Going down the road

Blue Rocks fishing village, Lunenburg County

Blue Rocks fishing village, Lunenburg County

We’re about to hit the road again. In about 3 weeks, we’re going to fire up the iPods with driving tunes and head south. Not that far south, just to the south end of the province of Nova Scotia and drive the loop around the tip and back. Even though this is one of the smallest provinces in Canada, it’s also one of the most beautiful (but I’m not objective!). Nova Scotia is almost entirely surrounded by water. Only a small neck of land about 20 miles wide attaches us to the rest of Canada. That means a lot of beautiful coastline, dotted with lighthouses, beaches and quaint, historic fishing villages along the way.

My husband hasn’t seen a lot of the province and there’s plenty of it I haven’t seen either. I’ve been down along the south shore part of the way but not all the way around. We’ve made tentative plans but as everyone knows, plans change on a whim. But as of now, We’re going to head down the highway to start off, to get past the parts we’ve already seen and visited.

Our tentative Itinerary:
Shelburne, visiting a local micro brew, checking out the town that has a lot of historical old buildings still standing. This will probably be our lunch stop and afterwards, if we have time to fit it in, a stop at the nearby Black Loyalist museum in Birchtown.

I say “If we have time” because we want to drive the coastal road the rest of the way to Yarmouth where we’re pitching up for the night. We have to have something to eat before going out to the woods for a session at a small observatory! That was a discovery in a tourist brochure we picked up and it sounded so cool that we booked it.

Gilbert Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

Gilbert Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

For day two, we’re heading around the tip of the province and along the north shore, one of the pockets of French Acadian Nova Scotia. Beautiful beaches and little towns and a French university along here. We might fit in a visit to Port Royal near Annapolis Royal to see the reproduction of the old French settlement, founded in 1605 by Champlain. From there, it’s down across several long, narrow islands to Brier Island for the night in a lodge. The next day, we’re going whale watching out on the Bay of Fundy, another bucket list event. The companies here guarantee sightings but knowing Mother Nature, I will be cautiously optimistic.

Once we’ve done communing with the whales, seals and dolphins, we’re off to a Bed and Breakfast near Annapolis Royal. We’ve been to Annapolis before but will likely drive into the town for our meal and have a walk around. It’s a very nice place and has gorgeous gardens and the remains of an old fort, Fort Anne.

Our final day takes us through the Annapolis Valley on the way home and we thought we’d stop at a military aviation museum in CFB Greenwood, an air base near Kingston, NS. A casual meander through the Valley, perhaps a stop at a farmers’ market or two, and we’ll be back home by the end of the day.

The Next Road Trip – Maine

Our next trip is going to be a road trip. We decided to head down into New England, with the end destination being Salem, Massachussets where there be witches! We really enjoyed the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, in Cornwall (UK) and wanted to see the American version. The museums around here will focus on the Witch trials, no doubt and be just as interesting. We’re also going to take the train or the ferry into Boston for a day as well. I’ve been to Boston but he’s not been there and it’s quite a nice city.

We’ll probably do the hop on hop off tour and then wander around. Boston has a good Fine Arts museum, that’s a possibility or we could just soak in the atmosphere of the city.

I had thought we’d take the more southern route, crossing at st. Stephen/Calais, Maine and taking an older road, called the “Airline” (route 9), maybe staying over in Bangor but according to Google, it takes just as much time to go north further into New Brunswick on the Trans Canada highway, past Fredricton and cross over at Woodstock/Houlton and take the I95 down to Salem. I suppose, it’s all highway so it would be faster. I think we might do that and break the journey overnight at Woodstock, as it’s quite a long day to drive all the way through, even just to Bangor which is 3/4 of the way by the time you get that far.

Coming home, we do plan to travel along Route 1 along the Maine coast, exploring. Seaside towns, lighthouses and gorgeous scenery. Might even go to Campobello Island and come back into Canada that way, by ferry from there to Deer Island to the mainland. We can decide when and where to stop on the road and pick a little motel along the way, or two and take our time coming back. We will also plan to make a stop or two at the famed outlet shopping areas of Kittery and Freeport if time allows.

And Time Will allow for at least one shopping stop, if I have my way :)

We’ve got a B&B booked for Salem, Amelia Payson House which looks lovely. The lady I spoke to was very nice, too so I think we’ll be happy there. We’ll book a hotel in Woodstock but the other nights we will be on the road, we probably won’t book ahead of time. Could be interesting!

