Day 32 Miami – Photos

Here are some photos from Key West and surrounds. W

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Day 32 Miami

Well today was an early start – the tour company collected us at 6:45am to begin our trip to Key West which is about 160 miles from Miami. The whole day was expected to last around 14 hours.

Andyes it was going to be humid again (my body does not cope overly well with this weather but I am sure over time it would acclimatise). Anyway we stocked up on water (which has been a staple for me for the whole trip – and something that I normally don’t drink enough of) and off we went. There were about 50+ ;eople in the group.

It took around 3 hours to rach Key West. We travelled over 42 bridges (including the 7 mile bridge) and went through places like Key Largo and a number of different Keys. There are approximately 1700 Keys (another word for islands) that make up the Florida Keys – not all of the Keys are inhabited (some are tiny). There are some that are privately owned but many are uninhabited.

Key West is at the southern tip of the Florida Keys and is 90 miles from Cuba.

We had decided to takea ride on a glass-bottom boat but when we arrived all of the activities had been cancelled due to poor visibility (caused by the aftermath of the storm). We also noticed that there were very few people around – again caused by the storms so nothing much was operating. We took a tour around the town and had a late lunch at a fantastic seafood restaurant.

The humidity was almost overwhelming but we still managed to walk around and check out some of the sites including Jimmy Buffett’s bar and shop (Norm is a Jimmy Buffett fan – country and western music).

We were back on the bus at 6:00pm and arrived back in Miami at about 9:30pm. A long day – hence the lag in putting this post up!)

Tomorrow is a rest day before we leave on Friday to visit our friend Bob. More tomorrow. W  (I will put some photos up later).

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Day 31 Miami

The weather has cleared in Miami but it is getting worse in New Orleans – Norm has just told me that 23,000 people have been evacuated from the area and the cyclone is now currently passing over southeastern Louisiana.

Today we took a tour of the everglades. It took about an hour to travel to where we were to take the tour in the hovercrafts.  It was a fantastic experience (we didn’t see any alligators though). We were in a nature park and saw a number of alligators and crocodiles and how they should be handled.

The humidity is very high and makes walking around an effort. When we returned from the tour we had a short rest and then headed to the main shopping strip to get some supplies.

It was cooler in the shops so we looked around in some of them and then found a very nice Italian cafe (there are a lot of Italian restaurants in this area).

We then took a stroll long the beach

Two observations – 1. a lot of people seem to smoke here; and 2. a lot more people chew gum (both in the US and Canada).

On that note I will sign off – we are doing an all day tour of Key West tomorrow so I will sign off now. More tomorrow. W

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Day 30 Miami

Today was spent travelling. We arrived at New Orleans airport at around 8:30am. The Hotel we were staying at was deciding whether to close or stay open as the Tropical Storm Isaac approached – there were only 100 (out of a possible 500) left in the Hotel this morning as we were leaving.

Our plane was still on time and due to leave at 12:35pm. As it happened it was a little late. The pilot told us on a number of occasions that the flight would be rough even though we would be going around it. The flight generally was fine with no excessive turbulence.

We reached Miami at around 4:00pm. It was overcast and had been raining heavily. When we arrived at the Hotel it was so humid my glasses fogged up as soon as I got out of the taxi. The weather predictions are for good weather in the coming days.

We are heading out to the everglades tomorrow so that should be exciting.

No photos today – should have some tomorrow. Will report in tomorrow. W

PS – US Open started today (and Kim Clijsters has just won her first round match).

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Day 29 New Orleans

We started off the day by heading towards the Mississippi River (via some of the streets in the French Quarter).  It was a lovely day warm (and still humid – but I am getting used to it slowly) and everything was calm and quiet in the streets. (New Orleans is colourful, vibrant and noisy).

We thought we would take a ride on a paddle steamer along the Mississippi. When we got there we decided to take the evening trip – so we booked this and decided to explore the city further.

We visited the St Louis King of France Cathedral and Basilica – beautiful Church. The Church is concerned about the war that New Orleans is currently fighting and compares it to the war of 1812 – which was fought against the British along the American east coast over 3 years – the battle in New Orleans was in 1815. Poor communication meant different parts of the country did not know when the war commenced – apparently. The current war being referred to was the one on violence, murder and racism – this seems to be a big problem here and something that many people are concerned about.

