I donít like clichťs but wonít pontificate. I have been very lucky in the number of places I have seen but this trip taking in Iceland, Canada and America was always likely to be different and enticing and certainly became one of my most eagerly awaited trips. It was going to be the trip of a lifetime.
Its genesis came from meeting my cousins last year for the first time in many years. It was they who had introduced me to India in 1986 and twenty-eight years later, having moved from Madras, where I met them all those years ago, to Michigan, I was delighted to accept their kind invitation to stay with them once again. After the usual Ė no, probably more Ė loads of planning, the trip would incorporate my first visit to Canada and my third visit to America after a gap of over twenty years. Iceland featured after my refusal to spend over £500 in taxes and an exceptional deal to fly into Toronto and out of New York for just under £400. 80% of which was tax... Having not fancied an hourís transfer in Reykjavik, a study of the schedules and Icelandairís allowing a generous amount of time to be spent in their country at no additional fare charge meant that I decided to spend a day and a half there.

Friday 28 February
There was much excitement in the office as I was not alone in noticing on the news that the Northern Lights have been seen in Gloucestershire. My God, Iím in the next county along and it caused amusement in the office and they told me that it might have been unnecessary for me to travel to Iceland to witness this phenomenon. I spent the whole of the three hour, evening flight looking out from my window seat but with no success. The Icelandic Northern Lights forecast had not been especially hopeful but I knew that I had a second chance on a guided tour the next day. Well, it wasnít the next day as I only reached the Park Inn at 1.30 am on the 1st March but there was a benefit to checking in so late as I had a fantastic view from my very large room.

Saturday 1 March
I would like to start by thanking two Ingas at Reykjavik Excursions, one of, I believe, Icelandís largest employers. Inga Guomundsdottir had kindly booked me on three excursions and arranged transport to and from Keflavik Airport and all the arrangements went extremely smoothly. Inga Runa Guojonsdottir had given me lessons in Icelandic name formation and also Northern Lights forecasts so I am grateful to both ladies as well as being impressed by the large number of excellent tours Ė which include pick-ups from many Reykjavik hotels and guest houses Ė at excellent prices.
Competition in Iceland has meant that prices, even to a parsimonious soul like me, seem much more reasonable than when I last visited the country in 1987. On that occasion, I was so alarmed at the food and drink prices that I was grateful for the duty-free whisky I had with me. Whatever happened one night I cannot remember but it turned out to be one of the very rare occasions when I felt so totally dreadful the next morning that I wondered if I would make the flight. A lesson learnt but the food and drink prices these days seem to be cheaper than in 1987 so no such repeat of the last trip...
I had an hour and a half to explore Icelandís capital, Reykjavik, and remembered some of the places from 1987 which must have been a minor miracle considering my condition on that occasion! The first tour on this trip was a visit to the Golden Circle which takes in Icelandís famous geysir, Strokkur, the magnificent waterfalls at Gulfoss and the enchanting Pingvellir National Park, around half an hour from Reykjavik. The trip takes you through barren land, snowy land, volcanic ground and at times was pretty cold. Icelandic volcanoes filled us travel agents with dread after one erupted two to three years ago causing widespread misery to air travellers but the one we saw has been dormant for many, many years.
Strokkur at Geysir is a remarkable spectacle. Spouting and bubbling before erupting every few minutes, it dwarfs the other, smaller geysirs when erupting feet into the air. A little bit of patience is required for photography and I wasnít helped by the batteries in my assortment of cameras losing their charge quickly possibly due to the cold weather. Further down the road, Gulfoss has become one of the most visited sights in Iceland and certainly one of the most photographed. I also managed to see the rainbow over the falls and walked as far as possible to the ledge. It wasnít especially easy as the paths had a load of ice covering them and the best way was to avoid the paths and walk on the grass verges whilst still using the ropes down.
