The journey home

…comprised of a 6 hour flight from New York (JFK airport) to Los Angeles (LAX), 6 hours of waiting around and then 15 hr flight to Melbourne. Twenty-one plus hours flight time exceeds my tolerance for sitting still in one place by a substantial margin! Bags arrived OK and we cleared customs in no time.

So far I’m feeling OK, but I hate jetlag.

NYC Day 5

A sleep in and a late start today in the hope of shaking off this head cold I’ve acquired in NYC.

We both had in mind that a fairly quiet day would fit the bill today, so we walked to the Metropolitan Art Gallery on 5th Ave for some culture. As we walked up the steps to the Met there was a group of men busking. Their vocals were sensational. No amplification, just beautiful vocal harmonies and one guy playing a double bass. They had a great reception from the crowd and were making a bundle in donations.

Oh the art at the Met was pretty impressive as well, about two rooms full of Rembrants being the highlight for us.

I ended up buying their CD, they were that good!

 Henry VIII th’s armor, late in his life. He wore this gear in a major battle – can’t remember which one!

 Mr Colt’s finest

All sorts of art on display at the Met. In fact there is an extensive collection of weaponry. I was surprised how many suits of armor were made in  Germany. I’d always associated it with the British was and Knights. The info said that in the 1500’s the Germans were able to knock out quality armor quite rapidly.

I took quite a few pics of various sets of flintlock rifles and pistols that were incredibly well decorated.

 Rembrant’s famous self portrait. Mrs Tarsnakes Dutch ancestry plays some part in the art she likes to see. That’s not to say that Van Gough, Vemeer and Rembrant are not well worth seeing in their own right. I really wanted to see van Gough’s “Starry Night” but it’s at a different gallery in NYC.

 A Vemeer – Mrs Tarsnakes is a fan of his stuff.

 More Rembrants

The painting above is pretty famous. I heard a young guy saying he had come to the gallery just to see this painting and it had taken him an hour to find it.

 French embassy on 5th Ave. I’ve been blown away with the architecture all around New York. It’s not just the major public buildings. There are lovely old 1800’s ornate apartment buildings all around the suburbs.

After leaving the Met we took a walk through Central Park and then around some of the back streets of our ‘hood’. There were lovely old apartments everywhere.

 Central Park. This place is a huge oasis in a massive metropolis. NYC is the antithesis of the wide open spaces that I love so much – but is a place that I am very glad to have sampled.

Don’t pat the pets – they bite!

Pics from some of the back streets of the Upper West side around 75th to 82nd streets.

 Neighborhood and our hotel.

Hotel Belleclaire

NYC Day 4

The plan for today was to go to ground zero where the twin towers used to be and to ascend the Empire State Building. Tickets for Empire State cost $22 apiece and I purchased them online prior to heading out.

There is a massive amount of building work going on for construction of the new memorial tower, however, apparently the logistics of bringing materials through city streets is a major problem. I’m not sure why, but they are not permitted to use a river approach and transport stuff the short distance from the water by road.

 A bell in the grounds of St Paul’s church (which was a major relief centre during the disaster).

 We went to the 86th floor observatory. It’s incredible that this building was built in only 13 months. The Great Depression provided a massive and cheap workforce and safety standards were abysmal by any standards.

 View towards the Hudson River, Chrysler Building spire in sight.

 The views of city extend to the horizon in every direction. Although it appeared a little hazy in the distance, one of the things that has amazed us about NYC is the lack of air pollution.

 View toward East River. Manhattan certainly is an island. I’d read that bedrock for building foundations can be at 2 feet in the middle of the island and 200 feet elsewhere, especially around the river banks.

We could see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Isl in the distance but it didn’t photograph well, so no pic here.

NNYC Day 3

Some pics from a day trip to Harlem and a look around the buildings adjoining Central Park. We also took a boat trip out on the Hudson River – pics of that later.

We went to a Broadway show in the evening. Chicago – strange show to see in New York!

 Apollo Theatre Harlem – starting place for the Jackson Five on Wed amateur night.

