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Visited New York again today (only the second time since I’ve been here, oops), photos (some taken by my tourist companion, this time a crazy Italian) are here.

Took the train in again, I should mention that they still have real live conductors from whom you can purchase tickets, and who have clippers to punch holes out of your cardboard tickets with. Amazing. Followed up the train with a subway ride, wihch was quite an experience. The subways seem packed, even on a Saturday afternoon. It’s $2 a ride (compared to $1.25 in Toronto), although they at least have modern electronic ticketing systems. The stations are all pretty filthy and run-down looking, and I was surprised (although by now this shouldn’t surprise me) to see that each subway car had a large American flag sticker on it. Just in case you were wondering where they were going, perhaps.

Got to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Met”) and got in free with my IBM card. The Museum is huge — if you actually liked museums you could spend days and days there and not see everything, but I got tired of it after a few hours just wandering the ground floor. One of the first sections you walk through is a huge room full of art from the pacific islands and oceania, one tiny corner of which contains a handful of “Australian” art, all modern-day Aboriginal stuff. They had lots of important looking stuff, including room after room of artists like Picasso, whole Egyptian temples, and so on. After a while it all lost its impression on me.

Escaped from the museum and walked through the Southern end of Central Park. This was the first reasonably warm weekend of the year (about 15°C), so the place was packed. Supposedly it’s an escape from the city, but you can still see the skyscrapers and hear the sirens. Still pretty impressive. The final part on the quick walking tour was Strawberry Fields, complete with floral peace sign, neo-hippies and a guy who shouted “thank-you brother!” every time someone dropped some money in a hat.

After Central Park, walked south down Broadway through Times Square again, which was packed with pedestrians spilling onto the street (I assume) since all the Broadway shows had finished, or were about to start. The cars didn’t seem to mind to much though and just honked on approach, it’s a wonder they don’t have more accidents here.

Took the subway over to the East Village, and walked down Astor Pl looking for somewhere to eat. This is next to the university, and seems to be the freakier end of town. Lots of bars, tattoo parlours (including one labelled “Cappuccino & Tattoo”), and tiny shops selling unexpected things. Also lots of good-looking cheap restaurants, which are definitely lacking in Westchester, and an “Australian Ice-Cream and Chocolate” shop. I didn’t go in, so I can’t tell you what’s so special about Australian ice-cream or chocolate.

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Back in Noo Jork again, after another long drive. It takes 8 or 9 hours to do, but it isn’t as bad as an all-day drive in Australia, because the roads are much better. It’s two or three lane divided freeway the whole way, so you just set cruise control at about 70-75 (did I mention everybody speeds here? it’s the same in Canada) and steer. Much less tiring than driving on Australian roads where you get more traffic, and need to overtake trucks on the other side. Then again, coming home last night needed to enter the freeway at a stop sign, by which I mean you have two lanes of 55mph freeway, and you need to turn right onto it and speed up before someone slams into your rear.

Realised passing through customs into the US that it doesn’t really matter how much fingerprinting, photo-taking and other crap they do at the airport, when anyone can fly into Canada and drive across the border with hardly any hassle.

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After sleeping in, and having Indian for lunch, drove down to Niagara Falls. Pretty exciting, although very cold and wet with all the water thrown up from the waterfall.

Drove up to Niagara on the Lake to get dinner, and buy fudge from a shop that sadly turned out to be closed, before returning to view the falls at night. They have some lighting, and it’s a bit more impressive than it looks in the photos, but probably not worth waiting around for.

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Took the subway into town, and spent most of the day walking around. Also ran into the St Patricks day parade, curiously not on St Patricks day.

Ended up in Chinatown around lunchtime, and ate in a dirt cheap foodcourt. Here we bought food from a middle-aged Malaysian man, who asked us what part of the states we were from. Turned out he’d lived in Rio and spoke Portuguese, but was an Australian citizen and had most of his family in Perth. Given that the guy travelling with me was Brazilian, this was quite a coincidence. Apparently he was living in Toronto because he loved it so much.

Had Korean for dinner… the Asian food continues.

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Toured around downtown Toronto, but mostly in the car because it was cold (well, below freezing). Took lots of photos anyway. Japanese for lunch, Thai for dinner means I’m catching up with all the good Asian food you just don’t get in Westchester.

Also, they do things a bit more like us here. Less channels on the TV, less rampant commercialism, less funny traffic lights. The city reminds me a lot of Melbourne, it has trams and it’s spread out over a large area, so there aren’t many big high rises in the centre of town. And there are long streets with shops on both sides and neverending traffic jams.

They do have funny liquor laws here. You can only buy alchohol from one government outlet: the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), so there are no bottle shops or anything like that. But then they have a lower drinking age than the US (where you can buy it in supermarkets, but only after midday)!

Speaking of alcohol, had home made tiramisu for dinner, along with a chocolate martini (vodka and creme cacao, shaken up with ice). Yum!

Canadia

Got up hella early and spent most of the day driving. Going west and then north around the lakes region we ran into some nasty weather with light snow (“flurries”), and strong winds, which meant that snow was drifting across the road… at some places the fast lane was unusable, and the traffic was reduced to one lane, which meant lots of getting stuck around trucks, and being overtaken by crazy trucks.

Also, I should mention the way the speed limit works here. Everyone does five to ten miles per hour over the limit, and the cops don’t care (they give you speeding tickets once you get over about 80, apparently). When the snow got really nasty the traffic slowed down to the speed limit.

Made it to Toronto in the evening and went out for great Chinese food.