From there we made our way to Cafe du Monde to have beignets (french donuts). We were told that this is something we must do. The cafe is opened 24/7 and only sells drinks and beignets. They come warm with 3 to a serving and smothered in icing sugar (and I mean smothered – the whole plate is filled with icing sugar about 1cm deep and the beignets are smothered as well). You should see the cafe and all of the icing sugar on the tables, the floor and people covered in it! ….and yes they were worth having!

We found a couple of wacky shops (Voodoo etc) and spent time in some art galleries in Royal Street.

We went back to the Hotel to freshen up and check up on  Tropical Storm Isaac. Norm has been tracking the weather and listening to all the reports. It is currently causing issues in Miami but is moving into the the Gulf of Mexico.  There are channels dedicated to this issue and authorities are now issuing mandatory evacuations in some areas. Where it will hit is the creating the most discussion and all of the modelling is unable to predict this at this stage.

Currently the weather is still clear and humid.

We took the evening tour aboard the paddle steamer the Nachez on the Mississippi River. It was a great night for it.

We have decided to leave for the airport early tomorrow morning in case there is a rush to get out of the City. Our flight is still on time so we will see what happens. The current predictions are that the cyclone will hit the New Orleans area on either Tuesday or Wednesday. The concern with this event is that it will be 7 years (on Tuesday) since cyclone Katrina hit here so everyone is concerned but they also  believe that they have improved procedures and protection in place to deal with this situation. We will keep watching to see how this unfolds.  Talk soon. W

Highlights from the day

The photos show some new friends we made and I have the beignets in front of me in the bottom right hand corner!

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Day 28 New Orleans

We left Washington on an 8:30am flight from Reagan International airport after saying goodbye to  Ceri and Allen the previous evening.

We picked up an hour during the flight and arrived at around 10:00am. We made our way to the Hotel (noticing just how flat the land is here) checked in and then proceeded to look at how to explore this place. (Oh the Hotel we are staying is part of the Waldorf-Astoria chain and is very nice – actually all of our accommodation has been great really).

Did I say it was hot here – IT IS VERY HOT HERE! No storms brewing yet but we are still watching what is happening with Tropical Storm Isaac. It has passed through Haiti and they are now looking at whether it will hit Miami (and other parts of Florida). The Republican Party Convention is due ot be held in Tampa, Florida next week and this is a concern for them and some of the Governors of the various States have decided not to attend. So we will keep watching what is happening on this front as we are due to fly to Miami on Monday!

Anyway back to the present. We opted for a tour of the city which was really interesting. The tour guide showed us some of the areas hit by Cyclone Katrina (there are a number of areas that have not been repaired. We saw the levies and just how low lying many of the houses are in this area.

We saw some absolutely lovely houses too. We also visited one their cemeteries and found out about how (and why) they bury people here. It was really interesting. I won’t dwell on it here but the Guide did tell us about people being buried alive during the outbreak of yellow fever (in the 1800’s I think). During this time they didn’t have the technology to determine whether someone was dead or in a coma so everyone was presumed to be dead. In order to ensure everyone was dead they (apparently) tied a rope to their ankle with a bell attached so that if someone was not dead they would here the bell ringing (and this is where the terms “dead ringer” and “saved by the bell” came from). Even if this isn’t the case it was an amusing aside at the time (maybe you  actually needed to be here to get the impact – and my sense of humour is a little warped at times!).

Anyway after the tour we decided to explore some of the streets on foot. At this point let me say some of the streets (and their inhabitants) where interesting. Extremely noisy, very colourful and some looked different.

After walking around a number of streets we decided to return to the Hotel. I was so hot I had to peel my clothes off (and a shower was never so good). I reassessed my wardrobe and put on some more appropriate clothing (I had stayed in the clothes I had dressed in from Washington – which included shoes and socks). We found a great restaurant (Mr B’s) and afterwards strolled around and visited some galleries which we are going to revisit tomorrow.

So all  in all a very interesting day. I will put up some photos to convey the day. Cheers. W

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Day 27 Washington

Today was spent with Ceri and Allen (who had both taken time off work to spend the day with us). We went to Baltimore and spent some time looking round. We talked so much during the trip down we almost missed the turnoff to Baltimore!

We lunched in Italian cafe and then visited Fort Henry (where the National Anthem – The Star Spangled Banner) was written during the war of 1812 (but at the battle which occurred in Baltimore in 1814).

