A Travellerspoint blog

Las Vegas

5th - 10th June.

-17 °C

Hi all, its my turn again !!! (San will audit shortly).
Well we are in Hawaii after an absolutely fantastic time in the "party capital of the world".
By the way a correction in past mails..Imelda not Amelda but I`m sure that everyone jumped on that fairly quickly.
We departed NY faster than anticipated, our shuttle arrived some 20 minutes earlier than the time arranged. There were 4 other groups onboard, most having departure times earlier than us, and all at JFK (ours at Laguardia). Everyone else was rather "twitchy" as we were delivered first. Normal security process, shoes also.
One of our carry on bags questioned but allowed. Landed at Dallas, had to catch train, directions very poor, but managed OK.
Touch down in LV was rather "hairy" and for a moment I thought that we were going to slide sideways down the runway, even one of the attendants appeared from the back and said "what happened there ?". (Confidence in American Airways is fast fading). No comp meals or drinks apart from soft and H2O.
First thing you see when you step into the terminal, "slot machines", welcome to Vegas. Shuttle to Treasure Island, great hotel, excellent location in the middle of the strip. (Pridmore Rd Travel Agency, doing a great job). Room had great view and also KS bed.
As we arrived late, we decided to walk the "strip" to get a feel then had a drink and crashed, as the day had been long due to early rise and time change. (We had planned to eat but fell asleep and woke too late much to Phil's disgust!!)
Next morning walked south to Mandalay Hotel, viewing externally with the plan to revisit each hotel/casino. All that I can say is "what a massive place, and where did all the people come from !".
Along our walk we purchased tickets for that night to "Cirque Du Soleil- Mystere" which just happened to be at T/Island. We also investigated our trip to the G/Canyon and settled on a helicopter trip for Friday from "Bolder" to the G/C, travelling down the canyon nearly to the bottom, landing and spending 45 mins enjoying the scenery and having a champers lunch.(We travelled to and from Bolder in a Limo).
We enjoyed a meal that evening (Wed) at one of the many restaurants in the complex, then thoroughly enjoyed the diversity/colour/skills and overall"wow" factor of the Cirque. Brilliant show.
Thursday saw us walk north to view the other end of the strip. (A long walk by the way, they operate shuttles, but we decided to walk even in the heat). Along the way we purchased tickets for Friday night to (Yes this is his name) Hans KLOK (Magician) with his assistant (briefly) Pammy Anderson. That night we ate outside at a beautiful French Rest (Mon ami ) and enjoyed an outdoor floorshow by the french can-can dancers from next door. There was also a fantastic water display to music across the way every 30 mins. Thousands!! of people walking the streets and filling up all of the casinos.
Friday we were collected by our limo and driven to Bolder. Matt our pilot advised that the other passengers were a no show, so we had a personalised trip, along with a young lad, brother of an employee of the firm. We both sat in the front, and San was a little nervous until we had been travelling for a few moments. What an absolute blast. Magnificent trip, travelling over the Hume Dam (eagle view), the meandering Colorado river then the G/Canyon. Decending down into the Canyon and landing was great. The views were breath taking to say the least. We could not visit the new viewing platform on this trip, but we flew past it, and I was disappointed in that it was not a big as I thought, and also it is tucked away in a side canyon. We also flew over the viewing spot where bus trips stop (am I glad we did not go by bus !!). Many photos taken, although I must admit we were both absorbed on the way there, that we nearly forgot. The trip back was excellent, with Matt providing a very detailed commentary. (He was great).
That evening we went to see Hans Klok (magician) who provided a real LV show, with colourful dancers etc. He was also (ably ???) assisted by Pam Anderson. She really confirmed that she cant act ,cant speak, but everyone screamed approval, not sure why...!!!!!!!
Overall the show was worth attending and his tricks even had Sandra saying, "how did he do that ??".
Saturday morning, I headed off to the ticket office to buy half price tickets to "The Legends in Concert" . You can only purchase on the day of the show etc. After a late rise we headed off to one of the largest fashion outlet complex`s, approx 20 mins nth. I have never seen so many shops, especially given all of the ones on the strip in the hotel/casino complexes. Afterwards we ate at Pho ( Vietnamese- T/Island), then attended show. We saw, Ricky Martin, Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson, The Blues Brothers, Whitney Houston and to top the show Elvis. Believe it or not it was a very enjoyable night, as they were supported by a full troupe of dancers/singers in colourful LV gear. Afterwards we journeyed back to our hotel and enjoyed the half hour free outside entertainment. It is a Pirate theme, taking place on two life-size gallions, outside the hotel, with one boat actually moving and then sinking. Great free entertainment, including fireworks, explosions, girls dancing and singing.
Next morning, back to packing and catching planes etc, on our journey to Hawaii. We flew to LA via smaller jet, then changed to the huge monster, having the displeasure of having the last seats in the plane, again. Complained a number of times, but nothing happened. American Airlines, never again.
Thanks again for your comments etc, this will probably be our last written "blog" as we will be on the beach for the next three days, enjoying the 30 degrees, but we will post photos when we return.
Chow for now....

