Shallow travels in the United States and Canada

This year I will be varying my Saturday posts between sharing of my shallows and pieces that I (may indulgently) write and share. To begin with though, here is a post about my trip to Canada and the US  from last July-August. I completed writing it in early September 2017 but it has sat languishing in my drafts as work, study, illness and family took precedence. When I started writing this post, it was just going to be a short one. A collection of my online postcards (Twitter and FB). Instead, it has turned into a long, rambling epistle. Here are some hyperlinks that may help if you don’t want to read it all. Enjoy! and onward to my Journeys:

In transit to Canada and onwards to Niagara

New York! New York! 

Boston and Upper Massachusettes

Stephenkinglandia *ahem* Maine

Onwards to Quebec and Oh Montreal!

Comparers

Home

Days 1-3:

In transit to Canada and onwards to Niagara

 

I have always openly discussed my fear of flying, and my various strategies for coping with this fear. For this trip, I chose to return to using sedatives with a much better result. With the majority of my anxiety medically controlled, husband and I travelled to Toronto in the horribly cramped confines of United Airlines and Air Canada. We were travelling with our friend and her 2 year old so we were up and down the aisles and chatting with other passengers quite a bit (Yes! We are those passengers!). On the San Fransisco to Toronto leg of my flight, I go to cuddle Jeeves – a lovely little terrier who was travelling with his human. I’ve never seen pets travelling in a cabin before so this was quite the treat.

We landed in Toronto at night, and the very next day we were out of there heading to the kitschy Niagara. Now I love kitsch and Niagara met all my expectations. It was a spectacular Summer’s day, there were crowds and crowds of people (just like all tourism should be!!!), lots of souvenir shops, beautiful landscaping, flashy lights but best of all –  the Falls were truly spectacular! The sheer volume of water was amazing especially considering that this is somewhat stemmed by irrigation upstream. Coming from a country which has severe water shortages, and its once mighty rivers have been over-irrigated, this was quite the phenomenal vision.

Niagara Falls

Entering the USJohn and I then crossed from Canada into the United States by foot over the Rainbow Bridge and the Niagara River. We went through a standard customs check and walked out to a much quieter side of the Niagara Falls. I don’t know what I expected, but somehow in my mind, I had always thought that the Niagara kitsch would be on the US side rather than a Canadian practice.

Flowers in NiagaraWhether it is a function of underfunding and/or being on the less visual side, I was rather taken by the US side and its grassy verges with wildflowers. The only down side was their one touristy restaurant that sits right on the Falls which was truly awful and the service was shit too.

We had chosen to stay on the US side of Niagara as we had a 6am train to catch into NYC. We stayed at our only seemingly dodgy motel for the duration of our trip. It had a broken lift and a bathroom I couldn’t bring myself to shower in but otherwise it past muster. The Red Maple Inn by the Falls had nicer, cleaner, crispier sheets than the threadbare, holey ones we slept in at the Airport Hilton in Toronto (the Hilton also managing to “not find” my wedding ring which I lost in my room). Dining room decalsThe Red Maple Inn had really friendly and helpful staff who, bless them, put on an early breakfast for us when they realised we were leaving on the pre-6am train. The dining room was clean and neat with comfy polyester dining chairs, chipboard tables and slightly askew art work. I was truly taken by the pumpkin decals on its walls. Ours was just a short Niagara stay, and the hype about its beauty is well deserved. But we couldn’t stay long. We had an all day train ride through New York State to take to get to our next destination…

Days 3-6:

New York! New York!

Ever since I read Elizabeth Enright’s Gone-Away Lake, I had wanted to take a long train ride through New York State, as well as wanting to eat a club sandwich whilst onboard. In Enright’s Gone-Away Lake, Portia Blake and her brother take the train out of the city to their cousin’s home in Attica which is only a few hours south of Niagara. Enright’s rich description of the countryside that Portia views from the train remains true even today for I too saw what she writes:

The city had already dwindled away, and country, real country, was skimming along beside the train. It was June, the very best ripest part of June; there were roses in all the yards and yellow flowers in all the fields. The trees were thick with leaves, and the grass still looked as soft as cloth because it was so new.”

