A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Auggiesfamily

Countdown

34 days to go......

sunny 22 °C
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This blog was originally created to keep in touch with friends and family while away from home for 5 weeks........ Since we have had lots of questions from friends planning travel to the USA and through discussions with strangers we met along the way, we realised perhaps others may get something out of reading some of our information.
We hope you find the information entertaining and helpful, if there are any questions, please don't hesitate to post a comment asking. Please keep in mind the thoughts, reflections and recommendations on this blog are our personal ones, everyone finds different value in different things.......ours were what we thought and may not match with yours.

Happy reading!

We're coming to America!
We have everything booked and ready to go, we are on countdown!

First stop Melbourne!

The First stop of our trip included a night in Melbourne. This was part of the flights package so we thought we would have a night exploring the city. We have seen the amazing ocean road and Phillip Island but we have never done more than pass through Melbourne city before.

On our way to Melbourne!...

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Our B&B Accommodation in Richmond.
This was a cute little place to stay, it was a short walk to Bridge Street shopping strip and central to everywhere we wanted to visit. The beds were like sleeping on a cloud!
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What better place to start exploring than St Kilda.

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As you can see it was unseasonably cold for a November afternoon, but it is Melbourne, all seasons in one day is to be expected.

Luna Park!

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While Luna Park in Melbourne is a great place to visit, I cant help but compare it to the Sydney version. I grew up visiting Luna Park in Sydney as a special treat, this was the ultimate night of excitement for my nine year old self! The atmosphere and character of Luna Park in Sydney is, in my opinion, more vibrant and alive than in Melbourne. However, Luna Park in Melbourne is a historic location and this can be felt in it's presence. The roller coaster that surrounds the perimeter of the park is full of character and managed to entice me onto it for a ride. Those of you who know me know that this is a major achievement as rides with drops and dips are not my favourite past time. There is a driver that stands while riding the roller coaster, which provided me with a false sense of security, I thought that is he can ride standing, the dips can't be that bad. Boy how wrong I was! If you are not a roller coaster fan like me, don't be fooled into thinking this one is any different than the rest.

Eureka sky deck

The tallest building in Melbourne!
Part of this adventure included going out onto a glass ledge/room and looking out and down from the tallest building in Melbourne.
If you are afraid of heights like a couple of us...... don't be, this experience really is worth a go. It isn't as bad as we anticipated.
Fun facts to know about the building is ;
The building stands 297 metres in height, with 91 storeys above ground.
It is the 50th tallest building in the world.
It is also the second-tallest building in Australia and the tallest building in Melbourne

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Posted by Auggiesfamily 00:14 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne victoria usa america luna_park st_kilda richmond Comments (0)

On our way!

New surroundings

all seasons in one day
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We have officially been in transit - from the time we left home - for 27 hours - if only the USA was closer to home, but right now we are too tired and numb to care!

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One more flight until we arrive in New York City!
And there is snow on the Tarmac! We are the only family excited by the cold...... Still hopeful for snow in NYC!

Let me share the adventure of a new country with you from my families eyes:

- They have had a giggle at the accent - particularly when one of the flight attendants gave me the polite laugh and nod - like you do when you have no idea what the person just said..... us Aussies are so hard to understand!
- Teen 2 has discovered at lunch that there is no such thing as a small at Mc Donald's - the small coke is equivalent to Aussie large and the small chips is equal to the medium.
- All of the boys have used their US dollars to pay for various purchases and are bamboozled by the coins...... It will still take some working out. I think there is a novelty with using the cash - at this rate we will run out of money by day two!
- The tween and Teen 1 discovered that there is a vending machine that takes notes. Also that there are vending machines for everything - including scratchies- yes the lotto ones!
- The boys couldn't wait to use the toilet in a stall..... To see how it fills with water! Bizarre

Posted by Auggiesfamily 07:20 Archived in USA Tagged usa america nyc airports airplanes mc_donalds Comments (1)

Our First Day

Big Apple Greeter's Tour

overcast 19 °C
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Our first morning we were met by Donald from Big Apple Greeters, this is a volunteer service that shows visitors around the city for a donation fee - this goes to the organisation which is not for profit.

We were blessed with what the locals are calling a 'hot day' 19 degrees celsius. this was fortunate considering the past weeks of snow and gave us the opportunity to walk around freely without hiding from the weather. It looks like there will be snow on Christmas eve though - fingers crossed XX.

We went to all over the city, starting in Riverside Park right beside our apartment, with a walk along the Hudson River. We walked from W71st down to 42nd St, We had coffee at a diner while Don organsied our metro cards (a must have for bus and subway travel in NYC), then first stop Bryant park. Here we had amazing views of the iconic Chrysler building. Christmas time in Bryant park brings quaint little stalls an ice rink and Christmas tree, in the summer there is lawn, deck chairs and many visitors to this oasis in the city.
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Grand Central Station

We saw the beautiful Grand Central station, we went to the whispering gallery - See The Tweens photo below - where when standing on opposite corners of the dome you turn to face the wall and speak quietly, the person on the other corner can hear very clearly what you said...... as if they were standing beside you!
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The daily news building displayed a world globe that replicates the rotation of the Earth. It also showed us that we were 9933 miles from Sydney.
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The view across town

Being in NYC today, I was finally able to understand the language of New Yorkers. As you can see this photo is looking across Manhattan which is what the locals call 'across town'. Across is the 'west side' of Manhattan, that photo is of us standing in the 'east side' of Manhattan. If I were to turn right and walk along the street I would be going 'uptown' towards our apartment (upper west side), left would mean I would be going 'downtown' towards Wall St.
New York is a cleverly designed city, it is almost impossible to get lost as it is a giant grid, you just need to figure out where you are (which isn't too hard) to know how to get where you are going.
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The last part of our walking tour included a ferry ride with views of Manhattan and of the three bridges, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the the Brooklyn Bridge we could also see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
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Christmas tree delivery - and yes he was as cute as his picture - and made a point to tell us he was single - (Lynn I can bring him home for you if you like!)
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Then Madison Square Gardens for Ice Hockey - Well that was an amazing experience!

