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I have to admit that there’s one thing Mrs Fitz does better than I, and that’s communicate. Did I hear someone say Professional talker? While we were in the immigration queue at LAX, two sets of her patients bowled up and said G’day; they had heard her voice booming out over the immigration hall. Some folks wonder why I’m such a quiet chap until they meet Mrs Fitz.
So, this post is a collage of some of Mrs Fitz’s e-mails. I’ll just add some photos.
And speaking of photos, #2 Son, Andy, is travelling with us. He has uploaded many more photos to his AndyFitz Flickr account.
And now over to guest blogger, Mrs Fitz…
Washington, DC to New York, NY
Tue 24 Apr 2007
Have not yet had Mike committed following the earlier ravings on his blog, but thinking about it.
Met an interesting bloke staying at our little B and B who worked full time to fund AIDS treatments for Americans. Apparently, if you have HIV you had better live in New York or California, or you probably will not get treatment unless you are rich. Ah! The land of the free!
Went down to the National Museum of the American Indian. Nice building, fantastic restaurant for lunch with all sorts of traditional food at good prices. Very dim lighting, and at our age we need strong fluorescents to read all the descriptions.
I am now a whiz at the Metro in DC. Amazing how a city of ¾ the size of Brissie can have such amazing public transport. You need to really hang on when the trains start, they are like rockets, and each line has a train every couple of minutes, like the London tube.
Went over to the National Archives and saw the faded copies of the Constitution, the First Amendment, and the Bill of Rights etc. Impressive. Then went to the old Post Office. Lovely building, but more electrical problems and the tower was closed. Makes you appreciate Energex. All these power companies really fail to deliver to Washington DC. You have never seen so many portable generators at so many sites. They simply cannot depend on the power supply to the nation’s capital.
Really sick of the Capitol building. Every time you turn around, there it is in a grand vista!
Went back to the B and B (Akwaaba D.C.) and checked out. It is run by African Americans and they gave us an emotional send off, and loved the little koala we left. They have posters all over supporting Barack Obama! Of course, we are on their side!
Gave in to Mike and let him have a taxi to the railway station. He simply refused to walk the km or two to the station with bags etc. Cost a fortune, but my feet got a bit of a rest too. Then caught the train back to New York, and another taxi to our digs -this time only $7.
I had found this apartment on W 57th St in Manhattan on the web. Met the son of the owner and his girlfriend to get the keys and a tour of the apartment, and wow!! You should see it! $285 a night for four of us (Andy and Karla arrive tomorrow). We have huge windows looking over the Hudson River. Nice sheets, towels, coffee, teas, butter, spices, Miele appliances in the kitchen, wireless internet etc., etc. What a find!
Weather is going back to cooler. Has been quite hot, ie 28 Celsius, going down to 48 Fahrenheit overnight and in the 60s(F) in the daytime. Raining in 3 days time. Will try to direct the rain to home!
Thinking of you all often, (mostly thinking Ha Ha, I’m on holidays and you’re not!).
New York, NY
Thu 26 Apr 2007
Have just returned from big day out with Karla and Andy. They seem even more exhausted than I do! Not used to walking for 10 hours straight every day!
They arrived from Tokyo last night, and are very impressed with the apartment. We walked around Times Square last night and had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe on Broadway. Oh! The memorabilia. Suits worn by the Beatles, the drum kit from the Monkees, original handwritten songs by Jimi Hendrix and the Doors and much more modern costumes like that worn by Madonna, Curt Kobain and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. It was wow! The food was not too expensive and the service terrific.
Unfortunately, Mike did not feel up to it and stayed in the apartment. Next day Karla and Andy went to the top of the GE building at the Rockefeller centre, while I walked around Times Square. Mike was not feeling so good again after eating too much fibre and having a pain in the tum. He stayed home and slept. After seeing the view from Rockefeller, we headed South and then went on the Staten Island ferry, which gives a good view of the Statue of Liberty and also Manhattan. It is also free! Our walk then took us to Battery Park, Wall St, and various historic churches, including the one directly across from the demolished World Trade Centre site. It is the one where the first President, George Washington, took his oath, and the old tombstones were black from the 2001 Sept 11 fire. At the New York Stock Exchange, the company Andy works for, Red Hat, had a prominent poster celebrating their recent listing on the NY Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, you cannot see the floor - there is so much security. All of the buildings from there to City Hall are simply magnificent, and we really enjoyed the walking. Of course, it did not reach eleven degrees and there was a little wind. Next time, beanies and gloves!
