The route from Boston selected was the slightly less direct of the two options – it was a relatively marginal difference in the scheme of things and went up in a bow via the Hamptons.
This was a place with a name that seemed familiar – uncertain as to why but it did, plus it went up into Canada via what appeared to be a less major road..a guess was made that this might make for a more interesting and scenic route.
We will never know – because the fleeting wondering that occurs about such things was hardly likely to evolve into a rational for driving the not entirely unsubstantial collection miles back down the other route .. Boston revisited, unhelpfully so – given a need to get back to Toronto at some point. So with only one route experienced all that can be said is that this route was a route worth taking. Gradually upward slowly into the hills, no European winding mountain pass, just a gradual sloping into the browning trees until eventually it was joined by some Snow..
Qubec – we had another day here before moving on.. The first evening was just a quick encounter, an effort at dinner and a couple of drinks and in those few hours you can learn what seemed to be the two key things about Quebec.
Looking to go somewhere and have a relaxing and enjoyable time, dont choose Quebec, never Quebec…If you want to see old – go to Europe..if you want rude, go to a theme restaurant that specialises in that sort of thing, at least afterwards you can walk out and be back among the customary levels of rude, indifferent, friendly and mental that frequent most other places.
Washington DC was probably one of the two most interesting places visited on this trip. Unlike other US cities it has a clean and well maintained public transport system and a size that is both manageable to explore but also large enough to warrant exploring. The impressive building make for obvious landmarks, while the night life seemed more vivid and available.
Its not New York City – but Washington DC is definitely worth a visit and had more than enough to keep a tourist engaged for a good few days.
Quite why breakfast is a meal that needs to be consumed from disposable plates and bowels with the limited aid offered by bending plastic utensils, was a question that bewildered me last time i was in the USA and it was no clearer now.
There was a certain symmetry to it. A yogurt like pot whose content were quite the brightest pinkest colour. It appear as the newest inadvertent thing to emerge from the basement of Sizewell B and could be had alongside thin wafers of cinnamon sprinkled plastic, the local take on cereal. Im not a breakfast person but this whole approach to the morning seemed a little unnecessary, causing as it did such existential questions to arise about what it meant that we had come to this, how had we gotten here and was there anything that could yet be done… its all very early for that kind of thing.
To a friendly shout of – you be safe out there – from the reception desk we headed out on our toll road avoiding drive on to Pittsburgh.
I was on some sort of rogue hair left in hotel toilets role .. only this probably wasn’t it was so fibrous and ample in its thickness, it probably shouldn’t be hair. It was more front and centre and dryer than the offering in Bangkok, looking back at me as i opened the door, primary it was a matter of relief that is hadn’t sought to scuttle off as i pushed the toilet door open. That would have freaked me out, it was too big to be the sort of thing you’d want to have scuttling around unchecked in either your room or your toilet space.
The hotel was no tin the right part of town to readily get access to the city centre. It was across the water and behind something of substantial hill. Thankfully the hotel operated a complimentary shuttle service. The next one was due to leave about 20 minutes after we arrived, so we headed upstairs to dump of the bags and collect up what might be needed to go an explore Pittsburgh.
The driver was a very friendly chap, with the sort of sense of humour i was more accustomed to associating with our fellow Europeans. A sort of deadpan sarcasm which did not get in the way of his effusive welcome and introduction to his home city. He beckoned me with my Camera wielding to the front of the mini-bus. The part of the city we stayed in headed toward the city via a tunnel which would open up directly onto the river bridges that were to then carry us across to the city centre. He was clear this was quite the good and unusual view. He was not wrong, though it was quite fleeting and my photography skills failed to do it any kind of real justice. As you emerge from the tunnel you are directly on a large suspension bridge looking across at Pittsburgh sky line.
We were dropped in a central square and told we could summon a collection whether we were ready – which was all very handy.
Pittsburgh had not been on our original plan – a fact id had to explain to our driver when he’d thanked us for visiting and explained how often it was over looked by foreign travellers. It had though only made its way onto the itinerary because it served as a reasonably logical pause point on our way to Washington, the first of the properly planned stops. That said this was a city well worth the stopping. We would only be there for that half day and some small part of the following morning, but it was a relatively small city and as such we’d found ourselves quite able to explore much of the central part by walking around it.
Pittsburgh – Well Worth The Visit, Probably Best To Take In The Ice Hockey While Here, They Seem To Be Going Through A Recant Spate Of Success & Are Probably It Seems Quite Good At It. Solid Place For Some Views, Some Ice Hockey and A Brief Stop Off.. Probably Too Small For Much More Than A Weekend Visit However.
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In 2017 – about nine months in advance of the infamous new timetable unravelling of 2018 the life challenged people of Govia Thameslink picked up and walked off with their ticket machines in one swift and orchestrated manoeuvre. In their place they deposited a range of newer far more shinny machines whose function was to provide a small square illumination from their display screens. Sometime partly dimmed by the words out of service but equally frequently completely unhindered by any such purposeful demands being placed upon them. They were poor torches, the illuminated screens were too high to shed light upon the floor and had no where near the power necessary for the light to beam out through the darkness. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions the revealed their true purpose, offering the names of station and purporting to sell tickets – such outlandish claims could be swiftly dealt with simply by selecting one of these stations.. At which point the ineffective torch would quickly revert back to its true form, the not entirely glorious beam of the blank screen.
Travel then was ticket free into London – which isnt the bonus it might seem to be, given a ticket would still be needed for the London to Gatwick bit.. In London there would be barriers to contend with. The ticket machines at St.Pancras had not gone with the blank screen, they were among those upgraded few that actually mustered an out of service message.
