Category Archives: United States of America

San Francisco, California USA

In 1964, San Francisco’s cable cars were named the first moving National Historic Landmark, and today still offer real working transportation up the steep hills. The cable cars begin their runs at 6:00 am and continue until midnight. Go early as masses of tourists rush like berserk magnets to the romantic steel on wheels.

And, if you’re going to ‘San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair’, was the  gentle melody which catapulted singer Scott Mckenzie to international stardom in 1967.  He captured the spirit of the ’60s flower-power movement, becoming a generational touchstone and made San Francisco a bohemian love child for all to enjoy.

If you were like me – and I know I’m showing my age now, but, if you’d watched The Streets of San Francisco as a youngster, these scenes will not be foreign to you. Of course, all the while having been enthralled at watching the maddening chase of good guys versus the baddies; over, around and on top of very hilly serpentine-like streets whereby they caused mayhem within the city and made it compulsive TV.

Of the 23 lines established between 1873 and 1890, only three remain (one of which combines parts of two earlier lines): two routes from downtown near Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf and a third route along California Street. Commuters can and do use the system, however tourists flock for the best views, trundling along,  riding cable cars which are pulled by a cable running below the street, held by a grip that extends from the car through a slit in the street surface between the rails. Once on top of city’s elevated peaks, you know this is a must see for all others to know about. You won’t tire of looking back at your photos …

The Golden Gate bridge is 8,981 feet long (1.7 miles) and contains about 88,000 tons of steel. It’s 90 feet wide with six driving lanes and two sidewalks. The total weight of the bridge is 887,000 tons.

The Golden Gate Bridge’s signature colour was not intended to be permanent. The steel that arrived to build the bridge was coated in a burnt red and orange shade of primer to protect it from corrosive elements. Consulting architect Irving Morrow found that he preferred the vivid hue of the primer to more conventional paint choices such as carbon black and steel gray. The ‘international orange’ colour was not only visible in the fog, but it complemented the natural topography of the surrounding hills and contrasted well with the cool blues of the bay and the sky.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects 82,027 acres (33,195 ha) of ecologically and historically significant landscapes surrounding the  San Francisco Bay Area.

Hint: If planning to walk across the bridge, ensure you visit the washrooms beforehand.

Here at The Presidio, it’s  a 1,500-acre park on a former military post which is a major outdoor recreation hub. It has forested areas, kilometres of trails, a golf course and an abundance of scenic aspects. Other highlights include grassy Crissy Field, Civil War–era Fort Point and sandy Baker Beach. Historic buildings house the Walt Disney Family Museum, eateries and businesses like Lucasfilm with its Yoda Fountain.

To the far left in the distance is Alcatraz which had been a civil war fort, a military prison and one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history. A tour, either day or night is worthy of a visit and a fascination for movie buffs of Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood’s starring role.

Overlooking the bay – make sure when you go out, relax at a bar or simply meet up with colleagues, make sure there’s the chance to have a heightened view of the Port of San Francisco. As the sun sets, it makes for a golden hue over the sun-drenched buildings which lasts and just lasts …

S.F. Adventure Tours offers something a little different to the normal hop-on, hop-off bus route with a more intimate association with your new-found international travelling buddies – that is, in the back of a ute-like vehicle. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the ease of ‘getting around’ in a somewhat smaller transportation option; seeing a mix of lesser known places along with the regular tourist spots.

Fisherman’s Wharf – a must see and you’ll need more time here if you’re a shopper and lover of great food choices. Clam chowder has to be one of the favourites for locals and visitors alike.

Stay in the city around Union Square if you can. Why? Because it’s the happening place to be … Cable Cars, shopping and lively entertainment with an artistic blend of multinationals makes it an interesting area – especially if you love to ‘people watch’.

At the Handlery Hotel, I can see the Macy’s sign through the shades and it’s calling my name.

One part of a Travel Agent’s job description is to make sure they attend hotel inspections wherever possible. I’ve know the Handlery Hotel is centrally located for a very long time. How? The President, Mr Jon Handlery has been coming to Australia for the USA Roadshows for over 30 years now and we have been well briefed by him of its location and facilities. A multimillion dollar renovation to this hotel will be done at the end of March of 2018.

But, one really important thing about having a stay here is that, on the back of your room key, it gives you a 10% discount on Macy’s purchases. And, when Macy’s vouchers (given to international travellers) do not work on say, Black Friday sales days, this one still does! Yay!

