2019/02/15: A Hiking We Will Go

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
After a lot of pondering and Ed deciding that some exercise would be good for us we booked Cajon del Maipo 8km Hiking Day Tour in the Andes. At 7am a mini bus arrived at our hotel to pick us up. After a couple off stops to pick up more people, we had a full bus and we were off to the Andes mountains. After an hour we stopped at a small restaurant where we picked up water, sandwiches and fruit, then after another hour we arrived at the start of the hike. It turned out that there were two tour groups in the bus --- our group and another group that was only hiking 4 kim then going to a hot springs. The two groups hiked the first 2 km together. After a break our group of 7 people continued hiking while the other group of 7 people hiked back to the mini bus. When we finished our hike and returned to the road the mini bus was just returning from the hot springs Now that was great timing or was it great communications? The two guides had radios!

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The white stuff on the mountain is a glacier plus some fresh snow from Monday's storm. It can snow all year long in the Andes Mountains. Near the bottom left corner you can see a building. A controversial project has been underway for over 10 years. A Spanish company is harnessing all of the water coming from the local glaciers so it can be run through a hydro electric plant to produce electricity for a Spanish mining company in Northern Chile. A lot of people are upset about this but so far they haven't been able to stop it.

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Proof we did the hike.

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A goat herder with a few of his flock heading into the mountains for lunch.

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Which way did everyone go?

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Rufous-collared Sparrow

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One of the glacial rivers running through the area.

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On Monday there was a rain/snow storm that affected this park. Our guide figured that more than a foot of mud came down from the slopes coating rocks and the ground. In this spot the mud has dried and the top surface is "peeling" off.

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Camping is permitted in the park. It's interesting how the tent and tie straps are secured.

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There weren't a lot of flowers but there were some.

On the drive back to Santiago we stopped at the restaurant where we picked up supplies and enjoyed and appreciated some wine, fruit juice and snacks. It was 7:10pm when we were dropped off at our hotel ….. no wonder I’m tired.

Tomorrow morning we leave Santiago and take a taxi two hours to San Antonio where we will board the Norwegian Sun cruise ship. I’m not sure how internet will work while we are on the ship so it might be 2 weeks before I can update the blog.

2019/02/14: Bites and Sights

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today is our first full day in Santiago and on the advice from someone who also loves to travel we booked a food walking tour --- the Bites and Sights Tour with Urban Adventurer. At the assigned meeting place we met Cheryl, from Australia and Juan Pedro our guide, yup just 3 of us on the tour. Juan has a degree in history which made him very knowledgeable on a lot of subjects. If he didn’t know the answer he said he didn’t know instead of making something up --- I liked that. During our 4 hour tour (which turned into almost 6 hours) we had 3 “bite” stops.

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The first one was at a little café where we enjoyed an updated Chilean breakfast, wonderful fresh bread with mashed avocado and a prosciutto like meat. It was served with a hot pepper and some pickled onions. The 2nd bite was at a restaurant at the Fish Market --- a seafood empanada served with a Pisco Sour. The 3rd bite was at the larger meat and produce market where we enjoyed espresso for Ed and a latte for me from a food truck.

My first question to Juan was regarding the dogs we had seen on the streets. He informed us the “strays” were Santiago’s dogs. The dogs seemed quite happy, friendly and well fed. In fact a few of the dogs could stand to lose a couple of pounds. Juan told us that some people brought dog food to parks or other places where the dogs hang out. In the winter people will even bring the dogs scarfs and coats. No one abuses the dogs, or chases them away even in outdoor patios of restaurants. If you are a stray dog Santiago is the place to be.

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The building that houses the office of the president. Do you see the dark speck at the base of the 2nd set of pillars to the left of the arched door --- that's one of the stray dogs.

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Santiago experiences earthquakes. When an older building is damaged, it is removed and a new building put in it's place giving the city an interesting mix of old and new buildings. In a few cases two walls of the original building are saved and a new building is built behind it. A space is left between the old walls and new walls where vendors can set up and sell their wares.

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After walking around the downtown area, we headed to the markets. First stop is the fish market. The fish market is home to several restaurants and many fish stands. Juan said the fish market is easy to find you just have to follow your nose!

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The next market we stopped at was the flower market --- and they were really busy today. This building had a much nice aroma.

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The last market we went too was very large. Here you could buy meat, poultry, miscellaneous household items, spices, dried fruits, nuts, fruits, vegetables and probably a number of items I didn't notice. This is the biggest ear of corn I've ever seen. This type of corn is ground probably to make flour.

