A Travellerspoint blog

Orlando

Disney and Spaceships

sunny 29 °C

Day 1

We started the day with a breakfast at iHop down the road, then got picked up by the airport shuttle and we were off on the plane to Orlando with a stop over in Dallas-Fort Worth. We didn't arrive in Orlando till after midnight and weren't checked in and sleeping until after 2am.. On the way from Dallas to Orlando, we sat next to a lovely Canadian lady who kept wanting to talk to us and she gave me (Michelle) an inspirational CD (she's a songwriter) to listen to. Apparently her chiropractor changed her life!! She kept saying "don't lose faith", so we were a bit worried that we might get a gospel album. It wasn't gospel but lets just say we could only handle listening to the CD for 1 minute.. It inspired me to throw it in the bin!

We didn't pre-book our hotel shuttle from the airport and the office at the airport was shut so we caught a taxi to our hotel at Lake Buena Vista (just down the road from Disneyworld).

Day 2: Hollywood Studio

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We bought a 3 day Disney pass from the hotel's 'Disney sales desk'. Well.. we were told we could save up to $200 on our Disney pass if we attend a 90 minute orientation of the Starwood- Sheraton resort. Its a Timeshare resort. $200 is a lot of money to save. So we agreed to go along.. but it dragged on for 2 hours. Like all sales personnel, they kept pushing us to buy a timeshare. But we kept saying NO. All we wanted was our discounted disney passes..

Finally we made it to Disneyworld (Orlando). We were super excited even though we had very little sleep!! Having been to all the Disneylands around the world, I (Michelle) have been wanting to come to this one in Orlando to complete my Disneyland/world adventure. The Disney in Orlando is the largest of them all with 4 major theme parks (Magic Kingdom; Hollywood studios; Animal Kingdom; And Epcot) and water parks. This is Blake's 1st ever Disneyland/world adventure. He had no idea what to expect. When i first suggested we should go to Disneyworld, he wasn't very enthusiastic about it thinking it was only for kids. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have a choice.. Michelle wanted to go to Disneyworld and he'll just has to tag along :).

We caught the taxi to Hollywood Studios and started our day at Disneyworld with the Rock n Roller Coaster with Aerosmith (which was close to Blake's favourite). Michelle had her eyes shut pretty much for most of the ride!!

The weather was so stinking hot and we were wearing jeans!! So we decided to grab some pot roast and meatloaf for lunch at 50s Prime Time cafe before one of us pass out from the heat. The waitresses were dressed in 50s clothing and speaking in a strong southern accent: 'Heyall cousins, what can i get y'all?'.

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After lunch we went to watch the Muppet 3D & Indiana Jones show; Went on the Star tours ride which is a simulation. We came out slightly dizzy.. The Great movie ride was alright. Some dude seating behind us kept quoting all the lines in the movies as we went through the ride which was so annoying!! I forced Blake to watch the Beauty and the Beast live show with me.. i don't think he enjoyed it at all. LOL. We waited in line for 45 minutes for the Toy Story Midway mania ride. We actually did get what they call a 'Fast-Pass' for it- basically you get a assigned time to come back so you don't have to wait in line. But the time we had was quite late, so we decided to queue up for it. It was so worth the queuing. It is basically a shooting game. Blake with all his computer games experience, may have come out on top :). To finish the day, Blake went on the Twilight zone Tower of Terror, where you sit in an elevator and it randomly rises and free falls.

Muppet 3D:
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Indiana Jones:
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Star Tours:
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Toy story midway mania:
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We found 2 abandoned wheelchairs by the parking lot, we thought we go for a ride in it while waiting for the hotel's shuttle bus. Its been a long day and it was way more fun than sitting on the concrete or standing and waiting..

Day 3: Magic Kingdom

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Today we visited the most popular of the 4 theme parks here at Disneyworld- Magic Kingdom!! All the Disneyland theme parks around the world are replicas of this one. We took the hotel's complimentary shuttle service to Epcot (the other disney theme park) and caught the monorail to Magic Kingdom. All the disney theme parks and waters parks are quite well linked. They have free disney shuttle buses that take you in-between them. We started the day with the adventure with a Pirates of Caribbean ride- its a kiddy ride but it was great fun, bit scary at parts. We followed this up with a small roller coaster ride called the Big thunder mountain railroads. It wasn't too thrilling for Blake.. but i really liked it (i even kept her eyes open for this one!).