The Vikings are Coming

British Museum, London

Social media may have it’s skeptics and detractors but it has often come in handy for me. I’ve often seen links to really interesting things float by on my Twitter or Facebook feed, links to news, lifestyle, travel, books, movies, great websites and all kinds of other things.

When I joined Twitter, I followed a few Coronation Street actors. Well, I still do. One of them was also an artist and a man I would have liked to have a conversation with. He always seemed to have interesting things to say though he doesn’t seem to be tweeting much anymore. I own a portrait of one of the other Corrie actors that he did. It was part of an auction he did for charity. He also mentioned this very old library in Manchester that he’d visited. It’s in the city centre but it’s tucked away in a music school behind the cathedral and because he mentioned it, I made sure to go visit it the next time I went over.

Chetham’s Library Reading room, Chetham’s Library in Manchester. Apparently, Karl Marx worked at this very table.

I never would have known about this interesting place to visit had it not been for social media. The reason I’m bringing this up is that over this past weekend I saw a mention of a new exhibit coming up at the British Museum in London. It’s called Vikings: Life and Legend and it’s being put on in conjunction with the Danish National Museum (which we’ve been to!). Immediately I went looking for details and was gratified in discovering that it would be opening in March and ongoing while we are there at Easter.

I am lucky to have a man who really likes museums and galleries and I know he loves things like Vikings and ancient Romans, armour and weaponry. I would find this exhibit on Vikings really interesting, too. We both enjoyed the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark a few years ago and apparently they have sent one of the ships, or remains thereof, to be part of this show. We are also both fans of the tv series Vikings which begins it’s next season soon.

Viking ship silhouette, Roskilde Viking ship museum, Roskilde, Denmark

Anyway, the upshot of it is, I didn’t even wait to consult him, I booked tickets straight away. The last time the British Museum had a big exhibit while we would be there was in 2008 for the Terra Cotta warriors from China. I waited too long and we couldn’t get tickets for the days and times that would work for us. I wasn’t taking that chance this time as it was again over Easter. The tickets are now booked and I sent him the link to the information the museum has online. When I spoke to him later, he was quite happy. We’re looking forward to the exhibit and I may even buy the exhibit book considering no photos will be allowed. These books are usually stunning in their content. I bought one from the Henry VIII exhibit that the British Library had a few years ago.

Isn’t the internet wonderful? Chances are that we would not get tickets if we show up on the day we arrive in London, and if there’s a chance, there would likely be long queues. We only have two days in London so would be limited in our dates so we probably would miss out if we couldn’t pre-book this far out. That’s what happened with the Terra Cotta exhibit. I did try to get tickets online but couldn’t and when we went to the musuem, all the tickets for the times we could get there were gone.  In some ways pre-booking does restrict you to dates and times but in other ways, you can skip the long lines, or not be disappointed by missing out.

This trip coming up looks to be quite a cultural one, with lots of museums and galleries. We’re planning on seeing Giverny and Monet’s house, also the Orangerie museum in Paris which has a lot of Monet’s Water lilies, and we’re going to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Other places on the list, and we will get to at least some of them, include the Musee Carnavalet, Sainte-Chapelle, possibly the Concergerie as well, and Les Invalides with the Army museum and Napoleon’s tomb. We’re also going to Rouen for a day as well. Monet painted the Cathedral there and it’s also where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

Back to the original point of the post, social media. It’s not just all about following celebrities or news feeds. You can find something to match any interest you might have. If you don’t follow something specific, you may still see it shared or re-tweeted by someone else which is how I think I saw the Viking exhibit. I didn’t follow the British Museum (but I will now) on Twitter but I do follow the BBC History Magazine and I think that was the source of what I’d seen.

And while we’re on that subject, the British Museum shared this from the Guardian’s site, 10 Best Vikings from books, history, movies and even cartoons. Wonderful!

