Our North American Trip - May and June 2007.
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Our North-East Trip – Week 5:   6 June 13 June 2007
Finger Lakes (NY), Niagara Falls, Toronto, Los angeles.

(This will be updated as and when internet access allows, and we’ll add photos when time permits.  It could (will) be a bit disorganised at times!!)

Wed, 6 June 07 – Gananoque (1000 Islands area) – Finger Lakes (New York State)
A fine sunny day with a cool wind.

After a nice continental breakfast at the hotel, we packed up and left Gananoque, paying our road tolls on the Canadian side then going through USA immigration to enter New York State on the USA side of the St Lawrence River in the Thousand Islands area.

Once over the twin internation bridges, we drove along to Alexandria Bay, parked and walked over near the river and a viewpoint only to find a much closer view of ‘Boldt Castle’, so out with the cameras again – this time photos without mist and low cloud surrounding the small island.   Had a coffee at a small coffee shop  (one that made a reasonable coffee) then back on the road again.  By this time it was nearing lunchtime.

Late afternoon we arrived at Ithaca and had a brief look around the town – it’s a large university town – found a great little kitchen shop (another one) with heaps more gadgets.  When walking back to the car we found a ‘runners’ shop so had a look for a waist water bottle carrier – found a great one for G so bought it and also found an upmarket pedometer as well.

As we drove alongside Cayuga Lake (one of the Finger lakes) we noticed a sign for a viewing point for Taughannock Falls so drove up to view them - very high and quite gracious looking.

Arrived at the Driftwood B&B at Sheldrake, on the shore of Cayuga Lake – we had to check ourselves in as the owners had forgotten we were to arrive – we sorted ourselves no problem and off down the road to O’Malley’s little pub / restaurant for dinner.  Graham had the best ever desert – ice cream with HEAPS of Chocolate sauce poured over it!

Thurs, 7 June 07 – Finger Lakes
A sunny day that got very hot in the afternoon

After a delightful breakfast of French Toast and berry mix we drove to Watkins Glenn to their State Park and had a walk through the Gorge Trail – it was so scenic with all the little stone bridges, waterfalls and water sculptured rock which follow the Glenn Creek.

While in the area Graham wanted to find where the Watkins Glen International Rack Track – we did find it but could not get access into it as they have a race meeting starting tomorrow.

Drove onto Corning, had lunch then visited the Corning Museum of Glass – at times it was hard to believe some pieces were made from glass, they were absolutely amazing.  We also watched a glass blowing demonstration which was great to watch and also be informed of what was happening as each step of the process progressed.

After leaving Corning to return home via Ithaca, we came to a shuddering halt as all traffic on the motorway reduced into one lane, due to the current construction of a new over bridge.  Fortunately we returned home in time to quickly get changed to then drive back to the Taughannock Farms Restaurant & Inn for dinner – the food was very nice (the price of the main meal included a starter, salad or soup, main meal & a desert (never struck a meal cost like that before).

They also had many guests who were in Ithaca this week for a school reunion – no wonder we had a little trouble finding accommodation here when we were booking our holiday some months ago.  Evidently there are also university graduation ceremonies also occurring soon – Ithaca has a large university (Cornell).


Fri, 8 June 07 – Finger Lakes / Niagara on the Lake
A sunny day was very, very hot and humid (thunder & lightening late afternoon/early evening)

After scrambled eggs for G and an omelette for A, we sat on the veranda by the lake with the lovely picturesque lake view and talked with other guests who were attending their College reunion at Cornell University – he was a Vet.  We then headed for Rochester stopping off at Pittsford for a light lunch (great spinach, walnut, pear & blue cheese salad) + Clam chowder for G – who else!.  Found a boat lock on the Erie Canal nearby then left for Niagara Falls – USA side.

Annette's noticed many gardens and lawn areas that have Peonies growing in them, in some cases like low hedges.

We arrived at Niagara Falls (on the USA side) around 3.30pm – had a good look around – had difficulty taking photos as the spray was very bad due to the strong wind.  Most times we tried to take a photo we got spray on our lenses, so would need to wipe them and try again!   US$10 for parking – very close by though.