 Big Cathedral up near Columbia University

 Central Park from 5th Ave

 By the guard box is where John Lennon was gunned down

This officer caught a glimpse of me taking her pic and was not happy. She and a colleague were stepping out into heavy traffic and stopping taxis to check the driver’s credentials. The policing in NYC is very active, cars, bicycles and foot patrols in huge numbers. They claim that’s whats made the city safe.

 Public housing in Harlem.

Below- a sign on the subway train window.

NYC day 2

 A day of some iconic NYC land marks and a day on the water.

Empire state of mind. (That’s the title of a song by Jay-Z & Alecia Keys)

Residential buildings: the triangular based building on the left below is the historic ‘Flatiron’ building completed in 1902 and regarded as NYC’s first skyscraper.

 The new

 NYC viewed from Ellis Island

Times Square at night

New York City – First Impressions

We took the AMTRAK railway from Philadelphia to NYC. Emerging from Penn Station to ground level is like jumping into a river that is a raging torrent of people. We lined up (of course) for a taxi, jumped in and after 5.3 miles through the guts of NYC arrived at our hotel. It’s probably the best $15 I’ve ever spent! (plus tip). The cabbie spoke to someone in what I presume was Arabic the whole way and had a deft touch on the horn, only honking when all else failed!

Our room wasn’t ready but we left our bags and explored the ‘hood’ which actually seems quite nice. Came back 2 hrs later and checked in. It was quite a lot like checking into a hotel room in Paris – small room, wooden floor boards and water heater – that isn’t activated until  ambient temp of 50F prevails. However, the flat screen TV and ‘fridge are good. This is the same hotel that Mrs Tarsnake’s work colleague Lynne-Marie stayed at back in Feb. Gavin, we sussed Nicks hamburger joint for breakfast as you recommended.

We bought a weekly ticket for the subway each and headed downtown to Broadway. Mrs Tarsnakes is much more relaxed with subterranean travel than I. we surfaced at 50th St and explored for a good while until it started getting quite chilly.

Halloween or protest  –  we couldn’t tell. Silly me, of course it’s a Zombie Walk!

Great costumes.

Lots of passion!

Near Times Square

This is NOT a city of churches.

Times Square

Spotted this van – some expats perhaps?

Mrs Tarsnakes in imes Square

More Philadelphia

We shifted hotels to the Marriot in Downtown Philadelphia. Only $20 per night more expensive than the delipadated Comfort Inn and about 500% better.

We went to the Philadelphia Art gallery, rated No 3 in the whole USA. It also has the steps featured in the ‘Rocky’ movies and now has a Rocky statue to the side of the east entrance. It started to rain while we were in the gallery, only the second time in the 3 weeks that we’ve been in the US.

They have some big name works here -you’ve probably heard of the guys who painted these pics. Van Gough, Cezanne and Monet are the ones featured. Photography without flash was permitted and security was tight in each gallery.

 Getting strong now!

We chatted at the Rocky statue with a bunch of young people from Slovenia who were having a ball travelling. We took some pics of them as a group and they took these shots of us.

 Outlook from top of steps.

I looked online and saw that the first practice for the Phillip Isl MotoGP was delayed and then held in terrible weather.

Friday night around 6.30pm the fire alarm in the Marriot went off. The PA announcement said to stay where you are and await further info. On the 8th floor we thought the stairs were possible for us. We looked out in the corridor and a young lass approached us in a distressed state. Just as we were about to head down the stairs (against the advice) the ‘all clear’ was given. Glad we weren’t on the 21st floor as originally planned. We had checked in very early and took the 8th floor room rather await our high floor request.

Good luck and safe riding Geoff in NZ on your 24 hr ‘Grand Challenge’ endurance run – I look forward to hearing all about it.

There is a link to Geoff’s blog on my sidebar. or click here.

