London – the perils of Heathrow.

London calling! We arrived in London on a Friday morning, and the weather has so far been pretty kind. Love the feel of the place and staying so close to the centre of town gives us such a buzz.

The flight from Newark to London Heathrow was a little stressful. We spent an 90 minutes stuck on the tarmac waiting for a ‘maintenance issue’ to be rectified before we could take off. In this time, Mitch got a little stress out and started to scream just before we taxied to the runway. Little guy was not happy and kept on going for another 30 minutes. He finally settled and went to sleep, but not before everyone around us started getting a bit angry – oh well that was their issue.

Flight time was just a bit less than six hours (after expecting to be in the air for more than seven hours) and we arrived at London Heathrow a little after 7.30 Friday morning. And here is where the fun began…..

We arrived in Terminal 4 expecting to have to wait around a bit for Immigration processing – maybe an hour or so. Well we were going to be disappointed. After getting to the main hall for processing, we were directed to the line for non-EU arrivals, and then spent 10 minutes walking to the end of the line. Six or seven planes had arrived at the same time, including two from India, so we were told processing time was going to be around THREE TO FOUR HOURS! Seriously, THREE TO FOUR HOURS! We thought it was a joke but it was looking like we were going to be stuck there for most of the morning.

After waiting in the queue for 30 minutes, and discussing some observations about the situation with other arrivals in the line, our little party was approached by airport staff to fast-track our processing. But on one condition – either the mother and child OR father and child could be processed quicker, but not all three. I said to J to grab Mitch and go up the front and I would wait the 3-4 hours. Made no sense as they would need to wait until I came out, but it was better to get MItch settled after the flight.

J and Mitch then went to the front and I hung around with my new queue-buddies. But then J returned and said we could all be processed together! So happy to be out of the line, so we disappeared in a flash to the front of the line. Processed and out of the airport in and hour and 15 minutes.

Big tip here – avoid Terminal 4 at Heathrow.

My sister Ilona was waiting in the arrivals hall and it was great to see a familiar face. A mini-cab was also waiting to whisk us all back to her apartment in Soho. What a great spot to live in. She lives a one minute walk from Oxford Street, giving us a perfect spot to base ourselves for our London sojourns.

We went to Regent Park on Friday afternoon to stretch our legs and have a kick of the footy with Mitch. We also had a bit of a run at the children’s playground there, where Mitch was bossed around by a couple of schoolgirls, and Aunt Ilona jumped in to tell them to leave him alone on the equipment – nice play there sis!

J and Mitch seem to have caught the head cold I had in New York, so Saturday was a couch day for J to get some rest, giving Ilona and I some time to duck out and get some provisions from the shops. Mitch fell asleep in the stroller so he missed out on all the colour of the streets on a Saturday. The day ended with dinner in front of the TV as we want to get a good start on Sunday.

Plenty more to do while we are here so we will update when we can. It is 5am right now and I can’t seem to find the camera in the dark, so I can’t post any pictures. Will try later on in the day when Mitch is asleep and I can pry away the iPad from his little hands.

GT, J and Mitch.

NYC – sun, supermodels and actresses

Well the last couple of days have been a whirlwind. Plenty of updates.

A quick subway ride uptown to Macy’s was the first item on the yesterday’s agenda. Big discounts all over the store so Mitch has some new additions to the wardrobe. So much choice from so many designers. The store even has a McDonalds on the same floor as all the kids clothes – what a coincidence…

After Macy’s we went to the Old Navy store just around the corner, where J and I went mad and bought a bundle of basics – shirts, t-shirts etc etc. Such good stuff and also pretty cheap. Sales are everywhere in this town.

We stopped off at Crosby’s sports store after Old Navy to get Mitch a mini NY Rangers shirt – sensational. Decided not to purchase my own as my 15 year old shirt is still in good working order.

Lunch was taken at a small healthy-deli in Midtown, where most of the supermodels seem to hang out. Seriously, the streets are a buffet of eye-candy. We even had our own samples in the deli itself. I bet osteopaths in this town have plenty of work with all of the quick head turns. J was a better model spotter than me.

