As we drove away from Steve and Fiona who were waving us goodbye from the Blue Water Marina in Hampton, Virginia. We both gave a sigh as it was a sad parting. We had a fantastic time with these two, experiencing and seeing things that were truly memorable.
But as I once said when looking at my last bottle of Doombar, ‘all good things must come to an end’.
Our plan had always been that when we left Steve and Fiona we would travel to New York (NY) and fly back to our boat which was in Sardinia from there. There was a big if in this statement and the big if was if we hadn’t spent all of our money by the time we got off of Supertramp!!
Our agreement with Steve and Fiona was that we would split all the costs 50/50 which we tried hard to do but I am reasonably confident that although all the bigger costs like the ARC fee’s, food and fuel were reasonably split I am sure that they paid for a lot of the smaller things which obviously mount up without letting us know. In my defence, I did ask to discuss the money side of things on a few occasions but this was always greeted by ‘oh don’t worry everything is ok´.
So, we did have enough to spend a few days in NY but we had to be careful but we are used to being careful.
The Uber cab dropped us at Newport News and the car we had was a Honda Fit hatchback. I really wanted a V8 mustang but that didn’t fall under ‘the being careful’ umbrella.
We didn’t have a decent map, we had no Wifi as we were being ‘careful’ so we were following the directions given to us by the hire car rep.
It´s funny but if you’re English and doing any kind of driving in America you’re going on a Road Trip you’re not popping out for a pizza, or nipping to the shops No you’re on a Road Trip. Well after about an hour of ours we had to stop and ask directions. We had just crossed the fantastic Chesapeake Bay Bridge where sections of it dive down into the water through a tunnel to let bigger ships pass overhead to save on having an opening bridge which would be stopping the traffic every hour or so.
We could have gone on I-95 all the way to NY but it seemed very boring, so we decided to use Route 13 which joined I-95 after going through Delaware. Route 13 was like an A road where I-95 is like an M road on steroids.
We got back on the right road and we were really enjoying the drive. We only found out after we had booked everything up that Monday 29th was a national holiday, Memorial Day in fact which meant a lot more traffic on the road all going home after a long weekend. We saw a lot of massive motor homes that invariably were towing 4WD cars, boats, jet ski’s you name it we saw it.
We kept seeing signs for Richmond, Virginia and every time we did I shouted ‘Richmond, Rich what’ which is a line out of a favourite Samuel L Jackson movie called ‘Coach Carter’ see it, it’s good.
It was fantastic to see the NY sky line appear through the haze of a really humid day.
We got to Manhattan Island via the Holland Tunnel. My ‘Maps.me’ app started working once we popped out the other side but it was slow to catch up to where we actually were so I went wrong a few times which triggered a vigorous onslaught of hooting as the traffic behind let me know their opinion of my driving prowess.
When we got to the ‘The Watson Hotel’ on 44W 57street. It sounds good just saying that go on try, 44west57th street!! it looked OK from the outside. It is a nervous moment isn’t it when you see the accommodation you have booked on line. You know that they used a picture of the best room that has just been redecorated on their website. Well we were very pleasantly surprised. The lobby and reception area was very nice. It was a 10-minute walk to Times square, the room had air conditioning and the largest bed in the world. I even said that Lauri, my eldest sister would have been happy to stay here which is saying something.
The Road Trip took us just under 10 hours, we stopped and got lost a few times but the time was enjoyable and it went quickly.
I left the car outside while we checked in and took our bags to the room which was a bit of a mistake as when I looked out of the window there was a massive coach trying to get into the space I had left behind the car.
We had to drop the car off at La Guardia airport before 23.00 so we jumped in the car and made our way there crossing Queensboro Bridge. The traffic was pretty bad and we were being serenaded once again by the horns of the NY road users.
La Guardia was a bit of a nightmare as it’s like a great big building site at the moment however we managed to find the Budget rental drop off area. Everything was in order and a very nice guy in the office let Claire use his Wifi to call a suicidal Uber cab driver. This guy was really nuts and I was pleased to get out at the hotel.