Recycling at the Handlery Hotel is one of the big plusses of an independent hotel – it’s no longer just about the comfy bed, or importantly, the big bright lights so you can actually see yourself putting on make up! Being a family-owned hotel, they understand the customer these days and what they want in terms of satisfying ongoing environmental concerns; especially as the tourism industry plays a huge role in trying to educate the traveller about such matters. Hope to see more of these processes from other hotel chains in the future.

If you happen to be in town for the Christmas festivities, you won’t be disappointed with the decorations and atmosphere, especially here in Union Square.

Black Friday Sales, yes I survived … Out with the old and into my case with the new!

The foundation of America’s counter-culture, the Haight was Ground Zero during the summer of 1967, The Summer of Love’s baby is now well over 50 years old.

Hippies and Flower Power evolved here, but at some point the Jefferson Airplane moved out.  At famous Hippie Hill,  you’ll either love or loathe it, depending on your feelings about drum circles and wheat-free pot brownies. Look for Haight Ashbury for a truly beatnik experience whilst enjoying a café latte …

Architecture to entice the more affluent yuppies moved in, buying up all the colourful Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury bohemia movement. They’ve been replaced with shops advocating high-end boutiques, chic restaurants and hip cafés.

Going to the airport, the BART train  system trains arrive at the SFO International Terminal every 15 minutes and it’s just 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. A one-way ticket from SFO Airport to downtown or vice versa is USD$9.65 and inside each station is a machine to make a purchase with cash or card.

The BART station within the International Terminal, you’ll find there’s a connecting free train which runs continuously between the domestic and international terminals. Both terminals have undergone massive reconstruction with a ten-year long-term plan in place. The transformation of this airport from my last visit ten years ago, is incredible to say the least! 

Hint: Be aware the ticket machine does not give change, so try to use as close to the amount as needed if only using it once. However, the residual value is kept on the card as a credit. See the quick guide to help you find your closest station going to/from the airport.

The Airport Museum at SFO International is a plane spotter’s dream and I highly recommend you visit it. And, you will have time, because the check in and state-of-the-art facilities now will make your experience so much faster than what I remember all those years ago as a visitor.

No guesses where I’m heading to from this worldly exhibition and with about 15 hours flying time to go, it’s time to try and relax. If you are worried about being on such a long flight you can always find an airline which has island stops along the way within the South Pacific.

Sydney to Toronto via New York City.

From Sydney to New York flying with Qantas Airways takes you via Los Angeles with a quick transit of about two hours there. Clearing immigration at L.A. (as it’s the first point of entry into the country) is mandatory – which means collecting your luggage and rechecking it at a dedicated area before heading onto your final domestic destination within the United States. As with all fares and airlines ex Australia, two pieces of baggage to North and South America is permitted, and if all travel is ticketed as a through fare, then the luggage will go as well as part of the international ticket’s allowance. The piece system has very much the same rules as a round-the-world-airfare and with Qantas being part of the Oneworld Alliance and along with its affiliates, you can check the website for more information about sizes, weight and other services.

Flying time to Los Angeles from Sydney approximately thirteen hours and then another four hours to New York City with QF.

  • When separate tickets are issued on other airlines these will not be included on the international long-haul fare and you may be asked to pay for the luggage upon check in. Contact the relevant airline before purchasing if unsure.

For all other carriers, check with the carrier for their own stipulations in regards to checked luggage and carry on allowances.

Australians are required to have their ESTA application filled out online and paid for before departure and it’s valid for two years.

Upon arrival in New York City, JFK Airport offers passengers ground transport options which include services by rail to the NYC Transit Subway system and Long Island Rail; as well as buses and taxis with dedicated desks just before exiting the airport.

If taking a train, it will mean hopping off the free Air Train at Federal Circle then continue onto Jamaica Station (separate ticket US$5.00) which gives you the ability to catch another train onto Manhattan’s main Penn Station for further connections by train or bus.

If continuing onto another domestic flight and other destinations, the free driverless air train will whisk you across for all other terminal departures. Participating airlines are listed onboard for their respective terminals and should be printed on your electronic ticket.

Terminal 8 if connecting to American Airlines and it’s the last stop on the loop.

American Airlines provides passengers a more streamlined service with online baggage which is through checked if issued on the same international long-haul ticket – regardless if on a codeshare flight with Qantas Airways.

