Letter from America 6th November

Hi Guys and Gals,

We departed Eustis for New York on Wednesday 3rd as all the results for the mid term elections were coming through. It is still hard to accept the blatant misleading remarks made by the various politicians that time and time again were proven to be incorrect by the press and TV news. The best comment was made by a reader in the Orlando Sentinel under the “Ticked Off” correspondence which read: “If what political candidates are saying about each other is true, they should all be behind bars”. This about sums it up as far as I am concerned. A good example is Rick Scott who defeated the current Florida incumbent Charlie Christ despite being CEO of a large pharmaceutical company fined $1.5 billion for Medicare fraud while he was in charge! While we were away we were too busy to follow the results fortunately but it was still difficult to avoid it all.

New York was quite an experience. We arrived at JFK just after lunch time and reached our hotel at 3.45pm. The traffic was unbelievable, the express way was just one big car park and our taxi driver zigzagged down all sorts of back streets to our hotel next to Times Square. As soon as we had checked in and left the luggage in our room we walked straight to the Empire State Building arriving about an hour later than planned. The delay proved to be for the good as by the time we reached the Observatory the sun was just beginning to go down and we were able to take some pictures of the sunset with skyscrapers in the foreground and an interesting cloud formation above the sunset. It was not long before it turned dark and we had the wonderful views of the lights of New York from up high. We had pre-booked and paid extra for the fast track tickets. This meant we could go to the front of the queue for security, the ticket line and finally the elevators to the Observatory. Bearing in mind the long lines at each of these points it was money well spent which I would recommend to anyone visiting unless you have a lot of time to spare.

The weather the following day was unkind to us with rain forecast for the next 24 hours. Fortunately we had booked an all day escorted coach tour which meant that a large part of the day was spent in the dry although to the detriment of picture taking. The tour visited all of Manhattan from Uptown to Downtown, the Flatiron building, Greenwich Village, SoHo and Little Italy where we had lunch. Then we visited The World Trade Center which after 9/11 is now known as “Ground Zero”. It will be another three years before the current “Freedom Tower” is complete although the open space at the centre is due to be complete with over four hundred trees and a fountain by the 9/11 anniversary in 2011. Next was Battery Park where we boarded a harbour boat along the East and Hudson rivers to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island . Back to the coach, on to Central Park and The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. There in the basement we saw a food pantry in progress feeding the homeless, while opposite we visited the memorial tomb of General Grant. Finally back via Harlem, the Museum Mile, Fifth Avenue and the Rockefeller Center.where we were due to go to the “Top of the Rock” observation deck. However as this was covered in low cloud it was closed. We then chose to walk back to our hotel from there via 6th Avenue, 48th Street and through Times Square .

As the weather the next day was forecast with 30% chance of rain we played safe and purchased tickets to visit The American Museum of Natural History opposite Central Park . This proved to be a good choice, although I am not a “museum person” by any means. We travelled via the Subway which was another new experience, much noisier than the London Underground. Quite a lot of interest at the museum particularly the exhibition “Race to the End of the Earth” between Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott in their struggle to be the first to reach the South Pole. This included an interesting talk and like most of us I felt I was fairly familiar with the history but this exhibition proved to be most enlightening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. After lunch we first visited the Dakota apartments, which were about four blocks from the museum. This was where John Lennon was murdered in December 1980. From there we crossed the road to the entrance of Central Park to the “Strawberry Fields” and the “Imagine” ceramic memorial, both of which should appeal to the John Lennon/Beatles’ fans. The Park was smaller than I had imagined measuring 2.5 miles in length by 0.5 miles wide. It was however breathtakingly beautiful as all the trees were changing colour at the time of our visit. We walked through the Park to 6th Avenue and on down to 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue to the Rockefeller Center to finally visit the “Top of the Rock” as the weather had improved. A bit of a let down after the Empire State Building which we enjoyed much more. Back to the hotel, wash and change and out to dinner, which being New York was very expensive.

As we had a 4.30am call for returning to Orlando the next morning we had an early night. We would have liked to have done one of the Broadway shows but having walked over sixteen miles during the two and a half days we felt too exhausted. New York was one hell of an experience but we should have done it maybe when we were a little younger as it is such a vibrant, busy but exhausting city. Times Square is quite something and the “Big Apple” is horrendously expensive. It would appear that prices go up at the beginning of November as visitors start their Christmas shopping. In addition, although we did not know at the time of booking, it was the New York Marathon on the Sunday after we left on the Saturday.

Hope you all had fun on Guy Fawkes night, something we miss out on over here. The weather at Eustis turned cold on the Friday as a cold front came through, much the same night time temperature as in New York about 44F together with a cold wind.

Bryan Staples

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