Riding the Subway
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The New York accent calling out about the game was as much entertainment as the game itself - we had a great time!
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Off to Time Square on the way home - touch base tomorrow.
Goodnight from New York

Posted by Auggiesfamily 15:18 Archived in USA Tagged nyc manhattan grand_central_station ferry downtown statue_of_liberty brooklyn_bridge chrysler_building uptown big_apple_greeters metro_card hudson_river bryant_park across_town upper_west_side whispering_gallery williamsburg_bridge daily_news Comments (1)

Day 2 in NYC

rain 7 °C
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Good Morning from New York!

Here are the pictures from last night in time square..... keep in mind this was at 11.30pm! The second image is of a ferris wheel in side Toys R Us - yes inside! The tween shopped for his Christmas gift here at this time!
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Today we had a slow start.... Jet lag will do that to you.
Our apartment is on West 72st Street of Upper West Side NYC. It is a beautiful spot! It can sleep 6, has a kitchen, bathroom, little balcony and a laundry in the basement. We found this on home away. It was a really great find.
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We had brunch at a local diner around the corner from our apartment called 'Pier 72' - I tried corned beef hash (corned beef mixed with potato) with my eggs (scrambled, up or turned being our choice of eggs - this took me a while to process!) it was delicious!
You will rarely be hungry after a diner meal - take a look......
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The decorations in the New York City are truly beautiful, there is a certain magic to the streets as you walk through them - you will see the diner above even has a tree on their wall.

Next some groceries at Trader Joes - they even had an escalators for our trolley
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Some shopping at Macy's today - wow regardless of those of you who have told me about the amount of people in New York City, I was taken by surprise at the number of people in the streets midtown today for Christmas Shopping. It was the equivalent of Sydney New Years Eve crowds but moving through the streets and stores to shop.
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Night time sprung up on us at 4.30pm and soon it was time for the Rockettes Christmas show at Radio City Hall. What a show, seeing the Rockettes do their famous fan kicks in a line was really something. The show included 3D elements, they incorporated animations of the city of New York and they did a fabulous Toy Soldier dance. That was our favourite, seeing the line of soldiers move in formation from where we were seated above the stage looking down was fabulous. Part way through the show we had to remind ourselves that we were actually in New York City for Christmas - we feel truly blessed!
Radio City Hall is an amazing building, I wanted to sit in the bathroom (- known as the 'ladies lounge) and stop a while ' they were so lovely!
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Off for Gray's papaya hot dogs for dinner - for the second night in a row - this featured in 'You've Got Mail" where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks grabbed a hot dog! for $4.95 you can get 2 hot dogs and a drink - it's called the recession special - the boys are hooked!
Can you see us in the window?

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Here is our decorated tree - check out our New York decorations!
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Posted by Auggiesfamily 22:02 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Happy Christmas Eve!

NYC day 3

sunny -6 °C
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Happy Holiday's as the New Yorkers say!

Today we started our day with an icy walk a few blocks across town to pay a visit to the John Lennon 'Imagine' memorial in Central Park. We walked past the Dakota building where he was assassinated and where Yoko Ono still lives today. This was something I have always wanted to do, as an early teen I found a love for all things the 'Beatles' and John Lennon become someone I wanted to know a lot about. While there were no sightings of Yoko, it meant a lot to consider that John Lennon once graced the pavements of the local area.
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Next we caught the subway for a day of shopping, we went further downtown today as the thought of being with thousands of people midtown was not a pleasant one! We found some good bargains at Loehmans - (some designer mark downs), and at 'old navy' for the boys particularly - even Teen 1 shopped for $4 t-shirts and $15 jeans.

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Here are some pretty shots of Christmas Eve in New York that we saw as we made our way across town. There is another of Grand Central Station - as we popped in here to the the lights on the ceiling that were lit up and represented the stars of the zodiac for Christmas Eve. We were headed to the diner we had coffee in on day 1 called '42nd Street Pizza'- Teen 1 was really keen to go back for Greek Food - the lady was really kind to us and helped induct us into the 'rules of dining out in NYC' on our first day and answered our many questions - so we went back as invited by her - she said that 'Aussies love Greek food' and we are glad we did, it was great - we will fatten Teen 1 up yet!

Dinner, then last minute Christmas shopping for each other in time square - yes even the Maccas sign is neon! Then the subway home - which we have navigated pretty well - it is easy to use - once again as long as you know where you are going and where you are headed! We then walked back in the freezing cold with our purchases. As we walked back the wind was so strong we had to lean and push into it to move forwards! The forecast is predicting snow tonight, no sign yet other than the temperature but we are still hoping.......

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Merry Christmas Everyone!

We are all set, it's now time for bed - 12am looking forward to our Christmas in New York.
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Posted by Auggiesfamily 20:27 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Merry Christmas

NYC Day 4

sunny -6 °C
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==MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!==

It was a cold wintery morning at -6 degrees today and boy you could feel it through the bathroom floor this morning!!