We jumped back on the subway to go back downtown to unload our bounty at the hotel, and let Mitch have a snooze. After waking, he dragged us back to the bakery across the road (again) and then we went on a further exploration of TriBeCa. So many cool eateries, clothes stores, furniture designers and some of the funkiest toys stores.

We even had our biggest star spot of the trip so far (#3) – Stephanie March of ‘Law and Order: SVU’ (DA Alex Cabot) – who had a chuckle and a laugh at Mitch whilst he played with an ornamental cow out the front of an eatery on Hudson Street. Sensational work. J missed the spot, but my star radar is always on.

(Star spot #1 was Deborah Byrne on the Virgin flight from Melbourne to Sydney. #2 was on the flight from Vancouver to Toronto when I was seated next to BC Lions RB Tim Brown)

Today was a day of outlet store shopping just off Church St, and some trinket shopping on Canal St. Great to be out in the sun and checking out the city some more. We also popped out to Queens on the N train to track down the family (after going uptown on the C train from just outside the hotel and then endlessly traversing the corridors, spider holes and caverns underground at 34th St station – thanks Google Maps you suck). But Mitch was a little unsettled, so we had to walk back to the Q train at Ditmars after dropping off a little present. We also checked out my grandparents old house on Steinway Street. The train took us straight back to Canal St and a short walk to the hotel.

Tonight’s dinner was some great Italian from Pepolino across the road from the hotel and then an early bath and bed for the boy.

We leave for London tomorrow evening, so again we say farewell to NYC and the US of A. Five years was too long. Thanks for the latest memories.

Tip: Do not get a haircut from a guy who is taking a call via Skype from his sister in Israel – using a headset connected to his laptop. Photo evidence will appear in the next few days. So so bad.

Photos of NYC will be upload in the next day or so.

GT, J and Mitch.

NYC – Tribeca and beyond

We arrived in NYC from DC on September 10 via the train to Penn Station. The train is a great way to see the country you miss up in the air on a plane. We passed through Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia and New Jersey. Plenty of flooding still around but the tracks were OK. We did see some of the less impressive parts of town, with plenty of semi-ruined houses being occupied near the train lines. It really does show the gulf between the haves and the have nots in this country.

Arrived at the station and took the taxi straight to the Hilton Garden Inn in TriBeCa. Great staff at the front desk (thanks PJ) have made the stay as smooth as possible. Once settled we ducked out for some lunch and headed straight for the deli across the road – sensational Roast beef, turkey, etc etc on rye. Did a little walking around the area to stretch the legs and then settled in for an early night.

Sunday was one of the most important for the residents and visitors of this city. We are pretty close to Ground Zero, but decided to watch the beginning of the services on the TV and then venture uptown later in the morning. Jumped on the subway and wandered to Central Park for a kick of the footy and a run around. Many people had the same idea and everyone was enjoying the sun.

Our never-ending search for the next squirrel for Mitch took us deeper into the park, where we found another specimen. Mitch said hello and we wandered off to the Natural History Museum. I am sorry but this was a waste of time and money – not after a visit to the DC museums – so those of you planning to go to both cities should save your cash and stick to the Empire State building etc.

Jumped back on the subway and headed back to the hotel for a rest until the evening. A quick trip to the bakery for Mitch (we go every day as he asks me “walk to bakery, Dad?”) and then more bird watching at the small park across the street. We even got time to check out Canal Street and some of the other discount clothes stores around the area.

Today was another great day weather-wise. The sun was out all day and not a hint of rain. We walked down Chambers to Rockefeller Park (via Stuyvesant High School) and checked out the create playgrounds and swings for Mitch. Nannies and mums out for their morning coffee and catch up. We then walked the whole way around via World Financial Center and Battery Park to Pier A. We checked out the queues for the Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty ferries. J and I have done it before, plus Mitch was sleeping, so we kept on trucking along.

Jumped on the subway to City Hall and then walked to the first pylon on the Brooklyn Bridge – something we missed out on during our last trip. Sensational views of the city and other boroughs of NYC. Bloody hot out in the sun but a drinks guy was always on hand with $1 water bottles.