After a ride through the Haunted house; We used our 'fast pass' for the Splash mountain ride at our assigned time. Just as well we did get a fast pass, the line was huge (a 45 minutes wait in the normal line). Yes.. we did get SPLASHED!!
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We joined the little kids on the journey through Its a small world. We left with the song imprinted in our heads for the rest of the night...
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After Mickey's Philharmagic (Mickey's magic show in 3D) which was really cool, we joined the kids again in the Mad Tea Party teacup spinning around like crazy. Blake has never been on this ride before. He thought he was going to just sit there and get spun around until i told him we can spin this cup as fast as we can- a lame kids ride just turned into a big-kids' ride!! We were probably the fastest cup spinning around at that time.. Hahaha..
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We also went on the Stitch's great escape ride (a simulator); Buzz lightyear's space ranger spin (a shooting ride) and Peter Pan's flight using the fast pass- this ride is so popular but it was worth waiting for. You basically fly through the skies on London.. so cool. (Its a kids ride by the way.. Hahaha).
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We finished the day by queuing up for 1 hour at the Space Mountain ride. While waiting, they kept us entertained with video games which was spoilt by some kid next to us crying every time he lost a game (he was playing against us). The kid had been trying to push past in the line and bumping us for the past half an hour so we weren't going to let the little brat beat us.. LOL. Anyway.. the actual ride was awesome like all Space Mountain rides in the world. Basically a roller coaster in the dark, can't see the rails, just a few stars and signs! And Michelle kept her eyes open the entire ride!!

We took the hotel shuttle back to our hotel and settled with chicken salad and some texas beef cheese melts from Waffle House.

Day 4: Animal Kingdom

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Today was our sleep in day! We were pretty spent after arriving late and going flat out for the first 2 days so we didn't arrive at the park until around lunch time. After our queueing experience at Space Mountain we decided to start with the most popular rides and work our way through to the least. We got a fast pass for the Safari and lined up for the Kali River rapids. The ride was quite anti-climactic. There was only 1 drop. Blake got quite wet but not to be outdone, Michelle got drenched from head to toe. She pretty much walked around for the rest of the day in wet clothes... Hahaha!!

The Kilimanjaro African Safari was really interesting. We sat in the back of a truck (with about 20 other people) and were driven around the reserve to look at lions, hippos, cheetahs, giraffes and a whole bunch of other animals. This wasn't really what I'd call a conventional theme park ride but it was really good fun and quite relaxing!
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After this we went over to the Expedition Everest ride which was Michelle's favourite and in the top 3 for me! It was so much fun that we decided to do it again (the line was really short). The ride stops half way up the mountain when train tracks end in a twisted wreck of metal and starts its descend backwards and forwards through the darkness. We came face to face with the legendary Yeti- not real of course.

After all that excitement from one roller coaster, we headed to Dinoland for the Primeval whirl ride and the amazing Dinosaur ride. The primeval whirl is a kids ride but it was really jerky and probably left us more uncomfortable than any of the other rides. The Dinosaur ride was well worth the line. The dinosaurs charging at us where pretty scary!!
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We finished the day on a high with another go at the everest roller coaster. We were stuffed after all of that and decided to treat ourselves with a taxi home rather than wait nearly 2 hours for the next free shuttle. The taxi driver was a bit of a character and made us promise that we wouldn't eat at Waffle House unless everything else was closed.

The amazing Tree of Life: How many animals can you spot on the tree?!?! Pretty cool huh..
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Tree Lady:
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Day 5: Kennedy Space Centre

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For our last day in Orlando we decided to pick up a rental car and head over to the Kennedy Space Centre over in Merritt Island (near Cape Canaveral). The car rental was a bit of an ordeal as the first two cars I (Blake) tried were too close to their required service to make it to Memphis. I booked and paid for a small car and got upgraded to an intermediate and ended up with a large car. The Chevy Impala that we ended up with is far nicer than the others we had a choice from so I guess all's well that ends well. We set off to the space centre but by the time we got there it was 12pm. I was a bit unhappy about this as we'd planned to do the full tour of the assembly building and the launch pad but missed the last tour (at 12pm). We still managed to do the launch pad tour and it was really quite boring- Michelle pretty much had a nap half way through the tour.. it was that boring!! Pretty glad we missed the combo tour.