If travelling across to Newark Liberty International Airport for other flights, you can take a bus as there are a number private companies which operate between the three airports of JFK, Newark (EWR)  and La Guardia (LGA). However, if you’re savvy enough, a train may be the faster, better option if connections are tight. Traffic at times can be congested and somewhat stressful if going by bus, taxi or hire car.

Additionally, you can continue to travel with NJ Transit which will bring you directly from Manhattan’s Penn Station with its dedicated platforms for the train to the Newark Airport stop in New Jersey.

Shown here, it’s where the Rail Link station joins and allows passengers to alight for another free air train to all other terminals within Newark Airport (EWR).

Amtrak trains stop at Newark Airport as well and again, just walk across to/from the free air train for your onward journey. The NJ Transit system not surprisingly, can actually be much quicker than taking a cab or bus and much more affordable.

Pictured here at Newark’s P4 stop it’s also where all the major hotels’ shuttle services may offer a complimentary transfer. Check with your hotel to see if they participate, otherwise taxis are generally available. A hire car company is located within P4 too at the ground level.

Over 30 million passengers pass through Newark Airport annually and is the major hub for United Airlines making it one of the busiest in the States. Its makeover has been a huge success and long overdue.

Located in New Jersey, Newark Airport is 16 miles from midtown Manhattan shown here in the distance. Thankfully this train service has alleviated some of the congestion heading into the Big Apple and has been operational now for a few years. The NJ Transit cost is USD $13.00 one way per adult and takes about 40 minutes either way and can be much quicker while being far more affordable.

And sometimes you can be lucky while in the Subway to have the opportunity and watch a fantastic busker such as Lorenzo Laroc playing Led Zepplin’s Kashmir on an electric violin.

And not to mention of course, having a quick shop around with stores all lit up for the upcoming Christmas break and Happy Holidays. A real treat as they open late with eateries all around to choose from.

So long New York as I’m on my way to Toronto for another fabulous rail journey with Via Rail traversing Canada. Might be a bit cool but I’m expecting to see some snow this time!

The UP Express from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to Union Downtown Station is quick and efficient and a one-way ticket is about CAD $12.00 per adult. It’s fast, reliable and the trip only takes 25 minutes, with trains leaving every 15 minutes.

Great to see the CN Tower again displaying its colours and showing off as usual in Toronto as the major centrepiece within the city.

A stay at the Fairmont Royal York is the favoured hotel as it’s straight across the road from Union Station which makes it easier, especially if an early departure has been booked.

Anticipating the countdown for my departure on Via Rail’s The Canadian train crossing over the countryside for the next four days. Feeling very excited to be going from east to west this time and undoubtedly will expose a different aspect. What I may have missed out on a previous trip, I’ll most likely see now on a different schedule.

Stay tuned for my next blog – heading from Toronto onwards to Vancouver with The Canadian which is one of the most prized rail journeys in the world.

Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas – USA

If you’re heading to Dallas and Fort Worth’s International Airport (DFW) in the United States, then you’ll know it’s one of the longest flights in the world from Sydney with Qantas Airways travelling 13,804.95 kilometres. And after 15 or so hours flying time, the staff onboard my flight, namely Matthew and Kiet who looked after my section couldn’t have been more helpful. Fresh and still able to share a joke at the end of the journey. The A380 was always kept immaculate and with touch on-demand inflight entertainment from the moment you step onboard the aircraft until arrival – the time just seemed to fly.

Things have changed considerably since my last visit to Dallas – and for the better. A train service now operates from the airport to downtown Dallas. The cost? A whopping $2.50 one way per adult and valid for two hours. Make sure you have some US dollars before arrival as the machines are located in the train terminal and platforms.

DFW is one of the best airports to arrive as they now offer passport control very much like here at home (in Australia), whereby you scan your document and have finger prints taken all in a matter of minutes. No long queues as previous trips to the States. For Australians – make sure you’ve completed your ESTA online form before departing – see link for applications

See for more information as this is one of the quickest and easiest ways for ground transport as the rail line will slice straight through to the main parts of the city.

(Information given here was correct at the time this blog was posted.)

Perched 170 metres above the ground, Reunion Tower’s newly renovated GeO-Deck lets visitors glimpse an impressive view of the city skyline.

