A Travellerspoint blog

New York to Miami - New York to Sydney, Sun 7 July 2013

New York to Sydney via Los Angeles

We were due to check out of the hotel by 1.00 pm and were very pleased discover that the hotel provided a free shuttle service to the airport. Our flight wasn't until 6.55 pm (!) But we decided to spend our time at the airport rather than going into New York for a few hours. The Qantas desk wasn't open when we arrived so we waited about an hour and a half before we could even check in. Several people in front of us were pulled up because their luggage was overweight and they had to open their bags and discard stuff or redistribute items in other bags. They did this at the check in counter, which held up the line. Surely they could have moved to the side and let everyone else check in. We had been through this kerbside! in Miami so we knew our weight was okay.

At check in we enquired if there were any business class seats left and how much they were. She directed us back around to ticketting where the British Airways staffer phoned Qantas in Sydney only to be told that we should have done it at the check in. We would have to get on the end of the line, then cancel our check in, then ascertain if there were any business seats available and then decide if we wanted to pay the price. Consequently, we decided to leave things as they were.

Passed through immigration and security okay. It is now about 4.00 pm, so we still had three hours to kill, but the time went surprisingly quickly. We had something to eat and wandered through the duty free shops, but found them very expensive. Read a bit and played computer patience and in no time at all we were boarding. We taxied away from the terminal, on time, at 6.55pm and then sat on the tarmac until 8.30pm. Finally they announced that there had been an engineering problem, which had now been fixed and we had lost our place in the queue but would be taking off soon! Great!

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Five hour flight to Los Angeles and with the time difference, we arrived in the terminal at about 11.00pm. We all had to change planes, as some people were getting off in LA, and the rest of us were flying to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We were at Gate 103 and had to get to Gate 121 in 15 minutes. It was a long way away but we all made it. Delayed again for a little while because a passenger wasn't on board, but his luggage was, so they had to get into the hold and take his luggage off. Finally we were on our way for the 15 hour flight to Sydney. We had two seats together down the back of the plane. We had specifically requested these seats ages ago. They give you a bit more room.

The flight went quite quickly. I slept a lot and Phil watched movies and slept. We were due into Sydney at 7.40am and about an hour out we came into some very rough weather and our plane was hit by lightning. Not to worry says the Captain, this happens all the time. AIrcraft are built to withstand this! Good!

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Immigration and customs okay and checked our bags through to Canberra for the final leg. One more security check for Qantas domestic and they found that Phil had a small tool kit in the bottom of his carry on luggage that he had forgotten about. We had been all through America with this in his carry on and no one had picked it up. He had to go back to the transit check in counter and put it in plastic bag and check it through.

Finally landed in Canberra at about lunch time, 8 degrees but sunny and caught a taxi home.

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Now the washing and ironing begins!

Posted by gaddingabout 15:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Miami to New York, Sat, 6 July 2013

Miami to New York

semi-overcast 34 °C

We left the hotel at about 8.45 am and had a very smooth, quick run to the airport.  A very nice black gentleman, Freddie Williams helped us with kerbside check in.  Phil's bag was a few pounds over so we transferred some of his things to my bag and we were good to go. Paid $50 for the privilege of flying USA domestic.

Security was okay too but they took our water bottles off us.  I knew they would because they were full.  At the moment we don't have seating together but as soon as the desk opens at our gate, we will try to remedy that. We are sorry to be leaving Miami.  It has a nice beachy feel to it and we now wish we had chosen to stay a bit longer. A few photos of our serviced apartment in Miami.  Would recommend it to anyone.

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Changed our seat allocation so we could sit together. The American Airlines flight to New York took two and a half hours. It was a very smooth flight and we were only served a drink on the flight, even though it went over lunch time. Have you ever seen a hostie sitting down reading a book? Because they don't serve food, they don't have much to do on the flight, but we liked American Airlines much better than Delta and United.

Had a 10 minute taxi ride to our hotel, the Garden Suites which is quite nice and located very close to JFK airport. We will be flying home to Canberra tomorrow evening at 7pm, via Los Angeles and Sydney. Breakfast is available at this hotel but no evening meal. Because it is so close to the airport, there are no restaurants within walking distance, so we just ordered in Chinese and Indian. Looking forward to getting home to normal food but not looking forward to cooking it!

Posted by gaddingabout 06:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Heading South, Miami, Fri, 5 Jul 2013

MIami

semi-overcast 33 °C

We were picked up at our hotel at about 9.15 am for our Miami city tour and everglades tour. The front third of the bus was air conditioned and closed off and two thirds at the back was open which was where we sat. It was cool and breezy and good for taking photos. First, let me describe the bus. It had no shock absorbers and plastic seats and as we drove around, we had Latin American music blaring out. I felt like I was on a bus of refugees, trying to cross the border! The driver had ATTITUDE!! Before we even started the tour, she came up the back of the bus to give something to some other passengers. She saw my Samsung Tablet sittin3g on my lap and just stood there and stared at it. After a very long time she said, "Are you going to work or listen?" I gave her a puzzled look and then realised what she meant. "It's a camera", I said, and off she went.