After a quick stop at Pingvellir with its impressive array of mountains and lake, arrival back in Reykjavik was around 6.15pm and, after a reasonable Chinese meal at Nings, I was off again at 8.30pm in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights. The morning forecast hadnít been hopeful and the evening one even less so, so maybe I should have crossed the border from Wiltshire to Gloucestershire. No-one can predict nature and itís never good to go along with either hopes which are too high or low so I did just keep my fingers crossed. Cloudless nights are a necessity and, although the more scientific points left me a bit cold as did the weather, city lights arenít greatly helpful either so we were taken into down a dirt track into a field en route to Pingvellir and there they were. And what a magical experience. I had read some instructions on how to photograph the Aurora Borealis and so decided that a tripod was a must and was greatly pleased with my efforts. It was amazing how much more the camera saw than the human eye and I returned just before midnight after a truly wonderful day.

Sunday 2 March
The last part of my Icelandic visit was a trip en route to Keflavik Airport to the geothermal baths at The Blue Lagoon. Iím sure that I have no idea what the moon looks like but the barren, craggy area with steam pouring out from The Blue lagoon makes this look like one of travelís more bizarre experiences.
Itís a popular place too. Once you get used to leaving the changing rooms and going out in the cold before reaching the waters, it turns out to be a most pleasurable experience and I spent almost an hour in the waters. I hope that no-one was watching me too closely setting up my self-timer and finding a ledge on which to place the camera but I suppose I could have asked someone to take a photograph. The onward buses were busy as was the airport with the vast majority of Icelandair flights taking off around 5 pm for North American destinations.
The flight to Toronto took just under six hours and I was fortunate again to get an emergency exit window seat which made the journey comfortable and arrival in Toronto was on time at 6 pm. I had decided against the public transport trip into Toronto Ė sorry but I wasnít prepared to spend around £45 on a taxi Ė so stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Mississauga who offered a shuttle service to the hotel. After a decent meal of fish and chips, it was time to go to bed as a busy day the following day loomed.

Monday 3 March
After not sleeping especially well, I gave up the struggle and got up early enough to take an 8.15 am shuttle to the airport which turned out well as I had a bit of a fiasco in buying a token for the three modes of transport into the city. It couldnít be bought on the bus so, after finding that the currency exchange sold the tokens, I then gave in the receipt which wasnít accepted. After returning to the currency exchange, it was pointed out that, what I thought had been change, actually included the token... So, it was the third bus which I eventually caught but I still had ample time to see a decent amount of the city.
I had pre-booked a tour of the CN Tower which was, at one stage, the worldís tallest building. From the city, its height is not immediately obvious and it certainly doesnít appear to dwarf other buildings. Once by it, however, its height becomes apparent and the journey to the observation deck and restaurant takes just under a minute. The views are magnificent and it was a damn sight warmer inside than it was out. Iíd wondered why the receptionist at the hotel was shivering and, when I went out, I noticed that it was cold but it was only when I was back inside that I noticed a sign saying Ė17 degrees. Fahrenheit. Ė27 degrees centigrade. Itís a long time since I have felt as cold.
Lower down, I ventured around Toronto and took the very basic but fun ferry to the Toronto islands. It only takes around ten minutes each way and the islands offer spectacular view of the city. The ferry cut its way through the ice of Lake Ontario but I did find find it desperately cold despite the ferry manís comforting words ď this ainít cold, buddy.Ē I was envious of the passengers coming into the Billy Bishop Airport who would have had magnificent views of the city just before their arrival at this very convenient airport. I warmed up inside the waiting room before making my way back to the Toronto Coach Terminal in Bay Street from where I took a Coach Canada coach to Niagara Falls arriving at the Fallsview Casino at 7 pm. I had booked into the Comfort Inn Fallsview which was both convenient and pleasant with a nice warm room and, after a dish of lasagne in My Cousin Vinnyís next door, I took my camera out to take spectacular photos of the illuminated Niagara Falls.