Posted by sparscott 15:36 Comments (0)

The Big Apple

Tues 29th May...Tuesday 5th June.

-17 °C

Hi all, firstly thanks for all of your mails and updates.
Well to be corny "how time flies", with a blink 7 weeks have passed and we are into our last 14 sleeps...scary, but we are both looking forward to getting home and into routines. ( Pigs !!).
Lets get the important things out of the way, I hear that the Crows lost to Melb (who have not won a game all year)...!!!!!!
Yes I know that the Power lost as well, but it's all part of the plan (I hope).
Our exit from Dublin went very smoothly until we passed through the security scanners etc. Saddam Sandra had forgotten some "items" that she had left in our carry-on luggage. Need I say more than, a few anxious moments were experienced, but overall the security personnel were very understanding and assisted us to reach a mutual resolution. (Sandra will advise upon her return).
Our plane trip was OK and tail winds shortened travel time by an hour. No individual TV`s and the meal was just OK..!, had to buy drinks..!!
Upon arrival we seemlessly secured a "shuttle" for $17 each, far cheaper than leaving London. Traffic and two other dropoffs, saw a journey of 1.5 hrs, but it would have taken me three days to navigate.
Our hotel is in a magnificent location in 32nd st. just off 6th ave. The street has many Korean Rest's, so is known as "Little Korea". The view from our window is the Empire State Building which is in the next block. After dropping luggage we headed off to Times Square and to feel this wonderful city. We had a drink at an outdoor bar, and dinner at another to end the day.
Wed 30th. Given our location is half way between uptown and downtown, we decided to walk downtown to "Battery Park" to catch a ferry to The Statue of Liberty. On the way we zig zagged and discovered Greenwich Village, SOHO, Little Italy and Chinatown. What an amazing city, such diversification to the max. On the way we visited 911 (ground Zero), St Pauls church, which was the central support area post t`strike. They have on display many items giving a vivid picture of the impact that was felt at the time, and the bonding of all to the one cause. At the 911 site, a display of children's messages re lost fathers, mothers, relatives, friends brought home the reality/impact of the real loss.
Access to the statue was unavailable, so we settled for a cruise around the island and harbour, which was very enjoyable and many photo`s taken.
On our journey back, we located a restaurant run by two Aussie`s, called 8 Mile Creek. We enjoyed one of our best meals in their outdoor area, then walked back to 32nd street. (I think its about 3miles eachway, so a big walk (especially for those of us with shorter legs).
Thursday 31st. Crossed the road and went to the top of the Empire State Building. For those of you who have been there, you know just how breathtaking the view is. We were lucky as not many tourists there when we arrived, but by hell there were a few when we left..!!!!