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After a morning of opening our gifts (or plastic bags as we didn't have enough wrapping paper!) we strolled to Central Park for lunch at the Loeb Boathouse. This restaurant features in many movies filmed in NYC such as 'When Harry met Sally' and '27 Dresses' being some of them. The Boathouse has a historic place in Central Park and there are many pictures hanging the walls that display this history.

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Teen 1 has decided this restaurant is his new favorite place (after the computer of course) and Teen 2 thought it was awesome! The tween was not impressed that he had to order off the children's menu!
As we watched the world go by in Central Park and observed the lake freezing over in front of us we drank warm apple cider with cinnamon (so amazingly good - my new drink of choice) and ate our 'fancy' (and delicious) meal - I would recommend the crab cake for sure! The temperature warmed to -4 degrees.
It was very different having a wintry Christmas - but it felt nice - just like on the movies. Everyone who knows me well, knows how I love to live in la la land - so it was awesome!

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Next we headed to Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park to finish off our Christmas Day. It was freezing - The tween decided to sit this one out, it was too cold for him. Skating around the rink with Central Park surrounding us and views of the city was magical.

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More apple cider and hot chocolate, a caramel candy apple and we are on our trek home. It is much warmer now - only -2 degrees (never thought I'd say warm and -2 in the same sentence!) we saw the apple store on 5th Ave on our way so stopped in for a visit - and to get warm.

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We saw where FAO Schwartz toy store is (where we are having breaky tomorrow) and noticed Tiffany and Co. So our plan is to explore that area tomorrow, and go to Rockerfeller centre - perhaps visit top of the rock while we are there. Oh and of course.... almost forgot..... a hotdog from Grays Papaya on the way home..... needless to say the healthy eating isn't going so well here!

Goodnight all - Christmas in NYC was as magical and more than we hoped. We would definitely recommend a visit.

Posted by Auggiesfamily 18:47 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 5 NYC

Boxing Day

snow 1 °C
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This morning we were out early in the cold ready to head to breakfast at FAO Swartz toy store. When we arrived the tour looked different that I expected, no one took us around or talked about breakfast and my queries were looked at with an odd expression. Soon it became apparent that we weren't on the tour and after some investigating it seemed the tour was at 8am and email communications had been overlooked. The tours manager very graciously offered us a candy bar raid and showed us some highlights of the store, we had already had a turn on our own on the giant piano (as seen in the movie BIG) anyway. He also offered us a private tour of our own if we wanted to stay longer, but we had seen what we wanted so decided not to. The store is magnificent, I expected the boys to think a toy store was a bit lame - now that they are growing up- but was surprised at how excited they were by the things they saw.
Some of their favourites were: create your own muppet, a giant gummy bear, giant characters made of Lego - including the Statue of Liberty, giant plush toys - angry birds, a snow leopard, a Pomeranian dog, the candy - giant nerds packets, tobasco chocolate....... And the list goes on.

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After the toy store we wandered along 5th avenue admiring the stores including Tiffany and co, Harry Winston Diamonds, Cartier and so on and the stores themselves were so pretty. Tiffany's indoors looked just like it does in the movies!

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Because we didn't have our toy store breakfast and were starving we decided to head to the Rockefeller centre and go to the viewing platform at 'Top of the Rock' it was a freezing cold morning - we had walked 5 blocks, so as soon as we spotted the ice rink at Rockefeller and an elevator that went underground to some shops we jumped in.
There were windows all along the underground shops that showed the ice rink it was so pretty, we found a cafe that served a late breakfasting as we were sitting eating our delicious omelettes and Teen1 his giant croissant Teen2 called out it's snowing. Would you believe it, we could see the snow falling on the ice rink while people were skating it was the prettiest sight. We finished our breakfast fast and headed outside to be a part of the snow falling. Our dream of snow in NYC happened.

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We had an afternoon of chilling out, shops and local walks after our full morning.
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This is at 4.45pm - the sun is almost gone!
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Statue of Liberty bright and early in the morning.

Below are some photos for you Dad ...... To see the gardens and evergreens used to decorate the doorways and gardens for the holiday season.
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Posted by Auggiesfamily 19:49 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 6 NYC

In NYC

sunny 0 °C
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We started our day with a visit to the Statue of Liberty this morning.

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We were very grateful for the tip from our friends Jenny and Ian who suggested we get the first ferry over from Battery Park or the lines on the island get very long. There were are lot of people on the later boats coming over, while it was busy we didn't need to line up being there earlier in the day.

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While I was excited to see the Statue of Liberty. I wasn't prepared for experiencing the emotion of the significance that she has played as a symbol for freedom of those who immigrated to America for a better life. We visited the museum which showed how she was made and displayed letters written by people who immigrated in the early 1900's. In this they described how they felt when they saw the Statue as they arrived after a long boat journey to America. It was really great to read their journey and views. I am not a huge fan of museums but this was one that we all found informative and interesting - if you visit the Statue of Liberty be sure to have a look through the museum in the base of the statue.
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By the way...... Did you know the reason the Statue of Liberty is green?
It is made of copper and when the rain mixes with the copper, it turns the copper green.
I never knew she was made of copper, or even wondered about it........ But it's really quite interesting!

We saw Ellis Island from the boat, we chose explore other areas of Manhattan instead.