From this angle I can see Fountain Place located at 1445 Ross Avenue in the Arts District which is a 60-story modern-styled skyscraper which was used in the last seasons of the TV series Dallas. If you were anything like me, you were glued to the TV screen wondering what JR Ewing was up to next.

Equally impressive is the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza which is a timeline of John F. Kennedy’s life and presidency. The exhibits are thoughtful, respectful and reflective of the events of what happened on this day 22 November, 1963.

The road where President Kennedy was shot more than 53 years ago when this photo was taken. It shows even after all this time, people are still curious about the assassination and the circumstances surrounding his death. It seems people still have their own theories as to what really triggered the calculated slaying.

Jacquie and John F. Kennedy will always be remembered and as this museum is a dedication, it’s one of the most visited in Dallas. It’s also part of the CityPASS which allows you easy access and discounted admission to many of the popular attractions, which incidentally are mostly within walking distance to each other. By buying it ahead of time allows you to skip the ticket line and gain entry to the crowd pleasers of which most are within walking distance to each other.

I’m here with Jeb and Jamie from Efrogs recommending a choice of crafted beers from one of the tour’s breweries. Starting at $70.00 The Brewery Tour is a fun way of making new friends and not having to worry about driving as it’s all taken care of.

Efrogs which is an acronym for Eco-Friendly Rides on Green Shuttles and is a tip-based transport service, also providing free rides for office workers, hotel guests, restaurant and bar patrons, as well as visitors at parties and sporting events.

At the Community Beer Company during our tour, I had to ask the old pick-up line. “Do you and your dog come here often?” Owners from around the neighbourhood and afar come here with their pooches to socialise and listen to some good music. Dogs are permitted due to no food being served on the premises.

Band at the Community Beer Company giving us a few tunes to either dance along, or there were a number of other activities you could partake in.

At AT&T Stadium Dallas Cowboys in full flight against Baltimore Ravens makes it a super charged game and the crowd was electric. There are various tours available ranging from VIP, Self-Guided, Art and Educational which can be booked through and definitely worthy of a visit even if there’s no game on during the week.

Dallas Cowboys are world renown as a football team and even if you don’t follow footy of any code, you won’t want to miss going to a game just for the atmosphere.

Free trolley ride anyone? Everyone loves this especially the young ones as it trundles from downtown to uptown with a number of stops along the way.

And the delightful Klyde Warren Park is one of the stops and central to everything. A wonderful open space which was built over the top of the freeway.

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science (allows entry with a CityPASS) and is home to one of the most impressive gem collections in the United States. A new dinosaur species just recently discovered can only be viewed here.

The Trinity Rail Express (TRE) operates between Dallas and Fort Worth with each city having its own unique attractions and events making it easily accessible. The TRE is provided by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) and Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Trains operate Monday through Saturday with no scheduled service on Sunday. Fares are US10.00 per adult one way see for timetables and updates.

The Stockyards at Fort Worth are a must see especially if you have children who love the idea of being in the Old West. The Cattle Drive as shown here happens daily (weather permitting) at 11:30 am and again at 4:00 pm.

The Museum at The Stockyards showcases some of the best-preserved and restored wagons, buggies and farming methods of this era.

And if you want to have a really good time, then try the bucking bull.

There’s so much more to Dallas and Fort Worth and I’d recommend at least three to four days for a fun time and soak up the southern hospitality.



New York City, New York USA – Part Two

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Need a ride? The Langham Hotel offer its guests on a first-come basis, a short ride from Langham Place. Of course, I need to go down town and have a look around.

Times Square always busy 24/7 and very much central to all the theatres at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. Lots to do and see here and the line up for last-minute Broadway Show tickets can be quite long – go early if there’s a performance you’ve been eyeing off.

Mid October and mid week, not really seen Seventh Avenue this quiet, but enjoying it while I can.

I’d imagine being in NYC, you’d be trying to outdo all the others, especially when you’re at that age when testosterone rules! Glad he pulled up in time for the pedestrians to walk!

Grand Central Station always a drawcard with passers-by generally fixated by looking up at its ceiling while walking along the Concourse. As one New Yorker said to me years ago, you can always tell tourists as they’re busy looking up at everything!

One of my favourite outlets in NYC is the Grand Central Market just inside the station. Fragrant and colourful produce makes it a popular shopping experience for locals as well as tourists.

Lots of choices and this is only the tea section.