People may remember seeing photos at the beginning of January showing Niagara Falls frozen and, trust me, it is still very much frozen as I write. Kasi, my cousin Sitaís husband, said later that this is the coldest of the thirty winters he has experienced in North America and Sita also said that she hadnít seen as much ice in her six previous visits to Niagara. The Niagara river was pretty much frozen and Sita said the following day that the falls were letting through between a third to a quarter of its normal volume of water. The evening views were nonetheless marvellous but the problems with the batteries continued and even two minutes without gloves on made my hands cold for the following hour.

Tuesday 4 March
Up early to ring England, I was out quite early to take the Journey behind the Falls. Due to the extreme weather conditions even less of the tour is open but, for all that, it was fun walking through the tunnels and looking out of the window to see the waters falling and lots of stalagmites and stalactites outside the window.
The next visit was to the Skylon Tower, a smaller version of the CN Tower in style and, whilst damn cold and slippery on the observation deck, the views were stunning and I would highly recommend a visit. Okay, at both towers, there are photographers taking what I suppose turned out to be daft photos but, not feeling photogenic, I wasnít tempted into looking at the end results in either place. For views, though, both are excellent ideas to consider. I was kindly allowed to check out a little bit later at the Comfort Inn Fallsview but then traipsed about the town trying to find the restaurant where I would meet Sita and Kasi. We did find each other and enjoyed a terrific lunch in the Welcome Centreís Emerald restaurant which had wonderful views of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.
Our journey back took us through the quaint Niagara-on-the-Lake and close to Toronto via the Queen Elizabeth Way ( QEW ). Maybe I shouldnít admit to it but the previous afternoon Iíd seen this QEW mentioned on signs and assumed Ė wrongly, of course Ė that it was the Canadian way of spelling queue especially as, at the time, we were indeed stuck in the rush hour... Itís a plenty long enough drive and I was tremendously grateful for their kindness in offering to pick me up.
The border crossing into America is at Windsor and I have to say that I got a bit jumpy at the prospect. Not that I had anything to hide, I had an ESTA Ė which Iím still not entirely sure that people coming in by land necessarily need but, anyway, I felt better having potentially too much than too little Ė but it wasnít an experience which I enjoyed although Sita later told me that it was easy, the officials were fine and, most pertinently, I was allowed in. All I would say is that the girl who did let me in was very much nicer after telling me the good news but the general demeanour of the immigration officials is Ė possibly out of necessity Ė brusque and, well, I was glad when we got out. It probably could be a lot worse and maybe I was too easily cowed. All the officials have their surnames emblazoned on their uniforms so I was quite surprised when Iím sure that the girl who let me through, Sexton, called me Andrew.
Sita and Kasi live in Troy, Michigan in a wonderful house and Sitaís father has now joined them and I am always pleased to see him. Their house is in a desirable area of Troy and there is still a lot of snow about but it didnít feel quite as cold as Canada so maybe the worst is over.

Wednesday 5 March
Kasi works long hours as does Sita and with Dad being an early riser, the only other inhabitant of the house, thinking that he had done well to struggle downstairs at 8.30 am, was significantly the latest arrival of the day...
Kasi kindly took me to the main mall about a mile from their home and left me there to shop. I didnít tell him that I am a very good window shopper but, anyway, I didnít spend long there as I really wanted a telephone card and it proved elusive having been directed to a computer shop. What I will say, though, is that I have heard a lot about the American levels of service and, okay, maybe Iím a bit long in the tooth and find it a bit disconcerting but I am very happy to say that it is indeed excellent and very, very friendly.
And, if anyone has been kind enough to read about my other trips and remembers my woeful lack of direction, I do have to say that America might, just might be the ideal place for me to improve my record. There is a logic to the highways and they go in a north to south or east to west direction and, although I didn't entirely fathom it out, there is sense in it. Okay, I found the Coolidge Highway but had no idea of whether I was heading north or south from the directions given to me by the chap at the computer shop but, having gone south and suspected it wasnít right, I went north and duly found it. Straight roads will give me a better chance but letís see what New York holds for my instinct. Iím afraid these days that I take my gut feeling and go in the other direction and itís had a very slightly better success rate.