Next H-O-H-O (Hop-on-hop-off), good value as there are 4 tours, Uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, and a night (lights) tour. We elected for the downtown first. It covered where we had walked the day before, so we were re-assured that we did well the day before. Upon return we joined the queue for half priced theatre tickets. It took an hour, but two shows for the price of one was well worth it. San wanted to see the "Pirate Queen" produced by the same people as Riverdance, so I elected for a laugh and went to see "Spamalot"... a Monty Python musical. (Bloody hysterical). We ate at Hard Rock Cafe then separated for our shows which both started at the same time and were only two blocks away from each other. Another great day.
Friday 1st. Decided to finish HOHO as only good for 48 hours. Took the downtown again , leaving at Wall Street, then walked to Pier 17.
We then joined the Brooklyn tour which lasted 90 minutes, nothing spectacular, just as I expected. We were given the opportunity to walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge, ie Brooklyn to Manhattan. Again great for those of us with longer legs!!!
Next was the "uptown tour" past Central Park etc. I dont think I could afford a front door let alone a one room apartment. We had dinner, then joined a "night tour" to cover the city lights, both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. V` enjoyable, but we were hearing the same commentary, and the request for tips was driving us mad, after spending most of the day on HOHO.
Sat 2nd. Time out to ring the girls and get a verbal update of the state of the nation at home. Afterwards we set off for the Central Station and Rockefeller Centre & St Paul's Cathedral (I think that I am over churches for awhile). We enjoyed the artwork at the RC, and then decided to take a Horse & Carriage ride through Central Park. A great way to spend time looking at the lush growth, water ways, and most of all the people who obviously enjoy getting out into the park. No wonder as most of the city is concrete.
We again walked back, and dined in one of the "Little Korean" Restaurants in our street. We had Beef/Squid/Vegs BBQ`d at our table, a most enjoyable culinary experience.
Today 3rd. Domestic day. We set off to locate a laundramat, and luckily found one only two blocks away on 30th between 5th and 6th ave. The next best thing is that washing/powder/drying a reasonable amt was about $8-00. (Bargain Joyce !!).
Next it was assisting Imelda when she hit Macey`s. (No more to be said, but the cc took a battering).
When we emerged, it had been raining, and as I finish off it is still raining, memories of London, although every day until today has been close to 30. Due to the rain and our enjoyable dinner last night we again hit "little Korea" tonight, this time enjoying Dumplings (Pork/Seafood/Veg`s) and Pad Thai washed down with the only "red" that they sold, an enjoyable Merlot from Australia.
We selected this rest, as they make all of the dumplings at the front and we have observed with curiosity for a number of days.
Tomorrow we are again off to "Battery Park"...(walking.??) to get a ferry to Ellis Island to view the Immigration Museum, then we will try to cover what we have forgotten before we fly out to Las Vegas early on Tuesday.
Trust all is well with everyone, we will update again in LV. Thanks again for your comments. By the way San (Imelda) is next door reading her book !!!!! Cheers from the Big "A".

Posted by sparscott 18:32 Comments (2)

