It was a beautiful day for our clearing up day, but cold at first. Breakfast, of pancakes, was eaten between doing the washing, the website, and saying goodbye to John and Bev.
It was warm enough to sit outside with our tea/coffee before leaving late morning. Everywhere looked lovely as we made our way to Rolling View State Recreation Area to camp.
We couldn’t have hoped for anything nicer for our last day. We had a superb view down to Falls Lake, and all the trees were in their best spring green The wild wisteria on the way was overwhelming.
The sun was wonderfully warm, and there was no-one else anywhere near us! We had lunch with our delightful view and tried to get sorted – always difficult. It’s like getting a quart into a pint pot as we try to pack! We were both able to have showers here, and tried to enjoy our idyllic situation as much as the clearing up would allow.
We followed this by a fantastic fire – the loveliest evening we have had. Absolute peace and quiet. We revelled in this enchanting environment and came in reluctantly to finish packing.
Monday 18th April 9 miles
Up about 6.30. fine day. Left at 8 o’clock for North Side storage. Taxi arrived 8.45, black driver, on phone most of time. Confusion as always for where to book in, but all went smoothly. Both selected for extra check. Small plane with just one stewardess. Good visibility mostly, up very indented coast to New York. Not very pleasant descent.
Warm in New York. Trees and blossom just coming out, lots of forsythia, daffs and tulips.
Taxi to Best Western President Hotel in Manhattan - $55. Journey to hotel seemed just like anywhere until we reached Manhattan.
Walked out – Adrian’s leg played up. Saw open top tour bus, and decided to take 2 day ticket. Set off immediately on 2½ hour tour of Downtown. Passed many familiar names and sites – starting at Times Square, through Greenwich Village, Soho, China Town, saw Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Central Park.
Back to hotel after buying tonic and lemon in Deli – had ‘drinks’ before meal in adjacent Vietnamese restaurant – my prawn dish ok, Adrian’s beef dish too spicy.
Got more clothes, then set off for 2 hour Night tour on top of bus. Pretty cold! Sights looked good lit up. Crossed Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn and back.
Tuesday 19th April
An absolutely wonderful day!
Woke early to clear blue sky – temp in 80s later. Walked out and decided to catch the normal tour bus, as the fast one didn’t leave until 11.00. It was slow, but the guide was good.
We got off at what turned out to be Winston Churchill Square – unpretentious but pleasant spot. Met a really nice lady who helped us with directions. She saw Adrian’s Mardi Gras T shirt, and said that she used to love going to the Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Wandered on through Greenwich Village and Soho – all so atmospheric, on this beautiful morning. Bought coffee and cookie from tiny coffee shop, sitting outside on bench with it, watching lady chatting to a man and little pug dog. Walked past area looking like West Side Story.
Got on bus again to Battery Square, to take connecting bus to Brooklyn. Only loos we were told were 2 in Starbucks! Made use of them, came back to board bus, but found we had lost tickets. Anxious time, but lady let us on without them – said that if we take receipt to visitors centre, they will give us new ticket.
Wonderful tour of Brooklyn, with excellent guide Jonathan. He had travelled, and had lived in Australia for 9 years, until recently. Had twin brother who had run a health studio in twin towers, but escaped on that day (Sep 11th) – a dreadfully worrying time for Jonathan, who was in Australia then.
We were on open top bus – apparently first time they had tried this for Brooklyn tour. Saw Nursery School on roof of skyscraper! Slow journey – much traffic. Stopped at Fulton Landing – good views back to Manhattan and Brooklyn bridge. Many wedding photo shots here.
Drove through Brooklyn Heights and round outside of Botanic Gardens (had originally wanted to visit here, but impossible now with no tickets, and probably wouldn’t get on another bus afterwards anyway.)
Stopped to buy cheesecake in Juniors - obviously a well known place – also a loo in here (very few in NY.) Ate cheesecake for late lunch!
Back over Manhattan Bridge and got off at City Hall. Walked down to Seaport – very atmospheric – more photos, looking across to Brooklyn. Bought tickets from a ticket booth for ‘Little Women’ for tonight.
Walked up through Wall Street to delightful Trinity Church – red and yellow tulips and blossom in graveyard.
Visited Ground Zero site – overwhelming feeling of actually being here. Went into emotive St Paul’s Chapel (1764), which had withstood Sept 11th, and was a sanctuary (and sleeping place) for rescuers then.
Took metro back to Times Square, got back to hotel room 5 o’clock.
Had a glass of wine and got ready to leave for evening. Tried bus ticket place, but told to come back tomorrow, when senior supervisor is there.
Had superb meal in ‘Latitudes’ – large glass wine, excellent soup, salad, chicken and rice - $12.95 each.
Had front row seats for ‘Little Women’ at Virginia Theatre - really wonderful and moving show, brilliantly acted.
Came out 9.30 – still 70ºF.
Walked around amongst crowds, had beer in Times Square Brewery and got back exhausted at 11 o’clock! Phew! A wonderful day!
Wednesday 20th April
We left at 9.45 on a warm and humid day. First stop was the bus tour visitors centre to get our ticket renewed, which we did successfully.