It was late and we were very tired but I felt that we should celebrate our first night in the Big Apple so after a quick shower we walked up 57th Street till we found an Irish bar that looked like something out of the NYPD Blue TV series. I was sure Andy Sipowitcz was going to walk in any minute.
I had a very nice pint of Guinness, Claire had white wine and lemonade and we shared a platter of stuff, I can’t remember what it was.
The barman struck up a conversation with us and after the usual ‘this your first time in NY’ it was great to be able to say that we had sailed to the US via Bermuda and the Caribbean on our friend’s boat. That shut him up.
It was very expensive there. In fact, NY is an expensive city.
Tuesday 30th May
It was strange waking up in in the hotel room, it took a while for me to figure out where I was but then I heard the horns honking from the street below and a line from a Stevie Wonder song floated through my head. ‘New York City, just like I pictured it. Sky scrapers and everything’.
We didn’t have B&B so after showering we went out heading roughly for Times Square. Alan, Claire’s dad as well as Nad’s a good friend of mine, advised us to get the hop on hop off open top bus as a way of seeing the city. So, when a nice guy from the Gambia approached us offering a deal whereby we paid for two days and received a ticket for 4 days which included a boat trip to see the statue of liberty for $62 each I wanted to do the deal but Claire wanted to think about it for a while and I told the guy who had better English than I did that we would go get some breakfast, think about it and come back to him.
We crossed Broadway, I know how good does that sound and went into a diner that Joy and Grace had told us about. It was called ‘Ellen’s Stardust Diner’ it looked like a normal diner, with a normal menu with a show tunes soundtrack going on in the background but suddenly, a waiter or waitress would burst into song, with a microphone and everything.
Claire absolutely loved it but I didn’t like the way some of the male singers tried to look deep and meaningfully into my eyes while they were singing. Very embarrassing.
Anyway, once we had finished we went back to find our Gambian friend. He was really pleased that we had come back to find him as they only get paid on commission. We talked about the deal a bit more and decided to go for it. He called a friend over who he said hadn’t been doing very well and asked that we buy one ticket from him so he would get some commission too. He also told us not to buy anything from the stores in this area but to go to Soho / Greenwich village as it was quite a bit cheaper around there.
Soon we were on the top deck of a bus seeing the sights of New York. We went past the old entrance to the Paramount Theatre where a young local lad, Frank Sinatra used to sing.
I wanted to buy some levis 501’s while I was in NY as they are really the only jeans I wear so we took the advice of our friend and got off in Soho. Claire hadn’t had a pair of Levis for about 20 years so I persuaded her to get a pair too. We finally found a shop with helpful staff and bought 2 pairs for just under £80. Bargain.
We walked down Broadway until we saw signs for Ground zero and the 9/11 memorial. Both of us were surprised at how solemn, and moving these huge memorial pieces were. They are very large, dark grey boxes sunk into the ground with water cascading off their edges and falling into a darker square recess in the centre. The edges of these boxes had the names of everyone who died in the terrorist attacks. It really was incredible!
We walked away from these two huge pieces of memorial art trying to imagine what it must have been like here in the city on that terrible day. I don’t know when we are all going to be able to live in peace but I don’t suppose it will be anytime soon.
Anyway, we were on holiday so to lift our mood we jumped back on the bus and stayed on until we reached Grand Central Station or to give it it’s proper name Grand Central Terminal.
This really is a fantastic building and as we stood to one side watching the commuters scurry about like so many ants I wondered how many if any stopped to look up and around them at the beautiful architecture. I can honestly say that when I was one of those scurrying ants I did try and find time to stop and look every now and then at my surroundings.
GCT covers 48 acres and has 44 platforms more than any another station in the world it is also one of the worlds most visited attractions with 21.9 million in 2013. (I hope they didn’t get that figure just from counting the commuters arriving and going home every day!!)