Ireland

25th-28th May

-17 °C

San`s on another computer checking out accom in Hawaii, so I have the power.!!!! (A brief moment I bet).
We boarded the ferry for Belfast without incident, and I must say that the ferry was extremely impressive. (Not like the ferries that I have travelled on in the past!!).
There were great lounge areas, bars, eateries galore, children areas, machine game areas etc etc. The crossing was gentle and went quickly.
Upon arrival we collected our bags and proceeded to collect our car. It became evident very quickly that no such commodity existed at the ferry terminal as we had been advised. After some questions we established that our car was at the airport (the only Hertz car rental area in Belfast). A £7-00 fare saw us collect our car and head off to arrange accomodation. We drove through the city streets a few times, familiarising ourselves, then San went off to the "Info" office to book accom. The B&B was about 2 miles from the city, located on a major road with cafes and shops on both sides. Of course our room was at the top of 3 flights of stairs, but the owner (Theodore) was very helpful and room was good. We asked re Black Cab tours and he advised that he new of a driver who was a character and a set price etc, and would pick us up. We had a quick coffee across the road while we waited then headed off on the tour. The guide was definately a character, repeating every sentence about three times (we must have looked backward or something!!).
Anyway the tour was 75mins, and well worth the effort. I must admit that my knowledge of the "trouble between the Catholics and Protestants" was now vague, but after visiting the streets and seeing the murals first hand, it all came back. Our guide provided much historical information and his passion was evident. Although things have quietened in Belfast, you can feel that the division is still alive.!! A very interesting tour.
We were dropped off in the city so began to familiarise ourselves with a walk. We visited City Hall where a local cultural food fair/festival was on, (food from France/Holland/Germany/Italy), then walked to the famous Crown Hotel (National Trust building) known for its individual booths and stained glass windows. We had a drink and avoided a downpour while doing so. We caught a bus home, then ate at a local rest across the road and turned in.
Another great "cooked breaky" then we headed off to view the north, especially the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede (rope bridge). We took the scenic coast road.
We were informed that the weather was going to turn so to hurry. Luckily we viewed both spots at length without any rain. Initially San did not want to cross the bridge, but age is making her more adventurous, and she made it over and back, even posing for photographs.
We booked our nights B&B accom at the Giant's Causeway Info office, at a farm located to the north "Ballyhenry House" at Limavady (Londonderry).
After a reasonable drive, (although you quickly realise that both Scotland and Ireland are not that big compared to good old Aust) we located our B&B.
It was located on a farming property and due to cancellations we had a double area which is usually self catering, and brand new. It was very luxurious, probably one of the best that we have encountered on our journey. We journeyed (a couple of miles) to a local hotel and enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip. Barb, you will be pleased to know that I had duck (served double portions) without asking..!!!
Next day we joined native locals on holiday at breakfast (as a local holiday on Monday), then headed off for Dublin. The drive through the countryside was pleasant with everything green green green, but obviously not as spectacular as Scotland. Along the way we stopped off at Londonderry and walked the old city wall, taking in all of the history via info boards along the journey. You can also see the murals on buildings outside the wall, along with fortified police stations (same as Belfast).
We arrived in Dublin, and we quickly realised that it was a much bigger city than we had anticipated. After some frustration with signage (lack of), one way streets, we located the tourist information building, which closed at 3pm, and it was 5pm.
We had noticed B&B`s on the way in, so our plan was to head back to that road and investigate. Easier said than done, but after some further frustration we located a nice B&B (again at the top of three flights of stairs) which is only 10 mins from the airport.
After catching a bus to the city we walked the streets for a short time ending up at "Temple Bar" along with hundreds of other locals and tourists (obviously the place to be). We both enjoyed Irish Stew and a drink, then walked back to a I`cafe and called the girls. It was 6-00am, but as we told them, we had waited a few hours to be nice.!!!
The last bus home, ready for our last day in Ireland.
Today we enjoyed b`fast (fresh fruit salad and toast etc) then drove to the airport to check everything out for tomoz, as our plane for New York leaves at 10-00am, and we don't want any surprises.
It is only ten minutes from our accom, so should be easy.
We left the car, and caught a bus to the city, then jumped on a Hop-on-Hop-off bus to get a good understanding of the city. Just as we started, a hail storm came from no-where, luckily we were under shelter, but many were not.
We stayed on the trip a second time around and departed to tour the Guiness Museum and factory !! San decided not to go in, but I spent about 1-30 hrs touring etc.
Afterwards we ate dinner at O`Neils Pub, we both enjoyed a massive pork roast (recommend to anyone heading here), and updating the blog.
On the way home we may call in for a last drink in Ireland, then pack for our flight tomoz.
Our next update should be from the "Big Apple".
Trust everyone is well and please keep your comments coming as we enjoy reading them.

