of the tour.

The government shutdown earlier in the month would have meant that this museum would have been shut with no views possible.

Thankfully, some sense has filtered into the American politicians although it is only a postponement and another stoppage is possible early next year. 

Lots of fascinating buildings and stories throughout the tour including a link to the statue of Thomas Jefferson and the local football team not winning anything after the building he sits atop was beaten in height until a new building had a $9.99 small model of him placed on it’s roof a few years ago when the football team won again. 

Macy's organ

Macy’s organ

The Macy’s building was originally a store operated by a Mr Wannamaker who was, amongst other things enthusiastic about Mother’s day.

The building houses a (church type) ornate organ, possibly a first for a departmental store but not yet lit Christmas decorations precluded a decent picture.

Residential street, Philly

Residential street, Philly

Walk around the covered market that housed many stalls including some from the local Amish community then on to some of the side streets with fascinating houses that could be anywhere in Britain for their architecture.

The American flag had the British retained control?

The American flag had the British retained control?

Not a lot of restaurants in the area of the hotel and as dinner not great in hotel last night, set Satnav for the nearest Applebee’s. Satnav fails to find it miserably but then we locate it some 300 yds away on the opposite side of the road.

That was just the start of our troubles as our order for food was placed just before 7 and after at least 2 requests as to it’s location, the newly appointed manager managed to locate it about 40 minutes later.

The dozy waitress had failed to take it to the kitchen.  The upshot, we got the desert free and an equal amount deducted from our bill.  Another $12 saved.

30 October

Amish transport outside Railroad museum

Amish transport outside Railroad museum

Today was a bit misty and we set off for Washington via the Amish community farms around Lancaster.

A stop on the way at the Pennsylvania Railroad museum was well worth it with many beautifully restored locomotives of all sorts as well as carriages, old freight vans and many other artefacts.A well stocked model railway system or two was ideal for kids with many interactive displays.  Obviously a lot of people have put in a lot of hours in making this a good attraction.  The steam train rides opposite were on offer but time restraints prevented us for taking a ride. 

Just before the train museum was a camping area with some old kabooses available to stay in.

They didn’t look particularly enticing although we didn’t look inside.

Kaboose Camping Park!

Kaboose Camping Park!

Onwards to a town named “Intercourse”! The most amazing thing about this town was it changed it’s name to Intercourse from Cross Keys. OK it was a change made nearly 200 years ago. Obviously had less of a meaning then.

No overtaking the Amish cart - double centre yellow lines so a slow journey

No overtaking the Amish cart – double centre yellow lines so a slow journey

Around some of the back lanes, past many farm communes and people working the fields in traditional costumes but with no mechanical aids.  Many horses and traps around and bizarrely, one guy filling up with gas into a can, then loading it onto his trap and speeding off (horse style) to his community. Taking photos is not encouraged and was respected. 

A longish drive now to Washington with horrendous traffic around Baltimore doing about 20 mph for about an hour. Arrive at our hotel in Alexandria, a quaint old town just across the border in Virginia somewhat later than planned.  Dinner in hotel tonight.

31 October

Take free shuttle to Ronald Reagan airport and then the transit into DC. Confusing ticket arrangements but manage to master it with help from a staff member. Trains fast and comfortable and not too crowded with rear facing seats again! Underground stations are all very dimly lit though, saving on electricity?

Tree lined residential clapboard street in Georgetown are of Washington, DC

Tree lined residential clapboard street in Georgetown area of Washington, DC

Find Big Bus Tour stop and for $114 between us we have access to 4 open top deck bus tour routes over two days as well as two museums and a night tour, wow that is good value. Take yellow tour all the way around through Georgetown and past many of the landmarks. The president’s convoy passes by but I hadn’t got the camera out and by the time I had, it had passed – just my luck! 

Einstein in Washington

Einstein in Washington

Washington must have every conceivable statue on show, from Einstein through US Presidents to Martin Luther King and some other military personnel not even American.