Rocket Park
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Not sure how they fit in here.. it's so small!!
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The launch pad that the Apollo Rockets launched from.
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We only had time to see one IMAX film which was footage shot inside and around the international space station. It was an awesome documentary, narrated by Tom Cruise! One of the best 3D films I've seen. We also went on the launch simulator ride and had a look around rocket park, where replicas of a lot of the rockets sent to space are displayed. We both had a chance to climb into a space capsule which was ridiculously small!

The camera man caught me by surprise.. Michelle hasn't stop laughing at the photo since..
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xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 19:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

San Francisco

overcast 16 °C

San Francisco

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Welcome to San Francisco! We checked in no worries and the four of us decided to take a look around the Fisherman's Wharf area. We saw a whole colony of sea lions that have laid claim to a couple of old floating rafts near Pier 39 (which is the main tourist pier, coincidentally). We had a quick look around and headed into the first good looking restaurant we could find, which was fortunately one that we had a discount for courtesy of the hotel :). We all tried a bowl of their chowder which is based on the Boston chowda. We tried the crab cakes, which unfortunately were not as good as good as the 'chunky crab meat' ones in Lake Placid as it was all mashed up. Michelle had the salmon stuffed with crab meat which was a lot nicer.
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After lunch we had a look through a few of the shops and then dropped into Musee Mechanique for a look around. This place is full of old arcade games and (clean) peepshow machines that were either a quarter or 50c each. We all had a bit of a muck around on the old pinball, a hockey game and a boxing game. Michelle beat me in the boxing as I couldn't bear to hit a woman :).
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We were getting quite thirsty after this much excitement when we walked past Jack's Bar at the old Cannery. Theer was 80 beers on tap, a 400 year old bar and live music (for the first 15minutes we were there...) so we were happy! Nathan and I tried 4 or 5 pints of various local area brews. Contrary to popular belief, beer from the USA is excellent! Some of the main stream exported beers taste like dishwater but the craft beers are excellent. I'd say there was only really one I didn't really like (out of 10 over a couple of days) but I'd still drink it over Fosters!
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Nathan had been talking about chewing tobacco so we bought some on the way back to the Hotel. Even though we specifically requested "not menthol" the silly bugger gave us menthol. It was quite rank, not something I'll be taking up anytime soon.

Day 2

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Michelle and I had left organising tickets to Alcatraz to the last minute. Unfortunately, by the time we tried to book (4 days before) there were none available. We had read that they released a few day tickets in the morning so we woke up early and walked to Pier 33 (where the Alcatraz cruises leave from) to join the queue for tickets to Alcatraz at 7.30am. There were about 50 people in front of us but they still seemed to have quite a few tickets left when we bought ours. We picked the next cruise as we were already up and keen to make something of our early morning start. It had been pretty foggy since we arrived but we were lucky enough to have a relatively clear day. We had some beautiful views of the Bay bridge, the Golden gate bridge and Alcatraz on the way over. When we landed we forced ourselves to stand through half of the 'compulsory' induction speech before running up the hill to get into it!

Michelle was incarcerated for a short time :)
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A view of San Francisco (and the Bay bridge) from Alcatraz:
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The tour of the cell blocks was excellent. It was narrated by former inmates an prison staff and was more focused on stories of the people inside and how they felt living and working here. This was a refreshing change from the usual 'full of statistics' tour. We picked up a tin cup from the souvenir shop and made our way back to the mainland. Nathan and Cassie finished their tour not long after, so we met up and went for some of the local Dungeness crabs. I made the mistake of choosing fish instead of crab... Or was it cardboard, not too sure in the end.

After lunch we rode the cable car into town. Cable cars aren't like regular trams/streetcars. Each cable car rail has a cable running from the top of the line to the bottom which is powered by a motor in the cable room. The cable car just grips onto the cable to move up or down the line. The brakes on these cars are wooden. We didn't realise at first but after smelling the burning smell we worked it out. When the driver wants to brake they pull a handle which levers the wood onto the tracks. They also put sand on the tracks to get more traction if the brakes are slipping. Anyway, no matter how it runs it was great fun to be leaning out the side of the cable car up and down the hills of San Francisco. Pretty expensive though, $6 each trip! We took a look through Chinatown and shopped around for a while at Westfield then headed back to Fisherman's Wharf for a Japanese dinner. Dinner was exactly what we all needed, something delicious but not too rich or creamy. After dinner we were all worn out so Michelle and I went back to the room and just crashed out.
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Day 3