Success of another nature was finding a store and buying the card but telephone booths are not common but I shall just have to keep my fingers crossed that I can, in the first instance, find one and then, secondly, cope with the instructions. Another new one on me was being asked if I wanted to make a donation to some doubtless worthy organisation when I paid for a bottle of lemonade and crisps in a supermarket. It might have been to save a lemur or whale but, anyway, I dutifully gave a dollar and was wished a great day.
I had a quiet afternoon and recharged my batteries: physically and the camera ones which still donít work ideally but I am grateful to have taken so many good photos.

Thursday 6 March
After a quiet morning, all of us went a little way into Michigan to see, wait for it, Bavaria... A place called Frankenmuth and, whilst curious when told beforehand about it, I found it charming and a very good likeness to some of the Bavarian towns I have seen previously. As Iím going there over Easter, it is something further to look forward to.
There is a vast Christmas shop which sells all kinds of gifts and is a remarkable place. It is open on 361 days a year but, yes, youíve guessed it, one of the four closed days is Christmas Day quite understandably. There is a bridge in Frankenmuth which resembles, to a degree, the Kapellbrucke in Lucerne Ė okay, thatís Switzerland and not Bavaria Ė and a remarkable fudge shop where you can at times watch how the product is made. We had a wonderful meal in the Bavarian Inn with Bavarian style waiters and waitresses serving. I rather let the side down by being the only non-vegetarian but the renowned Frankenmuth chicken was sublime and an enormous feast. Cartons were even later provided so that the food not eaten could be taken away and eaten at home later. It was a lovely afternoon and the drive from Troy took around an hour.
With an early morning beckoning, I packed up on our return and will be sorry to leave. Sita, her father and Kasi have all been wonderful and, without their invitation to come over, it is very safe to say that I would not be enjoying this dream holiday.

Friday 7 March
Kasi kindly took me to Detroit Airport and the journey took around forty-five minutes. All the formalities went comparatively smoothly and the flight was on time which was a relief as Google had suggested that this flight has a record of being around half an hour late. Not today, fortunately. I flew into Baltimore simply because, whilst I had booked into the Radisson at National Airport, the fares are around four times more expensive and there was little chance of my paying around £250 for a one-way ticket so Baltimore it was. For £70.
I took the MARC train into Washington DCís Union Station and coped well with buying a metro card and finding my way to Crystal City where the Radisson is situated. The metro system seems easy to understand and fares are reasonably priced. The Radisson is very decent: friendly staff Ė which didnít surprise me: I had expected to find America and Canada friendly and that certainly has been the case Ė and a very comfortable room. I didnít stay in it long as I wanted to make good use of my limited time so was back on the metro Ė sorry, should I call it the Subway? Ė and went straight to Arlington Cemetery which is a vast and remarkable place. I had done my research on President Kennedy and naturally visited his and his familyís final resting place. The vastness of the cemetery is quite moving but it also offers excellent views over Americaís capital.
I had expected Washington to be quite a highlight and would say that, of all the capital cities I have visited, it ranks in the top three with London and Paris. Which one is favourite is hard to say but Washington is right up there amongst the best: the classical architecture, the grandeur of the buildings, the wide roads, the friendliness and helpfulness of the people all combined to make my short time there memorable. I digress, of course, and later walked from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial and also visited other sites along the National Mall including the simple but powerful Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the more dramatic Korean War Memorial.
I enjoyed a steak in Crystal City and, okay, it was slightly slow in coming but I was impressed when the wine was given to me free because of it. I told the guy not to do so but he insisted so I felt better for leaving a larger than expected tip. I went back in to the capital to take night shots of the imposing Capitol Ė what a remarkable place Ė and the Washington Monument which is sadly not presently accessible due to repair work after an earthquake. Somehow, I had expected it to be more imposing: itís high but only became apparent to me when I was standing underneath it. Washingtonís symmetry is quite something and everything which I had hoped for and anticipated about it has been realised.

