Brisbane, QLD

Sunday, July 31, 2011


The next day of our tour was to visit war memorials, the White House and have a free afternoon visiting the Smithsonian Institute. However, I had made arrangements to visit  blog friend, Denise from "An English Girl Rambles", during our free afternoon.
First stop was The Arlington Cemetery, "the nations most sacred shrine". It has been a military cemetery since 1864. Over 300,000 veterans from all the nation's wars are buried here. John F Kennedy, Jackie and Robert Kennedy are buried here. There are almost 7,000 burials per year.

Just outside the cemetery is the the Marine Corps Memorial called the Iwo Jima Memorial. It is in memory of all Marine Corps personnel who have died in defence of their country since 1775. It is a beautiful, huge statue designed by Felix de Welden based on the iconic photo by Joe Rosental at the battle of Iwo Jima.

The Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial is actually a 7.5 acre park designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halpin. There are a sequence of 4 outdoor rooms, one for each of his terms in office. There are many wonderful sculptures, waterfall features and engraved in rock quotes of FDR. Here he is with his dog Fala and one of his quotes..

Then it was off to the Vietnam's Veteran's Memorial Wall designed by Maya Lin. There are two walls 75m long meeting at an angle and sunk into the ground. The stone, chosen for its reflective properties is from Bangalore, India. On completion in 1993 there were 58,191 names etched onto the wall, each year more are added.

We returned to the steps of The Lincoln Memorial. We should be seeing the famous reflecting pool, which stretched all the way to the Second World War Memorial and the Washington Memorial, however it is being reconstructed at the moment. It is 618m long and 51m wide.
The tall obelisk is The Washington Memorial, built in 1848 as a tribute to George Washington's military leadership from 1775-83 during the American Revolution.

On the steps I saw this plaque. I was actually standing where Martin Luther KIng, at the march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gave his famous speech...."I have a dream...." in 1963. I remember seeing it on the news, there were 250,000 people there.

The Korean Memorial is a walled triangle of greenery. There are 19 stainless steel statues, by Frank Gaylord, of a squad on patrol. On one wall there is 2,500 photos sandblasted into the wall. It was getting close to 12.30 and I was getting excited about meeting my blog friend, Denise, but alas we lost 2 members of our tour group and we had to wait for the guide to look for them.

Then we got caught up in traffic when we went to the White House. It was designed by James Hoban and built in 1872-1800 from white painted sandstone. It has been refurbished many times by different presidents. This is the front view but not the view often seen on TV, that is at the back. Security was very evident. Then we set off to drop those who wished at the Smithsonian Institute. Once again we were stuck in traffic. By then I was getting into a panic as I had made arrangements to meet Denise and Gregg at our hotel at 12:30. It was already 1:30. Luckily I could call her on our mobile/cell phone. They were at the hotel and happy to wait for us. More traffic, more traffic and more traffic........

One and a half hours later the bus pulled into the hotel driveway. I felt so bad asking someone I have never met to wait so long. However, Denise and Gregg are such a wonderful couple, they were happy to see us and they had no complaints about the delay. They took us to Georgetown and a lovely riverside restaurant for lunch.

 They introduced us to crabcakes and they were delicious as we sat by the pretty Potomac River. Denise and Gregg were such good company and it was like we had known each other for ages. I look forward to continuing our friendship via blogging.

They took us to see the Capitol, as our tour did not include this, much to Bill's disgust. I believe it was something to do with security not allowing any parking anywhere near the building.  The Capitol is the meeting place for Congress. It was completed in 1811 but there have been many alterations since. "Freedom" is the colossal statue on top of the huge dome.

Friday, July 29, 2011


We arrived in Washington late in the afternoon. The tour group was taken to dinner and then on a night tour of the illuminated memorials.
The first one was The John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts. It is a huge building, so big that I couldn't fit it in the lens of my camera. It was in the pipeline for many years but it was Kennedy who pushed to bring culture to the Capital Washington. It was partly funded by the Federal Govt and partly by private funds.The Kennedys donated $500,000 and Jackie was the chairman of the board.
It was opened in 1971. Bust of JFK by Robert Berks.

It is a beautiful building inside too. Many donations were made by other countries. Marble from Italy, glass from Sweden, Aboriginal Art from Australia and other items worth millions from other countries.

Then we all piled in the bus again and went on to the World War 11 Memorial. Built by private donations it was opened in 2004.It is surrounded by 56 pillars representing states and colonies. There are twin pavilions with waterfalls representing the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans where battles were fought. The Freedom wall has 4,000 gold stars representing the 400,000 Americans who lost their lives. It was a spectacular memorial built between the Lincoln and Washington memorials.

The Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln's statue inside the temple. It is huge!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We left New York and stopped in Philadelphia for lunch before going on to Washington. Philadelphia is the capital of Pennsylvania and the birthplace of the United States of America. We did a quick bus tour  of 'The Old Town'  and then we were dropped off and given a map and 2 hours to do our own thing.  We went to the Liberty Bell Center first but when we saw the queue we changed our mind. However, the walls of the museum were mainly glass so we peeked in and could see the bell at least.

The museum was full of school children as well as tourists and there are a lot of reflections on the glass, so I included a pic from the web. The Liberty Bell was cast in London and sent to Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall) in 1753. It is 12 ft around the rim and the clapper weighs 44lb. The clapper cracked the bell on its first use. Local artisans tried to fix it but not satisfactorily. However, it was still put in the tower. Engraved on the bell is: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."

The Independence Hall was shrouded in scaffolding so I found a pic on the web but it looks different we were probably at the back. It was built in 1732-53 and was the most ambitious public building in the colonies . The 'Declaration of Independence' was adopted there and 'The Constitution of USA' was signed there.

We found a food hall for lunch and a coffee. We had a famous Philadelphian Beef and Cheese sandwich. We had an interesting conversation with the young girl who served us coffee.
"Are you from England?"
"No. We are from Australia."
"That's in England, right?"
"No."It is a different country."
"Where is it?"
"Down Under. Have you heard of that?"
"It is south of the equator."
"What's that? It is a long time since I left school, like 10 years, I can't remember that stuff"

After lunch and a laugh we continued our walk around the Old Town. We passed the graveyard where Benjamin Franklin was buried. He spent most of his life in Philadelphia and London. He was a printer, author, inventor, diplomat, statesman, philosopher. and a philanthropist. He helped write the 'Declaration of Independence" and signed the 'Constitution'.

 The Betsy Ross House. There is still debate about whether Betsy Ross made the first US flag. She was a war widow three times and brought up seven children by working as a furniture upholsterer.She rented the 1740 home with its teeny tiny rooms.

I just loved Elfreth's Alley. It is the oldest residential street in USA. These houses have been lived in continuously for 300 years. 

In the 18 century they were occupied by artisans and craftsmen. Later merchants and seamen and later still by European migrants.

In the 1920's the houses were becoming dilapidated and were about to be demolished when in 1930 Dorothy Ottly pushed to have the houses restored to preserve the history of everyday people. That is how it is today. There is a lovely little museum in one of the houses. On the website link above there is a history for each house.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


On 23 June we joined the tour group which we travelled with by coach from New York to Los Angeles.  

On the first day we had a tour of New York with a local guide, Mark, who was passionate about his city. 
He gave us history lessons and interesting anecdotes about all the places we visited.
Here are some of them.
St Patrick's Church is on the left and the Rockefeller Centre is on the right. St Patrick's Church was built in 1858-78. It is the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church of New York.

The Rockefeller Center is made up of 19 buildings which covers an area of 22 acres. It was developed by John D Rockefeller in 1930-33.

One of the most popular Rockefeller buildings is the NBC NEWS building, where every morning crowds hug the windows to watch the recording of "The Today Show" because they are filmed as the background for the show. So everyone is trying for their minute of fame.

The Flatiron building was built in 1902 and was the first skyscraper north of 14th St. It is on the corner of Fifth Ave and Broadway. In NYC all the Avenues go from north to south, while the Streets go east to west but Broadway snakes diagonally across them all. It is a very easy city to find your way around, except when you forget whether you are going east or west, like we we did a few times.

We drove past Wall St which is now closed to traffic since the terrorist threat has heightened. There are no places to park. We saw the huge statue of the Bull  at the end of Wall St but it was surrounded by tourists and not good for pictures.
It was a dull, drizzly foggy morning and the towers were hidden. This is Ground Zero. Behind the fence is where the Twin Towers were and it is being developed into a memorial site. The two footprints of the buildings will become water features. The white tilted box structure with a few blue tiles is actually a museum about the disaster. The building under construction in the middle will replace the towers. It will be taller than the towers were, towering to a symbolic 1776 ft. (the year of independence) Six buildings were destroyed and they are going to be replaced by five.

After the bus tour we were dropped at the ferry terminal for a harbour cruise. The weather wasn't improving but it was still awe inspiring to pass under the Brooklyn Bridge and to view...
The Statue of Liberty. I was stunned at the size of her. See the little people at the bottom.

We had the evening to ourselves so we walked and walked to Times Square to try to buy a last minute ticket to a Broadway show. The crowds and queues were unbelievable. This is the place where millions watch the ball drop at midnight on New Year's Eve. Can you see the little red ball on the tower in the middle.