Walked back to TriBeCa from the bridge, but stopped in at two great places. The first was the (Poster Museum – such a great place for classic advertising, art and other classic posters. My favourite was a Dutch TT race poster from the 1930’s for a cool $2200. The second great stop was the Square Diner on West Broadway where J had a cheeseburger and I had the hot corned beef on rye, each choice served with coleslaw, fries and a pickle. Mitch plowed through the fries and coleslaw and I gobbled up both pickles. We love the diner experience.

Tonight’s dinner was chinese food delivered from Linda’s just up the street. Love the chicken fried rice and the vege rolls.

1. Mitch is offered gifts wherever we go. Lollipops, donuts, buns, smiles – you name it and he seems to get it. Every woman on the street likes to give him a smile.
2. US Coca Cola is not as good as Canada Coke. Sorry but it is just not the best.
3. Aussie accent is very rough when you hear it come out of someone else’s mouth. Might switch to generic UK accent tomorrow.
4. Food, drink and groceries are very cheap here – even at the corner store.
5. Subway cars cleaner than I remember.
6. I think Google Translate was made for NYC, as we heard so many different languages on the walk today it made our heads spin.
7. TV here is great for a repeat lover like me.
8. TV ads for lawyers, drugs, medical assistant schools, drugs and lawyers litter the screen.
9. But I do love the drug selection at the pharmacy across the road.
10. Squirrels are everywhere – Toronto, DC and NYC are full of them!

So tomorrow we are going to catch up with some family, head to Macy’s for a bit of a look around and may even try to get uptown a little further to check out some more sights.

Will post some more photos soon.

Graham, J and Mitch.

Washington DC – finally some sun

It had to arrive some time and we finally saw the sky today. The morning was wet but the afternoon was great, if a little bit too steamy.

We took the hop off/on bus today around the rest of town, checking out the sights we missed and avoided. We finally made it to the Capitol building and were happy to get there – very impressive.

Took some shots of Ford’s Theatre and other landmarks, but it was a great day to stretch the legs and get ready for NYC.

Train tomorrow from Union Station to Penn Station in NYC – almost a four hour trip. Early start to the day but it will be good to get in to town with the afternoon still to enjoy.

Hilton Garden hotel in Tribeca awaits, as does an inventory of places to visit care of Cath and Lee. Will be checking a few of those out. And all the commemoration ceremonies for 9/11 will be a reminder of the terrible day 10 years ago.

Take care.

Graham, J and Mitchell.

Washington DC – 2 days of rain

So the past two days have been full of rain. Floods, tornado warnings, wind, thunder and electrical storms have battered DC and the surrounding areas. Hit Google news and you will see the devastation.

So yesterday we tried to go to the Washington Monument but a massive storm hit town and left the three of us drenched. The rain abated and we ran for 20 minutes down The Mall back to our hotel to dry off.

After a change of clothes and a nap, we ended up visiting uptown DC, and wandered about to get our bearings. We also visited Radio Shack for the iPad camera connector (thanks for the tip Nick and Ange). Poked my head in to the Verizon Center and then we had some great sorbet – Mojito was my choice. A hamburger dinner (not Maccas) completed the night.

Today we decided to brave the wind and rain and jump in a taxi straight to the White House. The usual South Lawn pictures were taken, but it was a real buzz for all three of us. A walk to the White House visitors centre and then the National Aquarium followed the photo session, with Mitch screaming ‘Jesus!’ every time a fish swam towards him. He must have got that from his mother…

We walked to the Hop On/Off tourist bus stop and travelled to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Both terrific – each for their own reason. The Lincoln Memorial was always something we wanted to see, and the Vietnam Memorial has some personal capital invested in it. Great morning for all of us.

After lunch we jumped on the bus again and headed straight for the Smithsonian museums of Natural and American History. These are both free, and made us wonder why the Aquarium was $10 for each adult. The museums are the best I have ever been to (other than the unbeatable Air and Space museum) and are a must for anyone coming to the US.

After the museums, we walked back down The Mall to the hotel, with the Capitol building in full view in the distance, unlike the previous day when the rain set in. This will be one of our stops tomorrow, with hopefully Georgetown and the National Cathedral also on our ‘done’ list.