We got Day trips

Day trips, we got day trips. Now that we have a rental car booked for my trip to Manchester, we are starting to think about day trips to make. I fancied seeing Chatsworth house again. I visited there with a group of friends back in September, 2000 on a rainy day. Wasn’t very good for walking in the gardens, just the house and a quick trip to the cafe. It’s a beautiful manor house, home to the Cavendish family, the  Dukes of Devonshire. In recent years, it’s been featured in both the movie about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (“The Duchess”, played by Keira Knightly), and in two recent appearances, it has represented Darcy’s home Pemberly in a remake of Pride and Prejudice (also with Keira Knightly) and in a television series, Death Comes to Pemberly.

There’s been a house here since Tudor times when it was first owned by “Bess” of  Hardwick from 1549. The house that’s there now dates from around the turn of the 18th Century. It’s pretty spectacular inside, with painted ceilings, elaborate plaster work and the gardens are extensive, with fountains and outbuildings. The stables and greenhouses can be visited (I believe the cafe and gift shop are now in the stables as well as some little shops).

I fancy another visit to see it again and update my photos and it isn’t that far to drive across the beautiful Peak District from the Manchester area so, weather permitting, I think that’s on the cards. We can go in the morning and find a nice country pub on the way back for lunch. In fact, I did some judicious Googling, as you do, and found one called the Royal Oak near Buxton that will suit requirements perfectly.

Not sure yet on other day trips though we’ve discussed taking the train over to Liverpool perhaps. I thought about Ripon and Fountains Abbey in the Yorkshire region or maybe just another visit to one of our favourite cities, York. We’d like to find somewhere where we could meet up with friends that might come from the Sunderland/Newcastle area.

We have pretty much everything booked for the France/London trip. The rental car is reserved, the theatre tickets for The Mousetrap are bought, the tickets/voucher for the Tower of London also bought and printed. We thought we’d stay at an airport hotel the night before we have that really early flight to Paris so that’s booked, too. Maybe we won’t have to get up *quite* so early though it still won’t be much more of a lie in. Every little bit helps and we can drop off the car at the airport the night before as well, after we check in with the luggage.

Itinerary building – Accommodations

Abbesses Metro, Paris

Abbesses Metro, Paris

Step one: Book the main flight to the U.K. ….. check
Step two: Book the one way flights to Paris….check.

LeavingParisEurostarStep three:  Pick and book a hotel in Paris (five nights) and one in London (two nights).
Step four: Book the Eurostar Paris to London.

The Eurostar website won’t let me book their own hotels with the ticket as a package unless I book a return ticket. Too bad because you can get some very good package deals from Eurostar with a return ticket.

Requirements: Location, and budget. Budget is very slightly flexible, depending on what’s included we could go a little bit over if necessary. Wi-fi is a must and having a safe deposit box in the room that will fit the laptop is desireable. Breakfast included would be nice but not a deal-breaker.

In Paris, we were thinking of staying around the Opera district, the 8th or 9th district. We want it to be fairly central and we don’t want to be right on top of the train stations (Gare du Nord and Est) because I’ve heard that area is a bit rough even if the hotels are cheaper. Probably a good reason for it, you get what you pay for! The right bank of the Seine will be more convenient this time because we’ll be using Gare St. Lazarre for our day trips and leaving via Gare du Nord on the Eurostar.

I did look on the British Airways site to see if I could get a deal on Paris hotels with the flights but they were still all very expensive. Fail, B.A.

For London, I thought either near Euston station or Bloomsbury might be the most convenient as we’ll arrive at St. Pancras and G. leaves from Euston to go back to Manchester (oh, note to self, make sure he books that train ticket, too!) I will probably get a taxi to Paddington and then the train to Heathrow from there. The Canadian Dollar has taken a hit against the pound lately so hotels are going to cost a bit more than usual but the Euro is still a good exchange rate at this moment in time.

I have been scouring websites like Expedia, Trivago, booking.com and hotels.com, making notes of likely candidates and making the mistake of looking up the TripAdvisor reviews which only further confuses me unless overall it’s generally not so good. Reviews, as I’ve said before, are so subjective and you really have to read between the lines. A lot of people whine about small rooms. I can handle small rooms unless they’re like a closet. Were the rooms as dirty as some people complained when others have found it spotless? I am a bit skeptical of that one as am I about scattered reviews about rude staff. In my mind, it takes two and in general most hotel staff are professional, sometimes a bit business like, and often very friendly,  but never rude.