Drove across the Rainbow Bridge from the USA, paid our US$3 toll, then proceeded to the Canadian Customs area – we were asked a few obvious questions then cleared to drive into Canada.  Parked by the Niagara Falls (parking was CA$12) – the view of the falls was more spectacular from the Canadian side, although once again the spray from the strong wind blowing was again a problem on our lenses. 

About 5.15pm we noticed some very black clouds rolling in so we hurriedly returned to our car and started to drive to the Antonio Vivaldi B&B at Niagara On The Lake.   We duly arrived around 6pm – our host, Susan, had gathered together several helpful pamphlets and a map of the town and surrounding area.   The facilities at this B&B are almost on a par with the B&B in Rockland.

We went to the local Golf Club for dinner – very nice food.


Sat, 9 June 07 – Niagara on the Lake
A lovely warm sunny day with NO wind – around 25 deg C, low humidity

After a lovely fresh fruit & cereal + quiche (incl some nice light croissants), we drove along the Niagara River Parkway (a scenic route) to the Niagara Falls area again.  Found some parking for CA$10 a day today.  Walked along the Niagara Parkway (amongst thousands of others) to get to the ‘Journey Behind The Falls’ – we were each given a lovely yellow plastic raincoat to wear, then pointed in the direction of the lift that would take us down below the falls so we could walk through the tunnels to view different aspects of under the falls – it was great to be able to do this and was worth the effort as the views were spectacular.

We then walked up to the ‘Skylon Tower’ to go up and get a view of the area – there are 3 yellow lifts that go up and down the outside of the tower – the views from the observation decks (internal and external) were great.  It was so good to view the rivers above the falls and their proximity to both the USA and Canadian Niagara Falls cities.

Lunch on the run then we called into have a look at the Whirlpool Aero Car – this travels across the whirlpool area of the Niagara River and back again – we did not venture on this as we both didn’t feel comfortable about riding in it.

Down the road further we waited for our 4pm trip on the Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours – we went in the enclosed boat rather than the open boats as we soon learnt that the staff do their utmost to ensure all their clients get as wet as possible on each trip!!   We soon learnt when something was to happen as our guide would close all open windows / hatches eg, going through the Devil’s Hole Rapids – the rapids were a grade 5 (1 less than the highest you can get)!  We also did a couple of high speed turns.  The trip was fabulous and we both really enjoyed it.  Annette was initially not going to go on this but after she thought long and hard about it she decided she was going on it no matter what – her back would cope – and it did!!

Back along the parkway a little to the ‘White Water Walk’ – once again we went down in a lift close to the Niagara River water level to a boardwalk alongside the river as well as some viewing points.  When you get close to the rapids you soon realise how rough they are and how powerful the water in the river is.  This was alongside the grade 6 Whirlpool Rapids.

Close by all of these sights are two power stations – one on the USA side and one on the Canadian side.

When we arrived back at Niagara on the Lake we went to Garciolli’s Gourmet Pizza Shoppe nearby for dinner – locally known as the best pizza Restaurant.  We each had pizzas with thin bases – A’s was with a ‘white’ base – no tomato mix on top of the base, just some olive oil, herbs and mozzarella cheese – it also had tomato, asparagus and goats cheese and it was YUMMY.  G’s was a Greek pizza with a tomato base + chicken – it too was yummy.

All in all we both had a wonderful day today, and the weather with no wind also helped as well.

Sun, 10 June 07 – Niagara on the Lake
A lovely warm sunny day – around 25 deg C with low humidity

After another lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal then scrambled eggs with chopped Hungarian sausage in it – it was very tasty.  After breakfast Susan insisted we take some raisin scones she had cooked this morning – we had them for lunch and they were delicious (so different to scones we make in NZ).

We drove to Niagara Falls to go to the IMAX Theatre to view the ‘Falls Movie’ – it was great and we were pleased we had made the effort – we didn’t manage to fit it in yesterday, even though we attempted to do it twice but never could get there on the hour, as that’s when they start each session.  After the show there was a display of old items eg, barrels and home made boats people have ridden over the Niagara Falls in.

Once again there were hundreds of people walking / wandering along the footpath trying to get the best glimpses of both the American and Horseshoe Falls.