Sure, we were travelling in late July, not in June, but the yellow flowers were still in the fields and there were trees with leaves and the grass still looked as soft as cloth. It was all as beautiful as her words that had stayed in my mind for now close to 40 years. (Aside: this thought resonates with me: What aspects of newly published books or movies or games enamour themselves in kids minds today that will eventually impact their travel choices when they are middle aged?)

Train travel to New YorkOur dining experience was quite different to Portia and her brother, Foster – there was no dining room carriage, there was no white tablecloth or silverware “gibbering quietly”, and quite sadly, there was no club sandwich on the menu to be had. Despite these small disappointments, the train journey was pretty special. John and I travelled coach (economy) class which absolutely surpasses Australia’s first class train travel (I’m comparing apples to apples here – the 9hr Niagara to New York service compared to the 8hr Sydney to Melbourne service).

The journey down through New York State was infinitely interesting. Every town and small city faded away as it was the rivers that grabbed my attention. Firstly, the train travels along the Mohawk River, narrow to begin with and then widening. And then the Schenectady to Albany leg which takes you to the Hudson River. And I absolutely loved the journey down the Hudson River. I was astounded at how beautiful it was, and how wide it was so far up river. In 1908, my grandfather migrated to America where he lived for 10 years before returning to Greece to marry his friend’s sister, never to return. My father always told me that he arrived at Ellis Island in New York and that he worked as both a chef in New York City in the winter and in the Summer he held timber contracts in upstate New York. Coming from the Agrafa region of the Pindus Mountains in Central Greece, forestry and sustainable practices had been in place for centuries in his area. My grandfather had once been fined a hefty amount in his remote village for using a fallen tree for firewood before the local forester had identified that it had fallen through natural causes. Only trees that had been marked and assessed for felling were permitted for the locals to use for their building and energy purposes. With his knowledge of forestry, my grandfather’s contracts had him sending trees downriver to New York City on boats rather than transporting them by train or trucks. How much of this is my own father’s hyperbole and how much is truth, I still don’t know. But travelling along the Hudson, I allowed my dad’s words to be truth and I marvelled that the mountains had not been completely deforested, and that there was blue water and green mountains as far as I could see.

Nature, as lovely and astounding as it can be, does not enthrall me anywhere near as much as the majesty of a huge city. The most exciting part of my train ride was our entry into New York City with our view of the city skyline just before our train went underground and we emerged at Penn Station. From Penn Station, we walked (suitcases and all) the potholey kilometre (and add a bit) to the Library Hotel (how could I stay anywhere else!) where we had booked the Dramatic Literature room. After a few hours to refresh ourselves, we met with gracious and wonderful NYC twitter peeps MaryLynne Nielsen and Stacey Agdern who took us out to dinner in a classic New York deli (called 2nd Avenue which was on 3rd Avenue). Once we were replete, we walked through their city over to bustling Bryant Park for dessert before heading to Grand Central Station. A local’s introduction to NYC was a great way to kick start our visit.

New York CityHere’s a quick run down of all that we managed to do in our 3.5 days in the city.

We spent a few hours in Central Park where we entered through the Inventors gate (I really wanted to enter from the Children’s gate but it was too far along the park to do that), we sang Enchanted songs and I imagined Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy family from The Saturday’s rowing in Central Park when Miranda Melendy falls out of the boat and into the water. We sat and watched artists painting and we walked around to Belvedere Castle. And, of course, the one person we stop to offer to take a photo of her in the park ended up being another Sydneysider from just one suburb away from our own home.

We went to the MET whose Oceania collection was more substantial than other international museums I have visited’ attempts to reflect cultural information (though, disappointingly, the indigenous Australian contribution was a tiny 2 items). We entered the Guggenheim foyer just to have a Frank Lloyd Wright experience. I became a member of the New York Public Library (and may have shed a sappy librarian tear or two) and did some thesis research. The NYPL shop was fabulous (and if you are a librarian you get a 10% discount).

