After a week or so in the countryside in New England, this is a day for a big city visit. We have been to New York before and really wanted to do something different so today’s visit to the big Apple is by train from Stamford into Grand Central Station as we had never been to GCS before. The train is crowded even though they put on extra trains on Saturdays, but get a seat to watch the world go by. The train does not exactly go fast even though it is an express, probably a maximum of 50mph, about half the speed of a UK commuter train.
Do not dwell at GCS but wander down to TKTS @ Times Square. No point in queueing for a musical matinee, too many people already had that idea so ask a security guy where the queue for the plays was and was ushered to the front of the adjacent queue and get tickets for “Time to Kill” for half price.
Lunch in a hotel’s cafe with an extremely rude waitress (aren’t all New Yorkers rude?), a wander around an adjacent market and a couple of shops before settling in for the play.
A play set in the Deep South of America in the early 1980’s would not have been my first choice but am glad we went. An interesting story with many un PC references to women and blacks set in a Court house.
As many people in New York as I had imagined, with noise and people everywhere. Vowed to get back to NY sometime for a longer experience.
Back to GCS (walking over, not down 5th Avenue) and take the self guided tour for $6 each for about an hour which was well worth the money.
The food market within the station would probably never have been found if it were not for the tour.
Buy food from Market for eating in our hotel room after another crowded and slow train (again an express!) back to Stamford. New York cheesecake, Yum!
It is puzzling that virtually all the seats on both trains face one way (out of town). Unlike most UK and continental trains where the seats are multi facing.
A day of R&R with a short drive to Bedford for a coffee. A lovely little village (they even have a village green). With clapboard buildings but again, many electric wires blocking views for photos.
Onwards to Peekskill just as somewhere to go, deviating from the main route several times to view the houses and leaf fall.
Mounds of swept up leaves dot the road in many places which hopefully will be sucked up soon.
Not so many Halloween houses here, probably as the occupants think it is beneath them!!
Nothing really expected at Peekskill but we did come across a moving memorial to all the firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11.
Stop again in Bedford for a late lunch / early dinner. Far too many chips (fries) so a great waste but a lovely restaurant in a lovely little village. A head cold now forcing itself on Richard so an interrupted night will probably occur.
Bad start as not a lot of breakfast items available 20 minutes before closure so ask reception to locate staff to provide some items. Lady surfaces a few minutes later mumbling that the breakfast bar is closed, listening to her headphones but does deliver some bread and butter. Immediately starts clearing items away; no word of apology.
Report problem to reception who apologise and deducts from our bill, the 3 nights car valet parking of $36 which was good.
Try following Interstate that does not go through NY and get off route a couple of times but eventually reach bridge over Hudson River and onwards to Philadelphia.
Manage to Skype Mel at a Panera Bread en route using their free WiFi. Dinner in Hotel but not great service and strange surroundings. Although around the Hudson River there were many nice coloured leaves, by the time we reach Philly, nearer the coast, many had disappeared. Hopefully, better in the Blue Mountains next week. Could have done more but bad head cold, probably caught at the Shaker village taking it’s toll.
Walk to train station (5 minutes from Holiday Inn) and catch train to Market street. All the seats seem again to face backwards and again, there is a conductor for each carriage, what a waste of resources.
Do like their poster for leaves on the line though.
At street level head towards an older building past a grand looking Macy’s and into a large building that seems to be more like a city hall.
An information booth inside reveals that the big bus tour goes from the Marriott hotel every 20 minutes. We find the Marriott but obviously at the wrong entrance although the bus does stop when we flag it down. A good tour around the compact city, on the top deck ducking the overhanging branches and low lying tram cables with a guide who talks down the Brits in a lighthearted funny way.
Get off at the stop by the liberty bell museum and take 20 minutes or so around the museum before re-boarding for the rest of the tour.
The government shutdown earlier in the month would have meant that this museum would have been shut with no views possible.
Thankfully, some sense has filtered into the American politicians although it is only a postponement and another stoppage is possible early next year.
Lots of fascinating buildings and stories throughout the tour including a link to the statue of Thomas Jefferson and the local football team not winning anything after the building he sits atop was beaten in height until a new building had a $9.99 small model of him placed on it’s roof a few years ago when the football team won again.
The Macy’s building was originally a store operated by a Mr Wannamaker who was, amongst other things enthusiastic about Mother’s day.
The building houses a (church type) ornate organ, possibly a first for a departmental store but not yet lit Christmas decorations precluded a decent picture.
Walk around the covered market that housed many stalls including some from the local Amish community then on to some of the side streets with fascinating houses that could be anywhere in Britain for their architecture.