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NY STOCK EXCHANGE ABOVE

From Battery Park we wandered down to the financial district and Wall Street, to explore what this looked like and look at the sculpture of the Charging Bull. It seems so did every other person visiting NYC - this was an incredibly popular destination to visit. Whilst there we saw Wall Street, this was fenced off and had guards out the front - we were surprised by the level of security.
We wandered the area a little more being in awe of the large buildings such as American Express, Chase Bank, another Tiffany and co and the new World tower in the distance. You will notice in the photos below, the doorman of Tiffany's even wears a scarf in the famous Tiffany blue.

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Next we decided to head to Katz deli for lunch, as we were looking up google maps in the subway when a local asked if we needed help. Following a chat he suggested that Katz deli was too far and recommended a place called Cozy Soups and Burgers. So we thought why not and headed there. It was great for the boys, with onion rings to die for, a peanut butter milkshake and fresh lemonade. It was in West village, which was perfect for us to visit Washington square park - see photos of the arch below. Also to wander along to Bleeker st to get a feel for the area - what a great neighbourhood with some quirky shops. I found an amazing vintage clothing shop, it was hard not to buy from here! Teen1 came across a chess shop that sells chess boards and pieces and has chess games going on out the back. It was awesome...... He also purchased his first serious chess board from here.

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Following this we caught the subway uptown to visit the American Museum of History. As mentioned I am not a lover of museums, but it was great to see the building from the movie night at the museum as well as some of the exhibitions that explain the local wildlife to NY. This was interesting to learn about. When the heat of the museum began to make us sleepy we decided it was time to leave - 7 days into this time zone, our bodies still get extremely tired late afternoon (which is around 7am Sydney time) we think our bodies think we have pulled an all nighter and are trying so hard to get us off to sleep!

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We wandered back to our apartment from here and stopped in at Zabars (a supermarket/deli featured in 'you've got mail') this place has a deli, fish counter, bakery counter, cake and sweets counter and ready made home cooked meals like spaghetti and meatballs or lobster bisque to heat and eat...... So this was perfect for our dinner.
Walking in NYC really is a great way to see the neighbourhoods and get about. However it seems an unusual thing for people to walk more than a few blocks..... We are here in winter, that may explain why we haven't noticed the locals walking for more than a block or two.... Or perhaps we are just a little eager or crazy!

Also good to know if you are travelling to NYC, the subway and bus system is very easy to use and another good way to see New York City. The subway stairs are marked with signage which identifies if the subway is for going uptown or downtown, you just need to know which number or letter train you need to get onto.
Until tomorrow - goodnight from NYC!

Posted by Auggiesfamily 17:49 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 7 NYC

Exploring the city

sunny 6 °C
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Exploring the upper west side

This morning after a sleep in (to 8.30am) I decided to leave Hubby and the boys sleep away while I explored the upper west side. As mentioned before, I love to live in la la land, so thought I would check out some local landmarks from one of my favourite movie's 'you've got mail' - with Tom hanks and Meg Ryan.

I went for a walk/run along Riverside park to W100th (yes that's 18 blocks uptown) then walked back along broadway and stopped by at some of the movie locations along the way, as well as see the neighbourhood.
On my run I saw a lot of families about - being Saturday - they were feeding the squirrels, walking their dogs - there are many many dogs and dog parks in NYC.

I stopped in at Cafe Lalo from you've got mail, and got a croissant and coffee - 'to go'...... (They don't say 'to take away' here) you should see the cakes especially the lemon meringue from this place!

Then wandered back and stopped at 'the drug store' for some shopping on the way back home - it was a nice morning out it's much warmer and easier to wander around at 6 degrees today.

Here are some photos of my travels.....
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The top photo (apartment on the left) is Meg Ryan's apartment from the movie, and Cafe Lalo is the photo on the bottom right.

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A gingerbread version of the famous flatiron building and a photo of a cute brownstone entrance - I can't get enough of these buildings...... It must be from my Sesame Street days.

The plan was to go to Central Park zoo - even though it was late afternoon, we thought 2 hours would give us enough time to see through it as it is only small...... Well it took us longer to navigate Central Park than we expected and as we walked towards Upper East side we noticed how many people were out and about. The lines into the zoo were longer than expected so we decided we will move that to tomorrow's plan.

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In the bottom centre photo above you can see the Wollman ice rink in Central Park.
In the photo below - the group of people on the left were street dancing! Just like the movies!!

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So we headed to serendipity3 for icecream, we saw some amazing places along the way including 5th avenue and Park Ave.

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Knowing Serendipity3 was busy on Saturdays we should have expected the 3 hour wait. So we put our name down and thought we'd go grab dinner at a pizza place in Brooklyn (Grimaldis pizza) I read about - why not we had plenty of time.

BUT we got on the subway heading up instead of down and were a little surprised by the appearance of the people on the train with us, we were the only ones that were not African American. Turns out we were on a train heading to Queens - and we were already there by the time we decided to listen to the little voice in our heads!
So off we got and had to take a return trip towards Brooklyn, this created a longer than expected trip - that explains the change of locals on the subway with us.

When we arrived at Brooklyn there was a line up for Grimaldi's pizza - 20 minutes they said ..(hey after an hour train ride, we were not turning back!).... Closer to 45 minutes or more later after standing in the not too cold...... We were finally in and ordering...... It was pretty good pizza - for NYC - so worth the wait. But we needed to give up on serendipity3 maybe tomorrow.

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So on the subway trip home....... Guess what - we went in the opposite direction again!!!! I know, you'd have thought we learnt right? But the subway trains have a number so if you are to get number 2 train, sometimes it isn't obvious which way it is going, we did realise faster this time - so that a bonus.