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We've seen a fair few hop on/off busses on our travels and at least half the ones we've been on have been rubbish. San Francisco's was a pleasant surprise! It took us all around Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard street where the world's crooked street is, Chinatown, drove through the not so nice part of town with lots of homeless and dodgy looking people and finally over the Golden Gate bridge and back through the city. The four of us decided to sit on the bus for a lap and just relax and listen to the commentary. It was a long lap (~2.5hrs) and it got really windy up the top but we saw some great places on the way around. We continued through till we got to Chinatown and got Yum Cha for lunch at a place that Michelle's dad recommended. We only just made the lunch service so we were fed and back out the door in no time. During lunch we decided that we would stop by the painted ladies and the Japanese Tea Garden before heading back. The painted ladies we saw were the ones used in the introduction to the "classic" TV show Full House down near Alamo square. We relaxed in the park and had a good look before we were overcome with the smell of smoke from some people living the 'high' life. We then moved on to the Japanese Tea Garden for a look around. We didn't know it but it was cherry blossom season there and it was the first time I'd (Blake) seen them so that was pretty cool. We all sat down for a cup of tea then strolled around looking at the koi, bonsai; Cassie & Michelle were chasing after squirrels for some pictures and we saw a child fell into the ponds.

After this we made our way back to our new local pub (Jack's Bar) for a burger and some different types of beer. Nathan and I decided to try the non menthol chewing tobacco again. This time it wasn't too bad.. still not something I'll be taking up anytime soon.

The Golden gate bridge:
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The painted ladies:
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Japanese tea garden:
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Day 4

Cassie & Nathan left today. So it is just the two of us again. It was lovely catching up with them and we had an awesome time. We've been so exhausted with all the excitement hanging out with the Vitanzas the last week, that we decided to sleep in.

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We did our load of washing down the road and had a massive burrito for lunch. We spent the rest of the day chilling out at the hotel only leaving the hotel for dinner with Michelle's aunty & her husband in the downtown area. We were treated to a zapato (like a burrito) and a burger for Michelle. Before heading home, they took us for some ice-cream at Ghiradelli- a famous San Francisco chocolate company. We definitely went home with a very full belly :).

Day 5

We spent the whole day organising and booking accommodation for the next few days. Very last minute.. we know.

For dinner we decided to head out for more Dungeness crab. Michelle had a yummy pasta with Dungeness crab & I had one of the best snapper i've had in a while.
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Just as we got back to the hotel, ready for bed, we got a message from Leif (a workmate from Perth) that him and his wife Yoli had just arrived in San Francisco. So we headed out into town to catch up for a few drinks with them. We met up at their hotel and tried the classy, and not so classy side of the local nightlife. We had a beer at an Irish Pub and a bottle of wine with olives at a fancy wine bar. What a great way to finish our trip to the west coast.

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 17:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Vegas

sunny 29 °C

Vegas

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We woke up at 4am and got to the airport pretty early to catch a flight to Las Vegas (from Boston). It was a 7 hour trip flying from the east to the west coast of USA- stopping in LA for an hour on the way. By the time we got to Vegas, we had been travelling for 12 hours, we were pretty buggered but so excited to see the Vitanzas who were here on holiday. We caught the shuttle buses from the airport- only $17 (return) and they drop you off and pick you up from the hotel. So that was pretty good. We stayed at the MGM Grand. I (Michelle) stayed here 16 years ago.. I remembered it as really big and it still is really big!! We were pretty shocked to see guests walking around the hotel without shirts on and girls with minimal clothing. The hotel was so busy, probably due to the fact that it was the easter weekend. We spent a good 20 minutes queuing up in line to check in whilst drinking our complimentary lemon or watermelon flavoured water, that tasted like a watered down cocktail :(.

Once we were settled in, we head up to the Flamingo to meet up with Cassie & Nathan at Margaritaville. Unfortunately neither of us had our passports with us (only our drivers licences, which work everwhere else in the US we've been to), so they refused to serve us drinks. We reckon the guy refused to serve us because Nathan didn't tip him enough. Hahaha.. The guy said Blake apparently looks under 21.. what would that make me?!?! Under 16?!?! We tried another restaurant/pub at the Flamingo and were refused drinks as well. We were pretty frustrated by then. So we just caught the monorail back to the hotel and got our passports resorting to the nearest bar we could find, which was the one in our hotel. What a long walk for a drink!

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We grabbed some dinner at Bubba gum shrimp, then headed back to Margaritaville- this time with our passport.