Bill loved the energy pumping through the square. The tourists in the background are looking at themselves being televised onto.........
this huge screen on the side of a building. Of course we had to look for ourselves and give a wave.
We were lucky to get discount tickets (without queuing) for Billy Elliot. We both enjoyed it very much.
The next day it was "bags out at 6:30 and leave for Philadelphia and Washington at 7:30"

While in New York I was hoping to meet a great blogger, Pat from Mille Fiori Favoriti but unfortunately she was not well enough to meet us. However I did get to hear her voice on the phone and that was nice.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

THE BIG APPLE and trying to find Apple

 After saying goodbye to Lynne and Bonnie in Visalia, Chuck and Lois drove us all the way back to Sonya and Bernie's place in LA. It was a three hour drive and then they had another three hour drive back to San Louis O'Bispo. That is hospitality for you.
 The next day we went to the Apple store nearby and bought an iPad2 so that Bill could blog en route. He was assured that it was possible.
Later we were given baby sitting duties as mum and dad had been invited to be in the audience of a live TV show.
We had fun playing with Fox, as well as feeding him, changing nappies/diapers, bathing him and putting him to bed.
Grossvati was so excited he couldn't hold the camera still.
I also did a load of washing and packed for our big tour across the States. We flew to New York the next day and got the super shuttle to our hotel in 29th Street. It was evening when we arrived. After we settled in we walked to nearby 7th Av and found a bar grill for dinner. Alas, that night Bill discovered that he could not load pictures onto his blog on the new iPad. Uh, oh, I had one grumpy travel companion. 'Tomorrow we are going to find an Apple Store and see what can be done." (and here's me thinking we were going sight seeing doh!) So the next day we look up the addresses of Apple stores in The Big Apple. We find 2, one in 14th St and one in 59th St. We opted for 14th St as it was closer. After walking 15 blocks ( I did some sight seeing on the way) we found the Apple store no longer existed so we turned around and headed towards 59th St.
 We balked at walking 45 blocks so we caught a yellow cab (well that's a must do when in NY)

 We discovered that 59th St is next to Central Park, I was getting excited now as we would be sight seeing after all. We found the Apple store clothed in scaffolding but still open for business 24 hrs. They were apologetic but couldn't help Bill solve the problem. To cheer him up I agreed on a hotdog with sauerkraut for lunch. (I don't like hotdogs but when in New York da d da d da.)

 We walked through the iconic Central Park.

 It was very romantic. I couldn't believe we were actually here in this famous park.

 Then we decided to walk down 5th Av towards our hotel until we got tired but it was too exciting to get tired.  We walked past all the famous, swanky stores.

 Then we turned down Broadway to Times Square. All these places we had read about and seen on TV, we were actually there.

 Broadway is closed to traffic and is just a sea of humanity. Bill loved it, I'm a bit spooked by crowds, but it sure was exciting, bustling, throbbing and alive.

 We found 7th Av and walked on towards 29th and our hotel only another 13 blocks to go. "Hey look down there...It's the Empire State Building"

Almost home just past Madison Square Garden which is neither square or a garden but a round building. We made it! 30 blocks! But oh what fun. There is so much to see here and not enough time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


We spent the night at Fresno, the salad bowl of California. The next morning we drove south to Kings Canyon N.P. and Sequoia N.P.
The forests were full of these giant Sequoia Trees.(see how small Bill looks)

These trees are thousands of years old. I kept expecting to see dinosaurs, it was like going back in time.

Some of the trees are named after famous Generals. This one is called 'Grant' and it is the second largest one in the world.
The forest walks were fun. At this part you could walk through the trunk of a fallen tree. It was just like walking through a tunnel. It was about 30 metres/90 ft long. Lois is entering and Bill has just walked out.

THE BIG ONE. This is General Sherman, the largest living thing in the world. The size is measured by the volume of wood. I accidentally left my brochures at Sonya's house. Unfortunately the Wikipedia information below is ten years old. These photos don't really give you the feeling of the huge size it is.

Height above base[1]
274.9 ft
83.8 m
Circumference at ground[1]
102.6 ft
31.3 m
Maximum diameter at base[1]
36.5 ft
11.1 m
Diameter 4.5 ft (1.4 m) above height point on ground[8]
25.1 ft
7.7 m
Diameter 60 ft (18 m) above base[1]
17.5 ft
5.3 m
Diameter 180 ft (55 m) above base[1]
14.0 ft
4.3 m
Diameter of largest branch[1]
6.8 ft
2.1 m
Height of first large branch above the base[1]
130.0 ft
39.6 m
Average crown spread[1]
106.5 ft
32.5 m
Estimated bole volume[8]
52,508 cu ft
1,487 m3
Estimated mass (wet)[9]
2,105 short tons

Estimated age is 2,500 years.

Then we drove out of the Parks to stay the night in Visalia. It was a long winding drive down the mountains to the valley floor with magnificent mountain views. Sadly this would be the last night  I would be with my cousins, Chuck, Bonnie and Lynne. They have been super generous to us and showed us a beautiful part of California.