A Travellerspoint blog

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24 September 2019 - The journey begins

Zürich to London for an overnight stay


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Our adventure begins.

Checking in, we discovered that we've been upgraded to Business Class for this short leg of our journey. A pleasant surprise which means we can skip the queues at Zürich airport, albeit very small queues. Debbie’s never flown Business Class before and keeps grinning at the thought.

A quick visit to the lounge provides us with our second breakfast of the day and a third soon follows on the plane! We promise that this blog's focus won't purely be the food, but if you know us well, you know it will play a major part. Debbie’s still grinning at being in Business Class and Pete smiles – he knows that grin will be even wider on tomorrow’s flight.

Off the plane and we dump our bags at the hotel, a convenient 5 minutes walk from London City airport, the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) or the Tube.

By the time we're in the centre of London it must be time for lunch (sorry, clearly we lied!) and we're lucky with the weather so we're able to eat and people-watch in the fresh air. Well, if you can call the air in London fresh.

Exhibition Road - we ask ourselves 'Why have we never walked along here before?' - full of museums. Today we decide on the Science Museum but we also fancy the Natural History Museum. Next time, maybe.

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The Science Museum surprises and delights us. Honestly, we could spend days in there, and not only because it's a confusing maze with a map that doesn't aid navigation. It's spread over several floors and after a quick scan of the map we choose just a few of the many galleries to visit - space travel, autonomous vehicles, climate change, and 20th century scientific developments. Amazing. Who knew there’s even a Grand Prix for driver-less racing cars?

We manage to dodge most of the heavy downpours while we're in there but just as we've leaving we notice that all the passers-by have their brollies up so we duck back in and visit the cafe for some light refreshments, which include a piece of MIllionaire's Shortbread to share. It’s one of Pete's favourites, but this one’s a bit more of a Pauper’s Shortbread – not much base, caramel or chocolate. Never mind, the sugar hits the spot and, by the time we head back outside, the rain has stopped.

Harrods is next, just looking not spending – we’ll do enough of that once we’re in the USA.

We are fortunate that we stumble across ‘The Enterprise’ – not for more space travel but for dinner. Delicious food and friendly service in a smart and popular gastro pub.

It’s a big day tomorrow so we head back on the DLR for an early night.

Posted by HurstStone 15:20 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

25 September 2019 - London to the Big Apple

Travelling on a special flight


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We’ve learned from yesterday’s experience and we just have a light breakfast at the hotel. London City airport is quite small and there’s no lounge but we’re invited for breakfast in the restaurant. Eggs Royal – luxury. We guess that we may be on one of the few flights with Business Class at that time of the morning, as everyone seems to know that we’re heading for New York.

What can we say about flight BA001 apart from the flight number being the one they used for the Concorde flight in its heyday? ‘Wow’, doesn’t seem quite descriptive enough somehow. 32 passengers, all business class, so much room to stretch out. Drinking champagne at 10.30? Decadent but, as ‘they’ say, it’d be rude not to. Surprisingly, we decline the mid morning snack; it’s too much after our earlier two breakfasts. Notice how we’re cutting down?
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The plane touches down in Shannon, Ireland for about an hour. It might seem like a pain but we clear US Immigration and Customs here so that when we arrive at JFK Airport, we can exit as though we’re domestic passengers. It’s probably saved us a couple of hours.

Debbie’s explored various means of transport to get from JFK into the city. Once on the ground, we decide on the AirTrain and LIRR. It’s easy and quick although we get tied in knots paying for the tickets.

The station lacks escalators so it’s a bit of a struggle up the stairs with three suitcases between two of us. Debbie’s twitchy when someone offers to help and grabs the heavier of the 2 bags in her charge and she’s happy when it’s safely handed over to Pete.

A quick freshen up and we head out to explore. It’s noisy, full of traffic and it’s lovely to find the green space of Bryant Park and sit down with coffee. We watch people playing chess and backgammon and warming up for a game of Kubb, in which we think teams throw large Jenga-style blocks across a field in an attempt to knock over the other team’s blocks. IMG_8185.JPGc4d0f7b0-e249-11e9-9408-4f3f214324ec.JPGIMG_8188.JPG

From one park to another. As we head up 5th Avenue towards Central Park, there’s a heavy police presence and they’re closing some of the streets. It’s clear that something is happening and on the approach to Trump Towers there are TV crews and, rather strangely, loads of NYC sanitation trucks. Is this an attempt to clean up US politics?fullsizeoutput_1207.jpegIMG_8197.JPG

We reach the edge of Central Park and there are officers on horseback. No, that’s not some new delicacy like Devils on Horseback, but real police men and women mounted on very patient, mostly well-behaved horses. Many more thousands of officers are patrolling 5th on Shanks’ Pony and there’s a whisper going around that Donald Trump is heading our way. We decide to wait in the growing crowd. Other people are less patient than us and expect the police to open the road especially for them as they go about ‘important’ business. We laugh at one lady who tells an officer she doesn’t feel safe in the crowd as she’s wearing expensive jewellery, placing a hand over a brooch so gaudy and hideous that most of us wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Finally, his motorcade drives past with Trump doing a royal wave that causes his quiff to float up and down, and then he’s gone, followed by numerous protection officers and police. Bit of an anti-climax really, but what did we expect?