Yesterday, I visited the hair salon and after that, post-coffee break with some relatives I bumped into, went to the travel agent. The woman I usually deal with wasn’t in and I wanted to get this sorted so sat down with one of the other agents. I have her the list of possibilities but told her I was open to anything else she found that was in the budget range and location. They don’t always have the access through their booking agents to everything you could find online but often they can sometimes get better deals with their sources.

The Welcome Hotel, Paris. It's on the left bank near Odeon stop. Rooms were small, but not closet-sized and it was in a great location.

The Welcome Hotel, Paris. It’s on the left bank near the Odeon Metro stop. Rooms were small, but not closet-sized and it was in a great location.

One of the Paris hotels I’d noted was in one of those sources and she also found another one not far from it which I think I’d seen on my web surfing. She couldn’t book straight away. Some hotels through her booking system are “On Request”, that is, she has to request the availability and wait 24 hours or so until the hotel replies so she’s put in for that for these two hotels: My Hotel Opera St. George, and Hotel Opera Lafayette. I gave TripAdvisor a cursory glance and overall either sounds ok, they’re in our budget range albeit very slightly over the top end. Breakfast is included in both so I think that makes up for the little over-budget because you’d have to buy it anyway. I think we’d be happy with either one.

Ok, so we’re waiting for availability on those. Crossing my bits that at least one of them will be a go.  Next step: Eurostar. That’s pretty straight forward. I knew the time and the class of the ticket we wanted so it’s booked and pre-paid. Check.

Melia White Hotel, London. We bagged a great rate that time. Possibly through the Air Canada website, I seem to recall

Melia White Hotel, London. We bagged a great rate that time. Possibly through the Air Canada website, I seem to recall

On to London. Here’s where I ended up being delighted I had gone to the agent because what we ended up booking was far nicer that I would have found on my own.  I had given her a few names for hotels I’d chosen including one, a Hilton, that had been in the budget range earlier in the week but which, I thought, was a sale that had just ended. She came up with another name, and said it looked like she could get a very good rate. It was just a little over our budget but  it had free cancellation (barring a fee of one night’s accommodation and taxes) and a full breakfast buffet. The location is perfect, the hotel is a luxury four star and I didn’t hesitate. We’re staying at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton. I looked at the cheapest room through the website’s booking widget and we’re paying almost 25% cheaper than that. The equivalent booking on Expedia was a little more expensive again. Result! I never would have considered this hotel otherwise. Booked and prepaid! Check.

Yeah, that’s the other thing, most of the time you get the best rates if you prepay the whole thing. Often you still get free cancellation, sometimes with a fee of one night’s accomodation or even less. Sometimes, though, it’s non-refundable. If you have trip cancellation insurance that will cover you.

Once the Paris hotel is booked, we can book a rental car for the week I’m in Manchester because we like the flexibility for day trips, visiting mates and getting groceries and shopping. That’s pretty much the main items on the list, then we turn to a new list, our itinerary, both in Paris, the Paris day trips, London and things we might do while in Manchester. But that’s something for a future blog post!

Quandaries

Here’s the quandary I’ve been tossing about in my head. We are planning to go to Paris from Manchester next spring. There are two ways of getting there and each has advantages and disadvantages. Cost wise and time wise, I don’t think they will be all that far part and both have some messing around and schlepping a big suitcase. We’re planning to do this on the second of the two weeks that I will be overseas and I will be leaving from London to come home at the end, that’s why I’ll have my full size suitcase. I am not capable of living for two weeks out of a rolling carry on size bag. It just won’t happen.

Method 1: Fly from Manchester to Paris, (early arrival at the airport). Go through customs and wait for baggage. Get to the RER train and into Paris, Gare du Nord (there should be elevators from the train to the concourse, right? Or escalators at least?) Taxi to the hotel because lugging a heavy case up stairs from the underground/Metro isn’t going to happen either.

Method 2: Take the train from Manchester to London Euston. Taxi to St. Pancras (I know it’s not too far but we’ll have that luggage to contend with which also leaves out trying to get underground tickets, dragging around on that and up into the train station. Taxi it is.) Get the Eurostart to Paris Gare du Nord and a taxi to the hotel.

Getting to London to Paris  will definitely be on the Eurostar.