Huuby and I decided let's brave Empire State as after 10pm the lines aren't too long. It was 10.15pm, we hopped off the subway with the boys who caught on that this wasn't our stop - after a little whinging they were happy to come along except a toilet stop was needed - we popped into Macy's - after a solid half hour to 45 minutes of the boys shopping, we headed to the checkouts and guess what...... They were closed. We couldn't buy what was in our arms AGHHHH! is nothing meant to go our way today - so we downed clothes there on the spot and went to the Empire State Building and it was a nice end to the day. We climbed it at midnight and while the building is just like you see on the movies....... The lines and lay out are a little different. But the views are spectacular and the lobby amazing!

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1am in the city - not crowded, a good time to see and appreciate the streets! Goodnight from NYC!

Posted by Auggiesfamily 23:31 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 8 NYC

Wet and rainy in NYC

rain 5 °C
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Woke up today to rain, which we weren't going to let put a dampener on our plans to go to the metropolitan museum of art and Central Park zoo today. We headed off on a walk along riverside park to 86th street and cut across to Central Park. By the time we got there feet, toes, and clothes were wet despite our jackets. You know the type of rain that finds a way onto any dry surface, well that type.

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When we arrived at the met, so had every other tourist in NYC, there were lines all the way down the steps leading into the building. So we decided not today........ Hubby and the boys were wet and wanted to go to Macys to collect their abandoned shopping from last night and go home to get dry. I really wanted to see the zoo while in NYC. I also had to pick up our tickets for our train trip to Washington DC, for the lion king broadway show and our New Year's Eve party . So we went our separate ways and decided to meet up at our apartment in the afternoon.

Hence there isn't a lot to shares with you today, as it was tricky to get nice photos in all this rain, I have a few shots - wet ones that are a little difficult to see but it will give you and idea.

Despite the wet...... NYC is still a pretty place. Walking through an abandoned central parks highlights some small treasures such as; seeing the skeletal trees, squirrels foraging for food, ducks looking for shelter and icy lakes, the nut/hot dog stalls still selling their wares for the odd person who passes by. It was nice to have the park almost to myself and imagine that I didn't have to share NYC with anyone else. Of course I stopped by the cafe at the boathouse to get a take away warm apple cider - this stuff is amazing!

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Alice in wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson statues in Central Park

The Central Park zoo is small, but worth a visit, the penguins alone I could have watched for ages. Because of the rain there was literally a handful of people there. The seals who no doubt are used to performing, were waiting for anyone to stand by their pond so they could put on a mini show, they were great also. They have snow leopards, monkeys, lemurs, tropical birds, an owl, also a children's zoo. It was impressive for a small zoo and a nice oasis away from the crowds.

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Back into the crowds for the ticket collection, it really is a slap in the face when you enter midtown, a sea of people moving along, slowly, because you can't side step any of them, you may be lucky to get a gap to wiz by for a few metres and then your trapped again.

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Penn station Christmas display

Back to our apartment - our haven in upper west side. We ordered take out Chinese food to be delivered - including egg rolls..... I've always wanted to try these, they are really just a fried spring roll/dim sim, and did our washing. Can't escape some normality!

Off to 9/11 memorial tomorrow morning, I am looking forward to this. I have read that they encourage visitors to find out about someone who lost their life on that day, this helps consider what the memorial symbolises as well as keeping that persons memory alive. On our walk with our big apple greeter the other day, he shared with us that the river, beside where we are staying, was the path where the planes flew along to get to the towers. It was a somber thought imagining how that would have played out. The fire brigade were called out to the subway when we were there the other night and I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride for them as they went past. I kinda wanted to give them a hug and say thanks, that the world hasn't forgotten what they did during those horrific days as we watched on.

Posted by Auggiesfamily 16:48 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 9 NYC

semi-overcast 6 °C
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The new world trade tower

This morning stared with a trip downtown to the financial district for us to go to the 9/11memorial. I am sitting here trying to think of the best way to describe it to you and when I asked for help Teen2 said 'moving', Hubby said it was 'confronting' and 'quite big', The tween said 'interesting' because he found out more information about what happened and what the memorial is about. For me I think it was an honour and a privilege, to see the site, to be invited to reflect on what it means for families and friends of loved ones lost, for New York City and for the USA. It also reminded me of how I felt at the time it happened. Being woken by Hubby to tell me that it had happened, he was up late and saw it on TV. In the day that followed, standing in front of the TV trying to take it in, 7 months pregnant with The tween, 15 month old twin boys having a day sleep, talking to my bestie (who moved to Melbourne for a few months) on the phone. Wondering what does this mean for those affected, for the US and what impact will this have on the rest of the world, on us?
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I am sharing these photos so you can see what it looks like, in case some of you haven't been there or may never get to visit, please view them in the regard in which they were meant. With the utmost respect, perhaps you too can reflect on your memories of that day and even more so consider those men and women who's lives were taken or who bravely gave their lives trying to rescue and help others. Our visit today certainly stirred emotion in all of us and a tear or two was shed. As we left the memorial today Teen 2 said to me 'it's kinda sad, isn't it mum?'
That summed it up well through a 13 year old boys eyes!

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The photo above is of the survival tree, the tree stump was found amongst the rubble and nurtured back to life, it now lives on in the memorial site. A great symbol of survival!