Not a lot of restaurants in the area of the hotel and as dinner not great in hotel last night, set Satnav for the nearest Applebee’s. Satnav fails to find it miserably but then we locate it some 300 yds away on the opposite side of the road.
That was just the start of our troubles as our order for food was placed just before 7 and after at least 2 requests as to it’s location, the newly appointed manager managed to locate it about 40 minutes later.
The dozy waitress had failed to take it to the kitchen. The upshot, we got the desert free and an equal amount deducted from our bill. Another $12 saved.
Today was a bit misty and we set off for Washington via the Amish community farms around Lancaster.
A stop on the way at the Pennsylvania Railroad museum was well worth it with many beautifully restored locomotives of all sorts as well as carriages, old freight vans and many other artefacts.A well stocked model railway system or two was ideal for kids with many interactive displays. Obviously a lot of people have put in a lot of hours in making this a good attraction. The steam train rides opposite were on offer but time restraints prevented us for taking a ride.
Just before the train museum was a camping area with some old kabooses available to stay in.
They didn’t look particularly enticing although we didn’t look inside.
Onwards to a town named “Intercourse”! The most amazing thing about this town was it changed it’s name to Intercourse from Cross Keys. OK it was a change made nearly 200 years ago. Obviously had less of a meaning then.
Around some of the back lanes, past many farm communes and people working the fields in traditional costumes but with no mechanical aids. Many horses and traps around and bizarrely, one guy filling up with gas into a can, then loading it onto his trap and speeding off (horse style) to his community. Taking photos is not encouraged and was respected.
A longish drive now to Washington with horrendous traffic around Baltimore doing about 20 mph for about an hour. Arrive at our hotel in Alexandria, a quaint old town just across the border in Virginia somewhat later than planned. Dinner in hotel tonight.
Take free shuttle to Ronald Reagan airport and then the transit into DC. Confusing ticket arrangements but manage to master it with help from a staff member. Trains fast and comfortable and not too crowded with rear facing seats again! Underground stations are all very dimly lit though, saving on electricity?
Find Big Bus Tour stop and for $114 between us we have access to 4 open top deck bus tour routes over two days as well as two museums and a night tour, wow that is good value. Take yellow tour all the way around through Georgetown and past many of the landmarks. The president’s convoy passes by but I hadn’t got the camera out and by the time I had, it had passed – just my luck!
Washington must have every conceivable statue on show, from Einstein through US Presidents to Martin Luther King and some other military personnel not even American.
Grand Union Station is not a patch on the number of tracks of New York’s Grand Central Station seen last Saturday but the building is far grander from the outside and is being renovated inside which made for an interesting lunch upstairs on the concourse – men working above you on scaffolding and walkways.
Have lunch and take a trip on the open top bus tour red line which visits a number of other sites not on the yellow route.
Back to Grand Union Station and a look around the adjacent Post Office Museum which was free and fascinating with one of the more poignant items being the undeliverable items following 9.11. It would take days to view everything.
Buy dinner salad for later from Pret and board the night tour on the Big bus.
Some different views of some already seen monuments and a couple of stops, one of which was at the Korean and Vietnamese memorial with some 7′ tall soldiers looking to represent an exercise in the swamps/jungle. Quite moving!
Some rain tonight but still warm. Lots of Halloween festivities in DC with many people wearing costume throughout the day and lots of people, mostly women, wearing Orange.
Negotiate Metro ticket machine to travel to Airport and then taxi to hotel for speed followed by bought salad.
Tonight is Halloween which the Americans take very seriously. Loads of people with Orange clothes on and even some with Witches hat and the like wandering around town especially later in the evening.
Even the White House entered into the spirit of the occasion with a party on the lawn.
Sal now has my cold!
A grey day with some rain as forecast. Shuttle to airport, breakfast at Starbuck’s and negotiate Metro ticket machine to Capitol Hill South.
Find visitor centre and take a free 90 minute film and tour around the Capitol. Explanations about the Senate and Congress which probably means more to Americans than us Brits.
However, it was a well organised tour that took in many rooms, allowed us to stand underneath the dome and saw many more statues.
Many of the statues were from various states, each state putting up nominations but there is not enough space for all of the statues.
By the time we had finished, the weather had brightened up with temperatures up to the low 70s. Found the Blue tour open top bus that took us to the Arlington Cemetery, although not in it, and around the perimeter of the Pentagon.
No photos allowed apparently but we were only told about this after a few minutes so we already had some photos of the outside. No one mentioned the slight change in brick colouring on the South Wall which may be as a result of rebuilding after 9.11.
Return to hotel for an early night of laundry, salad and sleep.
Off inland tomorrow toward the Blue Ridge Mountains but Sal still has my cold!