The second way sounds like less messing but with both ways, there’s two legs of the journey, either plane to train or train to train, both ending in the same place. Time wise, probably the train to train will take longer, with each train journey a bit over 2 hours plus the time in between that you need to check in to the Eurostar terminal. Cost wise, hard to say. You can get fairly cheap advance tickets for the Manchester to London journey if you’re on top of things and the Eurostar can be fairly cheap too, with advance tickets.

Sometimes you can get good prices on the one way flights. But you have to be at the airport over an hour early, and then wait for your bags at the other end, hoping they arrive. Still, that way will probably take a little less time overall but then, the last time we flew to Paris, we were stuck waiting on the Manchester runway for over an hour and a half with a delay. Planes and trains both get cancelled but I think planes have more chance of delays. Can’t really use that as an excuse though.

Comfort wise, flying is cramped and crowded. The train in second class still has seats with not a lot of leg room but it’s perhaps a bit more comfortable. First class is nice if you can afford it! Perhaps lots of advance booking might get the Eurostar first class in an affordable range, not so sure about the British trains. I know I have signed up in the past for email notice for the cheap seats in second class when they are released but I can’t recall if they do the same for the first class seats.  I’m still kind of leaning to the train except that it will make the journey longer.

I get myself all in a tizzy over little details like this, long before I even need to think about it! My partner will just say he’s fine with whatever I decide.

The next tizzy will be choosing a hotel! That’s something for a whole other blog post!

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’

The Paris to Normandy river cruise

We’re always looking and planning beyond the next vacation destination. I”m over to the UK in October where we’re planning a road trip around Scotland but then I’m going over again in April because he needs to come here in August for my niece’s wedding so we’re reversing our directions next year. So where to go? What to do?

I have a friend who has taken a couple of river cruises and really enjoyed them. I suggested this to him and found this short cruise that would fit in with our vacation window. April in Paris! We thought the itinerary (click on the map for the itinerary) sounded good. The nice thing about a river cruise is that you don’t spent a lot of time on the ship like you often do on sea cruises because the destination distances are short.  It’s not the Proud Mary and it isn’t a paddlewheel Mississippi steamer, but the boats and state rooms are quite nice. The state rooms will be tiny but who cares! They have en suite, a bed, and wifi. That pretty much covers all needs doesn’t it?

We had decided on  the Viking River cruise company as they do 2 for 1 deals if you book really early and pay for it by July 31. It seemed like a very good deal and the travel agent also has good things to say about the company. I do realize that you add on tips for the crew and various guides at the end of the week and though all meals and wine/beer are covered, chances are you’d be out and about at lunchtime so probably would eat in the towns then.

But like all good things that seem too good to be true, this one turned out to be as well. The Travel Agent called Viking last week and quoted me a price of about 2550 for a total for two people. So today, I went in and said ok, we’ll go for it. She called them again to set it up but emailed me back and said that the cheaper state rooms are sold out and the higher class of state room that was left was about 2700 PER PERSON. So much for the 2 for 1 deal advertised! It looked to me as if all the room prices were not per person, they were 2 for 1, for all classes of room. It shouldn’t make a difference whether they’re nearly sold out or not.

Sadly, I declined. nearly $5500 for an 8 day 7 night river cruise is far richer than my budget. I’m not being sold down the river, thank you very much.

The Next Time I See London

Sarastro, Covent Garden. A very theatrical restaurant

Sarastro, Covent Garden. A very theatrical restaurant

We haven’t visited London for awhile. Well, it’s not really been that long, I guess, but it feels like it. The last time we were there was in the spring of 2011. We saw Wicked, went to the Doctor Who exhibit, the Zoo, Camden, National Gallery, flew the London Eye and caught up with friends. That was two and a half full days.

We are doing a road trip in Scotland in October but we’re also thinking of a weekend in London, probably the weekend before I leave. I can go to the airport from the city rather than doing the Manchester – Heathrow transfer. It is a bit less hassle that way.

Providing that’s where we end up, I’m already scouting for hotels and making lists. Naturally.

I am pretty sure the Tower of London will be on the to-do list. G. hasn’t been there, or not since he was a kid. I’ve been but I know I haven’t seen all there is to see. I know I’ve missed the main White Tower and armouries museum, for instance. I’ve seen the Crown Jewels and I couldn’t care if I don’t see them again. They are impressive, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t change, do they? You see them once, that’s all you need. I’ve seen them twice!