Andy and Karla went up to Central Park, and I went to the ticket office to join an enormous queue for same day, heavily discounted tickets to Broadway shows. But it was very efficient. After 45 minutes or so, I had 4 good tickets to Chicago for less than half price.
Picked up a pizza on the way home, which was divine. Have forgotten how big 16 inches is! For $20 it was a tasty, non fatty meal for the four of us. We have a fantastic kitchen here, but it seems it is far cheaper to eat out than to cook!
Have found the metro very fast, efficient and cheap. Tomorrow, it is supposed to rain, so we plan to hit the art galleries and museums.
PS have just returned home from “Chicago”. Caught a taxi, as Mike does not feel like walking and it was cost-effective for 4. The show was unbelievable. The part of ‘Roxy’ was incredibly well acted, sung and danced. We all loved it.
Love to all, Maureen.
New York, NY
Fri 27 Apr 2007 20:39
A bit warmer today. Rainy overnight. What they call “unwelcome rain”. Very strange expression. Will reach 12 degrees top tomorrow, so not too bad. Went and “did” the Gugenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art - the Met.
Some very wonderful works in Guggenheim, but managed to kick one of 7 x 60 cm Kmart style fluoro tubes on the floor, and they had to call the artist to rearrange it along the arc drawn on the floor. Talk about BS art. Pretentious shit. Also some photos which were appalling. Pseudo-intellectual crap. Picasso would be turning in his grave if he knew it was in the same gallery as himself. They are renovating Guggenheim but it is still an interesting building. The Met is amazing. Billions worth of paintings. The Dutch Masters were my favourite, but in a few hours we did not even touch a small fraction. We saw some Japanese works, American works, including furniture, and some European and Medieval. We went to a fantastic restaurant for dinner in Soho.
Went to the very small dance production in Soho Mike was invited to after he gave a demolishing review of modern dance on his blog. He is such an expert on the subject, but let’s s face it, he needs to fill in his day. Met the dancer who invited us, and she was lovely. Only about 60-70 in the audience. Some very nice people.
Still a bit rainy tomorrow. Will go back to the cheap ticket booth in the morning and try to get more Broadway tickets for half price. Libby Penfold will be wild with jealousy!!
Love to all, Maureen.
On to Ontario - New York to Niagara Falls
Mon 30 Apr 2007 6:38
Can’t remember when I last Emailed! I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats waiting for the next one.
Mike decided to go to the impeach George Bush rally on the last day in New York. Apparently, at least 200 people turned up. Not bad out of 200 million Americans. I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Nice day for it. Great views. Then sauntered past the UN, where they still didn’t have the flags out.
Then went with Andy and Karla to see “Avenue Q“. Mike wasn’t keen to go. Again waited on the mega line for cheap tickets but, for the record, they are very efficient, and I had the tickets in 40 minutes. Well worth it for half price. All of our tickets so far have been in top seats - like rows F or H. Avenue Q was great fun, and top quality. We loved it.
Went and had dinner on the roof of our apartment, and froze to death watching the views. Lasted a good 20 minutes before the frostbite set in.
Then caught a train early yesterday morning from New York to Niagara Falls. Great views of the Hudson river for miles. Had no idea it was so huge. The train was really comfy with loads of leg room. Took over 10 hours with customs in Canada taking an hour. They are really tightening up at the border, as the US has so many illegal immigrants.
Our B and B (Gretna Green) is wonderful. We have two rooms, each with a king bed which is easily the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. Very nice people. We are the only ones here. It is only $75 a night double and includes the biggest breakfast I have ever seen, with freshly squeezed orange juice and a choice of home made jams, with fresh scones! Could not finish it.
Late yesterday, we saw the falls in daylight, had dinner and then saw them lit up at night. Will tour around today. It was so cold outside last night, and we forgot our hats and gloves. Inside the B and B it was just wonderful. Today, it is going to be 17 C which is great. The sun is shining. The snow at the edge of the gorge is melting and we are having a great time.