In one little corner of St Pancras a surviving cluster of the big old square ticket machines of before had survived. They were in many ways less fetching than their replacement, big, imposing, brightest blue with an air of the rescued east German functional but with the layers of domestically formed grime that came with their years of service. They did however have one thing over their replacements and it was a fairly key thing … So with tickets now in hand baggage could flow with us through the barriers and onto the platform.
With the excess time available at Gatwick i happened to do some research on our airline – Air Transat – which turned out to be fortunate. What i learned was that their flights from London to Toronto dont come with entertainment systems on each seat. Instead they have an on board entertainment system which can be accessed via apps on the passengers own devices. A prerequisites for this being that you have an appropriate device to hand and have taken it upon yourself to take the somewhat unusual step of downloading this app. Hasty efforts to get this in place were worth while, the connection on the flight didnt allow for adding the app, only for using it.. So i was fortunate and pleased to have taken these steps. It wasn’t a vast array of movie options but it was something, there were municipal screens on board but sight of them was something that was limited to around 2 seats in every 9.. I was not to find myself the occupant of one of those 2.
The route to the hire car was a more complicated one than envisaged. There was the terminal train, the car hire telephone to arrange collection and then the waiting for the collection in a the thin but marijuana soaked air.
This though was not to be the challenge, that came at the point of collection. It was our second road trip of the year having migrated our way along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts in the early spring. It was now November but the knowledge of that past trip was not entirely lost. The car had been hired with unlimited mileage and with no warning about limitations on crossing boarders.
An array of additional charges that resided in the small print but that had no part of the booking process. It was looking like it was going to be a battle over charges until we clarified the nature of the mileage of the trip (some rough estimates using google maps). The “unlimited mileage” couldn’t even be extended to cover those kilometres, were we so willing, by the purchasing of those add-ons.. This while generating some immediate stresses in the form of last minute re-planning, did mean that the debating and haggling aspect was not going to be a thing.
A bus was leaving for Buffalo from Toronto later that evening, once in Buffalo a car could be collected.. that was an option.. what would we have done were there no internet? .. The guy behind the counter advised us that he thought AVIS would provide cars with cross border coverage along with unlimited mileage.. For budgetary reasons it would mean downsizing the vehicle, no plush north american comfort and still spending more.. but compared to being stranded at point 1 of our trip, this seemed like the best option.
A compact vehicle of some description would be waiting for us – back into the transfer mini-bus, through the scented marijuana cloud onto the terminal train … hunt down AVIS counter.. it was there somewhere, there were signs. Signs that were there until they weren’t.. we walked back, yep the signs were there and … no .. then no .. the signs were gone and no sign of a counter. Starbucks people, would have to be approached for some local knowledge..
It was a VW Golf estate – AVIS and the other car hire companies were not in the terminal, which explained our not having found them in there. It was all secreted on the ground floor of the multistory that stood opposite the terminal.
After some mis-steps leaving the airport, some stopping, a discussion with pointing, some more stopping and a then rotating of the navigational duties, directionally we’d found our way onto the route. With things now going reasonably smoothly, hunger and lethargy sneaking in, we stopped off at some bright lights. An assortment of signs that spelt out a small range of unfamiliar establishments. Boston Pizza has the brightest lights what more it had bright TV lights shining out on the inside, it won this display of the Bowerbirds.
A rational of selection that won out through knowing nothing about any of the options that were around us. The weakness of this selection criteria revealed itself in that which emerged from the kitchen. The Pizza that i had wasn’t too bad, it was the sort of standard that you could expect from a superior standard home bake oven pizza, the pasta ought to see the Italians take action for abuse against of their nations proudest offerings. If we can protect our cheeses and pies and the french can protect the name of their particular form of fizzy white wine then the Italians ought to be able to do something to prevent that which was getting banded about here inheriting the good name of pasta dishes. There was an oddly fatty white sauce involved, something akin to mayonnaise or salad cream, only not … so heavy .. and not warm, even a standard house bulb can summon up more heat than had been absorbed by this offering, a cold, stodgy, bland gluepe of a thing .. so if your going to Boston pizza, be sure to order no pasta there, yes if your going to Boston pizza – dont be Italian, it will hurt you in your heart places (beyond the fatty deposits those odd choices of sauce will be offering up)
Having been up for quite some time fatigue had me, i was glad to not be driving and without such duties i was free to have a pint, a nice cold pint as the shroud of post tired tiredness sunk over me,
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I returned to Beijing for the last few days in China. Having initially taken to Shanghai my second visit to Beijing swayed my attentions. Clearly it did not diminish Shanghai, which remained more compact, clean and still had that intangible sense off somehow being friendly. What it did do was point out how much more Beijing had to offer among its sprawl.
Different areas with changing characteristics, the large parks and their substantial lakes (entrance fees applied but they are hardly prohibitively expensive nor are they inflated for foreign tourists.
The forbidden city is not so easy to access, attempts were made but they were attempts that were not supported by research and in this instance there are regular demand issues, excessive demand for gaining access entrance vs the permitted number of people to wonder about there in. So you need to get in early and get yourself a ticket if you want to be making your entrance. Personally, not a morning person and learnt this issues about getting hold of tickets a good hour or more after the last of the tickets had been sold… Aim to be early if you really want to to get in – i went and saw some parks instead and enjoyed my days more than well enough.. It was warm, travelling with water and replenishing that water from some of the street side stores a good and necessary idea.
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