20 May 2007

American Diary part 3 - NEW YORK NEW YORK!

May 19th NEW YORK! I woke early and was out the door by 8.30am. the bell hop (getting with the NY lingo) told me about a breafast bar nearby which I walked to. It turned out to be the NY equivalent of a greasy spoon, but with few empty seats I thought it must be ok. The service was slow, but eventually I ordered a banana porridge and toast with hosue coffee. Around me, people were eating eggs over easy, bacon, home fries and pancakes with maple syrup (although probably not pure syrup that I've been used to in Maine!) Maybe tomorrow I'll order the full works.... After that, I hailed a cab and headed into the big apple to join my bus tour. www.newyorkpartyshuttle.com takes you around the city for 5 hours. It was easy to find, on Broadway and by 10am we wre moving. Along the route we stopped at: John Lennon's hotel apartment and the place he was assasinated, along with the strawberry fields memorial in Central Park, along Broadway passing the theatres, into the park itself where Saturday people were jogging, pushing prams, horse riding, taking kids to the zoo or just strolling. We were shown landmarks on the route mostly without stopping - Grand Central Station, various apartment blocks and sites used for movies and TV shows (Will and Grace, Seinfeld etc), the Empire State, Rockerfeller centre, Little Italy, Chinatown, Camden Street, Tiffanys etc We had lunch on our own in Pier 17 on the south of Manhattan (I had a Subway sandwich and peanut butter cookie)before taking the Staten Island ferry (free) across the bay past The Statue of Liberty before coming back. It was a chance for photos. Back on the bus, we did stop at Ground Zero (a very solemn place) for a few moments of reflection. I know some friends of mine have been here and know what it is like. they have begun work on the Freedom Tower and the whole area is a gaping chasm with construction vehicles and workers. the perimiter is a memorial to those killed with a timeline of the events on 9/11 with photos which truly make you feel humbled by the actions of those who tried to save lives that day. Across the street is the church of St Pauls used on that day to shelter the workers and provide food and water, it was undamaged. One poignant site is the damaged skyscraper on the southern end which is being removed floor by floor and clearly shows the scars of that day. Another nice touch is the prescence of the golden globe which survived with some damage and will be incorporated into the final memorial tower. After this sombre moment, we lightened the mood with a stroll through Wall Street - home to some of New York's Most stunning architecture and symbols of financial might. After my trip to Boston I saw the place where George Washington took the oath as first president of the USA. The tour continued around the waterfront before taking us back to Broadway. I wanted to go back to some of these places so tipped the guide and set off on foot. First stop TIMES SQUARE - like Picadilly on acid! the use of technology here is amazing, buildings have movies running on the outside walls with neon, lights, sound, music... amazing, gawdy, overpowering, impressive! I can only imagine Vegas or Hong Kong and Bangkok to be any better. There was a public demo going on in the middle - something to do with Iraq. quite strange to have something so serious alongside all that frivolous display of marketing! Walking away from Times Square I found my way to the Rockerfeller Centre and rode to the top floor for some great views of the city - despite the rain! Hungry again (5pm) I stopped for Pizza and a sit down, then back on the street I wandered in the general direction of Grand Central Station and found it! (New York is pretty easy for walking).. This was a real discovery1 the station is stunning! The architecture and lighting really impressed me, and of course it's been used in so many films! In need of coffee I found myself in Starbucks on 36th and Madison and wrote some more postcards. Then onto the empire state at dusk for a brilliant finish to my day - I was there for almost 2 hours and saw the view change from rain to darkness with all the street lights and sounds from below. Fabulous! I bought some goodies up there too - baseball cap and tshirt (Hannah - I've spent some money!) At 9pm I came back down to the street and caught a cab back to the hotel. so here I am in Jazz Hostel - upper West side writing my blog. Tomorrow I catch my tour and begin the trek across america. I may have more time in NY before we leave, so I plan to walk through Central Park and visit the Natural History Museum. More blogging when I can! That's all from NY! (sorry no photos)

American diary - Part 2 Last night in Maine

May 17th and 18th After a wonderful 2 days in the Acadia National Park and then a stay in Boston , I returned to Yarmouth and the home of the Klepinger family until May 18th. My second day in Boston included a walk through the parks again, the New England Aquarium and Isabella Gardner art museum - after that I walked from Fenway back to the Prudential Centre and strolled and browsed the shops without buying. I can't seem to summon any will to buy souvenirs! The bus ride back to Yarmouth was crowded and we enjoyed a screening of GREASE to pass the time. Hannah collected me from Portland bus station and we caught the end of Matthew's baseball game in Yarmouth (the team lost) before shopping at Hannafords for fresh lobster and steamers! Back at the house Roly dog was tormented by the lobster (not sure he knew what it was) whils I tried my best to hold it without dropping it each time it moved! I didn't have the heart to plunge it into boiling water so I let Hannag do it! but I did have the stomach to eat it afterwards and it was perfect - my first truly fresh lobster, no frills! I did manage to send it's claw flyig across the kitchen (slippery little sucker!). Friday was my last day in Maine, and with everyone out of the house it was a chance to pack and reshuffle my bags. I then took Hannah's car to the local park with roly for a rain soaked walk along the river. At noon I collected Hannah from her place of work, and we had a final girlie afternoon in Portland at the art museum (much better then the Farnsworth in Rockland) and shopped a little before goodbyes and at 5pm I was all alone at the airport. Once inside I was told my flight was *cancelled* but no time for panic as they put me on a Delta flight into La Guardia at 6.30pm. However - NY traffic control were being tricksy and the flight didn't leave till 8pm, landing in NY at 10pm. This was my first 'change of plan' moment in my otherwise flawless itinerary and it really didn;t matter. With time to kill I trawled the shops and bought a souvenir! Yes I actually bought something! I am even wearing it now - a blue t shirt which reads: "the way life should be... MAINE" with a lobster on it! La Guardia is closer to Manhattan than Newark so the cab was cheaper! My hotel "Astor on the Park" is in the Upper West Side faces Central Park and is in a swanky area. Apparently this is where rock stars, sports stars and film directors live.... so, at 11pm I was tired and wanted nothing but sleep which is what I did in a very comfy bed with 4 soft and squishy pillows. I drifted to sleep thinking of shingle houses on the coast of Maine.... maybe I should buy a lottery ticket!