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Open your Golden Gate Saturday, 29 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Not that we’ve actually seen the Golden Gate, it’s been shrouded in fog the whole time we’ve been here.

As I wrote last time we’re now in San Francisco.  Yesterday the weather was extremely foggy all day – the sun almost broke through at one point, but then it didn’t.

SF vintage streetcar (originally from Baltimore, I think)So we caught one of the vintage streetcars down Market Street to the Embarcadero and the Ferry Building. Our first stop was the San Francisco Railway Museum, where we learned the history of various transport options in SF and the restoration of the famous Cable Cars, and now the city’s collection of vintage streetcars (trolleys, trams or whatever you want to call them) from cities around the world, which are now running from the Castro, to the Ferry Building and around to Fisherman’s Wharf.

Sea lions at Pier 39After visiting the museum, the Ferry Building and wandering along the waterfront, then caught another streetcar down to Pier 39 in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. We took a look around Pier 39, stopping at the end to see the sea lions that have been resident there for 22 years!

After a beer stop we wandered further along the waterfront, then caught the streetcar back to downtown and the hotel.

Last night we met up again with Merrick for dinner at Capp’s Corner, before we saw the legendary San Francisco show Beach Blanket Babylon. The show was fantastic, hysterically funny, with faaaaaaabulous costumes and of course hats!

The CastroToday started out foggy but soon cleared (mostly). We headed to the Castro for a walking tour through the famous gay district, which turned out wasn’t really a walking tour but just pointed out some neighbourhood highlights to look for. So we wandered around, spotted some of those highlights, and visited the GLBT History Museum, which was quite interesting.

Then we took the bus (!) to Alamo Square to see the Painted Ladies, a famous and picturesque row of old houses that survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Fog over San Francisco BayThen another three (!) buses across town to Telegraph Hill and the Coit Tower to see fantastic views of the city and the bay. There was still quite a lot of fog across the bay, so all we could see of the Golden Gate Bridge was the top of the two towers.

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From New York to San Francisco Friday, 28 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Here we are in San Francisco.

First, a catch up on the rest of our time in New York. Wednesday we took the subway out to Brooklyn to the TKTS booth to see if we could get cheap tickets for a Broadway show on our last night in New York. The booth at Brooklyn opens early and has shorter lines (i.e. no line at all) than the booth in Times Square.

New York Transit MuseumAfter getting our tickets we stumbled across the New York Transit Museum nearby. We were suprised at how extensive the museum is. It’s in a disused subway station, with displays of the history of all the various public transport systems in the New York boroughs since the mid-1800s. Downstairs on the actual station platforms there were actual vintage train carriages from the subway and the long-gone elevated railways. Disappointingly, no grafitti-covered carriage from the 70s. Fascinating!

Having spent a lot longer in the museum than we’d anticipated we headed back to the hotel for a rest before our night out. For dinner we headed back to Restaurant Row (for the third night in a row), this time Italian.

Our Broadway show for the last night was Nice Work If You Can Get it, a new musical cobbled together from George and Ira Girshwin songs starring Matthew Broderick. The show was very funny and very entertaining. The behaviour of our fellow theatre-goers was less than entertaining.

Thursday morning we schlepped out to JFK airport for the flight to San Francisco on Virgin America. A great airline! We flew in Main Cabin Select, which had more legroom and free entertainment, food and drinks. Fab!

We’re staying at the White Swan Inn on Bush Street neat Union Square.. The hotel calls itself “An English Garden Hotel” and it certainly lives up to that description.

Fog City DinerLast night we met up with my friend Merrick who took as to the famous Fog City Diner. We were talking about how we’d seen it in so many movies, but couldn’t think of any of the movies we’ve seen it in! We’ll have to IMDb it sometime. An appropriate venue as the fog was rolling in.

Today we’ve been out and about in San Francisco. More on that later…

More time in New York City Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Here we are, back in New York. The cruise returned on Sunday, and since then we’ve been on-the-go.

After checking in to the hotel we took a rather insane walk up 8th Ave from the hotel to Columbus Circle – 24 blocks! Then we walked across Central Park to the Apple store on 5th Ave, which was crazily crowded (and they had sold out of iPhone 5s).