Day 2

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We woke up early and decided to head downstairs to the grand buffet for some breakfast! Anything you can think of for breakfast, they have it all. They even have a dessert section for breakfast!! Like ice cream and cakes. I suppose some people do eat ice cream for breakfast?!?

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After breakfast, we slowly rolled ourselves out to queue up for half price tickets for Cirque de Soleil and half price tickets for the monorail. Once all the organising was done, we made our way to the dodgy part of Vegas- at the end of the monorail line. We went to the largest souvenir store in Vegas. They had everything from t-shirts; weird lollies like bacon mints to stuff that would normally end up in the bin by the time you got home. Blake left the store with some bacon mints that were absolutely rank!

Blake had looked up on google that there is a merry-go-round bar at Circus Circus, where they filmed some of 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. So after a rather long hike in the heat, we managed to find our way to probably the most dodgiest, rundown casino in town. Unfortunately we only found out when we got there that the bar had closed down 2 years ago- Blake was pretty gutted. We grabbed some express Mexican food (which incidentally wasn't very express) and caught a taxi back to our hotel for a rest.

We finished the night with a trip to New York casino to watch the Zumanity Cirque de Soleil show- the more erotic/sexual version of the Cirque de Soleil. Cassie and I picked this for the boys since they were missing out on all the strip clubs in Vegas. The show was very entertaining, with lots of boobs, topless men and in 1 scene a completely naked guy doing acrobats. Not to forget a flying midget who was so awesome!!

Day 3

While Cassie & Nathan were out touring the Grand Canyon, we decided to sleep in, and then attempt to scoff down a delicious 1 pound burger and a Margarita for breakfast/lunch at Hash House (at the Quad hotel). Lets just say we were definitely more than 1 pound heavier after eating it. Blake finished his, I got through most of mine :).
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After lunch, we decided to stroll the Las Vegas strip- checked out the Venetian, Mirage and Blake made some money on Roulette at Casino Royale (it sounds a lot more grand than it actually is). Being in Casino Royale feels similar to being in a tin shed in between two palaces but has pretty cheap Roulette. So cheap in fact that they couldn't afford to fix the winning number display at the table!

When Cassie & Nathan got back from their tour, we went and checked out the Luxor, had some drinks & yummy snacks at the bar then we headed down to the Mirage to watch the volcano show. It went on for like 1 second and nothing else happened. Unfortunately the show was cancelled because it was too windy. We were still pretty pumped for the night so we made our way down to the Bellagio to watch the fountain light/music show. It runs every 15 minutes. It only went for like 5 minutes, but it was amazing. Along the way, we stopped at the 'Trevi fountain', checked out the Caesar palace and other hotels on Las Vegas strip. It was a pretty chilly night but it was nice strolling the streets of Vegas, basking in the Neon.
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The boys had a last minute gamble session at Paris casino whilst Cassie and I (Michelle) walked around the place. It is definitely our favourite casino in Vegas. There weren't many people, the ceiling is painted with clouds which makes the place look a lot brighter, the casino is neat and not too big. And most of all.. there wasn't lots of bogan looking people you see around Vegas and the place didn't smell like damp carpets & cigarettes. Unfortunately the boys were feeling the pressure on the roulette table and went out with a bang (or a slow fizz). We all went home with slightly lighter wallets :(.

Vegas was a pretty cool place but I think it's a bit more of a single blokes town. Plenty to see and do if your wallet is fat!!

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 17:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Boston

Chowda Land

overcast 6 °C

Boston

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Our first day of travel here was a big one. We woke up early and hit the road at 8am leaving the snow behind us. We drove to Albany, returned the car and hung out in a nearby mall till it was time to catch our train. We managed to get a couple of busses to the station which saved us a good $20! A fair bit of stuffing around but worth it in the end. We caught our train at 3pm and Michelle was out like a light. I just sat around and read my book and watched a couple of episodes of The Wire. The train was packed and there were a few people sitting around in their PJs. I guess a few were on their way back from spring break activities. There were so many nerdy students on the train. It was like we caught the 'Harvard/MIT express' to Boston. Hahaha.. Our train arrived at 9pm and we were in our hotel by 9.30pm.