I’d also like to get tickets for a new show, Book of Mormon. We would have done that in New York but the prices were sky high and tickets hard to get. I’ve seen the London prices and though still not cheap, are more reasonable.

Now … what else? I’d like to go to Hampton Court again because I only saw a few of the highlights while on a walking tour over ten years ago. That walking tour encompassed Richmond as well as a boat ride to HC which was neat, but then by the time the guide took us around to a few highlights and we could finish on our own, it was closeish to closeing time and after a rest with a cuppa, there wasn’t really time to see much more inside the palace so I walked around in the gardens for a bit as they’re open later than the palace. So yes, that might be an option.

I was also looking at the tours offered by London Walks. That is an excellent walking tour company. I’ve taken walks with them in the past, including the all day Richmond and Hampton Court one, and I can very much recommend any of their tours. There’s a few that interest me but all of them are on Sunday morning. How to choose!!? We’ll put our heads together and try to figure out the logistics. One of them is a guided tour *of* the Tower of London with a discount on the entrance fee which is considerable. Even if we don’t do that one, and do one of the others, we could still go straight from the walking tour to the train station to get to Hampton Court and have a few hours there in the afternoon.

I was also considering Churchill’s War Rooms as somewhere that neither of us have been before. My fella is pretty pragmatic, he’ll go along with pretty much most things I suggest as well as adding his own. We like a lot of the same things so it’s not too difficult to choose things to do and see. I’m very lucky to have a partner who likes history and art and enjoys museums and galleries.

It sounds like a pricey weekend but there’s a good way to save a bit of money. I think I might have mentioned the 2for1 website before. You need a valid rail ticket and a voucher from the website and you can get into most of the main London attractions at 2 for 1 which is, of course, half price. Only certain kinds of rail tickets, however. You can’t use Oyster cards, and if you have a day travel card it has to be issued by National Rail at a train station, not the kind you would get at a tube station or out of a machine. There’s a list of what you can and can’t use here.  You can also use the links there to find out which attractions are available. They include other things like restaurants and some of the West End shows, the older ones generally,  as well. Too bad they didn’t offer half price hotels!

Anyway, that’s the list for London as it stands today. As always, it’s a moving target and we could change our minds a number of times before we firm up our plans. That’s part of the fun of travel, though, isn’t it!?

 

A New York Minute

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (where we probably won't be going this time!)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (where we probably won’t be going this time!)

New York stuff is all booked and there’s 30 sleeps until Graham gets here!

We have:

Rock of Ages tickets booked for Thursday May 9. Got a discount from Broadwaybox.com, Saved about $40 per ticket I think. Decent seats, in the main floor section about half way back. But they gave us seat 1 and 3. Huh? I would hope that if there is a body between us, they will be kind enough to switch so we can sit together. We weren’t going to a show because at first we couldn’t agree on one but this one made the cut and I think it’s going to be good.

Instead of the ubiquitous city type passes, we booked a 5-attraction pass each through SmartDestinations. Many cities have an attraction pass that is good for 3 or 5 days and it’s “all you can do/see” off their list but I can never fit enough in to break even let alone save anything. This Explorer Pass is a bit different. You choose 3, 5, 7 or 10 things from their list of 55 attractions and tours and the pass is good for 30 days. You don’t have to say which things you will be doing, it just counts them off as you scan your chipped card which I received today! FedEx sent it and I didn’t realize it would come courier so i wasn’t home. They delivered it to my office today instead.

We know 4 of the 5 things we’ll be doing, The Empire State Building, the Guggenheim musem (changed our minds from the Frick, and this one is on the Explorer Pass’s list where the Frick isn’t), the Intrepid Sea and Space museum and a TV and Movie location tour,  and we can pick from one of the other things though we are leaning towards the NBC Studio tour.  This pass seems much more doable and is cheaper ($116 for 5 attractions, and by including the TV tour, we’ll end up saving 4o or 50 dollars over the 5 things we do, I think)  and you can spread it out more rather than squash everything into 3 days and be exhausted and burned out trying to fit it all in. They do a number of tours via the CitySights company which do hop on hop off,  but you can only do one of them with the pass and each one is only one of the various routes that would be included if you’d bought a 48 hour pass from a tour company separately.  We’ve heard the tv location tour is quite good and let’s face it, they film loads of things in NYC!

