Wishful thinking will not get us there any faster!

My phone, being smart and all, has been creating a notification that tells me I have some memories stored on it for this day a year ago, or two years, or many years.

The pictures it is showing are of our trip to China a few years ago.

Not much chance of going back, and, back then, neither of us could imagine that everything that has happened in the last six months could happen.

But, it did.

And one of the effects of those events is no more overseas travel

No more travel of any sort at the moment with the travel restrictions in place.  We can’t even fly to another state.  Come to that, we might not have an airline to fly on.

Travel, of course, is the main escape, where we can get away from our daily lives, and go somewhere quite different from where we live and experience a different world.  The people, the food, the sights.

What is probably more significant is that we might not be able to go away again, if there is no cure for the virus.  No one will want to risk catching it in another country, simply because of the medical expenses, the chances are that travel insurance will not cover you for the Coronavirus.

And no cover, no travel, even if you are able to.

So, it means that any travel we will be doing, when we can, will be in our own country.  We can do this without a vaccine because we have so few active cases, and the measures we have is stopping it in its tracks.

So too for New Zealand, and we may be able to travel there.

One day.

Until then, my smartphone is going to keep sending me gentle reminders of what it was like in another lifetime.

Searching for locations: Innsbruck, Austria

On this occasion, we drove from Florence to Innsbruck, a journey of about 500 kilometers and via the E45, a trip that would take us about five and a half hours.

We drove conservatively, stopped once for lunch and took about seven hours, arriving in Innsbruck late in the afternoon

The main reason for this stay was to go to Swarovski in Wattens for the second time, to see if anything had changed, and to buy some pieces.  We were still members of the club, and looking forward to a visit to the exclusive lounge and some Austrian champagne.

Sadly, there were no new surprises waiting, and we came away a little disappointed.

We were staying at the Innsbruck Hilton, where we stayed the last time, and it only a short walk to the old town.

From the highest level of the hotel, it is possible to get a look at the mountains that surround the city.  This view is in the direction we had driven earlier, from Florence.

The change in the weather was noticeable the moment we entered the mountain ranges.

This view looks towards the old town and overlooks a public square.

This view shows some signs of the cold, but in summer, I doubted we were going to see any snow.

We have been here in winter, and it is quite cold, and there is a lot of snow.  The ski resorts are not very far away, and the airport is on the way to Salzburg.

There is a host of restaurants in the old town, and we tried a few during our stay.  The food, beer, and service were excellent.

On a previous visit, we did get Swiss Army Knives, literally, from a small store called Victorinox.

And, yes, we did see the golden roof.

Searching for locations: Niagara Falls, Canada

We visited the falls in winter, just after Christmas when it was all but frozen.

The weather was freezing, it was snowing, and very icy to walk anywhere near the falls

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Getting photos is a matter of how much you want to risk your safety.

I know I slipped and fell a number of times on the ice just below the snowy surface in pursuit of the perfect photograph.  Alas, I don’t think I succeeded.

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The mist was generated from both the waterfall and the low cloud.  It was impossible not to get wet just watching the falls.

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Of course, unlike the braver people, you could not get me into one of the boats that headed towards the falls.  I suspect there might be icebergs and wasn’t going to tempt the fate of another Titanic, even on a lesser scale.  The water would be freezing.

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

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I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

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An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

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The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

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St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

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The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

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Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

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And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

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Any faces peering out through the windows?

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 23

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Whilst in reality these steps go down to a very narrow space of the beach, and scattered rocks in the shallow water, so much more could be inspired by this photograph.

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Further out that day, divers were out exploring about 100 yards offshore.

But, to me, it what you don’t see that gives it its fascination.

We could be anywhere along a 1,000-mile shoreline, one side a small village lazily gets through the day, on the other, a deserted and overgrown picnic spot that no one ever comes to anymore since the bypass road was built.

But it is not any of those.  it’s in Mornington, Victoria, Australia, the pier that is not far from a small park, and that day, very, very busy.

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It simply goes to show that sometimes a photograph can provide enough information to inspire a story.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 22

I found this…


So near and yet so far.

What I found was the moon out in the late afternoon, a phenomenon that might happen on a regular basis, but this one of the few times I’ve seen it.

And it reminds me of something I was told a long time ago. Shoot for the moon. I never quite understood what the person meant, not until a long time later when I realised that I was being told nothing was impossible.

Had I ever achieved the impossible?

The thing is, each of us define what is possible and what is impossible ourselves, and is therefore different for every person. If you tell yourself it is impossible, then it requires a mind shift to get past that barrier.

But, the question still remains the same, did I achieve the impossible?

I never thought I’d write a book, or have it published. Some would say I still haven’t achieved that goal because I self published it on Amazon.

I think I achieved what I set out to do.

I never thought I’d get a university degree, but people had faith in me, and yes, I got it in the end.