We went to Upper East side, downtown, mid-Manhattan, crazy Times Square. We stayed on Madison Ave which made every part of NYC easily accessible. We took the Graysline hop-on hop-off tour service which was terrible. We got caught in a hailstorm while on a ferry on the Hudson River and I got caught in gridlock ontop of an open-top bus during a thunderstorm. We might have shopped a tad too much (it came out of the “other” budget, the urban fantasy budget).

John, Stephen Colbert and meWe saw The Late Show with Seth Myers at 30 Rock (I was devastated that Rob Lowe had his interview pre-recorded for that episode) and The Late Show with Steven Colbert (!!!!) at the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

We had moments of quoting from When Harry Met Sally, Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Adam Gopnik, FRIENDS, Seinfeld and HIMYM at every corner and every turn.

We ate at delis and bars – knishes and matzo ball soup (the menu called it “Jewish penicillin”!), New York pizzas, cheesecake, pretzels, bagels with a shmear (which I am terribly sad to inform my dear and darling Montreal friends that the New York bagels are far superior to theirs), donuts, prosecco and cheese and other many delights like the night life buzz in Bryant Park and mornings at Grand Central Station and the very pleasing phenomenon of flat whites being available at small hole-in-the-wall coffee shops – it is good to see Australian cultural impact extends beyond Murdoch, Hoges, Nicole and Rusty Crowe.

nycNew York City is fabulous, a tad crazy and strangely reminiscent of Athens, Greece. Except with skyscrapers and a surprising lack of small cars and vespas. The similarities though! The footpaths and shop fronts, the avenues and avenues of apartments, the nightly rubbish collection on the street, the smells, the decorative flower baskets, the noise and graffiti and bars and crowds and people out ’til all hours of the night, the gasp you take on the occasional glimpses of iconic buildings as you turn the corner or that glimpse as you look up between buildings.

There was soooo much more we would love to have seen and done. In all, I walked John’s 100K paces in 4 days. My legs are shorter so add a few more paces for me and you’ll understand why my feet and hips were so (happily) sore.

Days 7 – 9: 

Boston and Upper Massachusettes

BostonJohn and I took the 4 hour Acela Amtrak service from New York to Boston. It is a great way to travel as the train hugs the incredibly pretty Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusettes coast.

In Boston, I finally got to meet my cousins in person. Back in 1915 (or was it 1916?) my grandmother’s sister Βασιλική migrated to Lowell, Massachusettes and I got to meet her children, grandchildren and one of her great-grandchildren. Though we have been on facebook for years seeing each others lives, it was something else to actually meet in person.

My fab cousin, Val picked us up from the station, we then picked up her sister, Anne and we spent a great day exploring picturesque Cape Ann while we talked and chatted. Once again, we were so taken by the beauty of the coastal villages. We visited Gloucester with its emotionally moving memorial to the 2000+ fisherman lost working at sea, the dates with every name of every man who died also reflecting the height of the maritime trade being in the late 19th and early 20th century, with the slow decline in deaths, I am guessing, being a combination of both safer working conditions and a shrinking industry.

BostonThe next day, tireless Val took us on a trolley tour of Boston. We saw places that I have read in stories all through my childhood – Paul Revere (“The British are coming”!) And The Freedom Trail, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Tubman and her incredible bravery, the Beacon Hill setting of Gwen Fairfax’s Lover in Disguise where Amanda struggles to understand the elusive Ralph who is actually Mac in a fake-name-trickery trope Candlelight Ecstasy romance.

My absolute delight was Boston Public Library – a traditional facade with a modern extension housing the circulating library which was fab. The spaces, technology and the hum of people was invigorating. I met the children’s librarian and we talked about the attention to their picture book collection – which are sorted in exact order (just as I did at my old branch in Ultimo) and the importance of libraries giving exact title access to children’s materials. I found their genre section including romance fiction. But the absolute highlight was the digital information wall using open data to reflect the collection usage. I was in IKM boffin heaven. Oh! And there was also our great user-centred designed, technologically savvy hotel Yotel! Highly recommended.