Dinner at 12 Chairs with Lars, Ron, Ian C, George and BillSunday night we met up with some ABBA friends for dinner at 12 Chairs, a funky little Israeli-Mediterranean restaurant in Greenwich Village. After dinner we had a bit of a walk around the Village and stumbled across a bit of police-related drama in Washington Square. So we quickly moved on …

Guggenheim MuseumMonday we were meeting up with Ian’s friend (and former boss) Gerry, who now lives in London and is coincidentally visiting New York this week. We had some time to kill before the meeting so we visited the Guggenheim Museum. Unfortunately the spiral ramp section was closed as a new exhibition was being installed (which opens in 2 weeks), and the major exhibition in the rest of the museum was dull. There were some lovely Impressionist paintings in one gallery though.

Gerry and Ian in Central ParkWe met up  with Gerry at 110th St, at the very top of Central Park. After a quick lunch in a nearby cafe we wandered into the park, meandering our way down past the Reservoir, to Belvedere Castle, stopped at the Boathouse for a beer, and finally to Strawberry Fields. It was a lovely day for a walk in the park.

don't tell mamaMonday night we headed up to Restaurant Row on 46th St for dinner. We had dinner at the famous piano bar, cabaret and restaurant don’t tell mama. After dinner we retired to the piano bar an after dinner drink, which turned into several. The entertainment was great – a mix of Broadway songs and pop hits on the piano, with the bar staff and waiters joining in singing and occasionally taking the lead vocal.

On Brooklyn BridgeToday was the two bridges walk we’d been planning to do even before we got to New York. We walked across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, walked around Brooklyn Bridge Park beneath the two bridges, then walked back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge. Fantastic views from both bridges, though some of it was blocked on the Brooklyn Bridge because of hoardings where they were doing maintenance on the bridge.

Back in Manhattan we wandered around spotting various locations familiar from many episodes of Law & Order.

Now we’re back at the hotel, sore and exhausted after all that walking. Watching a Law & Order – Special Victims Unit marathon. Heinous!

New York we have arrived… again Sunday, 23 September 2012

Posted by Ian Marks in Ian M, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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This morning we arrived in New York after our ocean voyage, but I get ahead of myself as I haven’t blogged in days.

Ian C has updated about the first day in Bermuda so I’ll write from there.

Day 2 in Bermuda we decided to go and explore St George, the original capital of Bermuda. We caught the ferry from the dockyard for a 50 minute run up the coast. Very picturesque with wonderful views out to see and all the houses with their white roofs. We arrived in St George and wandered the very small streets and checked out a museum. In the main square they were having a traditional dunking demonstration – this was a punishment for women who nagged their husbands. Actually it was just a comedy routine and a laugh for the tourists: fun but hardly historically accurate.

After spending a couple hours we decided to go to Hamilton, the current capital of Bermuda. The next ferry wasn’t for some time so the decision was made to be adventurous and take the bus. It was a very nice drive except for the overbearing American group who felt they had to try and engage the whole bus in conversation.

Hamilton It is a big island capital. I thought it felt a bit like Noumea bit the city is much bigger – Hamilton has a shopping mall! But it was in Hamilton that we saw the first person wearing Bermuda shorts, and given the climate they are probably very correct. We were getting quite hot and bothered so caught a ferry and headed back to the ship – time for another swim.

Friday the 21st September 2012 was a landmark day for me so I celebrated with breakfast in bed before heading out for some more sightseeing. We went to the National Museum of Bermuda that takes up a large part of the original fort. After climbing the hill to the top of the fort there is a magnificent view of the ocean and back to Bermuda. The original fort is still in place and they have restored some of the original guns. The fort was still in use during WWII when the island was used for PoWs and a strategic location. Also there is the Commissioners House, a grand building with panoramic views. It is now used as a museum with some wonderful photographs but it is the building that is the real attraction, it is simply magnificent.

After returning to the ship we just wandered a bit before going to dinner In Portofino restaurant. The food was lovely but the service was dreadful, staff clanging plates, glasses and cutlery. This is supposed to be elegant dining but the service and staff act more like its pizza hut.

Saturday was spent at sea and we just wandered around, did a little shopping and generally enjoyed everything the ship had to offer on our last day. That night at dinner I had Maine lobster Nd it was delicious. Sunday morning we arrived in Bayonne New Jersey, disembarkation went reasonably smoothly and our driver whisked us back t Manhattan.

Now we’re staying at the Tryp Times Square South. It’s a lovely hotel with quite large room for New York standards. The lovely part was the lady at reception got us a room well before check in time and she was very pleasant, unlike the grunt we got from the guy at the other New York hotel. After unpacking and checking out our lovely room we went for a walk, well a long walk actually. We walked 24 block uptown to Columbus Circle and then headed across Central Park and to the Apple store. Unfortunately Apple didn’t have any iPhone 5s in stock, I might try again in San Francisco.

