On Thursday I phoned to book a cab to take us to the airport from Manhattan to JFK Airport on Friday.
So, we were all packed, waiting at the hotel reception for the cab to arrive, when an eight seat stretch Limo pulled up at the door. It could not possibly be ours. The driver walked in to reception and walked straight up to us. "Are you room 522?" – he asked.
Yes – the Limo was ours! So, Lois and I went to JFK airport in style. I really felt like a rock star. It was fantastic! I have no idea why we got a stretch Limo, I have no idea why it cost the same as a yellow cab – but I was not going to complain.
So, New York – we will be back soon. Keep up the style!
New York is the most amazing city! It is always busy with people and traffic rushing about at all times of the day.
We went up the Empire State Building, which is about a block from our hotel. The viewing deck is on the 86’th floor, and the view was fantastic – you can see the entire island of Manhattan, and much further on a good day. The queue’s are about one hour long or so, but Lois’ white cane did the trick!
Yesterday we took a three hour cruise around Manhattan, and got to see the different neighbourhoods. We say the 59th bridge (as in the 59th Street Bridge Song), the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the United Nations building.
Ground Zero was very sobering – it is just a very big hole in the ground, with lots of construction happening. A selection of photos of 9/11 were on display, as well as a signboard listing the names of the people who lost their lives. The atmosphere was very sad and thought-provoking.
We also visited the Intrepid museum, which contains a WW2 aircraft carrier, a submarine, and a British Airways Concorde. The submarine was really fun to visit. It was very cramped and quite claustrophobic. The hatches we had to climb through were very small and cramped! I was interested to learn that the crew only showered once a week, and then for only one minute at a time. It must have been really fragrant down there!
The Concorde, which was donated by British Airways is really not a large aeroplane – it is tiny! It might have been a really fast aeroplane, but it is also very cramped inside. You are definitely paying for speed, not for comfort. I suppose that I can say with a straight face that I have now been on the Concorde.
It is a good thing we went to the museum when we did because it is closing on Oct 1 for maintenance for a year or so.
So on this trip, we have been on the following modes of transport : aeroplane, ferry, train, bus, subway, car, horse and cart, spaceship, Concorde, tram, submarine, battleship, amphibious vehicle and of course foot! Not bad going for a couple of weeks.
The weather has generally been very hot, but New York has been raining the last couple of days – just like Cape Town! I am loving the trip, but I am starting to miss the dogs, our food and of course my bed!
I seem to have picked up a cold – I think it is from the air-con and hot weather outside, so I am laying low today.
Today and tomorrow Lois has Toastmasters Training, which gives me two days to myself. So, I have been doing a lot of travelling. The tour buses are hop on – hop off, which is really great!
I am currently sitting in Washington Park, waiting for the next bus. I started the day by visiting the Jefferson Memorial, which is a large rotunda-shaped memorial. It is centred by a statue of Thomas Jefferson, which is about 19′ tall. The memorial is right on the edge of the Tidal Basin by the Potomac River, and is a very cool and reflective place to spend some time.
Just next to the Jefferson Memorial is the Roosevelt Memorial. Of interest here is that it shows Roosevelt in a wheel chair, after he was crippled by Polio – attended to by his dog! The also have in interesting quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:
Franklin’s illness gave him strength and courage he had not had before. He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons-infinite patience and never-ending persistence.
The entire quite is written in very large braille.
Next was the Arlington Cemetery, which was enormous. It was very sobering to see row upon row of white tombstones, containing memorials to people from many wars – amongst them Vietnam, Korea, and World War 2. I saw the grave of John Kennedy.
It contains a flame which was lit by his wife Jackie at his funeral in 1963. She is now buried alongside him. They also had a changing of the guard which was not very exciting. The graveyard is a stark reminder of our mortality.
The Vietnam Memorial is very sad. It is a gently sloped pathway, with a wall containing a list of all US servicemen that died in the Vietnam war. At the beginning of the pathway, you see only a few names. By the time you are in the middle, you are dwarfed by the wall. Every few steps, you can see a bunch of flowers, or a photograph of a veteran.
The Lincoln Memorial (there are lots of memorials in DC!) is at the West end of the mall, overlooking the Reflecting Pool, and providing a stunning view of the Washington Monument and the Capital at the east end of the Mall. I believe that the design is based on the temple of Delphi in Greece.
Right, here comes my bus…
…my legs are really sore from all the walking. I have just found my favourite beer (Bass from Burton on Trent in UK) in the hotel bar!
This afternoon was a bit quieter – with a visit to the National Cathedral. It was built in the Gothic style, and is very reminiscent of Notre Damme. However, building started in 1907, and was only completed in 1990! The building does really look very old. It is a quiet spot where you can sit and contemplate the world.
More to follow later…
We have spent the last few days with at my brother in law Marcus, and his wife Paddy. We have visited the New Jersey, the most decorated battle ship in the US navy ever, and strangely enough we went to a Duck Decoy museum, all about the wooden decorative ducks.
We also when to Philadelphia, where we saw the Liberty Bell – which they allowed Lois to touch. There was a huge photo of Mandela there (yay)! We also went into the room where the US declaration of independence and the constitution were signed. We rounded off the day with a horse and carriage ride. It’s great being on leave.
SA can learn a lot about customer service from USA. Everybody is very willing to help, and nothing is a bother. Service is fast, friendly and efficient (addendum: it’s either really good, or really bad – never in between).
A downside of this is that they tend to live in a consumer-based society. Many people only live on fast food and are immensely overweight. They have to park in disabled bays because they are too fat to walk any distance. We say a man order 6 donughts at Dunkin’ Donut (sic), and eat them all in a few minutes.
I have to respond to the feedback about the flags. Americans are immensely proud of their country. It does not mean that they support George Bush, or the current war. Many don’t. However they do believe that they live in the best country in the world. That is what SA can learn from! It was described to me in a quote ‘it is the world’s largest dysfunctional family – they don’t always get along, but they support each other against other families’.
A few weeks ago, in a momentary lack of my intelligence, Lois’ iPod shuffle (or iShuffle as we call it) went through our washing machine (I had left it in my pocket). I realised that it was there about five minutes after switching it on.
Now, as most of you are aware, you cannot open the door of most washing machines once they have started washing. So with much trepidation I patiently waited for the washing to end.
Once the washing was complete, I took the iPod out (it was now sparkling white), and dried it a bit with a warm hair-dryer. (Because it was an iPod I could not take out the battery). After leaving it overnight, it worked fine with no problems whatsoever. I was astounded.
Aside from the fact that it is washing-machine proof, it really is an amazing little mp3 player. It is small, light, has excellent sound quality, a good battery, and it holds about 250 songs. I love it!