Pershing Square, hosts an array of eateries whereby you can admire the best views. In particular, the Chrysler Building which obligingly sparkles at night with its shiny automobile-inspired curves and radiator-cap gargoyles.

I said I wouldn’t leave The Langham without taking some photos of the water towers, nicely gathered together at a height which makes it a little more up-close and personal. All I have to do now is convert them to black and white, making my own personal series … Another project of mine!

Air travellers to New York City may depart/arrive at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia Airport (LGA), both in Queens or Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in neighbouring New Jersey. LaGuardia primarily serves domestic destinations and also offers flights to select Canadian and Caribbean destinations. Kennedy and Newark both serve domestic and international destinations. Visitors can reach Manhattan from all three airports by using taxis and buses. No subways and/or commuter trains from/to LaGuardia, but the other two airports are serviced by AirTrain and rail.

Now heading off to JFK and a trip to Budapest to commence training with the Tauck Academy for Travel Agents from Australia and UK.

New York City, New York USA – Part One

I’m back In New York City (NYC) and have been trying to photograph its iconic high-rise water towers over the years … The Langham Hotel at Langham Place gave me a nice surprise as I peered between the blinds. Not only is the whole area around the hotel a photographer’s dream, but is superbly situated between the Empire State Building and Bryant Park –  and as they say, ‘location, location’ –  it cannot go unnoticed and most welcomed in this sought-after part of the city. Times Square is approximately 15 minutes and Grand Central Station about 10 minutes walking.

However, a site inspection and stay at The Langham Hotel, reveals undoubtedly  it’s one of the most spacious in Manhattan, having 214 guest rooms designed with a refined, subtle colour palette and modern furnishings to match.

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A haven after shopping, walking, eating and people watching. All those activities which have us drawn to NYC time after time. Bright, roomy and a separate desk gives a homely feel whilst being in the midst of 24/7 non-stop hustle and bustle.

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As a travel agent it’s crucial in knowing what facilities and amenities are available for guests. The Langham Hotels are synonymous with stylish, modern furnishings which exude luxury and sophistication  throughout. If you feel this is for you, contact me for further information or visit

There is also 7,500 square feet of private meeting and event space available, with fantastic sky-line views over the city. Altamarea is the signature restaurant on the mezzanine level.

The bathrooms are incredibly roomy with a rain shower in addition to a huge bath. Being 6 foot tall, trust me, I couldn’t touch the end even with my toes pointed. Pure bliss with a glass of sauvignon blanc! Just don’t fall asleep …

I wonder how they knew New Zealand wines were my favourite whites? Maybe they’ve been reading my blog? Now that’s the kind of touch a classy hotel will endeavour to deliver to their loyal guests and travel agent!

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Hot on my ‘To-do List’ is the city’s High Line walk.

Starting at West 34th Street (between 10th and 12th Avenues) it begins and finishes at Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District. I would prefer to walk in this direction as the reward of delicious food and drink at the other end makes it even more worthwhile for the effort you’ve put in.

The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

Trains resting for a short time before being shunted out to work on the busy subways.

You can simply relax, just sit and watch all the various cruise liners come into NYC.

There’s those water towers again, I’ll make sure I take some close-up photos later …

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running on them.

The species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, textural and colour variation with a focus on native species.

The design also emphasises year-round interest and blooms. Several kinds which originally grew on the rail bed are incorporated into the park’s landscape.

Characteristic of the area, lots of chimneys and brown-stone buildings.

Help build Lego NYC? Olafur Eliasson’s new interactive installation is sure to unleash the inner child in everyone. The Collectivity Project is about more than just play. Eliasson conceived this project as a way to bring people together and allow them to create a utopian society, if only in miniature form.

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For the High Line, Marshall presents a large-scale, hand-painted mural adapted specifically for the High Line. Titled Above the Line, the mural is an extension of the artist’s Dailies series.

Love street art, some compelling – such as this one.

Finishing up at the Meatpacking District, it’s a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) walk. The High Line is also wheelchair friendly. Best advice is to go early as it’s packed  with walkers all along the way. These photos were taken mid October and was very warm even then, take layered clothing and plenty of water with you.

No shortage of cafes and restaurants …

Really $350.00 if you honk? I’d love to see how they would manage this around mid-town Manhattan!

I’m calling it a day and heading off for some retail therapy after all that exercise I’ll find the energy to shop for some bargains. Here I go … Macys.  Again, not too far from my hotel.