Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

New York diary: Day 6

Monday, 18 July, 2016

Thursday, 16 June, 2016. 24:17

We’ve had an exciting night out at Citi Field watching the Mets play the Pittsburgh Pirates, and got back to our hotel a bit late, so it’s now after midnight.

We got up at 08:00 this morning and M. had a shower while I struggled to wake up after a poor sleep. I just had some bran flakes for breakfast, picking out nearly all the raisins this time, and took an apple for a snack later during the ISO meetings. M. went out for a walk up to Tiffany & Co. on 5th Avenue, while I headed to the ANSI offices for more meetings.

The agenda was scheduled to finish at 17:30, making it a bit of a rush to get to the stadium for the baseball game. However, we managed to get through the business ahead of schedule and I got out just after 16:30. At lunch time I went with Scott over to Grand Central again, and this time we got some cheapish Indian food at the food court. I had rice with chick peas and a pea and mushroom dish. The combo plate also came with a green salad, which seemed very weird with Indian food. The vegetables tasted pretty good though.

7 line
The 7 line train.

Meetings done, I returned to the hotel to change into my new Mets shirt, grab the camera, and head off with M. to the 5th Avenue subway stop at Bryant Park. There we caught the 7 line express train out to Queens and Citi Field.

Read more: The baseball game at Citi Field, a humungous waffle, and shooting black and white film

New York diary: Day 5

Friday, 15 July, 2016

Wednesday, 15 June, 2016. 21:36

The alarm went off at 07:00, which seemed rudely early. I left M. snoozing in bed and went down to have breakfast. I had a couple of small bowls of raisin bran again, this time picking most of the raisins out of the second bowl. I’m amazed that America can make even raisin bran less healthy by increasing the proportion of dried fruit to truly ridiculous levels. It’s almost like eating a bowl of raisins, with a few bran flakes thrown in. I grabbed an apple and ate that in the room while preparing to head out to the meeting.

I left about 7:40, getting to the meeting room a few minutes later. The first session was a long one, going from 08:00 to 12:00. I’d sort of expected there might be snacks provided, especially after arriving after lunch yesterday and seeing that people were eating leftover sandwiches and pastries from a lunch that had presumably been provided to the CPIQ meeting which had preceded ours that morning. But no, there was no sign of any snacks at all. Fortunately I’d brought a pack of Fantales from Australia to share around, and several people took some to keep their sugar levels up. We did get a bathroom break midway through the morning, but at lunch the only thing that happened was the meeting chair told us there were several places outside on the street to buy food.

Grand Central
Grand Central Station.

The morning session went fairly smoothly though, and we broke for lunch a few minutes early. I joined Scott, Margaret, and Jonathan and we decided to follow Scott’s lead as he lives in New York. He led us across a couple of blocks to Grand Central Station, where he was recommending the various places in the huge food court below the main concourse.

Read more: Lunch at the Oyster Bar, Grand Central Market, Indian food dinner, LEGO shop

New York diary: Day 4

Sunday, 26 June, 2016

Tuesday, 14 June, 2016. 12:10

We are sitting in Le Pain Quotidien on Madison Avenue up near the middle of Central Park, having spent the morning wandering around through the park. We’ve just had lunch and I am about to go back to the hotel to get ready for the ISO meeting which begins at 13:30.

We slept in this morning until 07:00. I slept much better than the last two nights, and could have slept more. The breakfast room was busy, and we were lucky to get a table, where I had cereal again and an apple. The bananas here are not good – they are greenish, but also with brown spots, and the fruit is mushy. Maybe they keep them in the fridge or something. So I’ve decided to stick to apples from now. M. had some corn flakes and a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

30 Rock, NBC building 30 Rockefeller Plaza
30 Rockefeller Plaza.

The first order of business was a trip to Central Park. We walked north from our hotel, but stopped briefly at Rockefeller Plaza to find the Blue Bottle coffee shop which M. had searched for online after seeing people walking down the street carrying take away cups with their logo on them. She reckons it’s the best chain store coffee she’s found in the US. We also saw the Lego shop there at Rockefeller, as well as the NBC building at 30 Rock. They were actually filming something for the Today Show in the southern section of the plaza, with a crowd of people holding signs and making noise.

Read more: Central Park, Keens Steakhouse

New York diary: Day 3

Saturday, 25 June, 2016

Monday, 13 June, 2016. 19:56

We are sitting in the Caliente Cab Company, which is a Mexican cafe and bar. We’ve just finished dinner, and will head back to our hotel soon on the subway.

Our day started with breakfast in the hotel again. This time I stuck to the raisin bran and fresh fruit, having a banana and an apple. M. had another bagel, toasted, with cream cheese. We weren’t in a hurry, as we wanted to wait until after the morning rush hour had passed before catching a train down to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. We left a bit after 09:00, and walked south to Bryant Park where we found Le Pain Quotidien, where M. got a coffee and I typed up some of yesterday’s diary while we watched workers scurrying to and fro on the street outside.