It was a very hot and humid day but a great chance to look around Baltimore and generally catch up on lots to things and find out new things.

After a great day we finished up by going to a lovely restaurant.  We really enjoyed catching up with Ceri and Allen and for their time and effort to make sure we had a great visit! They have promised to visit us within the next 2 years (the presure is now on!!)

I was about to post this update this morning but I had to board the plane for New Orleans so here it is now. An update on today’s activities will follow. W

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Day 26 Washington

Today we visited the Capitol Building. We had pre-booked this tour prior to coming to the US and it was set for 9:00am and naturally you needed to be there early (like 45 minutes) which meant another early start and it was promising to be a hot day (around 30 degrees) and humid!

We decided to catch a cab to the building and take our time getting back to the Hotel. The taxi driver was great – He had come from Africa 10 years ago but was right into Washington and the political scene and kept us entertained until we arrived at our destination.

The tour of the Capitol Building was great – so much to see (but not enough time to see everything you wanted to see – or photograph).  I think I got some good shots which depict the building. Our Tour Guide recounted her story of 911 – being evacuated from the building along with members of a British delegation and just running from the building.  She turned to take a look at the building and noticed the Pentagon and that it had been hit. Her husband worked there but was not in the office that day. Where the plane hit was where her husband’s office was. She told us this story after apologising  to us about the security sreening but used the story to illustrate why it was necessary. The interesting thing was that I had anticipated needing photo ID to get into the building (as this has been needed in a few instances to date) but it wasn’t necessary for this tour.

After the tour we decided to visit the Library of Congress – which you access via a tunnel. While you could not go into the actual library you could view it and see some mini displays. The displays that were available at this time were on George and Ira Gershwin and Bob Hope – and some of the displays and information available was wonderful.

From there we went back to the Capitol Building and then went to look at some of surrounding buildings.

From there we decided to walk back to through the City to the Hotel (This took around 3.5 hours to do). We visited the Smithsonian Museum on the Native Americans as well as the Botanical Gardens.

By this time the weather was getting very humid but we pressed on and reached the George Washington monument. Last time we visited Washington we had a slight issue with the Secret  Service police as the President was returning to the White House and the area we were in needed to be cleared immediately. Well a similar incident occurred again. Roads were blocked and police everywhere – this the President (we assume) was leaving the White House and the entourage was huge – at least  10 motorcycles, 10 police cars, about 6 secret service cars + the Presidential vehicle and an ambulance and police helicopter! So that was a bit of excitement.

We finally got back to the Hotel had time to clean up – did some shopping and then set off (on foot) to visit our friends for dinner.  Ceri and Allen have a lovely house in Washington (which they moved into in the last 12 months). We met Alice and John who work with Ceri (and are Australians) and we had a lovely time talking on many and varied topics.

So all in all a very interesting day; am looking forward to what tomorrow has in store!

As an aside Norm has been monitoring the weather and there seems to be storms brewing down South. The papers are also getting into the act predicting that people are becoming complacent about cyclones. So at this stage I am alert (but not alarmed).  Will keep you posted! Bye for now. W

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Day 25 Washington

Today saw us up early to pack and make our way to Penn Station to catch the Amtrak Train to Washington. In my enthusiasm I had suggested we walk to the Station which was about 17 blocks from our Hotel. I always forget the weight of my backpack! Anyway we made it there (I was a bit hot and bothered and it was so hot in the subway!). As we were early I had time to cool down before the grain was due to depart.

The train trip is comfortable and takes around 2.75 hours. Union Station is currently being renovated but is how we remembered it. AA quick bite to eat and then we were off to find the Hotel. The Hotel is near Du Pont Circle (which is a very nice part of Washington).

We took some time to reorganise ourselves and then we were off to catch up with our friend Ceri. We met at a really nice restaurant called Agora (Mediterranean style) and talked non-stop for almost 4 hours).

We will be catching up over the next 2 days as well as doing some sightseeing and generally enjoying the Capital of the USA. As I write this the media is focusing on the lack of a balanced coverage of the upcoming electoral campaign. I expect there will be more of this to come!

Will report in again tomorrow. W

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Day 24 New York Update

Just in case you didn’t know Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. All boys from New Jersey (or from the Bronx). So it was appropriate to see it while in New York. W

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