Following our morning we went to lunch at Katz Deli, you may have heard, this is the deli out of the movie when Harry met Sally, where she had her fake orgasm! The I'll have what she's having moment!
There was yet another line to eat here, what is it with New Yorkers and lining up?
We were in line debating whether to stay and there was a local guy in front of us who looked to be on his lunch break, he was smiling at our debates and we asked him, 'is it worth lining up for?' He smiled and nodded, we asked 'what's good?' Without hesitating, he said the pastrami sandwich...... Lynn I know you said this too so we now had no choice, if a local confirmed it we would stay. The line didn't take that long to move and soon we were sitting in and ordering. It is a complicated system, you can order at the counter and take away, order yourself and seat yourself or wait for a table for waiter service. Those of you who know me well will know I chose the latter, waiter service for me all the way, and it was nice - simple but nice. Hubby and I shared a pastrami sandwich (yum - they weren't kidding!) and Matzo ball soup (like a dumpling in chicken broth) it was good, the boys had burgers - double cheese for Teen 1 and 2 - teen 2 has a new favourite burger, Teen 1 said you could taste the fat (thought he would put on weight after just one!) and the tween had a chilli burger and ate the lot!
So glad we waited in line and that we were as early as we were (around 11am) when we left the line had tripled!

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Tummys full we moved on to trying our luck again at the metropolitan museum of art - or the met - and hoped for no lines. We were in luck and were keen to see the building, especially one section from another of my favourite movie 'Maid in Manhattan' with Jennifer Lopez. We also visited the impressionist exhibition with my favourite artist Monet, also Van Gough and Degas. To explore all of the museum it would take days, we stretched the boys patience enough by being there as long as we were. This will definitely be a place to return on my next trip to NYC.

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Another walk through Central Park home....... Of course we stopped for hot apple cider and hot chocolate!

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We ended our day with a broadway show ' The Lion King' and the boys really were sitting on the edge of their seat at the start with the animals coming onto the stage and the biggest compliment was it was better than they expected. It was a brilliant show, the voices were amazing, some of them very true to character.

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We ended our night with take away taco's and burritos - in -6 degrees!

Happy and safe New Year's Eve to my Aussie friends and family!
See you next year!

Posted by Auggiesfamily 20:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 10 NYC

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

snow -6 °C
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For the last day of 2013 for the Augusto family, we had a quiet one, so not much to report on........ We were feeling a bit tired and cold so decided to hang around the apartment for a lot of the day.

We payed a visit to the 'Tom's restaurant' from Seinfeld, that was great to see, nothing like on tv inside (better in real life), but the outside exact! The plan was to call past Alice's tea cup, a little place that does great afternoon teas (like a high tea) with cute tea sets and a sprinkle of fairy dust and Alice in wonderland magic - more for me than for the boys - but once again there was a line up and it would have taken a while. So we scrapped that and were gonna call past a different cafe on our way home....... But Toms restaurant looked very inviting when we arrived and the reviews of their shakes were pretty good, we were very glad we did. Shakes, buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks and cheese fries later and we were warm and satisfied until our party later that night.

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Next we returned home to get ready for our party in time square, not sure what to expect we caught the subway to 42nd street and were met with such a well organised event that my fears and planning around losing the boys were not significant at all. The police had well marked walk ways, lines, systems to deal with the crowds and those needing to get in or out of the area. We were directed to a line - see in photo 1 it looked like it would take all night, but 30 minutes later our tickets were checked, and we were walking to our event.

In the photo in the top right you will see a small sign below the large blue sign, that is the restaurant where we were located.

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The party was great, it was at 'the counter' a burger joint in time square and it was literally a stones throw from the back of the ball. We had clear views of the crowds, the ball, the fireworks and the confetti falling at midnight. The event also was very well organised, all drinks, fries and burgers were included and they were rolled out all night. There was plenty to eat, the time flew and the atmosphere was great, adults, kids, teens all looking out for each other and having a joke with each other, it was one of the best parties I've been to.
A highlight was a marriage proposal, one of the party guests outside the restaurant in the middle of the street got down on one knee and proposed to his partner to the song marry me, it was awesome, of course I couldn't help but shed a tear and every person in the party were cheering and blowing whistles and waving through the window.

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Five minutes to midnight we entered the freezing cold New York streets to count in the new year - we had an empty street with an amazing view it certainly will be a New Year's Eve we will all remember for a lifetime!

Happy new year everyone! Wishing you a year filled with more highs than lows, and may the lessons of the lows be ones that bring you joy and learning as valuable as gold!
Tomorrow, is our last full day in NYC :-(
We are leaving before the super cold of -11 hits on Thursday night - although it will be waiting for us in Washington DC!!

Posted by Auggiesfamily 22:26 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Day 11 NYC

Getting ready for Washington DC!

semi-overcast 0 °C
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Today we packed up and got our bags to penn station. We then went back to Toms restaurant for dinner this time (see photo of my dinner below) - Teen 2's final wish - and Cafe Lalo for dessert - cherry pie and whipped cream! (the pretty cafe with the lights - see photos below)

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So no new adventures to share!

For the final blog entry in NYC, I am going to create a list of what I have learnt about the city that I was so keen to visit:

1) When you imagine midtown New York as crowded and busy multiply it by 1000 and you still won't be prepared! (The only time Sydney and New York city are alike is Sydney's New Year's Eve crowd - this is a regular day in midtown NYC!)

2) Manhattan, New York is much bigger than I expected. Navigating your way uptown, downtown and across town takes time. Particularly if you are heading across at the same time as up or down.

3) There is so much to see and do in NYC. We had 11 days and almost ticked off out to do list - we will have to come back in a few years to finish it though - when the kids are old enough to stay home or pay their own way!!