Manhattan from ferry
Manhattan viewed from the Staten Island Ferry.

After coffee, we walked over to the subway station near Times Square to catch a 1 train to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Here we boarded a ferry that was just about to depart, which was good timing as they only leave every half hour. The ferry took us across the Hudson River to Staten Island, passing Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty along the way, giving us a good look at the latter. The weather was cool and a strong wind was blowing on the water, which made it very cold standing on the open deck.

Read more: Tribeca and the 9/11 memorial, Inwood Hill Park, NY Public Library, Greenwich Village

New York diary: Day 2

Thursday, 23 June, 2016

Sunday, 12 June, 2016. 23:34

It’s been a very busy and full day, beginning just after 06:30 when we went down to breakfast at the hotel, having woken fairly early due to the jet lag. We spent the day exploring Brooklyn with David D., who I’ve known for maybe 25 years or so, and who had moved to New York to live with his American wife nearly 20 years ago. David is a keen photographer, and has published two photo collection books on New York: As Seen in Brooklyn, and Manhattan: Top to Bottom.

Being a keen photographer myself, I explained to him that I had not brought a digital SLR camera with me on the trip, but had elected instead to bring a 35mm film SLR, loaded with old black and white film which expired some time back in the 1970s. I figured if any place was suited to retro black and white photography, it was New York. (For colour photos I relied solely on my iPhone.)

Written later

I woke up before 04:00 with jet lag and couldn’t get back to sleep, but M. slept until about 06:00. We went down to breakfast at the hotel soon after it began at 06:30. The buffet selection included cereal (corn flakes and raisin bran), bread for toasting, bagels, pancakes, boiled eggs, sweet pastries and doughnuts, yoghurt, and bananas and apples. We stuck to cereal and bagels and fresh fruit. M. tried another coffee from the automated machine in the lobby but after one sip decided to stick to a hot chocolate instead.

We walked over to a subway station near Times Square to get some tickets and then catch a number 3 train to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. We tried to buy Metrocard tickets from a machine, but it wouldn’t take my Amex card because I couldn’t enter a valid US ZIP code. So we had to pay cash to a lady in the booth. Don’t they think of foreign visitors when designing the ticket machines?

Brooklyn jogger
Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

We arrived a bit early, but David was there waiting for us. He took us out and past the Grand Army monument towards Prospect Park. Along the way he informed us of a lot of the history of Brooklyn, which was interesting and a great way to understand the area a bit better. I felt a bit like we were Anthony Bourdain or someone from a travel show, getting the inside story about the place from a local.

Read more: Brooklyn’s Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Coney Island, then dinner in Manhattan’s Little Italy

New York diary: Day 1

Wednesday, 22 June, 2016

(I haven’t finished posting all of my Yokohama adventures in the last diary yet – that will come eventually. Meanwhile, I’ve also been to New York!)

Saturday, 11 June, 2016. 08:23. Los Angeles

We are sitting on a Qantas Boeing 747, waiting to take off for JFK Airport in New York. We left Sydney a bit after 10:00, also on Saturday, flying out on an Airbus A380. I thought we’d be on the same plane all the way to New York, as we had one boarding pass for the whole flight with the same seat number on both legs. But when we negotiated the maze of LAX, clearing customs and immigration to emerge on the groundside of the airport before re-entering through security to find our gate, we found ourselves boarding the 747 we’d seen next to us our incoming flight pulled into the terminal.

My view for the next 20 hours.
On board the Airbus A380.

We got up at 06:00 this morning, showering and having a quick breakfast before calling a taxi for the airport. The sun was rising over Sydney as we drove, painting the CBD a beautiful orange and marking the start of another lovely winter day.

At the airport, we were amazed by how much the terminal had changed since we’d last been there in February. Much of it was unfamiliar with the ongoing redevelopment work. M. got a coffee and an almond croissant for a snack before we boarded, and split the croissant with me. Our flight out was delayed a bit because the pilot had been caught in traffic getting to the airport!

Read more: arrival in NYC, Times Square, burgers in an Irish pub, Bryant Park

USA/Japan diary, day 12

Monday, 18 April, 2016

Wednesday, 24 February, 2016. 22:02

I woke up even earlier this morning, at 05:30. I puttered around a bit, checking email and news and so on, before heading out at about 06:30 to find some breakfast. I planned to go to the same Sunkus convenience store in the Queen’s Square again, but when I walked over there the plaza building was locked. Coming back over the footbridge, I saw a promisingly illuminated store on the ground floor of the main Pacifico Yokohama convention centre building. I went to investigate and found it to be another convenience store, but it too was closed, with a sign saying it opened at 07:00.

Yokohama dawn
Dawn over Yokohama Harbour, from my hotel room window.

So I went for a bit of a walk, around the hotel to the waterfront and along there a bit. The weather was bitingly cold, but there were the odd walker or two, with a dog, and a jogger. I didn’t dawdle, but instead sought shelter from the cold back inside the hotel lobby for ten minutes or so until the convenience store opened. Then I dashed across, bought a couple of prepacked rice snacks, a fresh hot croissant, and a tub of blueberry yoghurt, which I took back to my room to eat for breakfast.