Once we had driven back to Niagara On the Lake we called into the Information Centre to see if we could make a booking for one of the live theatre performance matinee’s at 2pm today – we were in luck and got into our first preference – ‘The Cassilis Engagement’ in the Court House Theatre - it was the first Shaw theatre at Niagara on the Lake and is the smallest theatre.  There are three different live theatres in Niagara On the Lake - they used to only put on plays only by Sir george Bernard Shaw, but now do others – the theatres are currently celebrating 40 years of plays and are highly regarded by people from other surrounding areas.  Many people visit Niagara On the Lake just to go to the theatres here.  The local B&B’s do quite well from that.

After the theatre we drove to Lock #3 at the Welland Canal nearby (15 min drive) as we knew a large ship was to pass through this Lock at 5pm.  When we got to the lock the ship was in it already but as it was a huge ship everything was done very slowly.  The ship was very close to the side and very close to being as long as the lock was – absolutely huge.  Once the lock filled up and the ship slowly drove out and a passed under a bridge that lifts into the air so large boats can go up or down the canal.  Once this had cleared we decided to drive up the road a bit further as Graham though he noticed another large boat in another lock further up the canal.  Sure enough there was another large boat in Lock No’s 4 & 5 (twin locks – separate locks for up and separate ones for down traffic.  The other boat already in the twin locks was also huge and took a very long time to come out of the lock – there were heaps of scrape marks alongside the vessel, obviously due to the tight fits as it travels through the locks.   We spent 2.5 hrs watching these huge beasts travelling through these locks, and the bridges being raised and lowered to allow them through (including a twin track railway bridge – it was so interesting.

Got back to Niagara On the Lake around 7.30pm - went to Shaw Café & Wine Bar for dinner – great pork ribs and chicken meals and some local wine as well.

We have really enjoyed Niagara on the Lake, a very pretty little village and the B&B has been marvellous.

Mon, 11 June 07 – Niagara on the Lake / Toronto
Another fine sunny day, however when we arrived in Toronto the temperature was much higher – around 30 deg C

After another lovely breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal, croissants then scrambled eggs with chopped Hungarian smoked sausage (Csabai) in it - it was very tasty.   Other guests had breakfast at the same time as us this morning so we were able to have a good talk with them at the same time – one couple commented that this was the best B&B they had stayed in at Niagara on the Lake – the food was much better than others they had used there - we would agree with that. 

We said good bye to Susan and commented how lovely and healthy her roses were – evidently they were the pride and joy of her late husband – she does all the work at her B&B on her own as well as look after the wonderful garden around the house – she works very hard and is well organised.

Soon after leaving the B&B we called into the CIBC bank 2 mins down the road to hopefully exchange the torn $50 note we received from a local money machine – they swapped it for us without a problem, thank goodness.

On the way to Toronto we had to pass over a huge 4 lane bridge spanning a lake inlet near Hamilton, then stopped off at an African Lion Safari – didn’t have to wait long to get onto a bus tour around the park (we weren’t prepared to risk driving our rental car around).  We were impressed with the number of different animals they had and the amount of land the animals have to roam around in.  Many of the Baboons climbed up on the cars (one was having a good chew of an aerial on one car) and kept walking under the bus – they were very active and there were many young Baboons.  Quite a few of the animals are put into smaller enclosures at night time.  We both really enjoyed our visit there, especially being able to view them up so close.

As we got closer to the Toronto International Airport, the four lane motorway (8 lanes in total) we were on got particularly busy (heaps of large trucks) – missed the first turnoff we were meant to take, however the 2nd one was easier and shorter anyway, thank goodness.  We are staying in the Hampton Inn hotel for the next two nights as this will make things much easier for us on Wed when we dep for LA.  We drove over to Avis and handed in the rental car (Grey Ford Taurus) we had been using since leaving New York.

Around 4.30pm we jumped on the ‘Airport Rocket’ bus, knowing we wanted to go into the centre of Toronto but not knowing what actual train station it was taking us to so we could catch the train into town.  The bus was $1.85 each (2 x senior tickets!) – when we got to the train station we were told we didn’t have to pay any extra to ride on the train.  We were a little confused with this, but went with it.  We later found out that once you have paid your $1.85 and continue in the same direction you do not have to pay any more – cheap public transport.  It took us nearly 1hr to get into the city from the Airport.