3) I have fallen in love with the upper west side, where we stayed. It is pretty, quieter, has a great feel to it, but still central to everything. It is what you picture New York to be. You need never go downtown to midtown New York. That is the more brash, in your face part of the city. Great to visit, but in small doses.

3) Central Park is amazing as well as large - you could spend each day of your stay here and still not discover every corner.

4) Taxi cabs are a convenient and sometimes cheaper way to get around $10 - $15 from uptown to downtown. If there are many of you it is equivalent to each paying a $2.50 subway fare. Cab drivers though, vary in niceness - some are so polite and others just plain rude. One can driver told Hubby he used to be nice before he was a cab driver in NYC.

5) The subway is $2.50 to ride anywhere in the city. Compared to Sydney's $5 this is a cheap transport option.

6) Double check the subway direction before you get on - you too may end up in Queens and it's along ride back!

7) Teen2 wanted me to be sure to tell you that diners are awesome! The food, size of the meal and atmosphere keep you coming back for more!!

8) It takes a while getting used to tipping, because it isn't natural for us you have to be very mindful of how much to tip. The expectation is that you will tip when a service is being provided, waiter/ress, delivery, taxi and so on. But if you are buying over the counter, such as take away pizza it isn't expected.

9) Many New Yorkers own dogs - yes in apartments - and regularly take them walking on the sidewalk. There is very little grass in NYC aside from parks such as Central Park and riverside park. So dogs do their business on the sidewalk or we even saw one choosing the road! Owners are expected to clean up after their dogs, it isn't unusual to need to step over a golden puddle on the sidewalk though.

10) Being an Early Childhood Teacher, I took notice of the parks that are provided for children to play in and here are a few things that stood out to me: there is generally no grass area in the park for the children to wiggle their toes in or lay upon (the grass is available in the larger parks like riverside park and Central Park), parks are fenced off, all around the perimeter is a large fence, this fence is locked at night, the parks sometimes coincide with a basketball court beside it - again fenced off, just like on the movies, there is sometimes a 'sandbox', some of the parks are quite creative and use the natural surroundings particularly those in Central Park.

11) New York is everything I imagined, but more normal and less movie like........ Being here has been amazing and I imagine when we leave I will be considering when next I will return.

Posted by Auggiesfamily 21:08 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 12 NYC/Washington DC

It's snowing!!

snow -3 °C
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I am checking in to start writing this morning as I wanted to share with you the pretty view that we woke to - snow! See photos above, not too much that it stopped us from moving about, but enough to cover the ground, it truly was a pretty sight. It seems we are leaving New York City in time before the snow storms kick in, they are anticipating -11 degree Celsius temperatures, high winds and snow storms! So while I did wish for snow, I am glad we only got sprinklings of it as it really would have affected us getting around and seeing the sights.

I am writing to you on our Amtrack train journey from NYC to Washington DC, at the moment we are going through Edison, New Jersey and watching the pretty pale blue, pink and green clap board houses as we travel by that remind me yet again that we are in the United States of America!

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I am not sure how we will go in Washington though, tomorrow we they are also expecting minus crazy temperatures (-11 or 12 I think), we will be checking out of our hotel at 10am and not flying out until 4.30pm so I am hoping that we can hide in the National Air and Space or other museum and that it isn't too hard to get around. Also that flights aren't affected - as San Francisco will seem like a tropical paradise compared to what we have had thus far.
James, the owner of our San Francisco apartment just emailed me this: "Weather here is absolutely ideal for this time of year. We are in one of those periodic California droughts. We get them every seven years or so. We have had almost no rain since April and the forecast from here again is for clear days over the next week. It's mild, sunny and beautiful... so your timing is perfect. In fact, the garden still has many plants blooming that don't normally bloom this late in the season!"
So that sounds pretty enticing to me!

Update you later on seeing the White House and bumping into Barack Obama at Bens chilli bowl! Am very excited......

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I LOVE WASHINGTON DC!

We arrived at Washington station and a red cap (Amtrack baggage help) helped us navigate the station, found us a cab and helped with our luggage - it was worth every penny of our $10 tip (amount our choice). Then we stepped out if the gorgeous and huge station. We were greeted with a view of the the Capitol building and other pretty sights it was glorious - and quiet compared to NYC. The tween said - no beeping horns!
It is a very different city to NYC, the streets are wider, the buildings range from old to modern, the old buildings are gigantic! it is quite georgian in some places, there are many pretty areas.

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We checked into our hotel - the Holiday Inn - Washington Capitol - C street (see photo above bottom right of our view) had a quick bite and then went to explore. First stop, the White House!
Now we are in a new city we needed to get our bearings and location and find out where to go...... thank goodness for google maps! We walked to the metro and caught NY's equivalent of the subway to the nearest stop to the White House and headed our destination...... we only made a couple of wrong turns, we have learnt when Hubby says go this way we probably should walk in the opposite direction.

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As we walked up to the fence it began to rain ice..... no kidding it wasn't rain or snow, it was ice, but not hail.... small ice drops. There we were standing in front of the White House in Washington DC - are you kidding me! We walked around the block to see the back where the oval office is, while it was all fenced off you could see it fine. Then it began to snow, soft wafting snow flakes, could this picture be more perfect!
I did look for the first family, but they must have been inside out of the ice/rain/snow.