Saturday 8 March
Oh God, is my deafness that bad or was 5.45 am just a bad time to hear bells ringing intermittently outside in the corridor? A fire alarm... I did everything that people are expected not to do: I ignored it preferring to think it was a technical fault, waited to see if others moved and finally hauled myself out of my pit and packed all the vital necessities into my backpack before making my way downstairs. Give me my due, I didnít use the lift but was met by two people returning to their rooms telling me not to bother going further down as everyone had been told to go back to their rooms. I do actually take fires seriously having been in one at school but, somehow, this time it didnít feel warm and a sixth sense told me that there was no need to panic. I returned to find one poor soul slumped outside her room with apparent exhaustion. Well, thatís how it appeared: maybe, having walked up seven flights of stairs, the final hurdle of putting the key card in the door proved beyond her. Fire was to be a topic which cropped up later in the day.
First stop was Ford's Theatre which houses an impressive museum to the presidency of Abraham Lincoln who had been assassinated in the theatre on April 14th, 1865. The museum is impressive and rangers give a talk about the theatre's history. Tickets are limited so, like many other Washington places of interest, I had booked early to have my place guaranteed. Very worthwhile it was too and, as I had left in good time to reach for my 10am tour, I was even allowed in early.
The next stop was an unscheduled one but one which Sita had recommended. With the Washington Monument closed, the Post Office Tower affords good views and I rather stumbled upon it so went up and admired the bells towards the top. Iím not sure that they would want me as one of their ringers, mind you, although I have shown a bit of progress at All Saints in Lydiard Millicent which isnít quite the metropolis which Washington is.
I briefly saw The White House. Itís a shame that, whilst tours are available, they are not easy at all to book at this time for British visitors. I tried both avenues in advance having heard that the tours had been started up again but to no avail. Never mind. Americans can, with several months advance notice, make the trip but, if nothing else, I have at least seen the place.
The next stop was undoubtedly the most fascinating: the U.S Capitol. Itís wonderful that the general public can see a little bit of this fantastic building. Yes, Iíve read that Dan Brown book too but that wasnít the reason for wanting to go. The free tours are best booked in advance and start with a short film before a guided tour which took in the remarkable Rotunda, the old courtroom and the former House of Representatives. Our guide might have been a bit OTT but she was nothing but genial and informative and, when she asked where everyone was from, a lot of the tour was directed with information about the British as I was the sole British visitor in our group. Yes, they burned it down and I claimed to remember it well and promised to behave myself this time. By the way, it was in 1812 that the British torched it. I managed also to visit the equally remarkable Library of Congress which, with its many artefacts and decorative ceilings, is also a must and I would recommend anyone to make the effort to reserve online a trip to the Capitol.
I had become distracted beforehand with so much of interest that I rather rushed in to the Visitor Centre. Naturally, there was a lot of security but I recommended to the security guard who had the misfortune of dealing with me that he had better have a lie-down afterwards. It took five times to get me through: coins in my pocket, watch on my wrist, further coins in a money bag but he bore it stoically but was as relieved as I was when the sensor finally didn't bleep and I was allowed through.
The final stop on my programme was the Holocaust Museum. Again, numbers were limited per visit so I booked it in advance and was pleased to have done so given the queues. Set over four floors, it gives a history of the Third Reich, the diaspora of the Jewish people and where they settled with numbers all over the world before going on to World War II and chronicling the Third Reichís aim of destroying all Jews. Lots of photos, some presumably rare film and artefacts such as shoes stolen from the Jews in the various camps and the whole place is moving. There is even a train carriage of the type used to ferry the Jews to the camps.
One little obstacle in Washington is the dearth of public telephone boxes. I enjoy a daily natter and a Pay as you Go arrangement isnít the most reasonable way of calling home so I ended up going to National Airport to make the call. It is only one stop to Crystal City on the metro but I enjoyed the walk back to the hotel. After returning to the same restaurant, I was back in the centre in the evening for some more photos. The thing which struck me most is how quiet the streets were and I donít think that I missed any red alerts...