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We stayed at the Omni-Parker hotel which is the oldest hotel in Boston and had the likes of Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X working here. John F Kennedy had his bachelor party here too! The lobby was filled with massive chandelliers and immaculately dressed staff. We normally couldn't afford to stay in a place like this but we ended up getting it with a low ball bid on Priceline. We basically paid 1/3 of the hotel's listed price, which was great. The Boston cream cake apparently originates from the Omni Parker hotel. It was quite yummy- it was more like a custard cream cake. Cost us $8 for a tiny one though.

By the time we checked into the hotel, we were both starving as we'd skipped breakfast and had a pretty basic lunch. The concierge suggested that we try out the oldest restaurant in The USA - Union Oyster House. It turned out to be reasonable food at a reasonable price in a really interesting old building. There was a special JFK booth which was where the former president (a boston local) had dined. That table was unsurprisingly occupied but we got a nice table and a good pint of Sam Adams beer. We also had our first taste of Boston Chowda (yes it's spelt like that!) and some decent seafood.

The oldest restaurant in America:
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Day 2

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We woke up after a terrible nights sleep on a really soft double bed. The last few hotels have had King sized beds so we really struggled. Also the bed was quite soft so we both found ourselves rolling into the centre of the bed. We were both a bit tired after a big days travel so we slept in and started our day with a massive lobster roll at a pub near by called Beantown. It was only $13 and absolutely delicious. After a couple of days of lobster roll tasting we decided that we liked the one here the best as it was the least creamy, had the most lobster chunks and was pretty much the cheapest.

After the roll we went straight out to the start of the freedom trail, got a map, and basically just started walking. The freedom trail is a self guided trail that takes people past a lot of Boston's historic attractions. Most of the attractions have a small plaque which describes some of the history but I personally would have preferred more information (I think Michelle would have been happy with less).

The freedom trail started at the state house; it took us to the Old granary burial ground where Benjamin Franklin's parents are buried here; Old city hall which was once a school that was attended by Benjamin Franklin; Town hall; Walked through Quincy market which was like a food court serving chowda, lobster roll, italian food, etc. The trail took us across the Charlestown bridge. Michelle gave up once we crossed the bridge. It was so boring she decided to head back and did some shopping at Macy's. I continued on to see the USS Constitution, its museum and the Bunker hill monument and museum. The museum near Bunker Hill was great but the USS constitution museum was targeted at a younger audience so was a bit dull.
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The perks of staying at this hotel for more than 5 nights- we were considered a 'extended' guest. So they gave us a complimentary laundry service which was awesome. Unfortunately wifi was not free in our room. So we chilled out at starbucks down the road to use their internet.

Day 3

Today we decided to check out Cambridge, the home of Harvard and MIT. We had a quick look around Harvard and decided to put our names down for the free guided gour around campus. The tour guides are all current students and our guide seemed to have a pretty good insight into Harvard itself. One of the most interesting facts was that a year of enrolment including accomodation and food is only $55k per year. Now neither of us have that kind of cash burning a hole in our pockets but we were both surprised that its only something like $20k a year more expensive than uni in Austrailia. I'd always thought that these Ivory league colleges were hundreds of thousands of dollars a year! The guide told us the story of how the Widener library came about. She said that Harry Widener was an avid book collector and had just made the long trip to England to find a book he'd long been searching for. He found the book and in celebration decided to take the classiest route back to America, on the Titanic! The guide said that Harry and his mother and father had made it to a life boat when they realised that they'd left the book behind. Harry and his dad went back aboard to find it and were never again heard from. So his mum donated Harry's collection and $2.5Million for a library at Harvard, where Harry had studied. He must have really loved that book..

The famous Harvard gate; Michelle rubbing the feet of someone who is meant to be Mr Harvard, but apparently it isn't him (supposedly they held a look alike contest); Harvard yard (this is where all the 1st year students live- Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones & Natalie Portman all lived in this accommodation whilst they were studying here); One of the dozens of libraries (this is the Widener library); the graduation ceremony is held outside this building.
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After this tour Michelle walked around the shops & checked out Harvard business school which was like across the other side of the river, whilst I went off to see the MIT Museum. The museum was aimed at schoolkids so I didn't really get a lot out of it. There were quite a few interesting robots made by students but I don't think I really got my moneys worth overall. After an hour or so I decided to get the subway back to the hotel. I could not believe it when Michelle called my name out! She was on the same train carriage sitting right next to the door I'd just walked in! Must be a sign (not sure what it means though). Michelle came back from Harvard with a bag full of hoodies and shirts for her brothers and herself.. not sure how we are going to fit it in our bags!!