We were the only white people on the bus along with blacks and Hispanics. When the driver discovered we were from Australia, someone in the closed section of the bus said something about us being black. Then the driver launched into a monologue about how white people with blue eyes can come from Australia and South Africa. We were totally confused. Americans know nothing about anything, except maybe their own home address.

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We drove from Miami Beach over to Miami City and toured the opulent suburb of Coconut Grove. This is Sylvester Stalone's Miami home.

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And the Plymouth Congregational Church.

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In 1944, the suntan lotion Coppertone was invented in Miami. Do you remember the ad of the cute little blond girl, with a dog pulling her bikini bottom down, to reveal a golden tan? Miami Beach has a population of 33,000 in the low season, which quadruples in the summer. One in seven are tattooed. Coral Gables was another suburb we visited. It is a planned suburb and was constructed in 1925. The homes are lovely, set among beautiful tree lined streets and immaculate gardens.

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This is the Biltmore Hotel. There is also a Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina which is the biggest house in the world, with 250 rooms.

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The Woodlawn Cemetery.

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We then drove over to Miami Beach to look at the art deco buildings. We passed a lot of cruise ships in port. As I mentioned before, Miami is the cruise ship capital of the world.

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This is a park dedicated Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, who passed away a few years ago and who spent a lot of time in this park.

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We then headed back to Miami City where we discovered that the rest of the group was going on a harbour cruise and that Phil and I had a 45 minute wait for our driver to take us to the everglades. First we stopped at 11.30 am so the cruise people could have lunch because they wouldn't have time to eat once we got to the harbour. We had to wait on the bridge while it opened to let some boats go through. Then we were dropped off, with 45 minutes to have some lunch and then meet up with our driver at 2.15 pm. We raced into Bubba Gumps and explained our time limits and each of us ordered a salad, which would be the quickest to prepare. At 5 to 2, we still hadn't received our food, so asked them to box it up so we could take it with us. Phil then complained to the manager, and he gave us a refund. We were a bit embarrassed but raced out to wait for our tour bus and eat our lunch. After all that drama, the tour bus arrived 30 minutes late so we would have had plenty of time to eat our lunch!

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Some nice girls we were speaking to while waiting for our tour guide.

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Then finally the tour guide arrived and we took off for the alligator park and the everglades. We had five nice Indian boys in our bus and enjoyed chatting with them about India. They came from Mumbai and had been studying in America and now were working here. We hopped on the air boat and went whizzing through the everglades. It was great. We had ear plugs and every now and then, the driver would stop the boat and tell us a few stats about the flora and fauna of the area.

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After our ride had finished, we watched a guy feed an alligator in the cage with him. It was a very docile animal, certainly not as savage as an Australian crocodile. Then on the bus for the journey back to our hotel. The tour company had been running late all day and we arrived back at 6.00pm, when we were supposed to get back between 3 and 4. Consequently I missed my last chance to have a swim in the lovely Atlantic.

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Had a quick dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant and then home to pack for our flight to New York tomorrow. Our trip is very quickly drawing to a close.

Posted by gaddingabout 19:01 Archived in USA Tagged miami Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Heading South, Miami, Thu, 4 Jul 13

MIami

semi-overcast 33 °C

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American Independence Day - Happy 4th of July!!

Had a lovely, relaxed sleep last night, without waiting for the alarm to go off and get up and get on the bus. We are having breakfast in front of the tele, watching Wimbledon. The maid arrived to clean the apartment and she could only speak Spanish. We needed a tea towel, a face washer, a kettle, some new batteries for the remote and the safe reset. Somehow, with Phil speaking Greek to her, she got the message!

Unless you knew that is was the 4th of July, you certainly wouldn't have a clue from being out on the streets. No flags, no bunting, no nothing. I believe there will be fireworks tonight. Maybe in the smaller towns, they celebrate it a bit more than the big cities do. I thought they would be into it in a big way. Gosh, Australia Day is HUGE, compared to this. We put off our trip to the Everglades to the 5th, just in case there was too much going on, on the 4th of July. WRONG!

What do Americans do on the 4th of July? They go to Coney Island and watch a hot dog eating championship. Joey Chestnut just ate 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes and won his seventh championship. Apparently - wait for it - major league eating is the fastest growing sport in the world! It is disgusting.

Spent the afternoon swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Miami Beach. It was warm and refreshing. The Atlantic Ocean is green not blue like the Pacific. The bottom is sandy with the odd rock in it and the beach is clean and white. I couldn't tell you the last time we went swimming in the ocean!