It has an unbelievable amount of space with shops and a whole lower floor full of restaurants and a large seating area. I noticed that one place had New England Clam Chowder. I absolutely love the stuff and have done ever since I used to serve it from a fast food counter in Redondo Beach California when I lived there back in 1981 with my good mate Guya.
It tasted just as good as I remembered it.
We walked through the Terminal and on to find the New York Public Library. Again this is another fantastic building with grand steps leading up and into a very impressive space. The library on 5th avenue opened its doors to the public in 1911 and is said to house over 53 million items.
I was knackered by now and I just wanted to sit down, rest and eat something. We opted for a kind of Japanese food I’m not really sure what it was or who cooked it but it involved noodles, pork, rice and chop sticks.
Claire looked at her fitbit watch thing and told me we had already walked 8 miles and we were nowhere near the hotel. Even with the hop on hop off bus we were doing a lot of walking.
We made it back to the hotel, it was about 22.30 and again I felt guilty about sleeping while we were in NY but I had had enough. My massive bed was calling to me.
Wednesday 31st May
We had started to feel better at finding our way around. After leaving the hotel we walked towards Times Square using 9th Avenue which was a less crowded and more interesting route. We jumped on the first Hop on bus that came along and it was only after it turned left instead of right that we realised we were on the wrong loop. It was the right company but instead of going downtown, we wanted to go up the Empire state building we were going Uptown, and the bus was going to take us around Central Pk, into Harlem and back up 5th avenue. My legs were already giving me gip so we stayed on the bus for a lovely ride past the park. I was really surprised how pretty and well-kept it was. I suppose it's all of those TV shows and films I have seen over the years but there were beautiful lakes, fantastic areas for the kids to play in, baseball diamonds, obviously the zoo was in there too.
We got off (I suppose I should have said hopped but I was hopped out) of the bus as it was turning back up towards Times Square and walked down 5th Avenue until we reached the Empire State building. This, a bit like the Gondola’s in Venice needs to be done, ticked off as it were.
We joined the queue and tried not to sob as we handed over $35 each for a ride in a very fast lift. That wasn’t to the very top oh no this was only to the 86th floor but I must admit the view was brilliant and to see Claire’s face when we stepped out onto the viewing area was worth almost every penny.
As soon as we were back on the ground floor we made our way down town by foot and bus to Battery Pk in the financial district. We walked past the famous Flatiron building. Completed in 1902 for a time it’s 20 floors made it the tallest building in NY.
We wanted to use our tickets to see the Statue of Liberty but we got to the terminal in Battery Pk just as the last ferry left at 16.50. Claire had run on ahead desperately looking for a way in but everywhere was locked. Oh well. We could see her tomorrow.
We decided to get back to times Square and catch the night bus which was part of our bus package. The night bus took you over to Brooklyn via the Brooklyn Bridge and back again allowing you fantastic views of the New York sky line at night.
You weren’t allowed to hop on and off this bus. I don’t think they were worried about your safety it was just that this was the only bus that did this trip so if you hopped off there wasn’t another bus to hop on to!
As we went back over the Brooklyn bridge we could see a very dark cloud formation moving quickly as if to engulf the towers. Flashes of lightning could be seen within the cloud and very soon large spots of rain were beginning to fall into our open topped bus.
The bus dropped us back near Times Square. The rain had eased off for a bit and Claire was in the mood for a Cosmopolitan cocktail so we walked down 9th St looking for a suitable bar.
We found a Mexican place that seemed to fit the bill. It was quite busy, Latino music was playing and there were two stools at the bar so we plonked ourselves down and ordered a Cosmo and a rum and coke.
After a second round, we ordered some Quesadillas because George had ordered some at the Bermudan Bistro and they looked very nice. These were too. It was getting close to midnight as we walked back to the hotel. My legs were really hurting. Claire looked at her fitbit thing noting that we had walked just over 8 miles again today.
Tuesday 1st June
Up and out, my legs were really protesting at all this activity. Walking between 8 and 9 miles a day was too much for them but I wanted to see all there was to see.
