Saturday, February 12, 2011

Day 29 - Lancaster Pennsylvania and Amish country

Christina put on the Irish movie “Coming to America” so we could understand the struggles that people face in every walk of life, as we drove to Lancaster so it gave us something to watch.  Also considering we were slowly working our way back to New York City. The beauty of the rolling hills, the green pastures with the backdrop of the reds, yellows, orange trees that dotted the landscape next to the highway was pretty amazing to watch as well. 
Yes this is really the size of our grocery store  
One thing also that we saw were the barn stars which is from German farming backgrounds. They are particularly popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch country which is the area that we were in. It means good luck and can be traced to the individual barn builder.
The beautiful area of Williamsport and Raf of Rif Raf  
Christina explained to us that Philadelphia was founded on the idea of brotherly love. The Amish community is founded on the same belief with strong family ties and escaping Religious persecution.  With 3 main religions in Pennsylvania Dutch country which are Amish, Memonite and Brethren. They have set up these communities to avoid religious persecution in their native countries.
Susquehanna River   
The sense of family is strong in these communities and it is the foundation on what they built.  We learnt about Rumspringa and how if the family member chooses to accept the outside world they are no longer welcome. This is the one thing I don’t understand, if they are strong family people as their religion claims to be how they choose to turn their back on their own children because they make a different choice.
Amish Farm  
They choose not to embrace modern technologies and dress simply but yet some of them are using mobile phones to communicate. Sunday is the day of the week where they spend all day in church and then the women of the house prepare a feast for dinner. We would learn more about that later than night.
Amish Farm  
We finally arrived to a traffic jammed highway in Lancaster and finally pulled into the hotel. We had a couple of hours to settle in before we had to be ready for dinner.   We had a nice meet and greet but it was very brief especially after no afternoon stop I needed the toilet so just wanted to get into the room.
Amish Stuff...   
Got my room ticket and I was right next to the lovely ladies from Sydney but I did notice the bus was still so went out to see if I could get my other off so I could grab out my hair straightener off.  Steve was chatting to some of the people from the hotel so I waited patiently but he turned to me straight away with a “How can I help you beautiful darling”… man he was smooth with a smile and a wink…
Steve and Amish Buggy  
I just said I wanted to grab off the bag so I could grab out my straightener and he asked what I was going to do with that..  I said curl my hair for dinner, why want do you want to help? Was my response and surprisingly enough I got a yes I am great at hair…  I said ok see you soon and shouting out my room number as I laughed walking away.
Hershey Farm 
I sorted out myself in the room and realised there wasn’t a suitable power source next to the bed which I need.  So I had to make my way to reception to get hold of Christina and she was still there but talking to our non-talking friend.  It would appear she decided to leave the tour… we still have one of the best bits to come so personally she was nuts.  I did notice on the bus she took a phone call, she was quite loud which was a surprise and it turned out to be a cousin or something so she organised to go stay with them.
waiting for us to enjoy..   
I mentioned it to Christina and she had never had it happened to her but I think she was secretly relieved because she avoided a potentially harsh feedback score. But I mentioned my issue and we had a chat with the front desk and they would organise an extension cord.
The Making of Shoo-fly pie  
I jumped in to shower to smell like a girl again and all I heard was knocking so I had to quickly get out the shower… I think the guy was embarrassed so offered to come back in 10mins. So I finished up and got dressed but gave up trying to curl the hair. Then the guy was back with friends… we got the extension cord sorted and I finished getting ready for our Amish dinner.
The Making of Shoo-fly pie  
I got to sit up the front for once because I was first on the bus thanks to Steve as he somehow manoeuvred that I got on first for a change  woohooo. It was a pretty drive to the Amish dinner experience and we got to see our first Amish buggy.  It was pretty cool.  We got taken around to the back of the restaurant to a special event room. They did a presentation initially on how to make shoo-fly and whoopie pie which are desserts. Shoo-fly is made from treacle and similar ingredients. Whoopie pie is a chocolate style dessert with cream in the middle. The lovely Christina and Linda got to make Shoo-fly pie and I got to take photos…then Roy and Fran did the Whoopie pie.
The Making of Whoopie Pie 
We then got to enjoy a family style meal and I was sitting next to the lovely Cecilia so I got to know her a lot better. She has such a beautiful personality and loves her kids. We really connected that night with lots of girly chatter mixed in with serious chat and fun.
The Making of Whoopie Pie  
We headed upstairs to the gift shop where the other restaurant is … while I get why they put us in the function room but upstairs is a lot more fun…  and noisy I would have preferred to be up there.
Whoopie Pie  
We wandered up there for a while and I had some fun with Postcards...  Intercourse… the town… not the action… giggle… especially when I thought about whom to send it too… LMAO… 
The postcard ...  giggle 
When we got back Christina asked me what I was doing then and I said I don’t know because I had been invited to the bar with the others. So I headed up to the bar but also inviting Cecilia and the rif raf. Ran into the welsh crew while I was there so I decided to join them and we were chatting about how the trip was going then Roy make a remark that I was the only one to get Steve to smile. I said no way that is so not true… but everyone agreed.  I am totally clueless when it comes men aren’t i?
Vodka...  how i have missed you  
Then the vodka hit me like a sledgehammer so I headed off to bed since I was sooo tired.  Caught up on some emailing and fell into a nice deep vodka induced sleep!!!!  

