New York

The city that never sleeps, so they say, and I can report it is true. When you have two days in New York you need to hit the ground running so we had a meeting on the bus to decide our plan. First thing was to hail a cab from the sidewalk which was a mission in itself with all the traffic, but which only took about 30 seconds because, as you know, those bright yellow cars are like swarms of bees all overrrrr the place. Soon as we sit down, the driver turns on the TV for us to entertain ourselves while he swerves to the left lane, the right lane, the lane that doesn’t exist at all and we bump around in the back seat very glad we don’t have far to go to get to the Staten Island Ferry terminal to catch the free ferry with the swarm of people that are waiting to board the boat. No soonerrrr is the last person over that yellow line and we are off to sail past the Statue of Liberty which is the purpose of this little adventure. There and back in just under an hour and another cab hailed to get us back to Times Square to catch the Hop on Hop off city lights tour over the Brooklyn Bridge to Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho etc. We have got this cab business down to a fine art now, except you have to know which end of the streets you want, ie North or South, or East or West. We totally confused our driver until we said Times Square……..everybody understands that here!!! The night tour was an interesting tour BUT the tourrrr guide for this was a man who informed us he used to be a tax auditor and we think he might have had his head in the figures for too long because, to be honest, he managed to point out a few things which were pretty obvious and he told us about 150 times about the iron buildings that were held together with big bolts and not supporting the building and the buildings with little windows had slaves and there was a staircase to get to the second floor. We couldn’t make out whether the heat had affected him badly that day or this was his usual commentary but by the end of it we didn’t want to hear another thing about those blimmin cast irrrrrrron buildings. Just to torture me further the boss then decided to quiz me on them for the remainder of the evening! To round off the day we went to the lounge here at ourrrrrrr Otel which is right in front of Times Square and we sat there at about 10.30 pm sipping beerrrrrr and wine and having a delicious supperrrrrr looking out at the crystal ball that rings in the New Yearrrrr herrrrre. Now this was amazing – there were thousands and thousands of people still out in the street at 11 pm. Shops still open and the place still humming. In fact we had to walk back a block and it was like trying to swim upstream. I was hanging onto Vern for dear life because I thought he might take the opportunity to make a run for it and leave me here lost in the middle of a sea of people. I didn’t let him!!
So Day 1 successfully navigated and we crashed into bed and slept (unlike the rest of New York I think). We woke to the sound of horns blaring, sirens blaring, construction workers working, traffic humming, and other guests banging their doors. Today we set off again on the Hop on Hop off (thank goodness for this bus with its mediocre guides – today’s said some very, what we would call “un-PC” things and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing). Anyway, off we went with the main aim of getting to the World Trade Centre site. This magnificent monument of north and south pools on the footprints of the Twin Towers is rather emotional to visit. The enormous square pools have water tumbling down from a surround bearing the names of all those who lost their lives in the buildings. The water tumbles down all four sides and onto a huge floor at the base of the pool which then in turn tumbles into a large square black hole in the ground. It is peaceful and beautiful and, as you watch it you can look up to the new World Trade Centre Tower One – Freedom Tower – which stands tall and regal almost guarding the whole site. There are beautiful trees planted around the entire area and people are just standing there in their hundreds rather quietly and you get the sense they are lost in their own thoughts about that dreadful day when a handful of men changed our world with their despicable actions. Those who lost their lives are named individually on the brass surrounds or the tops of both pools, in five horizontal rows – as you know, that’s a lot of names.

Whilst we were at Ground Zero, we also shared a few thoughts in memory of a young Kiwi, Jeremy Clarke, who went to Rosmini with Brendan, was Head Boy, played in the 1st Fifteen, and played rugby at Marist. He later went on to gain his commercial helicopter pilot’s license and was flying tourists over New York when he lost his life in a tragic crash over the Hudson River. The World Trade Centre memorials seemed an appropriate place to remember an exceptional young man living his dream who died way too soon.

Back on the bus past the United National building (didn’t see Helen – think she was busy today), up Wall Street, down 5th Avenue, up Broadway, past the Rockefeller Centre and the Empire State Building, lovely parks, hospitals, churches (which are tiny small Gothic structures sandwiched amongst hugely tall skyscrapers). We also passed the rather ugly yellow glass skyscraper called “Trump Tower”. Deary me! 35 degrees here today in New York – we are now sitting in rather wet clothes and needing fluid to keep ourselves going so decided to come back to the cool temperatures of our hotel and have a read of the Wall Street Journal before we all go out to dinner and a show.  

The day ended with dinner and a Broadway Show – On Your Feet – the interesting story of Gloria and Emilio Estafan and was a very enjoyable high energy show. So this very busy city hums 24 hours a day; there are a mix of people here you just don’t see anywhere – there are naked cowboys and cowgirls wearing nothing but a g-string and body paint playing their music and charging for photos in the street; there are musicians, magicians, dancers, entertainers on every corner; there are people dressed in anything from very little to very strange; there are countless homeless wheeling large trolleys of their worldly belongings to find a place for the day or night; there are rubbish bags heaped up like miniature mountains on the sidewalk waiting to be collected; there are police cars, ambulances, fire engines with sirens blaring trying to navigate an impossible course to the source of the emergency; there are shops still open at 2 am and construction workers still working at midnight and just to add to this strange melting pot there are road workers digging up roads all around the city adding to the constant chaos. And in case you are wondering……. Yes – I did get a photo of the naked cowboy but I didn’t have to pay because I was sitting atop the double decker bus and he posed and I snapped!! I got a freebie! Definitely didn’t get a selfie that’s for surrrrrrre. And the Apprentice did NOT get a photo with the naked cowgirls …….. he wasn’t allowed to!!

So we are sitting on the Amtrak relaxing for the 3-hour journey to Boston passing through Connecticut and Providence, Rhode Island and on Saturday we board the ship for a week’s cruising through New England. That will be nice – Maine, Halifax, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and back to Montreal. Oh – by the way I have to say we feel very thin and trim here in America – you know what I am saying don’t you! In saying this, we are, however, sure there is something wrong with the water here because it is shrinking the waistbands of ourrrrr clothes. This is very perplexing. The boss in engrossed in the Wall Street Journal, the Aussies are all wondering what the heck is going on at home with their election results, the tour guide Gary is running around the cabin tending to our every need and I am working diligently here to keep you all up-to-date with our adventurrrre.

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