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I've talked about seeing a lot of stray dogs. Until we got to the market we did not see any cats. Here the cats are king. This black and white guy can be found guarding the potatoes every day.

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We stopped to chat to this vendor --- Juan is on the left. The vendor is at the market at 5am to receive the delivery from his suppliers. Restaurant owners are the first customers of the day followed by the general public. The market is open till 7pm everyday of the year except for a few public holidays.

Yesterday Ed and I walked up the Santa Lucia Hill, today we took the funicular railway up the Cerro San Cristóbal, a much higher hill. According to Wikipedia "A funicular railway employs a pair of passenger vehicles which are pulled on a slope by the same cable which loops over a pulley wheel at the upper end of a track. ... For example, a funicular is distinguished from an inclined elevator by the presence of two vehicles which counterbalance each other."

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The track of the funicular railway is quite steep. At the top of the hill is the statue of the Immaculate Conception which measures 14 meters tall and weighs 36,610 kilograms.

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A view of the city.

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Near the statue is a small chapel. I was amazed by the interior.

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Along a pathway are a number of crosses. In this photo you can see two of the crosses, the tallest building in Santiago, snow on the Andes Mountains and smog hanging over the city.

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Ed and I had another amazing dinner tonight. The restaurant gave each woman a red rose. The street was crowded with vendors.

By the way it reached a high of 36C (96.8F) today. It was lovely in the shade and a little warm in the sun

2019/02/13: It's Summer!!!!

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
It’s summer time and it’s wonderful --- sunny and in the high 20s (80sF). Being late actually worked in our favour. We arrived at our hotel (which is actually apartments) just after 12pm and even though check in wasn’t till 3pm our room was ready and we could check in. The apartment isn't very large but it's nice having a small kitchen, living room and a separate bedroom. After settling in we head out to explore the area around the hotel.

About a block from the hotel is the Cerro Santa Lucia or Santa Lucia Hill. The area around and including the hill is a lovely park. At one point in time it had military fortifications.

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Today the lookout at the top of the hill is a great place to see the city.

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It was interesting to see the same rock formations we saw in Ireland at the Giants Causeway but in a much smaller scale.

Another view looking over the city from a lower level.
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Fountaine Neptune is a nice place to sit and relax.
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The plaza by Fountaine Neptune is a nice place to sit and relax.

Leaving the park we walk towards what I think is the centre of the city.
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There are some beautiful buildings. I usually buy guide books and read up about the places we are going but for some reason I didn't do that for this trip. Between lack of research and all the plaques being in Spanish we get to enjoy looking at things for their beauty without really knowing what they are. The photo doesn't really show it but the flag is really big.

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Lots of statues and lots of murals.

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When we saw this building we couldn't decide if it was a church (the cross in the middle) or something else (because of the clock in one of the towers. Turns out it is a church, the Iglesia Y Convento de la Merced.

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The inside of the church is beautiful. Not a lot of stained glass but a lot of statues.

The desk manager at the hotel told us to walk to the corner, turn left, walk one block and turn right then walk two more blocks and there would be lots of restaurants. We were really happy that we took his advise as we did find some really nice restaurants. We had a hard time choosing but we finally picked one and sat out front on the sidewalk and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some great wine (me). Ed had a Pisco Sour --- a South American drink we had in Peru 19 years ago.

2019/02/12: The Flight

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
I don’t think we could have chosen a worse day to fly than today, but in some ways it was a good day to fly. The Toronto Boards of Education closed all the schools today and many businesses either closed or told their employees to work from home. So even though the roads were in rough shape (snow covered and slippery) they weren’t overly busy so the people who had to drive managed to get from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.

Since we had opted to drive to an airport hotel yesterday we were able to have a leisurely morning and the hotel was very accommodating and gave us a 2pm check out. Our flight was schedule for 8:05pm so it was going to be a long day of waiting. We hung out in the hotel lobby to 3pm then got on the shuttle bus for the airport. We had our boarding passes and baggage tags by 3:30 --- too early to drop the bags off. After finding a place to sit we chatted with 2 ladies who were off to Australia and had the same problem of being too early to drop their bags off. At 4:30 we dropped our bags off and went to security where we walked right in loading our carryon bags onto the belt --- no wait today. I believe I heard that 100s of flights were cancelled today but they all appeared to be flights with Canadian or US destinations. All of the international flights left either early, on time or like us delayed. Our flight was delayed 3 hours for 3 reasons, first the incoming flight was late, then the runway needed to be plowed and finally all the departing planes needed to be de-iced. I feel I need to commend the airport and Air Canada on the great job they did on keeping air traffic moving safely. Happily the flight was uneventful.