Then at night we went back to Anne’s place where I finally got to meet my Aunt Eve and Uncle Foti, Aunt Gini and Uncle Nick, as well as cousins Jonathan and Victor (another Vaios in the fam!), Anne’s husband Ron as well as delightful and fun Lucy who John and I tried to convince to study in Sydney . I love that we all sat around and talked about our Australian and American similarities and differences, mentions of Αγιοφυλλο and Σκεπαρι, talk of all our families in all their guises spread throughout the Diaspora. It was a loud and raucous night with lots of laughter. 100 years, 3 continents and 4 generations that migration has kept apart, but there is a shared love of family and epigenetic connections that we all felt that night. This just stands testimony to the love and sense of family that my grandmother and her three sisters managed to instill in all their children.

The next day, John and I went for a last morning walk around Boston Harbor before heading out to pick up our rental car to drive up to Maine.

Days 9-12:

Maine (AKA Stephenkinglandia)

MaineJohn and I (accidently) took a whole day to travel from Boston to Bangor, Maine. We stopped at Kittery outlets  and I got us lost and found ourselves in holiday gridlock in the pretty summer town of Ogunquit. It took us a while but we eventually got ourselves back on the turnpike to Bangor. Driving on the wrong side of the road *ahem* messes with my spatials and I drove poor John crazy with my constant “you’re too close to the side” noises.

This leg of our trip was especially meaningful for me. Over 9 years ago, only a day after I started my twitter account, Jessica Tripler was one of the first people to ever follow me and I followed her back. Having spent many years writing to each other both on Twitter and by emails, lots of coercive photographs showing me how beautiful Maine is, she convinced me to visit her and I finally got to meet Jessica who is even more wonderful in person. Meeting in person was just an extension of all our text conversations. We just fell straight into sync with each other. Chatting and laughing as old friends do.

Apart from showing us around city and university and all its surroundings, Jessica also gave us a thorough and absolutely THRILLING Stephen King landmarks tour. I totally fangirled over King’s house OMG – Look at the detailing on his entrance gate!), we saw the Paul Bunyon statue, drove through Pet Sematary and even got to climb to the Water Tower from IT which is usually closed to the public but Jessica expertly played the naive Aussie tourists card when we were told we shouldn’t be in the tower Oops! I also like to imagine that Bangor library is the inspiration for King’s short story The Library Policeman though their wonderful librarian who gave us a detailed tour was far from the creepy Ardelia Lortz from The Library Policeman.

MaineJohn and I travelled to Owl’s Head Lighthouse and beautiful Camden while we listened to Aziz Anzari’s sociological study Modern Romance (which we highly recommend ) as well as visiting the spectacular Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor and, what should be mutually exclusive, Mount Desert Island with Jessica and her lovely husband.

Driving through Maine is just a visual splendour. It was like a scene out of every American Summer camp novel I have read (and a few scenes from Get Mortified letters home too). John and I absolutely adored it. We looked out for moose and bears but (I am sure) luckily we only saw squirrels, deer and lots of microbreweries.

Jessica and her husband were wonderful hosts and we have come away with a deeper knowledge  planners (dammit! now I notice all the sparkly ones and I have even bought some though I have to resist joining that online community too) and mmmmmmmmnommmmm Simon Baker. On our last night, Jessica and I watched Simon Baker and Sanaa Lathan in Something New. I had seen Jessica tweet about it long ago but I couldn’t find a copy to buy or borrow in Sydney. I highly recommend this movie. I loved it. And there is really nothing like two girlfriends having a romance film watching night together. A great online friendship was certainly cemented in real life during out time together. I am sure we will meet again, but now I need to coerce her to come to Australia so I can return her hospitality.

 

Days 13-16:

Onwards to Quebec and Oh Montreal!

Quebec

QuebecJohn and I continued on our journey and drove through upper state Maine to Canada. The vistas were just absolutely stunning. Just green, green, green, amazing rivers and streams and just absolute beauty. Once we were in Canada, we continued along smaller roads to Quebec City, and despite having rather depleted schoolgirl French, we managed to find some excellent parking only a block from the old city.