So now just resting up before we go out tonight with some friends of Ian Cs.

Bermuda shorts Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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It’s day 4 on our cruise on the Explorer of the Seas, and here we are in sunny Bermuda. We’re docked at King’s Wharf at the Royal Naval Dockyard, a former military base that has been turned into a tourist area of shops, bars, cafes and the National Museum of Bermuda.

This morning after docking we got off the ship and took a look around the Dockyard area. It’s been beautifully restored and doesn’t have the tacky tourist trap feeling that it could have. There are quite a few quality shops, as well as lots selling tourist tat.

But it was hot out there in the midday sun, so we returned to the ship to laze around in the pool, which we had almost to ourselves for a while as it seemed most passengers had gone ashore.

The cruise has been great. Lovely weather, and very relaxing after the hustle of New York. The ship is huge and never erally feels crowded. We’ve got a bit of a routine on board. Breakfast, a bit of a walk around the ship, have a swim then laze around on the pool deck having a couple of beers. Then return to our suite to sit on the balcony watching the ocean go by, or perhaps a nap. A couple more drinks, then dinner and retire to one of the many bars for a few more drinks.

We’ve found a few favourite haunts on the ship. There’s the 19th Hole Bar on the top of the ship near the mini-golf course. The pool deck of course! And The Chamber, a goth-themed nightclub. Last night we arrived just after it had opened, there wasn’t anyone else there for a while but the DJ was playing a set of great 70s disco classics (which started with Dancing Queen as we walked in!).

Tomorrow we plan on seeing more of what Bermuda has to offer.

Cruising along the ocean waves Monday, 17 September 2012

Posted by Ian Marks in Ian M, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Well ocean slight swells actually.

On Sunday morning we left New York for Bayonne New Jersey and our cruise on Explorer of the Seas. Our driver got us to the port reasonably quickly. Like our previous cruise experience, there was a man waiting to take our luggage as we got out of the car and we were whisked away to checkin. The lady at the head of the queue looked at our booking confirmation and said “straight through to the next room please”. It was the special checkin area for suite and premier passengers. The room was set out with nice chairs and wood paneled checkin desks – all very fancy with no waiting. Onto the ship we went and standing at the gang plank at the bottom of the ship could not have been more taken aback at the sheer size of it.

After getting into the glass lift we were rushed from deck 1 to deck 11 where lunch was being served. We got ourselves a drink and sat by the pool watching the ship slowly fill up. After wandering around for a while we went to our room and what a lovely room it is. There is plenty of space, a lovely private balcony, large enough bathroom with a bathtub and a walk in wardrobe that fitted all our clothes as well as our now empty luggage!

So the remainder of the day was filled up with muster drill, a few drinks and relaxing on our balcony before dinner. We met our dinner companions who while nice enough are not really our type of people.

So Monday brought with it flat seas, lots of sunshine and the decision to go for a swim. The pool was busy but alright though there seems to be a “thing” where lots of people sit around the edge, this makes is difficult for people to then get into the pool. We floated around for a while and then people watched from our sun chairs.

Ian C decided that we should go for another swim and off we went to push our way through. The swell had picked up a bit and the water was sloshing from one end to the other. The water kept getting wilder in the pool until there was a wave running through the pool. Then a beach ball appeared and a spontaneous game broke out that Ian and I joined in. Yes people I was playing a ball game with others. It was a lot of fun.

So that’s the cruise so far and as I type this I’m enjoying a frozen Piña Colada in the bar atop the ship with views over the ship and the Atlantic spread before me.

It’s a tough life but I’m up for the challenge!

So much to see, so little time Saturday, 15 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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A very busy day today. We started off stocking up on some Levi’s at O.M.G. on Broadway near Times Square. Much cheaper than buying 501s at home. This should keep us going for a few years!

M&Ms WorldWhile in the area we visited M&Ms World and Hershey’s World. Yes, theme stores for chocolate! M&Ms World was fabulous – we got some personalised M&Ms. Yum! Hearshey’s World was less than expected, just a small shop really. No 40 oz bag of Kissesthat I was hoping to get but I did stock up on 4 regular bags for $14.