Love Maureen and Mike.
Mon 30 Apr 2007 16:27
Had a fantastic day. Clear blue skies. Cold but great when walking - 15 Max. Hired a car for the day. Firstly went back to the main Niagara falls area and walked around. Karla, Andy and I did the Walk behind the falls, and Karla saw snow up close. There is not much left. Most has melted. The grass everywhere is the greenest and lushest I have ever seen. Makes Ireland look arid. Buttercups and tulips and other flowers everywhere. However, all the trees have tiny buds, so still look quite bare.
Niagara Falls and the surrounding areas are just beautiful. We drove up the river to Lake Erie, and looked across the river to Buffalo, and walked along the sandy beach. Wonderful homes we just gawked at on the way. Wow! Then we went up the freeway to the north and to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Makes Noosa look grubby, faded and tacky. Sooooo divine. We had lunch at a lovely cafe and wandered around and posted post cards. Drove and walked around the glorious houses facing Lake Ontario. Looked across Lake Ontario and saw Toronto 120 km across the lake, crystal clear. The CN tower and skyscrapers clearly visible. When I remember back to China, we could not even see across the river!
Then drove back to Niagara Falls past lots of wineries, more lovely houses, and amazing scenery. Another walk this evening as well from our B and B, to look at the Niagara River rapids.
Great day! Early tomorrow morning we walk uptown to the bus station and take the Greyhound bus to Toronto. Should arrive there soon after 10 am.
Niagara Falls to Toronto
Tue 1 May 2007
Caught the Greyhound bus from Niagara Falls early this morning. Only a two hour trip to Toronto and we were here by 10am. The B and B (Ambassador Inn) is fantastic. Very central and a spa bath in each room. Nice and warm too. The weather is not rainy but really very bloody cold…with a nice gentle breeze up from Lake Ontario. Reached a peak of nine - yes NINE degrees today. Luckily, you can walk underground between shops and attractions in downtown Toronto. Suits people particularly well when the weather is minus thirty. So we walked around the main streets, went underground, looked at the lovely shops, and found the Clinique counter at the Dept store. Unbelievable! Cosmetics are less than half the price here! Karla and I have rosy cheeks and our faces are peeling from the cold. Emergency moisturisers needed.
We walked to the “old” post office and posted a letter written with a very crude quill and ink, and then sealed with a wax seal. After all the blobs of ink and the blotting, I think any four year old would have done a better job.
In the afternoon we went to the historic markets, had fish and chips and hailed a taxi to an historic old mansion called “Casa Loma” which was actually very interesting. We all did the “audio tour” and found the history of the place quite fascinating.
At 6pm Karla, Andy and I lined up for the lottery for cheap tickets to “We Will Rock You“. If your name is pulled out of the barrel (and ten people today had this honour), you can buy double tickets worth $170, for only $50. All this takes place over only half an hour. Both Karla and I “won”. Then Andy also did! There were locals present who had tried the lottery for many nights with no success. Didn’t need Andy’s win, as 2 lots of doubles did us. Karla and Andy were second front row and we were a ground level box, just above the stalls at the very front. Never had better seats! All for $25 each! Great production. Have to confess Mike and I have seen this in both London (2002) and Brisbane, and Andy saw it in Brissie, but Karla had never had the pleasure.
Tomorrow, another day in Toronto. It will be nine again in the middle of the day, but they are hoping it improves a little by late afternoon. Of course, the locals are in sandals and plunging necklines whereas we Queenslanders look like Michelin men with beanies, scarves, gloves, tights and layers of coats.
Wed 2 May 2007
Blue skies today. Maximum 15 degrees. Lovely in the sun. Went shopping initially. Mike only brought two pairs of trousers, so we bought another two. Great prices here. They altered the hems in a jiffy. I bought two blouses for travelling. Can toss out one of the rags from my suitcase. Met up with Karla and Andy and caught the subway to Union Station. Expensive here. Just as cheap (for 4) to catch a taxi. Walked around the waterfront area on Lake Ontario. Waited on a queue for the CN Tower - tallest freestanding structure in the world. Went to the restaurant there which is one of those revolving ones. Does a full turn in 72 minutes. Free pass up the tower if you buy a main meal. We had a three course menu with 3 choices per course. Absolutely divine. We had starved all day in preparation. $52 each, which was great value as the ride up to the top alone is over $21. Absolutely stuffed with this combo lunch and dinner we shopped for gifts and picked up our hire car which looks almost exactly like our Prado at home. Mike drove back to the B and B (maybe one km, but on the wrong side of the road), with 3 back seat drivers giving directions. Tomorrow, off to Ottawa, driving along Lake Ontario, which is absolutely huge.