We decided to walk to Central Pk again this was only about 15 minutes and we kept congratulating ourselves on the location of our hotel.
It was a beautiful day, we walked into Columbus circle and couldn’t fail to notice Trump Tower off to one side. We entered the park, strolling hand in hand watching the kids playing. It is a massive park and we couldn’t hope to see all of it but we spent a few hours wandering around before hopping on one of our buses heading downtown to Battery Pk.
There was a huge queue for the boats going out to see the Statue of Liberty and lucky for us there were a couple of guy’s checking tickets before you were allowed to join it.
Apparently, we had a voucher and not a ticket. We needed to go to Pier 15 to exchange one for the other. Pier 15 was a long walk away but it was along the river front and there was a lot going on. The sightseeing helicopters were buzzing around awaiting their turn to land at the heliport. The Staten Island ferries were churning up the water as they manoeuvred into position.
All different kinds of vessel were plying the waters of the East river including a little pretend paddle steamer that didn’t look very sea worthy at all. I said to Claire ‘I wouldn’t fancy getting on that thing’.
We got to pier 15 but were told we had the wrong voucher for this tour and we were advised to go to Pier 16!! More walking.
At pier 16 Claire was told by a very rude person that she needed to go to pier 36. When Claire tried to explain what had happened up to this point, getting directed to different piers the woman really shouted at her. Unfortunately, I was waiting for Claire in the shade as my legs were killing me otherwise I think I would have shouted back. Claire doesn’t do shouting you see.
So, pier 36 was a very long walk from pier 16 so we decided to wait for our hop on bus which took us right there. It was only then that we realised that this is where we should have come in the first place but we were not told this by our little Gambian friend. Oh well we were here now. We crossed the road and turned the corner and there tied up against the dock waiting for us to board was the little pretend paddle steamer!!
Hahaha you couldn’t make it up.
The trip out to see the statue of Liberty was OK. We had a really good view and it was nice to be on the water again but I had my fingers crossed that we wouldn’t end up in it!
When we were back on dry land we got the bus back to the times square area and walked until we found what looked like and turned out to be a very nice Italian restaurant. We had a very nice meal with wine, dessert and everything.
We made our way back to the hotel as Claire wanted to start the packing as we were leaving the next day.
We had managed to get the flights sorted back to Olbia, Sardinia. They were not as cheap as we’d hoped but I think we were spoilt by our very cheap flights to the Caribbean. We paid just under £600.00 each to fly from JFK – Stockholm – to Olbia. Without any lengthy stopovers and we had to collect our bags in Stockholm which we wanted to do as we didn’t want to lose them again.
We left our bags at the hotel and booked the hotels limousine to take us to JFK. That sounds really flash but it wasn’t. We checked and it was as cheap as an Uber cab!
We wanted breakfast so went to a very nice diner where I had a stack of pancakes with maple syrup and Claire had eggs benedict, Claire’s was far better than mine but hey I was in NY.
We intended to spend a few hours in the park but I realised that we hadn’t been to the big stores yet so we hopped on a bus and got off at Macy’s. We shopped for NYC T-Shirts. We bumped into an English couple and I gave them our hop on hop off cards and a map explaining what they had to do. They were valid until midnight.
We wandered back to the hotel sorted our bags and jumped in the limo to the airport.
The flights were fine. We were on a new Dreamliner. No food or drink this time. You even had to buy a pair of head phones to listen to the films. They were €8 a pair!!! luckily Claire had a pair in her bag from our hop on hop off bus so I watched ‘The Accountant’ while Claire read then she watched ’La La Land’ and I read.
When we got to Olbia we decided to walk back to Red Rooster from the airport. We were missing our friends Jayne and Graeme. It was a lot farther than I remembered but luckily we found a discarded shopping trolley and pushed our bags passed the Auchan shopping centre which was closed, down to the marina.
Red Rooster looked tiny after Supertramp but by the time Claire had unpacked and got the kettle on while I washed 2 months of dust and dirt off her with a hose from the pontoon I felt like we were back home.
And we were.