Day 29 - Niagara to Lancaster Pennsylvania

With a very early start it makes for a very bleary eyed and grumpy Eileen. I dragged myself through my morning routine but ended of course not being ready for bag pull. But because I had the other bag with me so I could unload some of the souvenirs I was able to delay doing the hair (which is the longest part of the process) and put it in the cute suitcase.
Sunrise over Niagara Falls 
So I headed off to get some brekkie around 6am…  I do believe that Christina and Steve got a grunt when they said good morning. Maccas for brekkie this morning…  oh hotcakes how I have missed you.
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
Walked back to the hotel and Steve just laughed at my grumpy face. Went back to my room and tried to wake up more even though it was still dark 
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
Finished the hair and sorted some photos and emailed while chatting with my sister. Headed down to take the bag down and snuggle in my corner on the bus and spread out ready for the very long drive!!! We had to be ready so early this morning so we could be the first bus in the customs queue because otherwise we are stuck there for hours. However, someone forgot their duty free receipt and went back for it and it delayed us for about 10mins which made a massive difference.
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
When we pulled up to duty free we collected our purchases but some idiot i.e. me had lost her receipt I think I put it in my suitcase arrggghhh so whatever was left was mine..  sure enough between mine and Roy’s it was easy to work out the missing receipt ones especially with Makeup and chocolate as the purchases.  haha
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
As we drove across the customs bridge it was so pretty as we watched the sun rise. Over the falls and the calmness it was so peaceful and beautiful.  We made our way across the bridge to the customs and sure enough 3 busses in front of us. Christina wasn’t impressed because we had such a long day ahead of us and needed to be quick.
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
So we did a bit of a quick quiz to keep us amused...  I won!!! Woohooo I would have done better if I had read one of the questions better...  dammm that speed reading… oh well I scored one of the photos of the scenery from the helicopter.
Sunrise over Niagara Falls
We waited for at least 45 mins which is not a good thing when you have a truck load of liquid for breakfast, but apparently we would have enough time for the toilet when we passed through the gate. However best laid plans…
Lake Ontario while watching the ducks land - so peaceful 
We got in to a very rude customs man almost makes you scared that they don’t want back in the country. We all filed off and lined up waiting to be allowed back in.  Mine customs man was very cute…very cute…
Random Gun shop in the middle of nowhere 
Then lined up waiting for the toilet…  It was very confusing in there with 2 other busloads still waiting, all of a sudden the mean customs man starts screaming us to get out. He was nuts...  I think something went wrong with one of the Asian tourist busses ahead of us because he was so mad.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
So no toilet break but I was smart enough to get in first on the bus one. While I had all my stuff on my seat which I felt bad about but I couldn’t move it fast enough. Poor Cecilia got her head nearly taken off when we went over a massive bump… but it was kind of funny …  Sorry Cecilia it was kind of cute.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
It was kind of graceful watching the ducks flying into the lake, I just sat there and enjoyed while everyone lined up for the toilet. We went through some pretty little towns as we headed south to Pennsylvania it was so calming and therapeutic in a lot of ways.  The beautiful fall colours were coming through but given our early start I had a snooze on our way to our first stop in Dansville.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
Dansville blah… god I still hate that name! reminded me on “him”. I have to say it was a bit of dive for a major truck stop but with decent toilets and that was the important thing.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
Although someone … not naming any names was influencing me with bad purchases hey Miss Christina…  As we waited at the counter I got introduced to the 5 hour energy boost. OMG they just looked scary.   Although I did ask if I should buy one for Steve and her since they both didn’t drink coffee since he was looking a bit tired because of the early start.  But apparently he doesn’t drink that sort of stuff either.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
I headed outside to one of the rare days that I was on bus relatively early although the Halloween decorations were really good.  To be honest I just wanted to get out of there… the name was too much of a reminder…We headed towards our lunch stop of Williamsport… The fall colours were just amazing but I couldn't seem to sleep.
Dansville - the Halloween Decorations  
As we travelled along the highway and watched the colours whizz by, it caused a major reflective moment.  I am not sure why but I think because of the name… I pondered and wondered about life along with a small teary.  This trip, the experiences that I have had, has forced me to look at my life for the better I would like to think.
The Beautiful Falls colours  
It has made me realise that I need to shake things up and change a lot of things when I get back home. Also reflected on how I have battled with the depression and got myself sorted out emotionally. This is one of the hardest journeys I have done in my life from the black to the blue skies and happiness.  This reflection created this post Interuption to our Normal Viewing
The massive Wegmans at Williamsport 
Finally fell asleep as we crept closer to Williamsport only to be woken up by Vicki taking photos of the fall colours and the valleys that we were starting to see because of the beautiful Susquehanna River.
The massive Wegmans at Williamsport  
We pulled into the Wegmans in Williamsport which was a massive grocery store and food hall.  Can anyone say VEGGIES!!!!  I sat by myself and just enjoyed the by the pound purchase of veggies and chicken oh yeah veggies!!!!  I just enjoyed along with the free Wi-Fi while I chowed down. I enjoyed the exploration of a massive choice of grocery items and made the must needed purchase of a tide pen because guess who needed to deal with a situation on her shirt...  Got to love those stir fry veggies and the mess they make.
the beautiful pumpkin display...  i love all the faces on the pumpkins 
Along with some more chocolate...  giggle whoopsies … Walked back to the bus chatting with the lovely Sandra and Malcolm who also noticed the stains on the shirt. I am so useless sometimes…  arrggghhh Also tried to deal with the stain removal but gave up to do it on the privacy of the bus.  Enjoyed the sunshine, prettiness of the surroundings , took some photos then Steve came back so we could finally head to Amish country. Although he did notice the stains on the shirt, why did he have to notice what a klutz I am? But he did make the comment that I seemed extra snoozy today…  I wondered how he knew that considering I wasn’t on his side of the bus and right up the back. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Major freak out happening