I never thought, when I was younger, I would be a father, and sometimes I wonder whether it was worth it, but having grandchildren dispelled any perceived disappointment.

And what is on the impossible list now?

Not a lot. At my age, I don’t think it’s possible I will travel to the moon, nor afford to skirt the edge of space, as much as it would be amazing to look back at the planet.

I don’t think I’ll ever become a CEO, but then I don’t want to. Too much responsibility.

What’s left that is achievable?

Tracing my family history, and going back to where my ancestors came from, and, hopefully finding someone who was ‘famous’.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 22

I found this…


So near and yet so far.

What I found was the moon out in the late afternoon, a phenomenon that might happen on a regular basis, but this one of the few times I’ve seen it.

And it reminds me of something I was told a long time ago. Shoot for the moon. I never quite understood what the person meant, not until a long time later when I realised that I was being told nothing was impossible.

Had I ever achieved the impossible?

The thing is, each of us define what is possible and what is impossible ourselves, and is therefore different for every person. If you tell yourself it is impossible, then it requires a mind shift to get past that barrier.

But, the question still remains the same, did I achieve the impossible?

I never thought I’d write a book, or have it published. Some would say I still haven’t achieved that goal because I self published it on Amazon.

I think I achieved what I set out to do.

I never thought I’d get a university degree, but people had faith in me, and yes, I got it in the end.

I never thought, when I was younger, I would be a father, and sometimes I wonder whether it was worth it, but having grandchildren dispelled any perceived disappointment.

And what is on the impossible list now?

Not a lot. At my age, I don’t think it’s possible I will travel to the moon, nor afford to skirt the edge of space, as much as it would be amazing to look back at the planet.

I don’t think I’ll ever become a CEO, but then I don’t want to. Too much responsibility.

What’s left that is achievable?

Tracing my family history, and going back to where my ancestors came from, and, hopefully finding someone who was ‘famous’.

Searching for locations: From Toronto to New York

After arriving latish from Toronto, and perhaps marginally disappointed that while in Toronto, the ice hockey didn’t go our way, we slept in.

Of course, the arrival was not without its own problems. The room we were allocated was on the 22nd floor and was quite smallish. Not a surprise, but we needed space for three, and with the fold-out bed, it was tight but livable.

Except…

We needed the internet to watch the Maple Leafs ice hockey game. We’d arrive just in time to stream it to the tv.

But…

There was no internet. It was everywhere else in the hotel except our floor.

First, I went to the front desk and they directed me to call tech support.

Second, we called tech support and they told us that the 22nd-floor router had failed and would get someone to look at it.

When?

It turns out it didn’t seem to be a priority. Maybe no one else on the floor had complained

Third, I went downstairs and discussed the lack of progress with the night duty manager, expressing disappointment with the lack of progress.

I also asked if they could not provide the full service that I would like a room rate reduction or a privilege in its place as compensation.

He said he would check it himself.

Fourth, after no further progress, we called the front desk to advise there was still no internet. This time we were asked if we wanted a room on another floor, where the internet is working. We accepted the offer.

The end result, a slightly larger, less cramped room, and the ability to watch the last third of the Maple Leaf’s game. I can’t remember if we won.

We all went to bed reasonably happy.

After all, we didn’t have to get up early to go up or down to breakfast because it was not included in the room rate, a bone of contention considering the cost.

I’ll be booking with them directly next time, at a somewhat cheaper rate, a thing I find after using a travel wholesaler to book it for me.

As always every morning while Rosemary gets ready, I go out for a walk and check out where we are.

It seems we are practically in the heart of theaterland New York. Walk one way or the other you arrive at 7th Avenue or Broadway.

Walk uptown and you reach 42nd Street and Times Square, little more than a 10-minute leisurely stroll. On the way down Broadway, you pass a number of theatres, some recognizable, some not.

Times Square is still a huge collection of giant television screens advertising everything from confectionary to TV shows on the cable networks.

A short walk along 42nd street takes you to the Avenue of the Americas and tucked away, The Rockefeller center and its winter ice rink.

A few more steps take you to 5th Avenue and the shops like Saks of Fifth Avenue, shops you could one day hope to afford to buy something.

In the opposite direction, over Broadway and crossing 8th Avenue is an entrance to Central Park. The approach is not far from what is called the Upper West Side, home to the rich and powerful.

Walk one way in the park, which we did in the afternoon, takes you towards the gift shop and back along a labyrinth of laneways to 5th Avenue. It was a cold, but pleasant, stroll looking for the rich and famous, but, discovering, they were not foolish enough to venture out into the cold.

Before going back to the room, we looked for somewhere to have dinner and ended up in Cassidy’s Irish pub. There was a dining room down the back and we were one of the first to arrive for dinner service.