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The national monument was across a park and parallel to the back of the White House, so we walked across the large park area to the monument, this was going to be our last stop as a mix of rain/ice/snow kicked in again. But, then we saw the Lincoln memorial.20140102_173121.jpg
The sun was setting, but this glowing, large imposing building, with the reflecting pool running along the length of the grounds - was across the way and we just had to see it up close (cue whinging child.......The tween was cold). But we pushed on. We had a toilet stop in a nearby building, It was the Organisations of American States, we were the only ones in this grand building, the security guard was keen for us to wander through and we are glad we did, it had some great history and we could get warm. See photo's below.

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As we got closer, the statue of Abraham Lincoln became larger and more impressive.
We arrived at the top of the stairs and it began to snow heavily, it was magical. Now those of you who know me know how much I love the Sydney Opera House, it holds a special place in my heart and there isn't much else that makes my heart sing like being at and around the Opera House. Well I now have another place that caused the same reaction, this place was beautiful, the lighting was magical and the statue itself is an amazing piece of art, what a brilliant structure.

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We took the elevator to the lower level where there was a museum that gave the story of Lincoln and shared information about Martin Luther King and his I have a dream speech. Now I feel very passionately about MLK and what he did to challenge apartheid, to support equality despite race, this was also a teenage obsession of mine. Being in the area where he gave this life changing speech for so many was pretty special, but while we were in the museum, we became aware that the steps were inscribed where he stood when he gave his speech, we missed it in the snow. So back out we went and found it, I have to say, what a moment to stand in that spot, some emotion certainly stirred for me. The tween did a project on MLK and he too was keen to stand on that very spot, he also proudly informed his brothers of the significant role MLK had in history.
As we stood there the snow fell heavier, I am pretty sure we were the only ones joyous about this.......... we walked to find a cab, it was chilly and wet and the metro was looking further away than we hoped.

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Off to Ben's Chilli Bowl, an iconic food joint in DC, many key people and celebrities past and current have eaten here, Bill Cosby, Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and many many more. I read about this place and not long after saw it on Man vs Food, since then Teen 2 has been counting down the days to eat there. We had chilli cheese fries, smoky chilli hot dogs, chilli subs, pina colada, pineapple, vanilla and banana milkshakes. Man it was spicy and not much was left over.

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Back to the hotel by taxi, by this point snow was covering cars, parks, trees and plants. We feel so lucky right now.

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Tomorrow , the Capitol building, if time Arlington cemetary and the National Air and space museum, before we move on to San Francisco.

Posted by Auggiesfamily 07:24 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 13 Washington DC/San Francisco

From freezing to sunshine!

snow -7 °C
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Today we were spoilt, getting up and going downstairs for a hot breakfast! We woke to a snow covered Washington DC with cold winds and suggestions that if you didn't need to be outdoors, stay inside. It was -7degrees Celsius, but sunny out and the glistening white snow made the area pretty and enticing. We did rethink trying to fit too much in though and settled on the National Air and Space Museum (one and a half blocks up the road) as it was indoors, and we could wander up to the Capitol building from there also.

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On our walk up to the museum, it was chilly, any parts of your body that were uncovered became cold and sore very quickly. Taking a glove off to click the camera button was painful if not done quick enough...... Getting the boys and Michael all looking and smiling was too much at times that's how quick the cold hit your skin. Tonight my hands and fingers are literally red and sore from the weather. So okay, maybe I won't complain about the cold weather in Sydney ever again!

The NA&S Museum was interesting and large, we only had an hour so Teen1 decided it was space travel that he wanted to see. So we stuck to that side of the building. If you know about space travel, astronauts and what it is like living in space, then you may not add to your knowledge here. Teen 1 saw what he wanted quickly and was done, as he was already aware of many facts about space travel. But if like me you didn't know some of these facts it was very interesting. They had samples of dry food and how it is packaged for space. A spacecraft for you to walk in and see how astronauts sleep, go to the bathroom, have some recreation time - it was really interesting to see. They had a hands on section for kids to be actively involved in. There were moon rocks and soil, facts about all of the Apollo space missions....... There was a lot to learn.

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After our time in the museum we couldn't wait to get out into the large area the leads up to the Capitol building, the national mall. It was covered in snow. We wandered along the icy paths, stepped in the powdery fresh white snow and marvelled at the snow on the park benches, parking meters, trees, icicles on the near by fountain, on the bottom of cars, it was a really big learning experience for us all. What a beautiful spot to do it in with the spectacular Capitol building in the distance. The boys loved experimenting with snow balls and using near by parts of snowmen to crack the ice on the Capitol reflecting pool.

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Unfortunately it was time to head back and leave the hotel, we found a public bus (metro) that goes especially to the airport for $6 per person and left around the corner from our hotel. Perfect and much cheaper than the $60 cab fare. We will be sad to leave the pretty Washington DC, I wish we had allowed more than one day here. We will definitely make a return visit for longer one day. We did add it in at the last minute, it wasn't on the original plan (thanks so much to my cousin Carolyn for the tip to call in via train, it really enhanced our holiday)..... So we saw what we came for and that is the nation's Capitol monuments and buildings. We won't however be sad to leave the cold behind.

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We are on our flight to San Francisco as I write, it will take 5 hours and we are changing time zones again...... So we arrive around midnight NYC & DC time but 9pm local time, this may ease some of the awakeness we all seemed to have at midnight in New York and DC!
Looking forward to the next part of our trip except that we are half way into our holiday now..... It's going fast!
Will let you know tomorrow what is waiting for us in our apartment on Nob Hill in San Francisco! Here is a peek at the view awaiting us......

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Posted by Auggiesfamily 01:32 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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