19 September 2011

Day 29 Getting Ready to Fly Home

C U SOON - be sure to click the photo.

Day 28 Last Full Day in USA

Well - maybe.  We leave LAX at almost midnight tomorrow night, so let's call this our last Free day.

Began by watching the MotoGP.  They didn't have Speed channel here amongst the 30 or more channels on the hotel TV, but luckily we get it on iPad.  It's only in graphic form, but gives an idea of the race, which consisted of Casey Stoner taking the lead in the first couple of laps and extending that lead throughout, leaving the minor placings for the rest.   When in form he is unbeatable.

Then it was down for breakfast at yet another small cafe on 56th Street.  A good cheap one - hard to find in this city.   We were looking for the Sunday street markets like they had last time we were here two years ago.  Many blocks of 6th Ave were closed and stalls set up.  Lots of bargains and we had left our main souvenir purchases just for today.

For these markets.

That weren't on.


Oh well.  We wandered about a bit then decided to make the train journey to Coney Island.  That'll kill a few hours.  Down to our now well-known underground system and jumped aboard a Q train.  It was mostly express for a while until out of Manhattan then up in to the light and across Manhattan Bridge then all stations to the terminus at Coney Island.

Quite an interesting place.  Coney Island has seen better days.  That's the nice way to put it.  The boardwalk is pleasant with a nice sandy beach leading to dubious looking "surf" in which a few hardy souls swam.
The souvenir shops and eateries were - ordinary.  We had a coffee.
Thought we had better go for a ride on something seeing as we were here so we picked a rather unusual ferris wheel where the cars seemed to have free reign.

Actually they just moved back and forth on rails, but it was a bit of fun for $6 each.

There was also advertised a Bike and Tattoo show which we tracked down to find it was just a bar with an old WWII era outfit rotting out the front.  In an unrelated incident there were a few Harley riders parked nearby and we watched and listened to them roar away.  One or two of them probably had a tattoo.

Manhattan Skyline from Coney Island  Wonder Wheel

The Bike and Tattoo Show
Back at the station, we needed some cash as our pocket green was running low so we went in to a Bank of America ATM "safe room".  You know the type, where you swipe your card on the door to have exclusive access to the machine in a locked room.   The door was unlocked.  There was one "local" person using one machine and another loitering in the corner.  So we got our money and left.  Incident free.  Perceptions can be daunting.

Back on the train - N train this time to return a slightly different way - and in an hour or so we were back in Manhattan.

Time to go souvenir hunting and we went up and down 7th and Broadway checking out the shops, finding the cheaper prices in the little off-street shops.  We got what we wanted to get that morning at the 6th Ave street stalls.

Whilst there, we decided to go to a Broadway play - as opposed to a musical - for our last night in Manhattan.  We decided on Perfect Crime, showing at the Jerry Orbach Theatre.  The theatre named for the late actor who capped a Broadway career with a starring role in Law and Order.  Got some tickets from  TKTS for a discount then returned to the hotel to get ready.

Plenty of time so we ventured down to Hells Kitchen for dinner only to find the street stalls being dismantled after a long day of selling their wares from 9th Ave - rather than 6th where we went looking this morning.

Double dammit.

Oh well, nothing for it but to have a meal in a nice Italian Restaurant.  Delicious it was too.  Then off to the play.

What an amazing play.  We discovered that this play, Perfect Crime has been playing on Broadway since 1987 and some time next week will clock up it's 10,000th performance.  The lead star, Catherine Russell has played all but four nights, earning herself a place in Guinness's Book.
It was a great, if confusing, yarn and kept the audience guessing all the way through.  Very entertaining.

Then we wandered back "home" only stopping for an over-priced coffee at a nearby cafe we won't go near again.

Tomorrow we begin our journey home.

18 September 2011

Days 26-27 Two More in NYC

7th Ave traffic from our window
Never got around to a blog yesterday.  Too full a day and we were back at the hotel around midnight.