Day 4

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We had another great sleep in today then walked through Boston Common, on our way to Newbury Street for some sushi. After this, Michelle strolled down Newbury street to find a place to get a haircut. Unfortunately they were all like $50-70 haircut (slightly more than what she was willing to pay). So she ended up at Chinatown with a $30 haircut and came home with really super short hair. Trust the Chinese to give her a cheap haircut. I decided to check out one of Boston's best attractions, the Sam Adams Brewery! I'll just start by saying that this is the best brewery tour I've been on anywhere. For starters its free (optional donations go to charity) and you get 3 small glasses of beer (and get to keep the glass). I arrived about 10 minutes before the tour started, got my ticket and went around to smell the different malts and hops sitting around the room. After that we were led into the operational section of the brewery and schooled on the production of beer. After that we went to the bar. A couple of locals adopted me for the tasting as I told them I felt like a bum drinking by myself... The beer was great but I was back on the subway before I knew it. A good afternoon either way :)

Day 5

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After spending the morning at Starbucks organising the next part of our trip, we decided to have more lobster rolls and chowda for lunch (since it was our last day in Boston). Blake and I both bought a lobster roll & chowda each from 2 different stalls and compared it. Unfortunately both the lobster rolls didn't quite live up to the standards of the Beantown pub. But the chowdas were definitely close to the best we have tried.

We were pretty worn out after a big couple of days so we just relaxed and took the rest of the day off.

Next stop.. Vegas to catch up with Nathan and Cassie and hopefully win big (or at least lose small)!!

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 13:39 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Lake Placid

Winter Wonderland in Spring

snow -7 °C

As we were leaving Montreal, a snow storm arrived!! It just seems like every time we leave a place, the snow comes. Most people would think this wasn't a good thing but we really haven't seen a good snow all winter so we're quite keen to get into it. We took the train from Montreal to Albany. It took a very long 8 hours to get there. It only took 1 hour for us to cross the canada/america border. Customs officers came onboard the train to check our passports but we stayed stationary for nearly 2 hours. Some lady had problems with entering USA. From what we saw, she presented them with photocopies of her document, instead of a passport?!?! What a retard. So a 8 hour long train ride ended up being like 10 hours. We kept ourselves well entertained with movies, magazines, and lots of snacks. Sleeping does help to kill time too, and that's what Michelle did.

By the time we got to the Albany (the historical capital of New York State), we were buggered. So we just had dinner at the hotel's restaurant- some steak and buffalo wings!! It's pretty cool watching the snow fall from our window in the dark.. We didn't see anything in Albany - just a quick stopover to rest and to pick up our rental car.

Lake Placid

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After breakfast, the hotel's courtesy van dropped us off at our car rental office (Budget) and we were off on the road driving to Lake Placid. It took us just over 2 hours to get there in our new Chervolet Malibu with only 1700miles on it. Here in Lake Placid they hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. So as you can imagine, in winter it is just covered in snow!!

Once we got to there, we bought ourselves some food then went to check in at our motel - Town house lodge by the lake. Once we were settled in, we decided to drive into town to see what its all about (it's only down the road, but since it was snowing we thought we'd drive in). We bought our ski package pass which included ski rentals, ski lifts and a 2 hour ski lesson for tomorrow. We then had a quick stroll amongst the snow, trying not to fall into the lake which wouldn't be a problem since it is frozen.. but it was quite hard to differentiate between land and lake.. it was all white.

Mirror Lake in the background:
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We had one of the best 'proper' meals we've had in America in town at the restaurant/pub called Generations. We filled our tummy with a perfectly cooked steak and crab cake. They had the best crab cake- made of real chunky crab meat.
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Day 2: Skiing lessons

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We woke up early and headed off to Whiteface mountain which is only a 15 minutes drive from town. We collected our skis and we were ready for our ski lesson with our instructor Kevin, who just so happened to be the spitting image of Bill Murray! We were given 'blades'- the shortest skis, apparently it is easier to learn how to ski in them.

We started in the 'mixing bowl' slope (ie. beginner slope). Kevin taught us how to turn and stop properly!! Apparently there is a technique on how to get back onto your feet when you fall too. Trust me (Michelle).. it is easy to fall, but so difficult to get up. We were pretty excited by the end of the 1 hour that we could nearly ski properly!! Blake mastered the 'hockey-stop' pretty quickly.