Roosevelt Island TramwayAfter having lunch at Lindy’s we headed east to ride the Roosevelt Island Tramway, something we’ve wanted to do since the first time we came to New York in 1995. A fantastic ride high over the East River by thee Queensboro Bridge. We had a bit of a wander around the southern part of the island, which is being restored into parkland, with great views of the eastern side of Manhattan (but not the Upper or Lower East Sides, they’re further up and downtown.

Then we took a bus waaaaaaay uptown to visit the Museum of the City of New York, on the recommendation of a friend who had visited recently. A bit disappointing, not really what we were expecting.

Now it’s our lat night on New York, for now. Tomorrow we’re off to cruise to Bermuda, and return to New York the following Sunday.

A trip around Manhattan Saturday, 15 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Manhattan BridgeYesterday we took the Circle Line 3 hour around Manhattan cruise.  The cruise was great, with a different view of the city. And who knew there were so many bridges when you get up to the northern end of the island? Pity about the valley girls (2 local, 2 from Australia) who wouldn’t shut up. Why spend all that money to ignore your surrounds and talk about everything you’ve ever done in your life and the proposed cigarettte laws in Tasmania? Ironic comment: they couldn’t hear the commentary.

Bethesda FountainCruise over we caught a bus (another first!) and the subway up to Central Park and wandered around for a couple of hours. Starting at Strawberry Fields, we crossed over to the Bethesda Fountain, stopped at the Loeb Bothouse for a snack, wandered around The Lake, over Bow Bridge (where a wedding was taking place), through The Ramble, to Belvedere Castle, past the Swedish House Marrionette Theatre.

Having had enough of walking for another day, it was time to retire to the Havana Club for a couple of beers.

Hard Rock CafeFor dinner we went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. Huge, with too much rock memorabilia to see it all. A lot  more atmospheric than the new HRC in Sydney. Coincidentally we were sat near a Madonna costume that she wore on her one and only Australian tour in 1993. And after half an hour of heavy rock and metal music, suddenly the playlist changed to pop, starting with Kylie! A huge contrast.

From Top Of The RockAfter dinner we headed to Rockefeller Center to go to the Top Of The Rock, the observation deck at the top of the tallest tower in the complex. Fabulous views of Manhattan and beyond. Though not as tall as the Empire State Building, you get better views of Central Park, and of course, from here you can actually see the Empire State!

An update today Friday 14th Friday, 14 September 2012

Posted by Ian Marks in Ian M, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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So I’ve been a bit slack in updating the blog.

On Wednesday night we went to see Evita starring Ricky Martin. The audience were as predictable as expected: before Ricky Martin sang a note they were cheering. But the show was excellent! The chorus were very talented. The understudy was playing the part of Evita and while very talented did not match well to Ricky which diminished her performance when they sang together. It was quite surprising how many people in the audience didn’t get the plot and were trying to work it out loudly between them – sad really.

And that brings us to Friday. We awoke early (early for us on the trip so far) and walked 10 blocks to the Circle Line Cruise: three hours traveling around Manhattan. It was interesting but the four valley girls behind us were really annoying – chatting through the narration. But it didn’t spoil our entertainment.

After the trip round Manhattan we caught the bus and train to Central Park. We spent many an hour or 3 just wandering around. Really interesting.

So now we’re back in the hotel room having a rest before going for dinner and them to Top of the Rock.

Empire High Thursday, 13 September 2012

Posted by Ian Cole in Ian C, New York, Bermuda cruise, San Francisco 2012, The Ians on Tour.
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Empire State BuildingThis morning we went up to the top of the Empire State Building. When you’re in New York, it’s one of those things you have to do.

The view from the 86th floor observatory is great but the view from the 102nd floor, right up the top which isn’t always open, is fantastic. Today was quite hazy, but it seemed less hazy up there.

Aside from the views it’s a stunning art deco building, and most of the public areas have been very tastefully renovated since the last time I was there (in 2009) or we were there together (1995).

High LineThen we took a walk down to the High Line, the former elevated railway up the West Side from the Meatpacking District. Disappointingly it’s not easy to get to from the tourist zone in Midtown, and it was quite a walk to get there.

But the High Line was great. Compared to the Prominade Plantée in Paris that we walked 3 years ago it’s not so pretty; it has kept its industrial roots, with an industrial look and occasional glimpses of the old railtracks in the gardens.

Back to Midtown we had a few (!) beers and mojitos is what seems to be our base bar, the Havana Club on 46th St. Then to TGI Fridays on Times Square for dinner, which had disappointing service for somewhere on such a tourist zone.