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The airport.

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Our plane finally arrived and is parked at the gate.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Tomorrow (cross your fingers - there's a storm warning posted) we fly to Santiago Chile. After 3 nights in Santiago, a food walking tour and hopefully a hike in the mountains we get on a cruise ship for 2 weeks ---- yup a cruise ship. I know I always say we're not "cruisers" or at least won't be till we're old. Turns out, some times cruises are the easiest way to get to some places like the southern tip of South America. There's some interesting places to stop, beautiful places to see and some penguins to visit. After 2 weeks and 4 countries (we start in Chile, end up in Argentina, have a stop in the Falkland Islands and Uruguay we disembark in Buenos Aires. We've booked a private 7 hour walking tour while we're there. Our guide was born in Canada, lived all over Europe and now resides in Buenos Aires --- should be interesting. We're so close to one of the "big" waterfalls in the world, Iguassu Falls, that we've add it to the itinerary --- it's about an hour and a half flight. We're staying in at a B&B called the Secret Garden. Then it's back to Buenos Aires and home.

We're starting our adventure this afternoon. There's freezing rain in the forecast so we booked a hotel near the airport for tonight. Our flight isn't till 8pm so we can have a nice relaxing morning at the hotel. We decided to do this so my brother can drive us this evening before the bad weather comes. We leave our car in my mother's driveway and my mom gets 2 visits from us so it's a win-win.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Last night the weatherman said there was a 40% chance of rain for most of today. At some point during the night he upped the chance of rain to 80% but he should have said 100%. It was raining when we got up and didn't stop all day. So, if there is a blur in a photo please ignore it ---- it's just a rain drop. Ed worked hard at keeping the lens drop free. A lens hood would have helped but we left it in the hotel room and with the hotel room being in New Jersey we couldn't go back for it.

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Today we plan on walking around the downtown / Battery Park areas, so we get on the Hop On Hop Off bus to get down to that area. Due to the rain we each received a rain poncho. We spent the day being walking advertisements but it kept us mostly dry. I like the stacked look of this building.

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An interesting view of the Empire State Building.

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The Oculus replaces the PATH train station that was destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. If you want to see the beautiful bird like structure google Oculus then click images. I'll blame the rain that we didn't walk to spot to get a better view of the building.

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One of the two September 11 memorial pools. Ed and I have been to "ground zero" a couple of time but as we haven't been in the city for over ten years so this is the first time we've been to the memorial.

From the memorial we walked down to Battery Park then started walking north to Wall Street where we saw lots of beautiful old architecture.

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and this woman. Motorized scooters must make it easier to get around the city. A view down Wall Street.

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Under a pier at Seaport. There's a lot of construction in the Seaport area as many buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

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As we're doing "touristy" things on this trip, we have to do one more. Along with hundreds of other people we walked the Brooklyn Bridge from NYC to Brooklyn and back.

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Looking back at New York.

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While we were walking back across the bridge we heard sirens, a lot a sirens. Following the emergency vehicles were more than a thousand motorcycles. When I googled this I found out that this is the third year a ride honoring the youngest first responder who lost his life at the World Trade Center has taken place. The organizers of the event said they were motivated to start the memorial ride after they realized many new emergency services recruits had no memory of 9/11.

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When New York City is mentioned, one of the first places Ed thinks of is Washington Square. When we decided that we would walk the at least 50 blocks back to Hell's Kitchen, we put Washington Square on the route. We've been here a couple of times and it's never been this empty. There was a group of people in one area listening to a band so it wasn't completed deserted.

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This building reminded me of a game of Jenga. As we were walking past Macy's we decided to go in and have a look around. The lower couple of floors are very modern but as you go up floors the escalators change to wood. On the ninth floor instead of linoleum there is a well worn wooden floor. The store is so big that it has a restaurant on every floor.

As we really enjoyed our dinner on 9th Avenue last night we decided to go back there and try another restaurant. This time Ed spotted a Turkish restaurant. It seemed really appropriate as we arrived in Turkey for a tour on September 17, 2001. By the way dinner tonight was fabulous. The food and decor brought back a lot of memories.

I used google maps to get an idea of how far we walked today ---- more than 21 km (13 miles). No wonder my feet feel a little tired.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
A word of warning, this blog entry is extra long as there were lots of stories to tell today.