Grand Union Station, Washington DC

Grand Union Station, Washington DC

Grand Union Station is not a patch on the number of tracks of New York’s Grand Central Station seen last Saturday but the building is far grander from the outside and is being renovated inside which made for an interesting lunch upstairs on the concourse – men working above you on scaffolding and walkways.

Have lunch and take a trip on the open top bus tour red line which visits a number of other sites not on the yellow route.   

Back to Grand Union Station and a look around the adjacent Post Office Museum which was free and fascinating with one of the more poignant items being the undeliverable items following 9.11. 
It would take days to view everything. 

Buy dinner salad for later from Pret and board the night tour on the Big bus.

Post Office Museum

Post Office Museum

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Some different views of some already seen monuments and a couple of stops, one of which was at the Korean and Vietnamese memorial with some 7′ tall soldiers looking to represent an exercise in the swamps/jungle. Quite moving!

Lincoln by night

Lincoln by night

Some rain tonight but still warm. Lots of Halloween festivities in DC with many people wearing costume throughout the day and lots of people, mostly women, wearing Orange.

Negotiate Metro ticket machine to travel to Airport and then taxi to hotel for speed followed by bought salad.

Tonight is Halloween which the Americans take very seriously. Loads of people with Orange clothes on and even some with Witches hat and the like wandering around town especially later in the evening.

Even the White House entered into the spirit of the occasion with a party on the lawn.

Sal now has my cold!

1 November

Capitol Building, Washington DC

Capitol Building, Washington DC

A grey day with some rain as forecast. Shuttle to airport, breakfast at Starbuck’s and negotiate Metro ticket machine to Capitol Hill South.

Find visitor centre and take a free 90 minute film and tour around the Capitol. Explanations about the Senate and Congress which probably means more to Americans than us Brits.  

Inside the dome of the Capital Building

Inside the dome of the Capital Building

However, it was a well organised tour that took in many rooms, allowed us to stand underneath the dome and saw many more statues.

Many of the statues were from various states, each state putting up nominations but there is not enough space for all of the statues.

By the time we had finished, the weather had brightened up with temperatures up to the low 70s.  Found the Blue tour open top bus that took us to the Arlington Cemetery, although not in it, and around the perimeter of the Pentagon.

No photos allowed apparently but we were only told about this after a few minutes so we already had some photos of the outside. No one mentioned the slight change in brick colouring on the South Wall which may be as a result of rebuilding after 9.11.

Return to hotel for an early night of laundry, salad and sleep.

Off inland tomorrow toward the Blue Ridge Mountains but Sal still has my cold!

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New England October 2013

21 October 

A contrast in weather to the last post (Boston & Cape Cod) but a bright and sunny morning with temperatures now down to mid 40s F when we leave Hotel for drive to Mt Washington Cog Railway 
although it had increased over 10 degrees by the time we reach the base station at 2700′. 

Mt Washington Cog Railway

Mt Washington Cog Railway  

Virtually two train loads of passengers are pushed gently up the slope which in places is just over 37% which makes it difficult to stand up straight in the carriage, shows off the few buildings seen as being level but you pass them at such an angle that you think they are crooked. 

Cold at the top of Mt Washington!

Cold at the top of Mt Washington!

Soon we leave the tree line behind us and reach an are where thick frost has started to form on anything from metal sleepers for the train, and the by now sparse vegetation.

The higher we get the colder it gets in first the frost line and then the snow line and finally the summit station at 6288′.  

Some pretty impressive wind speeds have been recorded here in the past as well as some very low temperatures and the whole area is covered with windswept ice particles clinging to whatever they can find.

The previous day’s train could not get to the top because of the wind but we were lucky, although the view became clouded with the mist during our hour stop at the top.  (60 minutes after we left it was all clear again!).

Mt Washington summit

Mt Washington summit

The cafe was a welcome respite from the cold with temperatures at the top probably about mid 20s F! Lots of photos on the walls supplied in part by the guys who work up here in the weather station. There is even a post office although it was closed when we were there.

We then go in search of one of the covered bridges New Hampshire is famous for. 