Sunday 9 March
I was grateful to Sita telling me that the clocks went forward during the night. I didnít hear much mentioned about it elsewhere so ran the very real possibility of missing the 9.30 am Megabus to New York. I was actually the first to book on to this bus and paid the nominal amount of US$2.25 for the four and a half hour trip, most of which was tax. Booking fees or ďconvenience feesĒ Ė I suppose it amounts to the same thing Ė but it was nonetheless a real bargain.
I probably, though, plonked myself in the wrong seat as there was so little legroom and, at times, with the bus full, it was quite uncomfortable but never mind, I got there. Having been up early, I had a kip on the bus which was scheduled to stop in Baltimore. If it did, I didnít see it and slept through it but I have a feeling that it didnít. Arrival in New York was on time and dropped off in the heart of Manhattan. This had been my one concern as, for the life of me, I hadnít been able to fathom out the subway system map before I left and, rather than risk getting lost, I decided to take the nearest train on 28th Street. I managed to get a metro card easily: well, Iíd watched a Chinese girl in front of me buy one and remembered enough to get mine and actually the journey to Marcy Avenue where I was putting up was less complicated than I had imagined.
I stayed on Broadway. Hah, not the Broadway but one on the other side of the river in Brooklyn and, well, letís be polite and just say that Iíve seen far more salubrious areas. The B Hotel & Hostel, where I stayed, seems to be the most modern building in the area and is clean and possibly fairly recently refurbished. I hadnít paid much for it and had my own room but it was very small and very simple but, if Iíd wanted more, I could have paid more. Much more and the area is convenient for Manhattan and JFK Airport. I have, though, felt more comfortable and this part of Brooklyn has probably seen better days.
I was out fairly soon afterwards for the evening Statue of Liberty tour and again found my way comparatively easily... I had a decent meal in an Irish pub close to the South Street Seaport before taking the New York Water Taxi trip which went to the Statue of Liberty as well as showing other sights including Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan in general. It lasted an hour and was very good and New York at night was a wonderful spectacle.
Brooklyn at night wasnít quite the same. The train runs outside the hostel and, with no ceilings to the rooms but, yes, a roof above us, it was an interesting experience. Every noise could be heard, lights could be seen but generally I didnít sleep too badly. I was more bothered by having only one pillow but made makeshift arrangements for the second night.

Monday 10 March
Up at 7.30 am, I went out with good intentions of collecting my pre-paid hop on, hop off tour ticket with GoNYC tours but, as usual, once moving, I stayed moving and even a slight smattering of snow in Brooklyn didnít deter me. Itís funny, some people might say odd but one of the highlights of my stay was walking across Williamsburg Bridge and into Manhattan. It was a bit cold but the views were good and it was exciting.
I walked up Broadway Ė in Manhattan Ė and on to Union Square and eventually to the Empire State Building which I had pre-booked. The queues, being March, werenít daunting and, after ample standing around and security checks, I took the trip to the 80th floor quite comfortably. It took quite a bit longer to take a further lift Ė sorry, elevator Ė to the 86th floor and the views were staggering. I didnít get to Central Park unfortunately but could see it and the Chrysler Building which is another landmark and highly distinctive. Yes, it was definitely worth a visit and most enjoyable.
These New York streets, being essentially straight, have not flummoxed me as much as I had expected. Yes, itís an awesome sight looking up at the plethora of skyscrapers and, yes, I did get totally befuddled at times but I do like the layout of the city. Washington and New York are contrasting cities and, whilst I will always prefer Washington, New York was nothing if not interesting. I walked back to the 9/11 Memorial but, with a lot of construction going on, it wasnít the most relaxing area. I will admit that one aspect of America bothered me. I expected people to be friendly and indeed they were. Fun too. Very polite also in most cases which was something I hadnít necessarily expected but this part of Lower Manhattan was not only busy but the first area where I didnít feel quite as relaxed. The queues into the memorial were long so I didnít linger and returned to the hostel as I had an evening bus tour.