This morning Ed and I rode the bus to NYC. The bus arrived at the stop a couple of minutes before we expected, the traffic wasn't too bad allowing the bus to make good time. We were nearing the Lincoln Tunnel when Ed and I heard beeping noises coming from the bus --- sometimes fast, sometimes slow. The bus shut down the driver restarted. After a minute the beeping began again and the bus stopped and the driver restarted it. After the 3rd time, the driver pulled into a large parking lot just outside of the Lincoln Tunnel. We overheard the driver talking to dispatch saying that the bus kept stopping on him and he had a full load of passengers that wanted to get to NYC. Turned out the bus was loosing water so to protect itself it wouldn't run. After approximately 15 minutes two buses pulled into the lot to pick up the stranded passengers. First lesson in patience.

The plan today was to take the Hop On Hop Off bus to the stop at the American Museum of Natural History (about the middle on the north side of Central Park) and walk across the park to the Guggenheim Museum. After what felt like forever but was probably only a 15 minute wait a bus arrived. Second lesson in patience. We got good seats on top and started our third lesson in patience. The bus turned the corner onto 8th Avenue and all you could see in front of us were stopped vehicles. For the first 5 minutes or so I was thinking we should have walked it would be faster then I realized we weren't on a time schedule. I relaxed and enjoyed the sites and sounds of New York. It was actually quite interesting looking down at the traffic (we were in the top of an double decker bus). It takes a lot of driving skills to drive a tour bus in NYC. We found out later that a number of roads were closed for the Labor Day Parade putting extra traffic onto 8th Avenue.

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When the bus is stopped a lot you see a lot more. This fire station has expertise with sky scrapers. Unfortunately that meant they lost a number of their fire fighters on 911.

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The turret on one of the old homes on the Upper West Side and the statue of Teddy Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History.

We've been to the Central Park Zoo but we haven't actually walked through the park. So another first --- a walk across Central Park.

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The red line approximates our path through Central Park. As you can see we missed huge areas of the park but we did determine that park is well used. Lots of baseball games, picnics, walkers, riders, joggers, dog walkers plus people doing a lot of other things. For a minute or two it actually feels like you are out in the country away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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We walked through a couple of gardens.

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The city was never far away.

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The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is 106 acres, is 40 feet deep, holds over a billion gallons of water and covers a full one eighth of the park's surface. The shoreline is a walking / running track that a lot of people use.

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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The inside of the Guggenheim is a spiral. The current exhibit on display in the spiral is Giacometti. "The Nose" must be an important work by Giacometti as it is on the cover of the book Giacometti.

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The fountain in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The pattern of the water kept changing making it interesting to watch.

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It was easy to spot the hot dog trucks.

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Back in Central Park we found Conservatory Water. Here you can rent a model boat and sail it in the pond.

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There was a "Natural Area" which at first glance appeared to be a field full of grass and weeds. On closer inspection we found some beautiful flowers including this one. First one layer appears then a second layer and finally the third layer. I don't have a clue what this plant is. Outside the park we see this building near the Park Plaza. I think the building looks really nice but don't have a clue what it is called.

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We walked past the Stardust Dinner with it's singing waitstaff and couldn't believe the line up to get inside. We passed on this restaurant as I didn't feel I needed a fourth lesson in patience today.

On the bus tour we were told that there are a lot of restaurants on 9th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen. The information was correct --- every type of restaurant was represented. Ed found a Brazilian Restaurant and boy was I happy we ate there. The food was excellent. We sat near the open front of the restaurant and were entertained by all the activity on the street.

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While we were eating our dinner a bicycle pulled up, showed the waitstaff his phone, he was handed a bag of food which he put in his insulated back pack. You can order food from a restaurant and it is delivered by a "courier". While we ate dinner we probably saw at least 25 of these bicycle couriers. Night time falling at the bus station.

2018/09/07: New York City

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
This morning we rode the express Bus to NYC and it was reasonably express though it was stop and go through the tunnel.

Another thing Ed and I have never done is ride one of the Hop on Hop off buses. Well now we have. First ride was on the uptown route. We decided that we wanted to get a feel of the city so we road the route from the Port Authority bus terminal past Central Park north to Harmlem then back south through the Upper East Side along the other side of Central Park ending at Time Square.

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There were lots of tall buildings and churches.

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A number of statues.

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Of course, lots of traffic.