My birthday dawned fine and cool for us here.  A lovely day to go exploring.
Breakfast was at a local diner.  A bit crowded and full of tourists, but nice food.  Prices here are a bit like home, so much more expensive than everywhere else in the country.

Then it was on the underground for a ride downtown to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and a ride on the ferry.  No real wish to go to Staten Island, but the ride takes you past Ellis and Liberty Islands and is free.   Something in New York for free is hard to pass up.
Lower Manhattan Island

Someone took our photo

Lady Liberty
The Staten Is Ferry

Freedom Tower from the river
Nearly back again

After that it was a wander around the Wall Street area then back on the trains - we are getting pretty good at them now.
Zippy little police bikes

Someone asked did we see him.  A Times Square icon

We made our way back to Times Square where they sell tickets for Broadway Shows for that night, usually around half price.  There were two huge queues and it took nearly an hour to get to the front.  I left Charleen to look after that and made my way back to the hotel for a nap.  No real need for two to do the job.She came back with tickets for The Addams Family musical and so we both rested up and then went back down to Broadway.  It was a pleasant evening for a stroll down Broadway and we got to the theatre with plenty of time to spare.

The show was very good, starting out the right way with the orchestra playing the familiar da-da-da-dump and the audience responding with fingersnapping Click Click.   Brooke Shields played Morticia beautifully and the rest of the cast did a great job.  Uncle Fester and Grandma were probably the most entertaining characters.

Back out into the crowds and we slowly made our way home, stopping for coffee on the way.

What a great Birthday.

Saturday we kept it low key and just went for a stroll in Central Park.  Now Central Park is a big place so we didn't see it all.  It started with a few locals having a friendly game of baseball and with all the calling out and mild sledging, it was quite entertaining.

Then New York put on a parade - just for us - and we wandered down Fifth Ave and enjoyed the show.  Apparently it was Steuben Parade day, a day when locals from near and far celebrate any German heritage they may have.

It was a very long parade and went for a couple of hours, by which time we were far from home and so had to catch a train back again.  This idea was shared with just about everyone else and the train was more like a sardine can.  Not a big worry as we only went four stops then changed to a marginally less crowded train another two stops to pop up right next to our hotel.  What a great system.

The rest of the afternoon we have taken it easy, only venturing out to Hells Kitchen for dinner.  Lots less tourists and more locals down there and the food and prices reflect.  The language can be difficult to interpret sometimes.  They do speak english - mostly - but with a wide mixture of accents.

Another full day here tomorrow.  Wonder what it will bring.

16 September 2011

Day 25 - First Day in NYC

Sad to see a brick wall as our "view".

There was a misunderstanding about our room booking at the Park Central. We had booked online a Times Square View Room.  The check in attendant mentioned something about an upgrade, but we didn't catch on.  We got to our room, opened the curtains and looked out to see a solid brown brick wall.  How disappointing!  A phone call to reception and we were told that there wasn't anything they could do as all the Time Square rooms were already allocated and that the information showed the booking was made through an external online agent.  We searched through our paperwork and found a printout of the email confirming our booking and the room type.  Next morning we will see someone about sorting this out.

After a restless night, we woke early and decided to go for a walk.  We called past reception to see if there was someone in charge we could discuss our situation.   The manager would be available in half an hour.  We went for a walk towards Central Park and around the block.  On our return we talked with the desk clerk again and explained our request.  Thankfully he acted on the detail in the email without argument.  We then had to pack our bags and put them in storage for the day.  Our room would be ready after 4pm that meant we were roomless.

Feeling much happier, we found a deli to have breakfast and discuss our plans for the day.