Major freak out ahead.

Some of you may have noticed the posts are getting less and less.  I think I am freaking out…  I am feeling very overwhelmed with the mere thought of having to pack up my life and saying to goodbye to everyone.

I cried all the way home when I said goodbye to mum and dad last weekend because I don’t they realise that I won’t be here when they get back. But did I do that unnecessarily?  Because I am feeling like it is not going to happen. 

I just spend the day with sister on Saturday cleaning out my closest and if it took all day to do that we are in trouble.  What if I don’t get it all sold and sorted as because i really need the money. 

After the car troubles, rego due, having wisdom teeth removed, with a potential broken washing machine along with losing the job it has been tough financially so I need to sell as much as I can before I go so I can pay my bills while I am away while still be able to enjoy San Francisco. 

Being a consultant means I don’t get paid for the time off so things are getting tighter around here.  Also the fact that work really wants me to stay and that is hard to say no to it.  But I don’t want to do that job forever.  While I enjoy it I also find it really frustrating dealing with other peoples cavalier attitudes.

So all in all I am feeling like it isn’t going to happen, the delicate balancing act is feeling like it is toppling.  I am not going to get a job over there or for the company I want because I want it too much. With everyone wanting me to stay will I give in when it comes to the crunch?  Will I miss my sisters too much while I am trying to spend as much time with them as I can before I leave? 

Will I be able to overcome my own insecurities and be able to do this job?  Will I be able to able apply myself enough to do it.  ARRRGGGGHHHHHHHH 

I have managed to keep the demons at bay for a while now and I am feeling like if I let it happen it will take over again...  