While in the city we went up to the viewing decks of the ‘CN Tower’ – the World’s tallest building.  One of the floors had an area that had a glass bottom floor – lots of hilarity around that area.  While up there, we also had a light meal, which was very pleasant – have a photo to prove Graham went up the tower as well, although he says it was difficult eating with his eyes closed! 

Got back to our hotel around 9.30pm after using the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) train and Airport ‘Rocket’ bus back to the Int Airport then phoned the hotel for their shuttle bus to collect us, which they did within 10 mins, so that was pretty good service.


Tues, 12 June 07 – Toronto
A fine sunny day – it was HOT - 31 deg C  (Tor onto was put on a heat wave alert today)

After a great continental breakfast (lots of lovely chopped up fresh fruit) at the hotel we caught their shuttle to the Int Airport, then the Airport ‘Rocket’ bus to Kipling station to catch the Subway train – total cost $1.85 each (‘oldies’ price – normal cost $2.75 ea) – we’ve got it sorted today!

Once into Toronto we looked for a hop on hop off bus so we could get a good feel for the city before venturing out further.  We went on a combined tour of the city and a harbour cruise out to some of the Islands.  The harbour cruise was great – fabulous view of the city from the water.  After sitting on the top of the double decker bus for 1.5 hrs (late morning), the heat was just too much for us, so we sat downstairs – it was so hot it was uncomfortable.  On our tour we viewed the Fairmont Royal Hotel, the old and new City Halls, Casa :Loma Castle, several churches, the University, several Museums, huge central Hospital complex (Princes Margaret) and two others, including Children’s and Cancer Hospitals, and all 3 also have major research units within them.

We hopped off the bus at Queen Street to check out a shop that stocked Tillys’ clothing – Graham purchased once of their sun hats and was so impressed he wanted to check out other clothing items they also make – no agents stocked what he was looking for.  We found the Eaton Centre (has 285 shops) close by so spent some time in there – was great to be in a facility with air conditioning!    Found the ‘Williams Sonoma’ kitchen shop (another one), found a great s/steel ‘spoon rest’, unfortunately it was quite heavy, but decided to purchase a small bag we could carry on top of one of our cases so we could put the heavier travel books in so then I could purchase a ‘spoon rest’ – yippee! 

Around 5.45pm we caught the Subway up two blocks – wow hundreds of people also wanting to catch the same train – we waited for a back carriage (usually less full) then had to push ourselves into the train as they were really full (left heaps of people still standing on the station – hundreds of people waiting at all the next stations – it was sure closeness while on the train – glad we only needed to travel a short distance!  Waited for the Street Car to go down to the Italian area to find something to eat, but as it took so long to come we hailed a taxi as we were having trouble coping with the heat – had some Bruschetta and light pizzas then headed for home, this time having a ride on one of Toronto’s ‘Street Cars’ (trams) to the Subway train station to travel back to the hotel for the evening.

We enjoyed Toronto and fell that there was more character in it’s architecture than Montreal had.

Then for the last challenge of the trip – to get our bags repacked for travelling back to LA tomorrow, overnight in Santa Monica, then onto NZ on Thursday.


Wed, 13 June – Toronto / Los Angeles
After another great continental breakfast (lots of chopped up fresh fruit) at the hotel we caught their shuttle to the Int Airport, to catch our flight from Toronto to Los Angeles.  We checked in then immediately we were to go through USA Immigration – no problem at all here.  I had some fresh fruit to eat on the plane as it’s a 5 hr trip, but they had no interest in it.  It’s quite interesting how all the different Immigration Depts at different airports handle things, as I was pulled up by USA Immigration for having fresh fruit when leaving Vancouver last year.

When all the passengers were on the plane and seated ready to go the Captain announced that we all needed to get back off the plane, with all our bags, as the plane had not been security checked!!   Once this had all happened and the staff returned to assist with shutting the door on the plane, we finally left Toronto 50mins later.  We almost made up the time by the time we arrived in LA as we were only 20 mins late – arrived @ 3.30pm – adjusted our watches forward 3hrs (time difference between California and New York State).

