My Observations on America.

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Manhattan at Sunset

I must confess I love America and Americans. One cannot making sweeping statements about America, it is like 5 or 6 different countries rolled into one. People who make these statements are totally ignorant I have to say! East is different from the South and both are different from the North  or West- then there is Hawaii and Alaska! Where else in the world do you find supermarkets called Piggly Wiggly… seriously!

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Supermarket with the greatest name ever! 

From my perspective and I have not seen it all. Christmas is a wonderful time to visit New York but rather cold to do the Grand Canyon .I get annoyed when people say they hate America and the only place they have visited is LAX International Airport!  (until recently one of the worst terminals on the planet) Recently a doctor friend of mine told me he had never wanted to visit the USA, suddenly his daughter heads of to study there and so he visited and fell in love with the place!! He has been twice in 12 months. So many people have no idea what an amazing and beautiful country awaits them. I lived there as a 22 year old, I have visited about 20 times in the past 15 years and I plan to return many more times. Yes partly because I have a son there but also because it such a great destination. Great skiing, amazing shopping, golf courses to die for ( I almost wished I played) , The US Open, the New York Marathon and so many great events to make this a bucket list favourite.

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New Yorkers are busy, use public transport extensively, they love the New York Yankees winning or loosing,  travel out interstate,they  love good food (street stalls selling pretzels and burnt chestnutsare debataebale as good food!) and they love good coffee, they support and love the Arts.

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Then there is California…casual, informal, sun loving, political and a touch of  ‘if you’ve got it flaunt it‘ attitude. Money talks and earthquakes are seldom mentioned! They too love their sport. ‘The Giants’ are their Gods!

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The Getty – Los Angeles

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Los Angeles Architecture by Frank Gehry

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Death Valley California

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Rock Formations in California

In The South they drive everywhere, travel less, pray more, no coffee culture, they like the refined things in life, high tea, fine china, traditions and it is a place where little girls wear smocked dresses and large hair bows and little boys say ‘yes Mam or yes Sir’.They love fishing, hunting and shooting and of course baseball !

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The Appelachians in the Fall

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A large hair bow on a sweet young girl.

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High tea with Cup Cakes

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Stately home  ‘Mocking Bird Hill‘ in Marietta, Georgia.

This home is always painted either pink or gray, see link above for more detail.

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The Minehaha Falls in Georgia.

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Many parts of America have beautiful Autumn or Fall colours.

I am about to visit Alaska and I expect it to be different again! Hawaii is as we all know fun loving, great surf, great golf, numerous shops and great food, touristy with a capital T.

20110101-LMC-2437St Louis in the Mid West still has ‘Coaching’, America is a land of surprises.

I’ve blogged about Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, Family visits to Georgia, and  California’s Hearst Castle and coastline. I did a blog on San Francisco too, but none of those explain the diversity and magic of visiting.  One other blog too on taking children beyond Disneyland, checkout the blog links in blue. The Grand Canyon is spectacular by any ones standards…a joy to visit and nearby is the crazy but entertaining city of Las Vegas. Architecture to die for, shows like “O”, cars, food and fashion to inspire you. Then there are the National Parks: spectacular:  Arches, Yosemite, Monument Valley, Yellowstone, Death Valley etc.

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Vegas Fountain detail

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From Vegas to Monument Valley and The Grand Canyon.20091112-IMG_7689-Edit20091109-_MG_9531

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Antelope Canyon

Recently  I was in upstate Georgia, beautiful forests, lakes and waterfalls. Stunning homes and an area well worth a visit especially to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. I can’t tell you all the exciting corners of the USA, I haven’t been to them all, but I know you won’t be disappointed if you go stateside for a vacation.(I don’t mean Disneyland either).

Most cities have world class fine dining restaurants, but don’t overlook the Beef ribs, the shrimps and the wonderful wine and cheese. Napa Valley is waiting to show off its wines to you and Philadelphia and the Amish produce some great cheese. Introduce yourself to smokey flavours, beans prepared so many different ways, pulled pork or beef, hot dogs and of course burgers. They have great Ice cream too, try the Moose Tracks sometime!

American menus often have a health guide next to menu items. I like this idea… Low calorie/ gluten free or hot n spicy very helpful.

Very few American homes have heated towel  rails. This is because they heat their homes more than we do in winter. Many run their homes at a year round temperature of 73F or 23C – Underfloor heating is common. Consequently you need to layer as inside is like Summer when it’s snowing outside.  Is electricity cheaper there?  It must be!