We waited for bus for the ‘Uptown’ tour, chatting to couple from Sunderland while we were waiting.
The bus left at about 10.15. The day was partly cloudy, but everyone was surprised when a few drops rain fell – luckily very short lived, and the day remained really warm.
We passed the Lincoln Centre, a large smart block, where the film West Side Story was filmed, when the area was old tenements, more like we had seen yesterday.
The blossom looked lovely again – our guide told us that they call it ‘mock pear’, and that it only lasts a week, so we are really lucky.
We passed the Dakota building, where John Lennon had lived, and where he was shot. The part of Central Park opposite is called Strawberry Fields, and money was donated by Yoko Ono, to rejuvenate this part of the park in 1985, in memory of John.
The bus continued up West Central Park, passing the cathedral, and then the large monument of Grants Tomb, with a view of the Hudson River. Then it was on through Haarlem, an area which has been much improved in recent years. The Dutch had moved to this area, after the British had arrived at the southern end of the island and driven them out.
We came back down 5th Avenue, on the eastern side of Central Park, passing ‘Museum Mile’, but we got off at the stop called ‘Zoo’ (although we didn’t see it).
We wandered into the park, buying a hot dog and pretzel (which was nothing to write home about). The park was busy, with people of all kinds enjoying it, young and old. We wandered on to the ‘Boathouse’, where we ate a chicken salad roll and chips. We thought how much like Hyde Park, Central Park is.
We liked the Alice in Wonderland statue, and children were enjoying clambering up it. At Belvedere Castle, several birders were excited to see a tiny prairie warbler in a tree.
We diverted now to the Museum of Natural History. This was overwhelmingly vast – we concentrated on seeing the dinosaur section, but even that was far too much to take in. We were amazed at how many different dinosaurs there were – far more than we had realised.
We now had enormous difficulty in getting out of the museum, so saw snippets of various other sections on the way. We finally made it, and returned to Central Park, having had a closer look at the Dakota building.
We wandered through the Strawberry Fields section and back out of the park at Columbus Circus. Central Park had become very run down, and also unsafe in the eighties, but has been cleaned up, and is now really pleasant.
We walked back down 8th Street to our hotel, stopping to look in a couple of food stores and a computer shop, but didn’t buy anything. It was now 5.15, and we were pretty exhausted! A bath and a drink helped to revive us!
We walked out to Ruby Foo’s Chinese restaurant – one of our guides had recommended it as the best Chinese food. It certainly was busy! It served a variety of eastern food, and we opted for sushi, which was good, and we really enjoyed it. We had bought a really expensive beer – crazy prices we thought. The restaurant seemed like Paddington station – really busy, so I suppose the locals liked it. Two girls next to us talked, ate and drank non-stop, which drove Adrian mad!
Our waiter, engaged to an Irish girl, was pleasant, and didn’t try to get us to order too much. We walked around a bit, but then came back to our room for our last night in New York.
Thursday 21st April
We were up at 7.00, packed up and left at 8.30. Handed our luggage in and booked out then walked to Times Square to take the metro to Battery Park.
Got our tickets for Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and joined the queue for the ferry. Got on boat and left at 10.15, having had airport type security check over first.
The sky was blue, and we had a great view of the New York skyline.
We got off at Liberty Island, and walked around, enjoying the views, taking photos, and having coffee (me) and chips. Hard to take in that we were actually at the Statue of Liberty!
Got boat to Ellis Island, and realised that there was a lot to see. Ellis Island was the Immigration centre for all Immigrants who came through New York, between 1892 and 1925 (12 million). The Reception building had been restored and made into a museum. Baggage room first, with lots of exhibits.
On the way outside, came across special John Muir exhibition, which interested us greatly – what a man!
Ate our turkey roll (which we had bought on the way to the metro), sitting outside in the warm sun, enjoying the views to New York and Statue of Liberty. Went back inside, and found that there was loads to see about the immigrants who came to USA through Ellis Island.
Left at 3 o’clock to take the ferry back to Battery Park.
Decided to buy metro ticket, but got on express train, which bypassed the station we wanted to get off at to walk through China Town and Little Italy. Got on train which had pulled into adjacent platform, but this was going same way! (had thought that we might go back a couple of stations to China Town).
Got off at 23rd St and walked to Madison Square, then on to Macy’s (biggest store in world) Made our way through to 8th Ave, and walked through ‘garment area’ - lots of shops selling material.
Returned to ‘Latitudes’, where we had eaten 2 days ago, but not such a success tonight. Had ‘special’ again, but soup was spicy red pepper, and much too hot for us! Rest of meal OK, but second glass of wine cost $7 each! (first glass was included with meal – total price $12.95). Place became crowded with young people (it hadn’t been on Tuesday), with loud rap music playing. Left 6.30 and returned to our hotel and collected our luggage.
Took the 7.25 shuttle to airport.
Trouble free flight home – watched moving film ‘Vera Drake’ by Mike Leigh. Both dozed a bit.
Arrived at Heathrow 10.30. Met by Hil, who drove us home, and spent the day at Hermitage with us. Home to yet another Spring!