Toronto to Ottawa
Thu 3 May 2007
Actually managed to navigate our way out of Toronto without divorcing. Went on a (planned) side detour through Quinte’s Isle, looking at very interesting houses, and beautiful Lake Ontario for most of the way. It is so, so big. The houses have a basement level with a window just poking out. I suppose they need somewhere to store the huge furnace to heat the houses. We had perfect blue skies. Eleven degrees near the water and about 16 away from it. Explored Kingston at lunchtime. It was the original capital of Canada. The City Hall dated to 1840 and was absolutely majestic, as was most of the old town. Sat in the sun at an Irish pub. We, of course, could not cope without a jumper and an overcoat. People were actually in singlet tops - at eleven degrees! Lovely food and very cheap.
Went on to Ottawa. It has amazing buildings. Certainly, the Parliament buildings leave our billion dollar job in Canberra for dead! From the incredible modern art gallery, built in prisms of glass, to the Notre Dame Cathedral with silver turrets, we saw so many wonderful buildings. I am absolutely loving all the architecture we have seen in the US and Canada. As we trudged around with our Lonely Planet, Canadians did their usual trick of taking pity upon us and guiding us to the best spots. They really are a nice bunch.
Tonight, Andrew is preparing his talk for the conference in Montreal tomorrow. He is the first up speaker at 8.30 am, so we are leaving Ottawa no later than 5.30am to get there. Aren’t we just great supportive parents!!
Ottawa to Montreal
Fri 4 May 2007
Yes, we were up at the crack of pre-dawn. Andy and Karla slept in the car, and I kept Mike awake on the drive To Montreal. He arrived with nearly 30 minutes to find the conference venue (at the University of Montreal), and set up! Not a problem. Mike, Karla and I just left him to it!
We checked in to our accommodation (Le gîtes Dézéry), which is 4 (lightning fast) train stops from the central city, at 8.30 am. This time we have another one bedroom apartment, but Karla and Andy are staying in a motel on the Uni grounds.
Headed downtown and did the walking tour of the old city. Why is it that one can walk around for an average of 10 hours per day, daily, for 14 days now, and feel even more stiff and sore than one did the previous day? When did we pass the age when it all just got better? I am seriously thinking of hiring one of those motorized scooters or wheelchairs for Mike on our next trip. Groan!
Apparently, today it reached 18 degrees in some places. Out of the breeze it was a little warm. Totally cloudless blue skies. And Montreal is such a beautiful city, it just glistens in the sunlight. You learn something every day, and we have learnt that Montreal is on an Island. Bet you all knew that already!
Again, we saw such magnificent old buildings that we were blown away. The very best was the Notre Dame Cathedral. Having seen so many cathedrals in Europe on our ABC (Another Bloody Cathedral) tour, we are quite critical tourists. This one has the most intricate, breathtaking artwork we had ever seen. Not the biggest, but the best. It beat the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, which was also breathtaking, and huge. And I liked it better than St Peterâ€™s in Rome (except that it does not have the original Pieta). They even have a â€œLight and Soundâ€ show in it at night!
Found a great Café near the waterfront, and had a 3 course meal for $12.95. We had the most entertaining waiter imaginable. He could even speak English. That is another surprise here. I really thought everyone would be bilingual. They seemed to be in Toronto. But no, in Montreal they speak French. And we don’t. This caused theatrics at the train station. I am sure that the lady was saying to her co-worker â€œWhat a pack of Drongos we have here!, by the time we had finished. At the supermarket on the way home, I have not got a clue about what the check-out chic was asking. Luckily the register shows the price, so we just thrust the money at here and said lots of merci’s Money talks.