I have always wanted to visit Quebec and especially Quebec City. Many years ago, I had read a biography on Captain James Cook which discussed his success fighting in the Seven Years War which was instrumental to his promotion to Captain. Seeing the citadel, reading about the battles between the French and the English, and knowing that the outcomes had an impact upon the sovereign first nations of Australian preceding its illegal occupation and colonisation and ultimately, my life in Australia on the flip side of the world. In other words – Mind Blown! Quebec City was incredibly pretty. We walked around for several hours, John ate bison (errrm – no thanks!), we walked around the citadel and we just enjoyed the vibe of a bustling city. But we didn’t stay as we needed to head to Montreal!

Montreal

MontrealThe main purpose of my overseas trip was to attend a readers meet up in Montreal. My whole academic journey was precipitated by attending the inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention back in 2009. As I am now in my last stage of my candidature, I felt that attending another inaugural readers’ meet up was necessary to bookend my studies. Montreal itself was busy and pretty, a city of contrasts, francophones in the west, anglophones in the east, gentrification, old vs new and 33km of underground metro cities for coping with extreme cold in a part of the country that is not a stranger to months of weather below 0C. As much as it was great to see another city, I relished meeting some incredible women who traveled from throughout the US, Canada and even two of us from Australia. Librarians, writers, educators, scholars but most importantly, readers. We spent four days quasi-exploring Montreal, when in actual fact, we used every opportunity to speak about the romance fiction genre, our access to reading, the impacts of current politics not only upon our own individual selves but also upon the writing that we are seeing emerging from publishers.

I was so incredibly excited to be sharing these days with the amazing librarians, Super Wendy and Ana Coqui where we also spoke about our own professional experiences. SuperWendy was just, well…SUPER! She was taller than I expected and ever so dry. I adore her flatpan way of speaking and now when I read her blogposts and her twitter, I just have her voice in my head and I am thrilled. Ana was exactly as I imagined her to be. Funny and chatty, she comes across on Twitter just as she does in real life. Ana has a comprehensive wrap up of the meet up on her blog. I also got to meet Susanna Kearsley, Laura Curtis, Rain Merton, ValancyBlu, Tamsen Parker, Elizabeth Jane as well as some of their partners and friends.

On par with my meeting with Jessica, I got to meet my polar ends of the world Greek reading twin –  I got to meet the incredible Kay of Miss Bates Reads Romance. Kay and her MamaB were kind enough to host John and I in their own home. What can I say; Kay is an absolute firecracker. She was tireless in showing us all her city but also sharing her deep knowledge in Quebecois history, Canadian legislature, secessionists, the Quiet Revolution and secularism, romance fiction and English literature. Kay was nothing like I imagined her to be but she was also everything that she is on both her blog and her Twitter. She is the most extroverted introvert you could meet, it sounds incongruous, but she encapsulates both so perfectly. She was just a brilliant host who truly managed to run a thrilling readers meet up. She is funny and thoughtful, chatty and quiet, all smiles and and full of reflection. And on our last night we stayed up talking and talking and talking until all hours. I adore her and now miss her and wish we had more time to talk about life and love and things close to our hearts. I am sure, that I will one day get her too, to come to Australia.

 

Day 17 and lost in transit:

To Toronto and bound for home

At the end of the fabulous meet up, John and I caught another long distance train. ViaRail has older trains than the US’s Amtrak. The trains are very rocky and to quote my son Paul “this makes them a bit splashy, mum”. Tea, coffee and our water sloshing all over the place as the train hurtled southwards to Toronto. The service however, was exemplary! Seat service, hot meals, warm towelettes, alcoholic beverages lots of legroom, free wifi, reclining chairs and plenty of chargers for phones and laptops. It was excellent. It is time that Australian rail operators took note and upped their game. Our first class rail travel is an appalling service in comparison.

Once in Toronto, John and I were truly hit with travellers’ fatigue. We walked past the Hockey (ice not field) Hall of Fame, down through the underpass and found the lakeside and just collapsed. We relished the lovely summer day, watched people come and go for several hours but could not bring ourselves to explore any further. We then headed towards the train station where we met up with lovely Denise whom wet met at the readers’ meet up, for a quick drink. and then headed for our hotel. Once we overcame our mix up (too many Hiltons in one city!!!), we just flopped to our beds. We had a half day left to pack our bags, go for a long walk (6 km) to counter DVT on our upcoming 24 hours flying to Sydney .