Pass one that is used as a shop but when we reach Lisbon en route for the one at Bath near the Vermont border, sign reads, “covered bridge closed” so disappointingly head back for dinner at Applebee’s and their Monday burger offer! 

22 October 

Not so bright today but a preserved railway ride is planned locally so we won’t be too worried by the forecast rain.

Gertrude Emma coach

Gertrude Emma coach

The Conway Scenic Railway operates out of North Conway towards the Mt Washington area.  At this time of year, only a limited diesel hauled service to Bartlett once a day and another half way in the afternoon. It would be nice to have been able to travel the whole length of the line but that may have wait until another time.  We now have a book of private railway lines to pour over in future planning so we can see what is available next time we visit.

The old 1887 Pullman coach – Gertrude Emma – has been converted to 1st class, so for an extra $6 each, we sat facing the windows in comfortable wicker chairs watching the autumn colours pass by and listening to a very informative commentary from Kate.  The alternative was some very hard looking seats or even an open sided coach.

Quite remarkably, an Irish family near us got talking to an American family and discovered that they had the same surname as the Irish woman’s maiden name.  The American family heralded from the same area in Ireland as the Irish family so they may well be related. 

Apple and pumpkin stop

Apple and pumpkin stop

The return journey was stopped at an Apple cafe where children were given pumpkins and we adults were encouraged to buy a coffee and cider doughnut, and delicious it was too, and all for under $4. 

Located The Rugged Mill Clothes shop just outside the station to buy a Kuhl jumper
. A shop well worth the visit, thank you Matt for your guidance and followed this up with and a browse around shopping mall only to bump into Irish family again who suggested the nearby town of Jackson to view a covered bridge.

Dinner in room tonight as we have a microwave.

23 October

A clear but cold day so we pack up and leave for a trip to Jackson following the advise given and it’s covered bridge only to find the Irish family also viewing it.  By now we know them as Martin and Maeve Butler and their two boys and take our photo by the bridge. They have our blog address so maybe they will view this! 

Jackson NH covered bridge

Jackson NH covered bridge

Up to the falls at Jackson and then stop for coffee at Backcountry Bakery before the drive south to Conway and the Kancamagus Highway with stunning views back over the Presidentials and loads of leaf fall some of them the deep reds we had hoped for but feared we had missed on our way to Tilton. 

Ask reception at Holiday Inn Express at Tilton for dinner recommendations and head, on her recommendation to Shiloh’s for a meal that cost under $30 and was, in quantity, far too much for both of us. Should have opted for just one meal and shared! Retire, somewhat stuffed.

Red autumn colours

Red autumn colours

24 October 

A clear but cold day and we head for the Canterbury Shaker village.  Not really quite sure what to expect other than it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide.  

Shaker village, Canterbury

Shaker village, Canterbury

Tour at 11am with about 10 others was provided by a guide whose family worked for the Shakers when he was a kid so knew the properties exceptionally well.

Although he talked quickly, he covered a lot of ground, was very informative resulting in a wonderful experience.

There are now only 3 members left of the Shaker religion which started in the 1700s in Manchester (UK) and has resulted in many inventions including the first washing machine.  Of course Shaker furniture is known worldwide but it was extraordinary to be in buildings that had been built in the late 1700s with furniture of a similar age. 

Shakers got their name after the dance routine they “invented” back in the 1700s in the Manchester (UK) area – yes, they shaked!!

Inside a Shaker village building

Inside a Shaker village building

A very cold biting wind made the upper 40s seem much colder, so afternoon drive at Gilford and around Wentworth Drive where waterfront properties are on the market for anything between $600k and $10m. Dinner in Shiloh’s again narrowly avoiding a deer crossing the road during our return to the hotel. 

25 October

A travel day, south to Stamford – not able to see a few areas as by now a cold was developing.  However, there were a few diversions en route to see some stunning properties. Upgraded at Holiday Inn Express in Stamford to a Suite which was a pleasant surprise. Dinner in a Chinese restaurant opposite was one of the best meals we had in our travels.

Next post in our travels – New York, Philly and Washington.