Posted by sparscott 10:46 Comments (4)

Minard Castle

(23rd May)

-17 °C

(Just to finish our Minard Castle experience).
We booked our Minard Castle B&B in St Andrews, and arrived approx 6`ish on the 23rd after a long drive from Drumnadrochit.
The (unfortified castle) was situated on Loch Fyne approx a mile from the main road. Entry was via a forrest, which neighbouring trees were being harvested by the forrestry dept. The castle was extremely impressive and everything that we had wished for. We were greeted at the front door and ushered into the main hall which was fully decorated and adorned with deer heads from hunting trips of years past. Our room was at the top of an ancient (creaky) staircase, and we were watched all the way by the eyes contained on many large portraits which adorned the walls.
Our room was of a high quality, and we were also informed that we had exclusive use of the large drawing room. The house manager also informed that although we were not the only ones staying, we would probably not see anyone else until morning. They also advised that the rather "large" front doors would be locked and alarmed at 11pm.
We decided to walk down to the "Loch" via rather saturated ground, then took to walking through the gardens. Along the way we met the gardner, who gave us some background on the property and its current owners. There were a few donkeys and a horse "elvis" in one paddock, and many batum? hens running free.
We travelled into "Furnace" and ate at the local hotel. It was what I had been looking for all of our trip, an open wood fire, and a local meal washed down with rose`(the wife) and guiness for mine.
We drove back, watched the soccer on TV in the drawing room, then retired.
No Ghosts, but we were awoken about 11-15, by the sound of a bell constantly being rung. It went on and on, I thought of assisting, but did not know where the key was, plus it was alarmed.
Finally I went downstairs and spoke through the door to find that two elderly Americans who were staying a few nights had been locked out. They were not happy chaps, let me tell you, and I dont blame them as they would have spent a good hour trying to get some attention. I finally made contact with the manager, and he let them in. ( Lesson- dont stay out late if you are sleeping in a castle).
We had a very enjoyable breakfast overlooking the front gardens and Loch, then headed off for Straraen.

Posted by sparscott 10:18 Comments (0)