Once Kevin was confident we had some control on our skis, he took us us up the 'bear' slope (slightly steeper slope). We went down the 1st run very slowly without too much problem. Blake didn't do his barge ahead straight ahead approach and stop when he smashes into a tree, which was good. We attempted the bear slope for the 2nd time and Kevin was pretty satisfied that we can ski on our own well enough to not kill ourselves, so that was the end of our 2 hour lessons.

After a quick rest and a bite to eat, we went out skiing on our own. The minute Kevin left, we somehow instantly forgot how to ski. Mind you the sun had just came out, and the snow getting quite icy. After a few more runs we decided to call it a day.
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Before we left, we decided take the gondola ride up to the top of the little Whiteface mountain. From there we could see THE whiteface mountain. There were lots of people skiing down it. Think it was part of the old olympic track. It doesn't look like we'll be attempting it anytime soon. Think we need A LOT more practice!!
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On the way home, we decided to grab some yummy lunch at the Lake Placid pub/brewery after skiing. The beer tasting platter was only $8 for 6 small glasses which wasn't a bad deal. jalopeno soup; onion soup; baby back ribs & BBQ chicken with waffle fries
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Day 3

We woke up slightly sore today- not as bad as our 1st attempt at skiing with Steve in Canada. Today we went to check out the Olympic Jumping complex which was free entry for us because we purchased the 'Olympic site passport'- which included the gondola ride and various olympic sites and discounts on bobsled, skeleton rides etc. It is worth it if you want to check out all the olympic sites in Lake Placid.

There was hardly anyone at the Jumping complex when we got there. The cable lifts were not working so we were told to drive around the back and use the elevator to the skydeck on top of the 120m jump tower. Neither of us will be trying this sport anytime soon... These people must be nuts!
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The view from the start of the jump:
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We then headed towards the Olympic sports complex which is where the bobsled and skeleton tracks are located. We were so excited to go on the bobsled track. We had about 1.5hour to kill before our scheduled time for the bobsled ride, so we walked around the complex and watch the professionals do a skeleton & bobsled run. These guys flew past! It was almost impossible to get a photo... Fortunately for us Michelle has a lot of patience.
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Before our turn on the track, we watched everyone before us go down the track on tv. The first few runs looked really slow and we were thinking this is way to slow for us, we should tell our bobsled driver to just go as fast as he can. I (Blake) asked the drivers if they had their wheaties for breakfast and tried to give them a bit of a rev up. When it was our turn on the bobsled.. it felt pretty fast to us- we ended up travelling about 100kph which felt real fast. The exhilarating part was the corners where it was a struggle to keep sitting up straight :). Michelle hit her head a couple of times- think she must have just made the height limit for the ride. That's probably why we had to wear some crazy thick helmets :).
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And we survived:
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Day 4

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Today is our 300th day on the 'road' (ie. since we left home). Pretty exciting. But it also means we'll be going home soon. We woke up this morning and our car was covered in snow. Clearly it snowed last night. Its been great seeing so much snow, since we don't get that in Australia. It is like a winter wonderland here (in Spring) :). We are loving it.

We started the morning with a wine tasting at Swedish Hill winery (the actual winery is in the finger lakes, a few hours south of here), followed by lunch at the Steak & Seafood restaurant in town which wasn't exactly great food unfortunately but the lobster bisque and crab cake was yum. The steak tasted like it was boiled, had no grill marks and was overcooked :(. Not the best 300th day celebration food...
Crab cakes; lobster bisque; rib eye; rainbow trout
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After lunch, we saw some dogs running down the lake, so we thought we'd go on the dogsled ride on the lake (Mirror Lake). It was a quick 5 minute ride, but riding on the frozen lake was pretty awesome. The dogs were alaskan huskies which looked like the cross between a siberian husky and a border collie sheep dog. They did love to run though. It was pretty cold, we so then went to the other 'winery' in town called the Goose Witch Winery (also from the finger lakes and way better). We bought a wine to chill in the snow pile in front of our room- why do you need a fridge when there's a huge pile of snow in front of your room.. heheh :)

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Michelle found a new way to cook noodle that does not require a pots or microwave.. Its called cooking in the kettle- What a genius idea!! It is one of those coffee brewing one so no element for the noodles to get caught in. Don't worry, we thoroughly washed it after. Although, next time you want to use a kettle in the hotel, we suggest everyone should give it a check and rinse first. You never know.. some genius like Michelle- might have just cooked up a storm in the kettle beforehand :).

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 15:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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