Deep breath in and stop the freak out… hopefully maybe…  

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Day 28 - Niagara - Nighttime at the Falls

We headed back to the hotel around 4ish which meant an early arrival for once so I went for a swim to work out the kinks in my shoulder. It was really cool with a whole kid adventure area but the pool was pretty much empty except for Linda and Roy and Christina and Allan so it was nice to chat to them while I relaxed.
How beautiful are these colours over the American Falls
I decided instead of going to find the outlet centres that I would relax and have some dinner in the restaurant. I had planned on eating with Vicki and Kim but because I went swimming I missed them so I joined the Rif Raf and had a cross table conversation with Christina and Steve. We should have just joined the tables although Christina wasn’t really surprised I had ordered steak and veggies. I love my veggies and I think comment was suprise surprise about my dinner choice. 
The Niagara Wheel
We went to meet the bus but I forgot my jacket and decided once waiting outside for a bit that I would go back for it. Thinking that the bus would be along any second so I did a quick dash but it turns out the front desk had the times wrong. 
Niagara by Night 
But we headed on down with lots of laughter and teasing on the bus back to the downtown area.  I walked down with most of the Group but broke away from the main group. This meant I missed the fact that Hilda fell on the steps because it was so dark and I felt horrible because I wasn’t there to make sure she got down safely.
And the big bang begins 
Set the tripod up in a good spot right near the Maid in the Mist entrance and waiting and tested the camera waiting for the fireworks.
How amazing is this? Fireworks over Niagara 
Seriously how often do you get to see Fireworks over Niagara…?  Once in a lifetime so I was not going to miss this. The light show was amazing and gave a beautiful creamy effect to the falls which is not shutter speed related.
The amazing lightshow over Niagara 
The lightshow began and it was so beautiful and jaw dropping from the sheer uniqueness of the experience along with the colours over the falls.
The amazing lightshow over Niagara
It was only a quick 10 minute show so I went off and found the girls and we were going to go on the Ferris wheel. We walked past the bus stop and everyone was there waiting saying that they were tired so they were heading back. It was barely 9pm big pikers. 
The amazing lightshow over Niagara 
I headed up with the girls but I wanted to get some photos of downtown area so the rif raf went off to the Hershey store to buy some kisses I just wish I had asked them to get me more peppermint ones.
The amazing lightshow over Niagara 
Set up the tripod and got some great shots of the downtown area. They came back for me and we headed off to the Ferris wheel which is a similar set up to the Brisbane wheel which is at Southbank. As we waited I stood up the tripod again and got some great shots.
The amazing lightshow over Niagara 
As we waited I started to chat with the girls about their lives and they were part of 5 ladies that had lost their husbands so they travel together once a year and do smaller trips throughout the year.
All gone...  
Also the fact that Hilda is actually scared of heights but they have a pact that they do everything together without question so I was so proud of those girls. To be so brave and still willing to live their lives so to the full was simply fantastic and yes we have kept in touch by letters not email!!!
Downtown Niagara 
We headed back to wait for the shuttle bus and OMG I think we had the craziest driver ever!!!!  He was nuts!!!! 
the Niagara version of the Brisbane Wheel 
Telling about what it is like in the middle of summer and independence day weekend with I think every swear word invented. It was such a long trip back because they have to wait for periods of time at the stops despite the fact no one was around considering it was well after 10. 
There is beautiful in the tackiness 
We finally made it back to our hotel around 11ish but I had some serious photo unloading to do before I went to bed. So 45 mins later I crawled into the shower and bed.. soooooooo tired and had to be up at 5.30am for the 6.15am bag pull… arrrgggghhhhhh 