Dropped Karla back at the Uni this evening. Andy is giving another talk over dinner, and partners were invited. Finally, a quiet night at “home” and the chance to actually sleep in tomorrow.
Love to all, Maureen.
Sat 5 May 2007 19:20
Finally had a good sleep. Met Karla downtown. She and Andy are in the room at the Uni - King single bed, one pillow between them. One towel. Bathroom on the next floor. Dreadful that they are slumming it a little. We gave them a loan of a handtowel and a face washer. I know! We are such great parents. You’ve said it before. Mike stayed back at the unit. Karla and I went shopping and bought presents for a number of friends/relies. Visited a Proddie church. Very nice people. Again they have several balconies of people in the church. Quite austere. In fact, extremely austere compared to the Mick establishments. In the background the Salvos played “Onward Christian Soldiers”, - as they always do. Montreal has a labyrinth of 30 km of underground passages, so when you shop you can get totally lost underground. Went to the Basilica with the second highest dome in the world. (Of course, St Peter’s in Rome is the winner.) They had just finished a wedding and were about to start a funeral. Beautiful ceilings and dome, stained glass etc. Shopped till we dropped.
At the end of the day went to the Metro. Unfortunately, there was a fire in the underground. All announcements in French, but I could understand “fumer” and “feu” and tried to ask what was going on. We travelled for two stations and the train was stopped. Two lines were apparently blocked. The bloody Montréalers speak very poor English, and really struggle when you ask them to translate. Don’t they know English is the superior language? Ended up leaving the train, and trying to catch a bus. Feet killing me! Eventually hailed a taxi. So tired left a whole big shopping bag in the taxi! Taxi driver couldn’t understand us either and we bailed out when we recognized we were within cooee of the B and B. So, went to the police station. Nicer than the one in China. Very nice policewoman apologised for her English, as she should have. Filled in forms. Kissed all presents goodbye. This will make shopping easier tomorrow. Have pre-selected gifts today, so will just return to the same stores with the above “cock and bull” story, and buy the same things. You all had better bloody-well like them! Today hit 15 degrees, and the breeze was a bit cutting. Tomorrow 14 Max.
Went to the Monastery of St Joseph when taking Karla back to the Uni. Daylight saving and light till 9 pm. Huge place. Magnificent setting. Andy was out at a function getting plied with alcohol. Karla was listening to the Rosary said in French in the crypt of the Monastery. He really knows how to show a girl a good time. His excuse is that this is work. Will just mosey around tomorrow.
Love to all,
Sun 6 May 2007 19:53
Another cloudless blue sky day. Must have imported the skies from Aussieland. Actually hit 22 degrees. We have only had two mildly showery days since we started this trip. Went to Mass at the Notre Dame. You should hear the 7000+ pipe organ, and the choir is world class. Very high Catholic. Smells and Bells. The Bishop (or whoever he was) had a lovely voice. Father Marce would have loved it. Not sure whether it would have been Gary’s scene.
Walked up to the main shopping area to meet Karla. Mike at home playing with computer; Andy at his conference. She was still frozen. Apparently, the room window was open a little in the night, and they have 2 thin blankets on their sole single bed. It was Karla’s turn to have the towel they are sharing. We donated a hand towel to Andy.
Andy’s conference is going well. He is again a super speaker (3 times). Seems to spend little time preparing things. Probably pre done back in Brissie. He has already written his report back to his boss at Red Hat.
Went back to the souvenir shop, and the owner extended his sympathies that we had to make him rich again. This time bought Andy classier socks. Went to a book shop to get an English travel guide of Quebec to replace the “Lonely Planet” now gone to heaven. This time the Metro had no fire and we met Mike back at the B and B at 3pm and he drove us to the Canal and around the St Lawrence Sea Way Rapids (which the canal bypasses). Beautiful parklands all the way. Everyone was out rollerbladding, rollerblade dancing (fantastic) or cycling or walking. Such magnificent areas in all of Canada for the above. They might not have much summer, but they sure know how to enjoy it. Only walked about five hours today, but feel older and stiffer than ever! When, oh when, is this 50 plus body going to go back to being 30?
Picked up Andy and his washing and took he and Karla downtown to a concert and am now back at the B and B chilling out and doing the washing!
Tomorrow, a trip up the mountains.
Love to all, Maureen