Read more: ISO meetings, hot stew lunch, shabu-shabu for dinner, and the chance to win dessert

USA/Japan diary, day 11

Sunday, 17 April, 2016

Tuesday, 23 February, 2016. 21:20

Today was the first day of the ISO meetings here in Yokohama. I tried to sleep to 07:30, but woke up irretrievably a bit before 06:00. So I ate the banana muffin I’d bought last night, then did some stretching exercises, before heading out around 07:00 to find something else for breakfast. I found a Sunkus convenience store in Queen’s Square, where I bought some prepacked sushi rice things. The nori wrapped ones from 7-11 have pictures on them so you can take at least a good guess as to what fillings they have, but these Sunkus ones only have Japanese characters on them, so it’s a complete gamble picking one. The random one I chose had salmon in it, which was kind of a jackpot. I also got one with no nori, where I could see the rice had bits of egg in it, and was coated in sesame seeds.

After eating, it was down to the adjoining conference centre to begin the ISO meetings. The first session was all the preliminary administration type stuff, which ended early at about 11:40. I went to lunch with Margaret, Jonathan, and Scott Geffert. Margaret said that the hotel concierge had told her about a good Japanese restaurant in Queen’s Square, so she led us there, after a bit of confusion over which lift to take. When we sat at a table and saw the menus, we realised they were only offering a lunch special at this time, with a very limited and uninspiring selection of meals, so we decided to leave right away and go try something else.

Sushi special
Sushi special lunch.

Read more: mostly food really, since the rest of the day was technical meetings

USA/Japan diary, day 10

Friday, 15 April, 2016

Monday, 22 February, 2016. 20:27

I slept well, but woke just after 06:00, with the dim grey dawn light just poking through the window curtains. The view from my window is quite spectacular, looking north-east over Yokohama harbour from the ninth floor. I tried to sleep in a bit more, but actually started waking up, so I got up and began preparing for the day. I had to find my way to Kamata, and asked at the front desk again how to get there. The man gave me a very useful map of the local area, including Minatomirai station, the nearest one to walk to, and Yokohama station, where I had to change to a JR train to Kamata. I also asked if I could buy a Suica card at Minatomirai, and the guy said yes.

So I rugged up in my coat and the scarf M. had left behind in San Francisco, to brave the cold morning air and walk to the station. The temperature here was much colder than it had been in San Francisco, hovering around the 5°C mark. It took a few minutes to get my bearings, but I eventually found the right street to walk down and then found the station. I bought a Suica card at a ticket machine, then hopped on the train to Yokohama. This first train was fairly empty, and I thought maybe I’d be lucky and avoid any crowds. But Yokohama station was big and frantic with thousands of people rushing to and fro in their morning commutes. My main worry was that the Suica card came with just 500 yen on it and I had used 180 of that on the two-station trip from Minatomirai to Yokohama. I wasn’t sure if the remainder was even enough to get me to Kamata, let alone on to Shimomaruko.

Shimomaruko station
Shimomaruko station.

Read more: Shimomaruko and back, riding a giant Ferris wheel, sushi lunch, Cup Noodles Museum, a guy making omelettes, the Yokohama Museum of Art, and German wurst and beer for dinner!

USA/Japan diary, day 9

Monday, 4 April, 2016

Sunday, 21 February, 2016. (Written next day)

The flight was okay, with a bit of bumpy turbulence near the beginning. I stayed awake the whole time, to force myself into the new time zone of Yokohama. During the flight I watched two movies: the recent remake of Poltergeist (not as good as the original, although the creepy clown doll scene was very well done), and Max Max: Fury Road, which I thought did not live up to the hype my friends have given it. Then I watched four episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and an episode of the new Muppets show.

The plane landed at Tokyo Haneda Airport on time at 22:35 on Sunday night (since I’d crossed the date line during the flight), but there was a long line at the immigration clearance area, and I didn’t get through until nearly 23:30. I spotted Margaret Belska behind me in the queue; she’d been on the same flight as me from San Francisco. I’d been planning to get the train to the hotel, screenshotting a few timetable options, but I didn’t figure on waiting an hour to clear immigration, so had no idea when the trains were running, and wasn’t looking forward to navigating the unfamiliar stations either. So when Margaret said she was getting a taxi if I wanted to split the fair, I jumped at the chance. Even better, we were staying at the same hotel.

We arrived at the Intercontinental Yokohama Grand hotel right on midnight after a lengthy ride through the empty freeways and streets of Yokohama late on a Sunday night. We checked in, and I went to my room for a quick shower before tumbling into bed. I set my alarm for 07:30, after asking the reception guy how much time I’d need in the morning to get to Kamata station, which I know is the transfer point to get to Shimomaruko and the Canon headquarters, where I have a meeting tomorrow.