Comparers

In Enright’s Gone-Away Lake, Portia is helping her Aunt Hilda with the weeding before she and Julian set out on an adventure. Portia tells her aunt about how she wishes that she could hold on to the perfection of Summer and how it is “everything just exactly right”. Which is how I felt travelling around. I wanted it all to stay as it was. The time, my experiences, the perfect Summer weather. But Aunt Hilda tells Portia that if we “get too used to it [.] we’d toughen to it” and that it is only because things don’t last forever that we can appreciate them. Portia’ says:

Good things must have comparers, I suppose,” said Portia. “Or how would we know how good they are?”

Portia’s response stays with me. All good things have comparers. When I travel beyond my own home, I am in a constant state of comparing. Not in a negative way, but one in which my everyday toughened  experience becomes the benchmark upon which I compare my travel experiences. And here are some of my observations:

Coffee: It is a well known fact that Australians are total and utter coffee snobs. Just google it and all the articles will show you. We are such coffee snobs that Starbucks failed in Australia, the only ones left standing are in touristy areas and we are judgemental of those too. I think MaryLynne captures Australian’s feelings on this with this excellent tweet:

So we had trepidation and fear that we wouldn’t have a good coffee for a fortnight and how were we ever going to cope! But it was fine. In Canada, all the hotels had coffee pods (terrible on the environment, not so bad with the caffeine), in our NYC hotel there was a pod machine but 3 blocks away was an Australian cafe called Bluestone with decent flat whites but then we found a just as good American cafe with flat whites at Grand Central Station. We realised, that just like in Australia, as long as we avoided diners and chains and we look out for small hole in the wall baristas, the coffee will be OK. Then, in homes, it was a mix between plunger coffee (French press in the US) or there was Greek coffee on offer, both of which we have in our home. All in all, I had only 1 bad coffee during the whole trip. Not bad at all!

Food, drink and tipping: Our decision was to eat American while in the US. Coming from the Sydney melting pot where we eat cuisine from around the world every day as it is easily accessible, we didn’t feel the need to seek out food from other nations. Though I wouldn’t say we completely avoided it either (we had Italian and Mexican on several occasions). We wanted to try the local fare – hamburgers, hotdogs, pizzas, doughnuts, deli foods, supermarkets, chips, drinks, icecream and more. Oh my goodness – we were not disappointed. I listed a whole lot of food that we ate in my New York spiel, but the food in the rest of our travels was great too. We had fabulous Atlantic seafood which is quite different to our own yummy seafood of the South Pacific. Fresh lobster, clam chowder, lobster rolls all were sublime. Seafood that was warm food, and much more suited to the cooler climate of North-Eastern America. I had great salads in New York that I loved so much that I have already made them twice here at home. We had scrumptious Maine blueberries and crisp New York apples. I loved the cheesecakes and the apple pies that I tried, and …. honestly, I have to say, that it was all pretty good. The servings were incredibly large, but John and I were prepared for this, so we had a system of ordering one main and one salad and this tended to be enough for the two of us. As for drinking, I’m such a lightweight that I max out at one a day so all I am going to say is that I really enjoyed the vibe in the bars and microbreweries that we visited. Hubs loved them.

But what floored us was the tipping. I over-tipped, under-tipped, didn’t tip. It was all too freakin’ confusing for me. Why don’t you just freakin’ pay your staff enough money that they don’t have to depend on people contributing to their meeting rent that week. Seriously. It’s some messed up shit that is going on in both countries where I need to add tax, and then add 15% or 19% or 22% or 28% for a tip. I get it. It’s how the system works but it is a broken system. I was earning $10 an hour shovelling pizzas back in 1988. Today, I would be earning AU$25 an hour. That’s approx US$20 and CAN$25. Just do it. And it is bloody misleading to not just have the full price (yes that is right – including tax!) on a ticket number. Oooooh! Look! You are buying $50 shoes but it comes with a national tax and then a state tax and all of a sudden you are paying $65 and don’t forget to tip the staff. *sob* Just toooo confusion!