The first surprise, our waitress was from New Zealand.

The second, the quality of the food.

I had a dish called Steak Lyonnaise which was, in plain words, a form of mince steak in an elongated patty. It was cooked rare as I like my steak and was perfect. It came with a baked potato.

As an entree, we had shrimp, which in our part of the world are prawns, and hot chicken wings, the sauce is hot and served on the side.

The beer wasn’t bad either. Overall given atmosphere, service, and food, it’s a nine out of ten.

It was an excellent way to end the day.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 19

Does a rainy, cold, miserable sort of day usually reflect your mood?

It could be said the outlook is bleak, but from where I’m sitting, it might be more picturesque.

This photo was taken from the veranda of one of four cottages that have, one one side, a macadamia farm, and on the other, a valley with a small river running through it.

I’m told there is reasonably good fishing in the river.

But, on a good day, with blue skies and sunshine, the outlook is completely different.

This is the sort of place you go to do nothing, perhaps read a book, do a crossword, but nothing substantial.

We come here to wind down, and take several days to do it.

But, as for a story…

I have in mind a theme of a man on the run, from his past, his demons, and a very dangerous criminal.

Yes, it’s that old story of someone witnessing what they shouldn’t, and paying the price because they did.

Now, hiding out in the country, it’s only a matter of time before they are discovered.

Searching for locations: Toronto, Canada

The touristy things

On the way to the Hall of Fame, we found an ice skating rink

The Hockey hall of fame

The hockey hall of fame is a very large exhibition which would take a whole day to see everything.  We sat through a very informative history of the game and the origins of the NHL, which for people who do not have hockey as a sport in their country, is saying something.

We follow the Maple Leafs, coincidentally Toronto’s franchise in the NHL, and we have been here before for a game, which they lost.  It didn’t matter, I was staggered by the energy and enthusiasm both the players and the fans put into making it a memorable experience.

I’m hoping for a repeat experience.

St Lawrence Market

We walked 1.8 km to the market and it was closed which is about right for us as we have a knack for turning up and the place is closed, for instance, the Canadian club distillery in Windsor, Canada.

Perhaps tomorrow, before or after the game.

Red Lobster

Ok, we’ve been here before and it was beyond any expectations anyone could have for a restaurant chain.

This was no different from the last.

What more could you want, scallops, shrimp, and a fried lobster tail all drowned in a superb garlic butter sauce.

Add a side of mash potatoes, and a 20oz glass of beer, and there is the definition of heaven on a plate.

St Lawrence Market, again

Snowing, but not heavily

St Lawrence market, everything is very expensive, crab legs $120 per kg, lobster, $50 to $80 per kg.  Oddly everything is quoted per pound, and it’s a good thing that we can convert lbs to kg.

It is, to say the least, a disappointment.

Ice Hockey at the Scotiabank Arena

There was a definite buzz in the air, and heading towards the stadium was both us, and many other Toronto supporters.  Blue Maple Leaf jerseys were in abundance.

We’ve been before, and the last time the Leafs lost.

What else is new?

They have had a very good season so far, and are second on the ladder overall, so it was not without the expectation that they might win this one.

 

Never have an expectation.

They lost.

But…

It was an incredible game that was none stop action.  It seems to me that you require a lot of skill and skating talent to play this game.  I certainly couldn’t, and freely admit that I’d probably last about five minutes.

The score didn’t reflect the play, but in the end, the Leafs lost 4 – 3, at the end of the three periods.

Souvenir hunting and other stuff

I woke tired and exhausted, not looking forward to walking around Toronto.

Got up early to do the walking.

Oh, did I tell you, this hotel has a laundry and it is the bugbear of staying in major hotels, not being able to wash clothes?

Breakfast is included, but it is the main meal of the day so we feast.  The selection is incredible.

We had to go back to the Maple Leafs franchise shop to exchange a Maple Leafs Jersey, which was no trouble.

So near to the CN tower, we go in to shop for souvenirs, of which there were plenty.  I liked the stuffed mooses and beavers.

We’ve been up the tower so it’s back to the Union Station and a short stay at upstairs, a little bar overlooking the Toronto Pearson train line.

Time for tasting some Canadian ales, the first a Mill Street tank house ale, the second a Mill Street hopped and confused.  Seriously, that’s what they were called.

The drinking mood music was old hits like Queen and a little bit of country and western.

We had a good view of the trains, too.

Union Station

Like all main stations very large very tall ceilings and openings that lead to the tracks of which there are about 24, and an underground system

Much the same as all large railway terminals and probably far busier in times gone by.

Dining, but not necessarily dinner

Not far from the station, and opposite to clock tower belonging to the old city hall was a restaurant called Bannock.

There I had a Moosehead Cracked Canoe lager, a light ale, and a house special since 1929, a chicken pot pie, and it was very good.