Scotland

17th - 24th May

-17 °C

We weren't far wrong in our prediction at cost to get to Gatwick Airport from hotel. Taxi to Victoria Station was £15. Train to Gatwick was £14.95 each. Taxi tried to drive us to Gatwick with a special offer of £70!!
At the airport there was a lot of security. More so than Hong Kong!! We were both only allowed 1 bag each on the plane so we had to do some quick thinking as we both had 2 each of hand luggage. Through security check everyone was made to take their shoes off.
Flight was good and quick to Edinburgh. On arrival we caught a shuttle bus to train station in the city and then a taxi to our B.B. It was a nice place only minus was we were upstairs and taking bags up a bit of a chore! We were a 2km walk to city centre or there was a bus stop right out front. After settling in we chose to walk back to the city to explore on foot even if it was sprinkling with rain-we are use to it now.
We walked up and down the three main streets and then stopped and had a drink in a bar as it was now around 7:00. It does not get dark until 10:00 so there is plenty of light to do things. Shops still close at 5:30.
After our drink we began looking for somewhere to eat. After lots of walking and seeing more of the city we began to head back to the B.B. as we new there was a pub around the corner. On the way we came across an Italian restaurant so stopped there. A good choice. We had a great meal. When we came out it had been raining so we made a quick dash home.
Surprise Surprise on waking we discovered it was still raining. (18/5/07) Had a cooked breakfast and met a nice couple from Orregan-America.
(Me now..) Day two was aimed at viewing Edinburgh and the Castle.
Again we walked into the city centre and boarded the hop-on-hop off bus for a tour of the city. I must say that it is a very impressive city and we both especially loved the old section. The rain did hold off for awhile, but when it decided to fall, we just moved downstairs, going back up top when the sun came out. We alighted the second time around, at the Castle, and spent an enjoyable number of hours viewing a most marvellous place, full of history etc. (Sandy listened to the commentary via audio and related to me).Afterwards we walked the "royal mile" to the palace, but unfortunately it was closed due to "Gov Gen in residence until 1/6".
Across the road is the new modern Scottish Parliament buildings, so we went and viewed, very abstract design. We then waited for a bus which never turned up so as it started to rain heavily, called into a pub for some refreshments. (Every second building was a pub..luv the place).
When the rained ceased we headed back to the B&B stopping for a "Thai" on the way.
19th...After another delicious b`fast we headed off to collect the rental car. Queue took 2 hours, so glad we went early. Back to B&B to collect luggage then headed off to St Andrews.
Trip semi uneventful, arriving early afternoon. Walked the streets, then called in at the info`centre re accom. Obtained a B&B just a few metres from the i`centre in the heart of St A. Lovely B&B £40-00pn each. Toured the town, visited the Old Club House, then had a lovely meal and turned in.
20th...Breakfast provided in the room(fresh fruit/perc coffee/toast etc), then walked amongst the golf courses and undertook the "18 putting holes". I think more practice is req before getting on the course.
We headed off for Loch Ness (Drumnadrochit), via "Perth and Kinross, Fort william and Spean Bridge." Absolutely spectacular scenery, from baron mountains, to Lochs surrounded by forests, then mountains still with snow peaks and ice still embedded in the craigs. A most enjoyable experience. One funny experience along the way, in the middle of nowhere was a vehicle approaching with siren and lights flashing, which turned out to be a bomb disposal unit. We have experienced the normal vehicles with sirens blazing, but never a bomb unit.
We arrived at Drumnadrochit (prev booked accom for two nights)and walked around the small village then enjoyed a meal at a semi pub/rest as the local hotel was booked. The accom was very good, with the manager extremely helpful, and a lovely cooked b`fast each morning.
21st...We headed off for a recommended walk through the woods, to access Loch Ness, and "touch the water". Afterwards we headed off to tour, Urquardt castle and "Glen Affric". The drive through "Glen A" was spectacular, viewing magnificent waterfalls and Lochs & forests. We undertook some "walks", which certainly tested our stamina. It was refreshing to get out of the car and walk again, as we had undertaken so much prior to the previous few days.
After we drove down and visited Fort Augustus, hoping to find a !`net cafe along the way. (Did not happen).
Enjoyed a tour around the village, viewed the canal system, then had a drink and headed back to Drum`it. Enjoyed a meal at the hotel to finish a most enjoyable day.
22nd...Enjoyed another w`ful b`fast then headed off for the Isle of Skye.
We stopped at a beautiful small village/port (Plonkton). Absolutely picturesque, called into the local gallery, local craft fair, then onto tour the island.
Again absolutely magnificent, unbelievable scenery. Waterfalls abound, mist covering the mountains, rain, sunshine, ice covered mountains and sheep. (No fences, just move them off the road if you hit one!! Only jok`n). A wonderful experience, breathtaking. We toured to the top, 2 Staffin", then turned around and headed back. We spent the night at Kyleakin, nothing much happens at Kyleakin.
23rd...Breakfast and then off to Minard Castle, stopping along the way at Nevis Range to undertake a ride on the cablecar to the top of the mountains. It was a fifteen minute ride there and 15 back again. View was again spectacular, but limited due to low cloud.
Our castle experience was everything that we thought it would be. (No ghosts). We are about out of time, so will elaborate at next update re the castle.
24th...Up with a delicious b`fast and on the road by 8-30 to ensure that we delivered our rental car back at Stranraer by 12-00. After a few anxious moments along the way we arrived about 15 mins late. Hence we are updating and catching the Ferry to Belfast tomoz.

Posted by sparscott 07:38 Comments (1)

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