Book Haul: Well….I didn’t read anything other than the occasional tourist guide while we were away. However, when one goes to a readers meet up, there is a book haul. When you meet up with other reading minded friends to talk books and explore bookish places in Maine, there is a book haul. When one gets a NY Public Library card (albeit a 3 month temporary one), there is a book haul. My TBR is beyond what is pictured. I have a whole lot of ebooks and eaudiobooks lined up. It is an illness. A book illness and one that is too long to list here on this already too long post.

Cities: I adore cities. I am obsessed with cities. Like Anita Heiss, I have an urban dreaming going on. I love the busy-ness, I love the traffic, the jostle of pedestrians and all the skyscrapers. So how do I compare the cities I visited to Sydney? Well, I could be diplomatic and say that they all have their graces….but I won’t. They do all have their graces, but really? Is there any question about city grandness? New York is just magnificent. Smelly, busy, huge, busy, iconic, busy. As a comparer to Sydney, New York is vibrant beyond a doubt…but…it is nowhere near as breathtakingly beautiful as Sydney is.

As for the other cities? I liked them all. Toronto was very similar to Brisbane (only not as hot), I loved Boston’s vibe and history, which was on par with Montreal and Quebec. One day, I am sure, I will return for another visit. Especially to New York.

Flying: Can I recommend Air Canada and United Airlines? Ummm….that is a definite NO for long haul flights. They would be perfectly fine for shorter trips, but if I am in the air for a 25 hours, I want a chair that reclines more than 2°. Sitting upright for hours on end sucks. And Air Canada do not serve any free food on their flights and you have to buy it either in the airport or on the airplane at exorbitant prices or bring a pre-packaged lunch from home – which is much too hard for long haul travellers. Air Canada were far from the cheapest option and to not serve food really sucked.

As for inflight entertainment, I sat through 3 (or was it 4) viewings of When Harry Met Sally (say whatever you want – I love this movie), one each of The Princess Bride and Why Him, as well as numerous How I met Your Mother and Friends episodes, until we finally got home. Tired and exhausted we discovered that our luggage didn’t make it. I wanted to be all dramatic and relish the angst of luggage lost but my family ho-hummed at me and said it will turn up. But don’t they understand that being all dramatic means that when it turns up, my Happily Ever After reunion is infinitely more exciting!.

Home! 

I am happy to be home and with my boys, who took excellent care of the house and themselves. I missed them a lot. Peter can now stop saying that he is a single parent who is working and studying at uni while caring for his brother, and Paul can blame all future poor marks on his parents’ fortnight of abandoning him while in his senior years of high school. There really is nothing like the comfort of your own bed and pillows, the warmth of your own home, the familiarity of your own community; these are the benchmark comparers. Despite my nauseating, head spinning, muscle melting jetlag that persisted for two weeks, it was an incredible journey, one that has informed my studies well, and has also given me cause for dreaming of a return….just not in the near future.

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2 thoughts on “Shallow travels in the United States and Canada

  1. Awww, see how nice you are? I’m “taller than you expected” when you could have just written “Wendy is ginormous.” And the flat dead-pan thing is pretty much Midwestern United States 😀

    I love Jessica. She made it to an RWA one year (I think the last time it was in New York?) and OMG LOVE!

    Everything you said about Atlantic seafood. Gods I miss it. Living here in California it’s salmon and…salmon. Oh wait, and mahi mahi. I LOVE eating in New York. Proper cheesecake, the pizza, the bagels, the deli food – all of it. California does have good food (if you love Mexican this is totally the place, but I’m all about the sushi) but dear Lord it’s a damn pizza desert.

    (And I hear you on the tipping thing. We had to totally rewire our thinking when we went to London a few years ago!)

    And now I’m exhausted just reading this blog post. I’m so glad you took the time to write it up!

    • Both your height and your dead-pan are total compliments! I didn’t think you were ginormous though.

      We are spoilt for pizza AND sushi in Sydney. You should come and try! It isn’t far!

      We totally agree on the Jessica front and the tipping front! And thank you for reading to the end. It is the longest post I have written and I very nearly cut it in half but I had procrastinated for so long that I just went with the 6K!!!!

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