Philadelphia PA

We got into Philadelphia via Greyhound bus late yesterday afternoon (ie Tuesday – remember date stamp on blog is Aust time – a day ahead). I cannot believe that it cost only $25 for both of us booked online. How can it be this cheap? Well the bus stations were disgusting in terms of cleanliness and staff attitude – our first negative experience in the US really. I guess it’s just capitalism at it’s finest – you get what you pay for. Anyway it’s Amtrac from Philly to New York on Saturday, less distance than yesterday (90 miles) but $135. The hire car we had rented in California and used in Nevada, Arizona & Utah was great value, 12 days, over 2,500 miles, insured to the hilt (it is the litigious USA after all) and all for a total of just on  USD $800. Our dollar is currently at 98 cents against the greenback which helps as well.

Philadelphia is steeped in history, but does not have the grand scale marble and granite buildings of Washington DC. It’s a more gritty sort of place, however, interesting in it’s own right.

It’s the birthplace of American Independence, the Liberty Bell and the Philly Cheese Steak! Incidentally, I had the best Filet Mignon ever last night at an “old town” restaurant, and quite ironically, we sat near to a lovely elderly couple from Paris, France and had a great conversation with them – only to meet them again at breakfast in the same hotel as us.

The Liberty Bell

 Statue of Admiral Barry – who began the US Navy

 Backstreets of “Old City”

Lots of food vendors on the streets.

 View from our hotel room

Philly is also the home of Revzilla, a leading online retailer of motorcycle apparel. Mrs Tarsnake’s Alpinestars leather jacket came from them & posted to Oz  for less than wholesale price in Aust. They have a small showroom in a (sketchy) industrial part of Philadelphia a few miles from our hotel. Our turban wearing cabbie didn’t actually want to take us there and afterwards the Revzilla staff rang a taxi for us (they won’t come otherwise)  we had to wait an age for it to arrive! Anyway, I’ve spent my tax return now!

 We chatted with a friendly young guy who was buying a jacket & was really proud of his Hayabusa. His long dreadlocks we unspoiled because there is no need to wear a helmet in Pennsylvania!

 Inside RevZilla

And one more pic, this was challenging for Mrs Tarsnakes to photograph at night without upsetting the 120kg African American guy who was eating pizza in front of his business premises.

More images of Washington DC

Some random pics from around DC.

Avenue in DC

The place of Lincoln’s assassination – Ford’s Theatre

Smithsonian Portrait Galley – I loved the paintings of the Presidents and the Norman Rockwell exhibition.


An old house in historic Georgetown – a real tourist trap area!

We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe – best burger ever.

The Capitol

Read the license plates “We the people of the United States ……….” You figure out the rest.

Painters doing the outside windows at the Smithsonian portrait gallery – that’s as arty as I get!

Smithsonian Castle – the original Smithsonian building

 Mrs Tarsnakes with Michelle & Barak.

Capitol again, but towards dusk

I had to travel this far just to get a sun burnt nose! 
Mrs T loves these little fellas – the locals think of them as members of the rat family.

Washington DC

First day in DC was warm, sunny and quite amazing. Our hotel is really well situated for seeing all the National Monuments, but not so good for going out at night. There are no restaurants nearby and when we walked down to the Potomac River on dusk we didn’t really feel all that safe. Actually there was a really big outdoor seafood market going on – I’ve never seen so many crabs, prawns and all sorts of fish just straight off the boats. We asked a woman for some directions and she indicated that it was not a great place for us to be walking around at night – make sure you look purposeful and don’t pull out your map!

Part of War Memorial near the reflecting pool – all part of the National Mall.

Mr & Mrs Tarsnakes with Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool in the background.


Obama T shirt – I think the $5 price tag says something!

Vista of Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool.

More War memorial. Actually there were heaps of WW2 veterans at the war Memorial for a get together, mainly in wheel chairs but each one with a minder. Many had their army or marine hats on and all were in orange shirts. These men must all be well past their 80’s and it was kinda nice to see them all out at the various memorials talking, shaking hands and reminiscing together.

Below – Washington Monument

Squirrels everywhere

The White House

 Tarsnake’s son once described him as ‘grim looking’ most of the time.

Original Smithsonian

Smithsonian air and space museum