We take a stroll around part of Central Park and then our brains tell us it’s time for dinner. fullsizeoutput_120b.jpeg Our stomachs are a little confused as they think it’s 2am but hey, did someone say ‘Food’? We search on TripAdvisor watched by inquisitive rats, who also seem to be feeling a little peckish. We stamp our feet to scare them away before they decide to nibble our ankles.

We find a place with a beer and cider list like a wine list and it serves simple but tasty grub so we’re sorted.

Our route back to the hotel takes us through Times Square, where the advertising displays on the buildings light everything up as though we’re out in the middle of the day. Along with other tourists we gawk at New Yorkers out at play. Pete can’t resist surreptitiously taking a photo of two girls in knitted stars ‘n’ stripes bikinis. He tries to kid me that it’s ‘Art’, part of his ‘Diversity’ portfolio.

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We fall into bed, pleased that we’ve lasted til 10.30 Eastern Seaboard Time.

Posted by HurstStone 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged new_york Comments (0)

26th September - New York day and night


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We wake up at a sensible time, no hint of jet lag and head out to Buvette, a French café recommended by Pete’s boss, for breakfast. Lots of character and good breakfast choices and whilst it does cost as much as dinner the previous evening it was worth it.

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Washington Square Park draws us in. It’s on our list, suggested by friends and guidebooks alike, another patch of greenery and water amongst the skyscrapers. The fountain combines with shards of sunlight to create a rainbow, just in front of a monument, which looks like a miniature Arc de Triomphe and squirrels use the fences and benches like an assault course. The music from Mission Impossible runs through our heads.

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We’re wearing our new pairs of Skechers purchased the day before so we’re ‘all set’ for walking for miles – and so we do. Down through Tribeca and Soho, visiting one or two shops as we go. It’s hard not to, New York is packed with them. The shops aren’t packed though and we wonder how most of them survive.

Giggles at fellow pedestrians and grumbles about the dirt and the noise are silenced, as the sight of the memorial at the World Trade Center sobers us. The names of the victims frame two deep pools of water and a few of the names have white roses placed on them by the City – it would have been their birthdays today. We are encouraged to touch the names. Deeply moved, we do.
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We buy tickets for the One World Observatory – tickets, which seem to increase in price at each stage of the transaction. They’re advertised at $35, then, we’re told they’re $39 (including taxes) and by the time we’ve actually paid it’s cost us $84 for 2. Uh?

A fast elevator takes us to the 102nd Floor where a short film introduces us to the tower and then we descend to 101 for lunch with a view. We share a sandwich and a cinnamon roll but with a soft drink each it’s still $30 – captive audience, I suppose. The 360 view is spectacular and there is a short talk about aspects of New York but, unless you want to pay another $15 to borrow an electronic guidebook, that’s about it.
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Next stop Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry. A brief trip on the ferry gives good views of the Manhattan skyline and Lady Liberty holding her flame aloft. We see heavy clouds building so we just stay on the island long enough for a coffee and a cinnamon bite handed out by the pretzel shop next door and by the time we’re halfway back across the water, staff on the ferry are closing all the windows and everyone is seeking cover.
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Fortunately our trek through Chinatown is a dry one and we pass by shops whose names are unreadable. Most seem like the regular shops but one seems like a collection point for thousands of plastic drink bottles, sealed up in huge plastic bags, piled up in a less than eye-catching window display.

When the rains catches up with us we’re a long umbrella-less walk from any subway station and so we duck into a small supermarket with a range of umbrellas prominently placed by the entrance and, typically, it’s stopped when we emerge with our purchase.

We head out later to meet up with a guy from Pete’s team at work, his wife and daughter for dinner in Becco, a new Italian restaurant that they’ve been looking forward to trying. The food is good – it’s a much broader menu than pasta and pizza and they have a whole page of wines all at the same price, which is unusual and makes it easier to choose. He’s excited that we saw Trump yesterday. He’s a Trump supporter but we’re not holding that against him!

Posted by HurstStone 19:22 Archived in USA Comments (0)

27 September 2019 - New York Adventures

Ships Ahoy!


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On the recommendation of Jen (the daughter of Pete’s colleague) who lives and works in the city we head a few blocks over to Hudson’s Yards, a new complex of shopping malls and the home of The Vessel.

The Vessel was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and is New York’s new eye-catching landmark, comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs - almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings - the vertical climb offers remarkable views of the city, the river and beyond. Concrete, glass and copper, we wonder whether the weather will turn the copper blue-green over time. We hope not, its reflective nature makes for some great photos.

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Jen also recommended the High Line and we head there next. It’s a park, which follows an old disused railway line, high above the noise and bustle of the city streets. There are a number of art exhibits as we walk along the boardwalk through the plants. We follow the High Line from W34th St through to the end in the Meatpacking District.