Booked the hop on hop off tour through Grayline that’s good for 72 hours so we can spread it out. Take a downtown loop one day, so we can get on and off and explore, then the uptown tour the next day and we thought we’d do a night tour as well. They also do a Brooklyn tour and a Bronx tour but we may not do those. The night tour goes over to Brooklyn so you get a look at the night skyline. We can also use the tour bus as transportation if we want, even after having done the tours, if there’s still time left on the ticket.

Thought about pre-booking an airport shuttle to the hotel but the standard airport bus goes to Port Authority, the big bus terminal which is only 3 blocks from the hotel so that’s good enough. There’s a lot of things that are within easy walking distance of the hotel, less than 10 or 12 blocks which is convenient. We plan on wandering around some of the neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Chinatown, Little Italy (which, i understand, (those last two) are really small) and Soho and probably the posh areas like Fifth and Park Avenue. Would like to check out Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Rockefeller Centre, see the John Lennon memorial in Central Park, maybe see the 911 site though it’s not a free museum like they said it would be but I think you can observe the park area from outside.

Also got the rental car booked for when we get back. I think we’re sorted! Now we just have to get there!

New York, Here We Come


When last we spoke of our trip to New York, I had nothing booked and was searching for hotel possibilities and making lists of things to do. Last week, I booked the flights using Aeroplan points. They still charge us taxes and fees but two tickets to New York cost us a total of $280 CAD, far better than nearly $1000 it would have cost. The fees really kill you! We’re flying in and out of Newark, though the return flight includes a change in Boston Logan.

After much searching and angst, I thought I had a short list of 2 or 3 Holiday Inns when I found another couple hotels that looked good too, one called Hotel Grand Union and one called King and Grove.

An aside. I’ve belonged to a travel email list for years called Travelzine. It’s a great resource. You can ask anything and get some really useful replies from lots of travelers.

So anyway. I had just sent an email to the Travelzine to see what people had to say about my shortlist of hotels. I went to Expedia.ca to re-check the addresses and guess what? There was a sale on  a few of the Holiday Inns! Well now… that makes a big difference. I decided to book the one near Times Square. It’s got free WiFi and a buffet breakfast, also a good savings. Their non refundable rate was about $220 CAD per night but they had a refundable rate of $240 and I decided it could be worth it to get that. Free cancellation is always good if you can get it. An extra $80 for the week is about what it would cost for Cancellation insurance anyway. I think it’s still a prepaid amount but that’s fine. My credit card gives me Aeroplan points and the credit card gives you additional peace of mind. I’m not sure but I think the gold card may even have trip interruption/cancellation included. I must look that up.

There now. Flight and hotel booked. Now we can *really* start planning. I’ll get the Empire State Building tickets online to save one of the queues. I’ll probably get the Hop On Hop Off bus tickets online too. We still haven’t decided on a show but there’s time for that. I’ve been perusing the Timeout New York site.

Great website, by the way, if you’re visiting any city they cover. They had a good theatre section and lots of ideas on museums, popular and lesser known, and a list of free or cheap ones. I discovered one that’s on an aircraft carrier, the Intrepid and is a sea, space and aviation museum and I think my fella would really like that. I would as well. I really enjoyed the War Museum in Manchester last year  and how often do you get to walk on the flight deck of a carrier! There’s a Skyscraper Museum that might be cool.  There’s also the Society of Illustrators, with an exhibit that’s on the week we’re there about the artist behind MAD Magazine. We have talked about taking the Staten Island Ferry if it’s a nice day, very good for views of the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.

If I make a list, we’ll probably manage to get to see some of this though probably not all. We’re also going up the ESB and I want to visit the Frick Collection and the New York Public Library. We’ll be there the best part of four days. I’ll be paying closer attention to that NYC blog post  I mentioned the other week, too.  I’ve looked into the New York Pass that gets you into most of what I’ve already mentioned for free, but the problem I’ve always had with these types of passes is that you really need to pack in lots of things each day to realize the savings. I never can keep up that pace so we would end up losing money. Buying tickets online to the things you definitely are going to do can at least get you past the ticket purchasing lineup and that’s good enough for me.

I’m excited now!

It feels good to have the hotel decision made and booked. The rest is gravy. We always pick a few Must Do items and then see where the wind takes us. I know there will be a lot of walking, there always is. I’ll look into transport passes or tickets.