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Then hopped in our pool on the way back to our room.

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This is a photo of Phil on our balcony on the 9th floor.

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Had another nice dinner at our local Italian restaurant and then came home to watch the fireworks from our balcony. Well, I waited and waited. Saw a couple of sparklers and that was it. In desperation, I took a photo of the fireworks in New York. Apparently, Miami has too many tourists and too many different nationalities to really get into the 4th of July. The further north you go, the better the celebrations. What a disappointment. I was really looking forward to being in America on the 4th of July. So, here are some photos from the television coverage of the celebrations in New York.

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Posted by gaddingabout 18:44 Archived in USA Comments (0)

New York to Miami - Orlando to Miami, Wed, 3 July 2013

Orlando to Miami

semi-overcast 30 °C

Up early for the last time and left Orlando at 7.45 am for the hour drive to the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral.

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We arrived 15 minutes before it opened and there was hardly anyone there. We were given our tickets and stood in line waiting for it to open. I should say at this stage that I was mortified to hear that we were going to be here until 1.15 pm! I was so bored at the Smithsonian Aeronautical and Space Museum in Washington, so what was this going to be like? Promptly at 9.00 am, a guy on the loud speaker welcomed us and then they played the American National Anthem. All the Americans in the queue put their hand over their heart. Then it rained on us and stopped as quickly as it started.

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There are a lot of things to see here and also a bus ride over to see the launching pad and Saturn V, which takes some time. First we went into the imax theatre and watched a presentation on Atlantis. It has only been on display for a couple of days and we were very lucky to see it. It hadn't been cleaned up at all and is still in the original condition that it was last time it came back to earth. It was a fantastic presentation and then the screen rose, and there it was in all its glory. Wow, what a sight! We wandered around looking at all the displays. They really have done it well.

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We hopped on a bus and drove over to see the launching pad. On the way we passed the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which is where they construct the space craft and was once the third biggest building in the world. China has now built the biggest shopping centre in the world, so the VAB is now the fourth biggest building in the world. The flag painted on the side is the largest hand painted flag in the world.

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We hopped back on the bus and went to see Saturn V. Same thing - a movie presentation about America's space race with the Russians and then into another theatre where we sat overlooking the actual command centre where it all happened. We witnessed the countdown to takeoff and then everything shook as the rocket launched and headed for space. It was quite an emotional moment. Have had a lot of them this trip!

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Then the doors opened and there she was - Saturn V. It was lying on its side, suspended from the ceiling and cut into sections. The first thing we saw were the boosters. They were enormous. The whole thing was simply awe-inspiring. It really does leave the Smithsonian for dead. We took heaps of photos and wandered around looking at the exhibitions. We touched some moon rock.

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Back on the bus for the ride back to the visitors centre. Our bus driver this time was a lady who was about one hundred and ten, not out! And as she was driving, kept looking at her notes for her narration. Not great attention to safety here.

Our visit to the Kennedy Space Centre was a definite highlight of our trip. It was so well done and so many exciting things to see, even for girls! The only thing that drove us crazy was the "star wars music" that was piped throughout the whole complex, indoors and outdoors.

We had time for a quick lunch before it was time to leave. We had hot dogs, fries and Pepsi! OMG! We have turned into Americans.

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Only four hours to go on the bus and we will be in Miami and at the end of our trip.

Our arrival into Miami was a bit slow as we got caught up in a traffic jam, but then we got going much to the relief of the Irish family as they needed to get to the airport to catch their flight home to Ireland. We all jumped off the bus in front of the Dorchester where some of the group are staying. Some of us are moving to other hotels and some were going straight to the airport. Because we didn't have name tags, people didn't make the effort to mix and learn each others names, so consequently, at the end of the trip, there were not many fond goodbyes. It was the most impersonal trip we have ever been on. Even as late as yesterday, people were getting on the bus who looked totally unfamiliar to me! We hurriedly said goodbye to the Irish family, whom we had become friends with. Also, John and Adam from the UK and Rhys and Denise from Pottsville, NSW. If we had name tags and a welcome and farewell function, then I am sure that people would be more inclined to mix in and get to know each other. Just as a comparison. There were tears and hugs at the end of our Trafalgar tour and now we have started emailing each other.

There are some lovely retro buildings in Miami, especially in the street where our serviced apartment is, the Churchill Crown Apartments in Collins Street, apartment 909. Our apartment is huge, clean and comfortable. It has a balcony that overlooks the ocean. It will be a good haven to recharge our batteries before the long flight home.

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Here is the view from our apartment.

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We went for a walk, found a supermarket and bought some food for breakfast. Then we found a fabulous Italian Restaurant, not even a block away from our apartment. The food was delicious and so was the sangria! I am developing a taste for it.

Finally into bed after a long but enjoyable and interesting day.

Posted by gaddingabout 06:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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