Check Facebook for more photos, and add me as a friend if you can’t see them.

More to follow soon.
GT, J and Mitch.

Washington DC – rain on our parade, NO WAY!

We have now arrived in DC and it is great. Holiday Inn Capitol is perfectly positioned – so close to the museums, Washington Monument, Capitol, and other places. We even have the FEMA office connected to our lobby.

Mitch is just loving all the new sights and went totally crazy happy at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I think he was just watching his dad go nutso and followed suit. “Look up at the planes Dad!”

So much history just right in front of your face. Space craft, airplanes from the Wright Flyer to the latest commercial and military offerings including satellites, rockets and drones. So much to cover and so little time. Plus admission is FREE…

I apologise for the lack of pictures, but until someone tells me how to get my Sony Cybershot pics onto our iPad, they will have to wait until I can wrestle a business centre desktop from one of the high school kids staying in the hotel. Any tips would be great. I still love the iPad but this is a pain.

More Washington DC tomorrow but 10 inches of rain is predicted in the next few days and we will be dodging it the whole time. We did plan an afternoon watching the Nationals (baseball) just a short walk away from the hotel, but the first game of the series has already been rained out – bit of a shame. See how it goes.

Updates to follow. Pictures are a maybe.

GT, J and Mitch.

Toronto – more fun in the sun

Toronto weather has amazing. Warm and steamy seems to be a struggle for the locals, but for this clan it is a blessing.

Friday was spent checking out the local environs and doing a little food shopping. Picked up the local versions of Coke, chocolate and chips (Coke, Cadbury and Cheetos – not so different). We also went in to town for lunch and visited G’s office – nicest building in town. It is the old general hospital transformed into a technology centre.

Toronto is very much like home – flat, grid pattern streets and streetcars down some of the main roads. Ding Ding.

CFL football at Rogers Centre was on the menu for Friday night. BC Lions visited town to take on the Toronto Argonauts. Good to see my plane buddy from Vancouver Tim Brown of the Lions do well. Toronto outclassed by the visitors in front of a small crowd. And the mayor here wants an NFL team…

Labour Day long weekend in Canada, so we travelled to Midland to stay with two of the loveliest people we have met. Carole and Joan opened their beautiful house to our little family and made us feel at home. It was almost as if we had known them forever.

Mitch enjoyed running under the sprinkler and getting Carole soaked with the hose. Burgers, salads, ribs, and other fine fare were consumed with gusto. Such a great couple of days.

We leave Tuesday for Washington DC to visit Obama and family. We say goodbye to our Toronto/Canada family with heavy hearts but terrific memories. Thanks to G, Rena and Sandra for letting us take over their house (especially Sandra’s bedroom/car) and hopefully we can reciprocate the hospitality in the future.

Photos will be uploaded once we get to a PC – hard to do from the iPad.

Australia to Toronto – 10,000 miles

We have now made it to Toronto via Sydney and Vancouver. Long plane ride and plenty of action aboard.

Virgin to Sydney from Melbourne to connect with the Air Canada flight to Toronto via Vancouver. Air Canada decided to split the three of us up, with Mitch being assigned his own seat behind us – great work Air Canada. After some tears and jiggling on board, a great bloke from Quebec swapped seats and gave us our own row of three. Thanks mate.

Then commenced 14.5 hours of tears screaming, tantrums and headaches. After 9 hours Mitch went to sleep, and we had a break. J and I were knackered and needed a rest.

Landing at Vancouver meant getting off the plane, clearing Customs, getting checked bags, checking bags in again, new security scan, then running around the airport again to get back on the SAME PLANE in the SAME SEATS! Well we had two of the same seats, with Mitch seated behind us again…

I decided to take the seat behind to save the shuffle for the small four hour flight, so I was seated between the starting running back and defensive end for the BC Lions! Great to chat to them both and find out their backgrounds and own paths to the CFL. Even weirder is the fact we are all going to the game on Friday night between the Toronto Argonauts and the BC Lions at the Rogers Centre (Skydome). Will be great.

The house in Toronto is great. Thanks to Sandra for letting us camp in her room for the duration of the stay. Updates to follow later and maybe some pictures if we can.