I went to Times Square which is a remarkable place. Okay, I prefer older places but this vastly modern area with dazzling lights and vast skyscrapers, acts including Superman and people dressed up as Lady Liberty was quite something. I ate in another Irish pub before joining the night tour which went past the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn among other areas and the hour and a half trip was memorable and I lingered afterwards to buy further souvenirs and take photos and was back in the room at 9.45pm.

Tuesday 11 March
Itís my last day of a fantastic trip and, after a night of fewer corridor lights but someone snoring well, I was on my way to see the Statue of Liberty. My luck ran out with the subway and I made a complete mess of getting from Marcy Avenue to South Ferry for the Battery Park where the Statue Cruises leave from. All over getting off one stop too far and actually paying again as the station I got off didnít have a route between platforms.
There was a formidable amount of security both at Battery Park and on Liberty Island before being allowed through. I suppose that itís always a popular attraction but I was surprised at the number of people which the ferry took and then disgorged at both Liberty Island and Ellis Island on the way back. I think it had good intentions of sticking to a schedule but, looking at the numbers, I wasnít surprised that it was late.
The views of the island and of Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey are indeed dramatic and the trip is good value. I had come across the official Statue Cruises website and paid just US$21 which included entrance to the Crown. My boss had said that the statue is not as tall as you might expect but I was nonetheless impressed. The steps to the pedestal are quite wide but onwards and upwards to the Crown was pretty claustrophobic. One wag suggested the best way down was to slide but it would be quite a drop if allowed and unsuccessful... It was slightly unnerving but ultimately worthwhile. I hadnít realised how small it is in the Crown and no wonder places are very limited. Again, I had booked well in advance. Around five or six of us were at the top and it was fun looking out even if fitting in to get the best views wasnít particularly easy.
One thing irritated me, though. I am sure that I had read that backpacks arenít allowed into the Crown and with good reason given the cramped staircase up but I am equally sure that it was stated that there was no luggage storage available. I was a bit miffed, having reluctantly left my laptop at the hostel as safely as possible, to find that there are a good number of lockers within the statue. Never mind, it was still safe when I returned. My trip back was slightly less eventful and fraught than the one down but, after packing and checking out of the hostel at 5 pm having paid for the third night rather than have to leave at 11 am, I still carelessly went wrong getting to JFK Airport for the Icelandair flight home.
The flight to Reykjavik took just five hours and, although I had been promised an emergency exit seat, the check-in clerk had misread the seat map. It seems to happen quite a lot but, anyway, Icelandair's legroom is pretty generous and the only painful experience in trying to get comfortable was a cracked heal and blister from a lot of walking. But it was very much worth it and arrival back at Heathrow was slightly early.
So, one of my greatest holidays finished. It really was terrific and I have many, many memories and I can safely say that it was a dream come true and an ambition realised. Not one burger...
Strokkur, Iceland's famous geysir, in action
    Gulfoss, one of the most photographed areas of Iceland     A dream realised. The Northern Lights seen from an Icelandic field.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal baths near Keflavik Airport, Iceland     The CN Tower's shadow looms over Toronto beneath its observation deck
    The ice-breaking route from the Toronto Islands to the city
Niagara. The Canadian Horseshoe Falls at night     The view behind the Niagara Falls     View from the Skylon Tower of the American Falls and Rainbow Bridge at Niagara
Is it Bavaria? In fact, it's Frankenmuth in Michigan.     Alongside a statue of     The hugely impressive Capitol at night
Inside the equally impressive Library of Congress, Washington     Excellent and free views are available from the Old Post Office in between Freedom Plaza and the Capitol in Washington     The Flatiron Building, New York. One of my favourite buildings.
View over Manhattan from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, New York
    Lady Liberty surveys all in front of her.
    Fitting inside the Statue of Liberty's Crown was an interesting experience.