I also notice very few bathrooms have showers on hoses, they have one rose shower heads. I prefer the option of a detachable shower head !  Interesting how cultures differ often on the small things! And yes it is true the water runs out the plug hole anti clockwise! Hurricanes rotate the opposite way in the Northern Hemisphere  too.

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Arizona has a charm of it’s own

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The American people I meet through contacts are fabulous, genuine, generous, interesting people. The American people I meet on the airlines are a mixture but mostly they are stressed, doeur , loud, unfriendly and unhelpful. Don’t judge a country by it’s airline staff I say!!

I figure there must be a reason for this and that is the way American Airlines are structured. Every flight is oversold, every other passenger is demanding, they have not even a second of downtime during their working day and frankly they don’t enjoy what they do. I have no idea how to solve it, I suspect the airlines don’t want to solve it.  Sad really.

So when travelling book the most expensive class ticket your budget runs too, get to the airport early and relax…it will take time! However the last few times I have got through customs in 20 minutes at LAX😀But more importantly just go… you will love it. Consider some train travel for a relaxing journey.

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Train from Manhattan to Philadelphia

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If I were your tour guide – SYDNEY

SYDNEY –  AUSTRALIA   (remember all links are in pale blue)

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Seeing the real Sydney.   (I’d skip the main events!)

Dozens of guidebooks give you the major sites, some with great  enthusiasm but mostly they just repeat other brochures info. This is not a foodie guide either.
Sydney is a city I am fortunate to visit quite often. It is only 3 hours on a big plane; a movie, a meal a glass of vino and you are there 🙂  how easy is that! It  is quite spread out so being a tourist requires plenty of energy or time, or both. Map reading ability and walking shoes are also essential ! And a deep pocket if you want to drive and park! $49.00 for two hours parking in the inner city.
However it is a city full of vitality and the public transport is pretty good. Silver Service Cabs are reliable too.
What do I suggest you do ??? These are in no particular order and are  maybe aimed more at my age group rather than young party goers!! These are the activities that I love doing in Sydney.

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The Iconic Opera House with early morning fog.

I always visit the Museum of Contemporary Art at Circular Quay.They have amazing exhibitions and a rooftop cafe with stunning views of Circular Quay with or without cruise ships. They have a great gift shop too and the locals call it the MCA.

Sydney G10-1501Roxy Paine sculpture outside the MCA from a previous exhibition.
Because I’m a photographer I always pop into Stills Photography Gallery in Paddington. The staff are happy to discuss the work and impart their vast knowledge. Stills represent Narelle Autio and her husband Trente Parke. Narelle Autio has an impressive list of accolades. She was named in the Australian Art Collector Magazine’s “50 Most Collectable Australian Artists” in 2001and I think her work is exciting.

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Image by Narelle Autio  – 1 of 16 finalists in the of the Basel – Sellars Award 2014.

One of my favourite  day trips if you have a car is to drive to WOY WOY.( I love the sound of that word!) At Woy Woy there are two places where they feed the pelicans at 3pm daily, rain or shine. I have only been to the Restaurant on the water at Woy Woy itself but 45 minutes further on at The Heads they also feed these amazing funny birds! Woy Woy gets 5 stars from Trip advisor!  While there drive to the beaches and poke around the region, it is very picturesque.

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This is the restaurant on the water.  There is also a fish shop if you wish to purchase seafood to take home.

Centennial Park is magnificent and opened in 1888. At dusk the bats start to fly around in the hundreds and the chattering noise is sensational! Prior to dusk one can watch Cockatoos,  Egrets, Ibis, Ducks and Long Billed Corella Parrots, or just walk amongst the paperback gums.  FullSizeRender corella IMG_2771

Shopping – Westfield in the city has floors of stores, all the designer labels for sure. I like the 5-6 shoes shops on level 4  – And you get your tax back at the airport! Peter Shepherd is an Aussie institution when one talks about shoes. But There are other shops equally exciting. Beautifeel, Stewart Weizmann etc.
Kate Spade have recently opened too and the unique jewellery shop Linneys is always tempting. On the top floor is the best food hall ever. I know food halls are fast food outlets but this one is different, I promise you. There is a Gluten Free restaurant, an Italian, a noodle and Sushi to name a few… and so much more.
Then of course there is David Jones and Myers the iconic department stores. Myers has better service these days. Across the street is the  famous QVB another favourite iconic shopping centre. Check out the Stained glass windows and the tiled floors. The ladies loos are quaint too. Then there are more shoes upstairs that are whimsical and pricey!