Day 28 - Niagara - Tabletop, Journey behind Falls and Maid of the mist

Finally the bus came back for us after Christina thought that Steve had lost some of them at the whirlpool because he took so long to get back.  They were probably just having fun…. But schedules must be kept... 
Our first of the view of the falls 
We headed to downtown Niagara where we would be dropped for 2 odd hours for lunch and time to explore. We got our first view of the falls from the ground level. It was beautiful and so busy with a lot people enjoying the beautiful day.
From Tabletop 
I regret not leaving my jacket on the bus because I didn’t really need it. In the sun it was so beautiful a warm and I think I actually ended up with a little bit of sunburn. 
What a awesome view to eat lunch by 
We took the obligatory photos but sat down to enjoy our lunch by the roar of the falls. I got to enjoy it with Kim and Vicki and I really enjoy their company as they are such a nice couple.  I was admiring her beautiful Calvin Klein jacket which she purchased from Macys.
Looking down from the Canadian Horseshoe falls
We decided to go and do the Journey behind the falls which is the walkway behind the falls. The Rif Raf were going to join us as well. I went off to find out how much and how long it takes while Vicki and Kim enjoyed the view. 
Our first view of the Journey behind the falls... just a curtain of water
We ventured on down and thought well what did we just pay $15 for?  We couldn’t see anything except for the hole in the wall and our very sexy yellow spray protectors.
About the Journey behind the falls
Then we walked back and we realised there was a whole other section that we missed when first entered the tunnel. So headed on down to the “viewing” platform and OMG how amazing was that. Although that was why you really needed the yellow slickers. 
View from the Viewing deck how amazing is this view
You were right next to the Canadian Horseshoe falls with the mammoth amount of water falling down and the spray from the water.
Canadian Horseshoe from the Journey behind the Falls viewing area
It made keeping the water off the lens really hard although I had my lens cleaning cloths in my pocket I had to keep on going back into the tunnel to clean them.
What happens when water just won't leave
the lens catches sunflare with grain
But it was so awesome and there were 2 sections there with a covered area and then the out in the open lookout which is where I got the most drenched.
About why Niagara is unique not in size but sheer volume 
But this video gives you an idea of what it was like. 

To be there and feel the spray coming over you was so awesome but hard to photograph because of the continual spray there.
That is Hilda walking down the steps before her little spill down some other steps
but this the main lookout near the main building which houses the Journey behind the falls
We headed back up upstairs and did the souvenir shop but I decided not to indulge. We met back at the picnic area at Table top after taking many more photos.
Heading down to the Maid of the Mist and
overlooking the American falls
We travelled all of about 500 mtrs to the drop off point so we could go down to the Maid of the Mist and then we had about another 1 hour free in Niagara. 
Getting ready to board 
We lined up with the rest of the cattle but they wouldn’t let us put on the poncho in the hand out tent because as soon as you walked outside you got blown away so it was hard to put it on. 
The USA side 
Note to ones self – take off back pack first!!!!!  Don’t try to protect the back pack! Just blows up and makes you more wet.
Lens + Water + Sunflare = Pretty 
I was originally at the front of the boat but it was way too windy so I was having to clean the lens every second. So I dumped the welsh crew at the front and headed to the side of the boat.
All that water mist hence Maid of the Mist 
One of the English couples was so generous in letting me have their space on the rail on the side. That was a much better position and got some great shots and especially of the rainbows caused by the water spray.
OOOHhhh Pretty Rainbows 
I mucked around with the girls who were travelling with their mum and took some photos of them, then they returned the favour.
Just to prove I was there 
One mascara streaked face later and photo op done but what awesome fun. I really enjoyed it and laughed through most of it. 
From the top of the Maid of the Mist area 
Spent some time in the gift shop and got a few last minute gifts of the Canadian fare…  then headed up to explore through Niagara but after being on my feet for almost four hours I really wished I could drop the bag off. But no such luck
War Memorial Downtown Niagara 
I went wandering near the Sheraton and found the Hershey shop… which was chocolate heaven. I made a purchase of Hershey cupcake, chocolate and peppermint kisses which were sooooo yummy that I wished I had purchased more. Live and learn on that one.
Downtown Niagara 
Headed back to the main area of Niagara and ran into more of the group members so they reminded me we only had about 20 mins left before we had to be at the bus.
Downtown Niagara 
I wandered and checked out the various shops in Tackville aka Niagara downtown. 
Downtown Niagara 
Saw the Harley Davidson shop which reminded me of a promise to bring back a motorbike to someone so I took a photo… that is the best I could do. Hahaha
Famous Visitors - Marilyn Monroe 
Headed back to the bus right on time to Christina and Steve waiting for me… once again I was last back and I was actually a minute early and reminded them of that.
Downtown Niagara - the famous (apparently) Rainforest Cafe 
We only travelled 2 mins down to the road to the Duty Free shopping and I could have just walked there. Which had more variety than the other one at the Quebec border but it didn’t have guess bags. Soooo annoying 
Downtown Niagara 
Although I did get my foundation for $40 instead of the $46 that I paid in Vancouver or Tempted to pay $43 in NYC.  
Downtown Niagara 
So I was happy with my purchase and some more chocolate, vodka at someone’s urging. Hehe 
Downtown Niagara 
Downtown Niagara