We ended up buying a Metro card each for unlimited travel for 7 days.  We used the underground train to make our way to the World Trade Centre site.    The platform and carriage weren't crowded as we were well past peak hour.  We walked around the site and spent time in the museum shop.  There were lots of folk here.  We were content to walk around and see the site from different vantage points as we hadn't pre-purchased our tickets to access the memorial gardens.
Nearly caught playing in the fountain

The new Freedom Tower rising to overlook the Memorial Gardens

This almost looks like someone we know.  Trev will know who.

Lunchtime sees the square filled with construction workers in fluro shirts

This is a very sobering place.  Never having known what it was like before the event, we could only imagine the devastation.  Ten years on, New Yorkers have done well to reclaim their space.

Time to work our way back, so we caught another train on a different line.  This one took us through Grand Central Station.  This was another place that we wanted to see.
Grand Central Station's Main Hall

and no one to give me a shine...

It started to rain, so we stopped in a park in the shelter of a statue.  There was a piano player entertaining a small lunch time crowd.  This seemed to part of a number of events celebrating the onset of Fall.

We weren't far (in the scheme of things) from our hotel, so we walked.  I spotted a shop that proved to have some fabulous clothes and a chair for Clint while I looked around.  A new top and a pair of trousers later, we were on our way.

A slow wander back and we joined a very long queue of people waiting to check in.  We chatted with a young fellow who had arrived from Alaska where he had been hunting moose!

Much happier
Finally, we were re-checked in, collected our luggage from storage and found our room.  First things first, Clint opened the curtains and saw the view he had been waiting for - Times Square.  Happy birthday!  Bags stowed and settled in for the remainder of our stay.  We should sleep well tonight.

15 September 2011

Day 24 - Bye Bye to the BeigeMobile

Our final day on the road started well.  We didn't have too far to go so slept in a little.  Not easy though, those cars, trucks and trains on the nearby Interstate were a tad noisy.
The road ahead looked a lot easier than it might seem.  Driving in to New York City sounds daunting.  But there is a parkway called Taconic State Parkway that ran from near our motel all the way in to the city.  Parkways are for the use of passenger vehicles only.  No trucks, no commercial vehicles, no caravans or motor homes even.  This sounded like heaven.
Karen's GPS route showed us going the Taconic, the Sprain Brook Pky, The Henry Hudson Pky, 56th St then 7th Ave.  Easy.
Too easy.
But first, breakfast.  We let Karen find us a food outlet, selecting "American", and sure enough, just two miles off the parkway here was the nicest looking diner of our trip so far.  Dan's Diner is run by three young ladies and they do a terrific job.
Is this neat or what?
Just as neat inside and good food too.

Taconic State Parkway - no trucks, no caravans.

Only Mustangs.
Back on the Parkway and we cruised along listening to podcasts and enjoying the relatively traffic-free run.  We were early so doing right on the 55mph limit and getting overtaken by almost everyone, except one Mustang that stayed behind us for miles.
Nearing the end of the Taconic, we pulled over for a while and sorted out the BeigeMobile.  We would need to have her cleaned out fairly quickly in Manhattan and packing all the loose stuff away was best done somewhere quiet.
Still way too early - checkin was listed as 4pm - we got Karen to find us a Starbucks.  Just back a little from where we stopped.  Coffee, snack, internet and restroom, we were still four hours from checkin and less than half an hour away by parkways.
Looking idly at the map I saw a road nearby that joined up with another called North Broadway.  Looking all along, it turned out that this road ran all the way in to the actual Broadway as one long road - eventually - and Broadway runs right behind our 7th Avenue hotel.
Well, we had all this time to spare so I suggested we drive all the way in on this "surface" road rather than the Parkways.  Charleen was a bit dubious but it looked like a pretty straight through run.
So I switched Karen's directions off and away we went. We could always call her back up if needed.
Well, that sure used up most of the spare time.
Paintings of buildings on the buildings

Almost looks like a movie set.