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My other shopping places are in the Eastern suburbs.  Woollahra has some great stores for my age group. ‘Artwear on Queen’,  ‘Reads’ and a few others, on Moncur Street is Ma Maison en Provence; at the back of this store  are cute ‘French designed  ‘doll’ pendants. Check out the butcher Victor Churchill in Woollahra , the most expensive in Australia and the door handle is a string of brass sausages.  Well I warned you this is my travel guide…not the normal! Lately. I’ve had great success shopping in Rose Bay at Arielle – Sometimes  I visit the optometrist in Double Bay for the best ever selection of spectacle Frames at Eye Wear  !!

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The Maquarie Light built in 1880

Day trips are plentiful, the guide books have them all listed, Doyles at Watson Bay, Manly Beach ,The Zoo, The Blue Mountains even Wine Tasting in the Hunter Valley. I’d never do that in one day!!   All worth a visit though.

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 Rose Bay, home of the Catalina flying boats.Now that’s a great way to see Sydney.

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I recently did a day trip to La Perouse, what a delightful coastal community, full of history and secluded golden sandy beaches. Enjoy a visit to Bale Island followed by lunch at a seafood cafe. No fine dining but Danny’s grilled Basa fish was cooked to perfection, salad and chips…take it or leave it. The view was fine. You could drive to Icebergs at Bondi for lunch and spend a fortune there, and from all accounts pretty average fare. On some Saturday’s Bale Island have an Aboriginal Market.

I read of a tour about the non touristy Sydney via a Holden V8 – how Australian is that? You can also do a boat trip south from Circular Quay, through the Heads to the Royal National Park, so there are some less common destinations available. Check out the Viator website, you can stay the night on the beach down there!

 

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Angel Place “Forgotten Songs” art installation.

In the city is a street called Angel Place, the home of a cool art installation consisting of fifty or more bird cages and  bird song whistling over the pedestrians  ‘Forgotten Songs’ commemorates the songs of fifty birds once heard in central Sydney, before they were gradually forced out by European settlement. The calls, which filter down from the canopy of birdcages suspended above Angel Place, change as day shifts to night; the daytime birds’ songs disappearing with the sun, and those of the nocturnal birds, which inhabited the area, sounding into the evening.   ( some great special occasion restaurants near there too. “est., Mr Wong & Felix”)

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Entrée at ‘est’ Tortellini and absolutely mouth-watering.

I love Coogee to watch the Tasman Ocean sweeping over the saltwater pool; absolutely mesmerising when the tide is in and a few large swells arrive, always waiting for the BIG one! Take your togs and cool off. The opposite end of the beach has a fun bar and eatery called The Pavillions, a great fit out in the old bathing Pavillion.

image imageSeveral of these photos  are available as limited edition prints – poa
Architecture in Sydney for years consisted of monotonous but practical blonde or red brick, thousands of homes are built of brick in Sydney. However Ultimo around the University suddenly has several new and exciting architectural gems worth visiting. Why they build these gems and supply no visitor parking I don’t know, but I did discover a parking building tucked into a side street for only $18.00 an hour. I suggest you visit this area on a Sunday if possible, less traffic, fewer students and I’m sure a more relaxed time to enjoy.

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The ‘paper bag’ Frank Gehrys latest Sydney landmark – an interior and exterior shot.image1 Central Park
The Frank Gehry ( paper bag) building and nearby the apartments at 1 Central Park with their 100 thousand plants are a must see. Try and go inside and see they architectural spaces – WOW!
Then there is another awesome building wrapped in punched metal sheeting! Faculty of Engineering and IT Building so check that one out too, it is on my to do list!

Whale watching – One of my favourite activities between May and August approx is Whale watching of Sydney heads.  If you follow these guys on Facebook you will see if the whales are out there as they post a daily report. The boats are super fast and stable; and they refund your money if no whales are spotted. I’ve been out three times and have seen whales every trip, and I plan to go again. To see enormous mammals interacting with boats and people is exhilarating, memorable moments especially when they rise up right beside the boat smacking the water as they descend – un forgettable. They are half day trips leaving from Circular Quay. I note too a super fast jet boat trip leaves from Manly.

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Berowra is a secret part of Sydney – sooo beautiful. 

We hired a boat from the Boab boat hire at Berowra one day and cruised up the Hawkesbury River with our picnic lunch. even just a drive to here is fun for visitors to Sydney. The most memorable aspect of the day were the big lizards called Lace Monitors prowling along one of the beaches! Give them a wide berth and they won’t bother you. Averaging 1.5 metres in length, the Lace Monitor has been known to grow to 2 metres.

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The Lace Monitor ambling along the beach.

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Cruising up the Hawkesbury from Berowra.

So  my suggestion: do all the regular tourist trips of course  – they are great. Then explore Sydney further and see the less touristy aspects enjoy.