Once we had collected our bags we found where to catch the ‘Super Shuttle’ we had booked.  On the shuttle we chatted with an English couple who had also been to Niagara Falls.  Once dropped off at Hotel Carmel in Santa Monica we unpacked and walked to Bruno’s Italian Restaurant - our favourite little restaurant away from the main touristy eating places (discovered on our trip over).  Graham had been looking forward to having Mozzarella Marinara (magic), we then shared a great thin based pizza, yummy food.  We had a lovely walk along the Promenade back to our hotel.

We went to bed reasonably early as we had gained an extra 3hrs during the day with having to put our watches back 3hrs.


Thursday, 14 June - Los Angeles
A nice fine sunny day.  

As the continental breakfast at Hotel Carmel was only pastries and muffins we opted to walk close by to the Interactive Café to have cereal and fruit for breakfast.    Good variety of food available at very reasonable prices.

At 9am we connected with the tour of ‘Beverly Hills / Hollywood City Tour and Movie Star’ Homes’ – we initially drove up Mullholland Drive for a view of LA (in the ‘Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation’ area), the ‘Hollywood’ sign on the hillside and some of the movie stars homes.  Had great difficulty clearly seeing the ‘Hollywood’ sign due to the thick Smog – Ooops, we’re meant to call it Haze!  While parked at the viewing point we looked down onto the ‘Hollywood Bowl’ (an amphitheatre) – the official site of the ‘Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra’ – many high profile bands and performers have played there.  In the distance through the haze, we could also see a huge round building – the home of ‘Capitol Records’. 

From there we were driven to Hollywood Blvd to view the Chinese Theatre (celebrities hand and foot prints on the ground), Kodak theatre and Virgin Mega Store – while there we walked along the ‘Walk of Fame’ (stars names imprinted into the footpath).  There was a presentation to another star in progress while we were there.

We then cruised the Sunset Strip and drove to ‘Rodeo Drive’ in Beverly Hills to see where the stars shop in some of the most impressive boutiques in the world – no prices on any of the goods displayed in the windows.  The street was an experience to walk along – very clean and spacious.

After a wonderful salad (A) and a prawn and avocado Panini (G) at a local Italian Café in Santa Monica for lunch, Annette went shopping while Graham, who has seen far too many women’s shops in North America, caught a bus down to Venice Beach to see why it’s so well known.  Beautiful beach spoiled by hundreds of cheap tourist market stalls adjacent to the beach.

We had paid extra for a 5pm checkout at Hotel Carmel, so we were able to pack and have a shower to freshen ourselves up prior to our shuttle arriving to transport us from Santa Monica to LA Airport to catch our 9.30pm flight back to New Zealand.  As we were flying Business Class, we were able to relax in the Air NZ Koru Club Lounge – the best overseas Koru Club lounge we have visited - nice food and wine – very nice ‘Huia’ Pinot.  (I had to borrow a cushion back from another chair to get some back support from the style of chairs they have in their lounges.)

Once on board we were served with a very pleasant Lamb meal accompanied by a Pinot from the Blenheim area, and 2 different scoops of ice cream for desert.  There’s always plenty of juice, wine, tea or coffee available during the flight in Business Class.     It was great to have been able to lie down and sleep during the long hall flight – no problem sleeping on them, however, the trip was a little rough at times during the night. 

Friday, 15 June
 – This day did not exist for us.


Saturday, 16 June
We arrived back into Auckland Airport at 5.45am (30 mins late – 2 other planes also arrived at the same time) – was scheduled to arrive at 5.15am.  Due to the late arrival into Auckland, we missed our 7am flight connection from Auckland to Wellington, so had to rebook onto the 8am flight – this gave us some time in the Koru Club lounge to relax a little.

Arrived back into Wellington at 9am to a very Cold wet Southerly day (our with the winter clothing) - Paul Sadlier met us at the airport and drove us home, which was greatly appreciated.

Later that morning we drove to Raumati to collect Oscar and Kiesha – the cats.