We enjoyed the tranquillity (marred slightly by all the other tourists) so much that we can’t face tramping the city streets and Pete discovers another walkway along the Hudson River. It’s a different vibe but we enjoy the stroll in the sunshine. We probably enjoy the sunshine more than all the runners that pass us by, pounding out the miles. Are they in training for the New York marathon in a few weeks? We think of some friends who are heading over here for that very purpose and Debbie’s calf muscles twinge at the thought!

It’s time for lunch; the victuals and the view over the water from the City Vineyard terrace restock our energy levels sufficiently for the long walk over to Brooklyn Bridge. Well, we try to cheat by hopping on a free downtown bus, but in the traffic it travels slower than walking so we hop off again at the earliest opportunity.

Construction of the bridge began in 1869 and was an amazing feat of Victorian engineering. It occurs to Debbie that the Americans probably don’t talk about ‘Victorian times’ so we look it up and phew, not such a blunder after all, although they also use the term the Reconstruction. People of the time were also suitably amazed and it became quite the thing to promenade across the bridge, although we suspect they did so with more decorum and fewer selfies than its modern-day visitors.

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Brooklyn is peaceful and feels like a real neighbourhood where real people live and real children get picked up from school and walk home telling ‘Mom’ all about their day. The Fruit Streets (Orange, Pineapple and Cranberry) are historic although disappointingly not as interesting as the guidebook suggests.

We walk to the bottom of the hill and find ourselves in the wrong place for walking back across the bridge but in exactly the right spot for visiting The Ample Hills Creamery – a cute little ice cream shop with so many flavours they have printed menus to help you choose. We can recommend Baked/Unbaked, Dark Chocolate, Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Salted Crack’d Caramel. While we consume said ice cream and watch boats on the river, we hatch a plan for the next stage of our journey and Pete wanders off to do the necessary research. This leads to a brief ferry trip across to Pier 11 and South Street Seaport.

Before we catch another ferry uptown towards our hotel, we are tipped off that there’s free entry to the Seaport Museum and we spend a fascinating time aboard Wavertree. Built in 1885 she was one of the last iron-hulled sailing cargo ships to come out of Liverpool and had a varied career before being rescued and restored by volunteers at the Seaport Museum. The sailors had it tough; living on biscuits might seem like a treat but seriously, who fancies biscuits with added weevils?

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We eat French tonight – très bon!

Posted by HurstStone 19:50 Archived in USA Tagged brooklyn_bridge the_high_line south_st_seaport the_vessel Comments (0)

28 September 2019 - New York to Wilmington, Vermont

Uber-excited!


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Today we lose our Uber virginity. Can you believe it, neither of us has used the service before? It wasn't really the plan for today; Debbie had researched train times and prices for getting to Stamford, Connecticut to collect the rental car and the cost was reasonable. That was three weeks ago. When we looked again yesterday the price had trebled - grr! Pete had the excellent idea of looking at Uber and the quote was just a few dollars more than travelling by train. As it would save us lugging our luggage to the train station and avoid a taxi ride at the other end, we booked it.

Our driver, Zaheer, arrives on time and we set off into the horn-honking New York traffic. Fortunately it's only for a few blocks and then we're clear and free, driving through parts of the city we haven't yet seen. Maybe next time. It's a pretty smooth journey and we arrive at the car rental place in good time. Debbie's been writing the blog en route so she's missed the scenery, but the view from the motorway, sorry, highway, isn't that spectacular anyway.

It seems to take forever to sort out the rental car but finally we're Vermont-bound. The car doesn't have satnav and for the first few miles Debbie holds Pete's phone aloft so that he can see Google Maps. Debbie realises that before long she'll have cramp in her hand and reads the car manual (helpfully it's in the glovebox) to work out how to use something called Apple Car Play and, hey presto, the route appears on the screen on the dashboard. Great, although it will chomp through Pete's data.

Debbie continues to type until she feels a bit carsick and stops. Now she can watch the scenery and the autumn colours sliding by. Pete drives like a pro and we arrive at our accommodation at the exact time we had estimated. Our Air B&B host David and his two Golden Retrievers, Nelson and Spencer come bounding out to greet us. Well, Spencer does; both David and Nelson are getting on a bit in years for doing too much bounding!

It's a fabulous place, so much better than any hotel. Set in a beautiful garden, on the edge of the forest, it's an annexe to David's house - open plan bedroom and living area with beams and wooden pillars, and a spacious bathroom with one of the biggest shower cubicles we've ever seen! David and his wife have thought of everything, including lots of goodies for breakfast.

Late afternoon and after coffee at a quirky cafe in Wilmington, the sinking sun tempts us to walk by the local lake and take in the view. It's a small picture but in a beautiful frame - fall foliage and a blue sky. All is going well until we see a sign about bears. Discretion being the better part of valour we decide it must be time to get ready for dinner and we head back to the ginormous shower.

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We have a seafood dinner and Debbie's in heaven, if they have the sea in heaven. Sweet, sweet scallops and as she savours a deep fried clam, she declares 'This tastes so much like the sea that I can picture myself swimming when I was a child. I love it!' Pete enjoys his clam appetiser and seafood sampler main course just as much but with a little less eye-rolling and slightly different memories!

Posted by HurstStone 16:33 Archived in USA Tagged vermont uber air_b&b Comments (0)

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