It was fun.  Though Charleen is not sure of my idea of fun.  Heck, I've driven heavy vehicles through the centre of all of Australia's major cities and punting the BeigeMobile in NYC traffic was a lark compared.
Well, there was this one incident involving a school bus and an unmarked police car, but we all missed each other.  Not even a horn honk, but that was probably due to the presence of the police car and the signs that advise a $350 fine for unnecessary horn use.  A law that many NYC drivers ignore most of the time.
Oh yes - on Columbus Circle I had to duck across a couple of lanes and cut off a couple of yellow cabs - but they were fine with it.  Really.  American drivers are much more polite than the average Aussie city driver.
Plenty of these

Getting in to the thick of it

Yellow Cabs - must be close now

We turned in to a quiet street
so we could run beside Central Park

We didn't honk and the cab drivers were very patient.

Arrived at the Hotel and casually parked out the front, the door bloke helped us unload and let us leave the car there while we checked in.  By the time we got back out, there was a different bloke there, but he had our keys so he got the tip.
We took the BeigeMobile the last couple of blocks to the rental company and gave her back.  We were just a little sad to see our gallant little steed go.  Sure, a Ford Escape wasn't what we asked for, but it served us well, never missed a beat and was pretty comfortable and quite economical.

Total distance for the circle, shown below in magenta, was 9592 kilometres according to Karen.
So here's all our USA tracks since 2009, the magenta one is the most recent.

14 September 2011

Day 23 - Vermont is a Pretty State

The fog lay in wait for us to find our way to the riverside, Our morning blanket to lift for the days reveal.

Gentle reflections in still waters by the way.

Flowing curves and the road rises and falls through villages.

The first blush of embarassment for the trees in early acknowledgment of their  impending nakedness.  These early blushers, will they be the ones to herald the spring with the first flushes of green?

Some houses and yards are neat as pins, others show signs of needing attention.  Are the yards neglected because they are soon to be covered in snow?

Stacks of wood and stores of hay are gathered around the houses and barns. More evidence of the forthcoming snow.

Headed across Vermont to Rutland.  Large signs were showing Hwy 4 closed from 100A West.  There were three turn offs to 100 ahead of us, two to the south and one to the north.  They weren't labelled anything other than 100. We stopped at the Quechee Gorge Information Booth to ask about the road closure signs that weren't making lot sense to us out of towners.   Destruction as a result of the flooding from Irene meant that a little village near Rutland has been closed.

We made use of the stop to follow the walking trail for Quechee Gorge and find a diner for breakfast.   The diner served locally produced foods.  The ham, eggs, milk, breads and jams were yummy.  Nothing like having something akin to home food when we've been away for a while.

Quechee Gorge

Farmers Diner

Excellent example of an old fashioned diner

Nearby shops had various local and imported goods.  We stopped in at a glass blower's studio.  The artisan had beautiful colourful pieces from tiny little trinkets to large vases and plates, even a chess set.  We bought four glasses of different colours and arranged to have them shipped home.  We wandered through the other shops.  Some of the wares were local to Vermont, others were imported from Asian countries.

Time to hit the slab and make our way around.  We picked up Hwy 11 to make our way across the White Rocks National Recreational Area in the Green Mountains.  Around the area of Chester, VT we saw some of the fury of the floodwaters.  Large trees lay on their sides, pushed up against the banks and causeways.  Sections of road gouged away.  It reminded us of the damage to the Toowoomba and Blackbutt Ranges back home.
1797-built ex-schoolhouse, refurbished and for sale $379K

Roadside Little Hoosic River has caused much damage.
A run down Hwy 7A took us through the town of Manchester.  It has been voted No 1 for foliage in Vermont.  We can see the potential but the vibrant colours are not ready for us.
Halloween approaches

A little more zigging and zagging, back into New York State.  We were on 22 which followed the border between New York and Massachusetts which also follows the Taconic Range.

Our stop for the night in Canaan, NY has a very pretty outlook.  It is also beside a multi-lane Interstate and railway. We don't expect a quiet night.
Motel Outlook