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Outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art we saw this class of girls. Their school is across the street from the museum.

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And finally Time Square.

At Time Square we switched to the Downtown Tour Bus. This route took us through the Financial District to Battery Park then back through Chinatown, past the United Nations, along 5th Avenue then through midtown ending up at Time Square.

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On this tour we saw a lot of historic buildings like the Empire State Building and the Flatiron building.

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Lots of interesting murals on the buildings.

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Old court buildings

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Lots of modern tall sky scrapers as well.

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Time Square again. As it was getting later in the day, Time Square was feeling a lot like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. There were lots of street performers, people dressed in costumes wanting money if you took their photo and then there were the girls that were barely dressed. They had on g-string panties and body paint.

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On our walk past the theaters towards the bus station we passed a parking lot. The sign gave us one reason you don't want to drive into NYC --- the cost of parking. I'm sure street parking is more affordable is you can find a spot. Given the price of accommodations in NYC they probably consider $600 a month for parking to be reasonable. According to one of our tour guides $2,000 a month for an apartment is cheap. The average cost of an apartment is many areas of Manhattan is over $4,000 a month.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Another hot day in New York City and we spent it visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Today we learned a good reason why you shouldn't always follow the instructions on your GPS --- the route the GPS picked was estimated to be less than 20 minute. In reality it took slightly over an hour. OK, I can't totally blame the GPS as there was a lot of traffic and maybe the ridiculously busy and poorly designed intersection that took a half an hour to get through was a factor. I think some intersections should be labelled "avoid at all costs" in the GPS map. I'm sure just about any other route would have been faster.

We been to NYC a number of times but this is the first time we've gone to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and I'm wondering why as I really enjoyed the day.

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As we are staying in New Jersey we chose to leave from Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The old train station was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 as were parts of Ellis Island.

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Here she is, the Statue of Liberty. The bottom most layer is an old fort, then a pedestal is built on it. Inside the pedestal is a museum that describes how the Statue of Liberty was built, including conception, design, building and fund raising.

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The torch on the statue has been replaced and original torch can be found in the museum. The face is a replica of the actual face on the statue that was made during restoration. I'm standing beside it to give you an idea of size.

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The New York skyline.

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Next stop on the ferry is Ellis Island. When the US federal government decided to centralize the immigration process they had to find a location. A tiny uninhabited island was chosen. Fill from the subway (which co-incidentally was being built) was used to expand the island. Over the years fill was added creating 3 islands and eventually one, the Ellis Island as we know it today.

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The original building on Ellis Island has become a museum describing the immigration process before visas. This is the inspection hall. The majority of immigrants were on and off Ellis Island in a few hours. Others with either health issues, financial issues or legal issues could remain there for days, weeks or maybe in a year. Two hospitals were built for treating health issues.

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John had read some information about a "hard hat" tour which takes you into areas of Ellis Island that are closed to the general public. A general hospital was built then a psychiatric / infectious disease hospital was built. Portions of the general hospital have collapsed as a result of damage that occurred during Hurricane Sandy so the majority of the tour was in the psychiatric / infections disease hospital.

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The French artist JR made copies of original Ellis Island photographs, enlarged the photographs and mounted them throughout the hospital.

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During WWII Ellis island was closed for immigration and opened as a coast guard training station. Here one of the photographs is split between the wall and the abandoned file cabinets from the coast guard era.

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Our guide explained that even the electric panels have a story to tell. Notes written on the panel are clues to the types of medical equipment used in the hospital.


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On the ferry heading back to New Jersey we see that the sky has changed. Luckily, we made it back to the car before the rain arrived.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
I know Ed doesn't enjoy driving around large cities so I offered to drive today. In retrospect this might not have been a good idea. As Ed was a passenger he was able to take photos out of the car window. This was great until the camera reported an Error 30. Ed turned off the camera, removed the battery, replaced the battery and turned the camera back on as he was instructed by the camera. Take another photo and Error 30 back. Guess who wasn't a happy camper. He cleaned the battery contacts, tried a different battery, a different lens, a different memory card and still the error kept reoccurring. He pushed a button and cleaned the sensors. The car was now a happy place as the camera started working properly.

John and Ed decided to take the bus into NYC this afternoon to go to B&H Camera. Carol and I decided that we really didn't want to go to a camera store so we stayed at the hotel. I went for a walk along the river and through a very nice sub-division of town houses. I has happy to take it easy after the Ed induced stressful drive.

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The view from our room balcony.

A couple of shots taken in NYC.
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