Category Archives: New York, New York

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra)

“New York, New York, so good we called here twice” (sorry Frank Sinatra).

We made the most of our last morning in New Orleans to stroll the streets once more and for me to finally sample the famous beignets. We had been told they were a must and for sure these hot, sweet pastries (a cross between a donut and a light, fluffy Yorkshire pudding) arrived at the table covered in icing sugar. That was the beignets that were covered in sugar rather than the table, although eating one of those without exhaling the sugar coating is something of a challenge. How to eat 3 of them (the one portion size) was a marathon task – and that would be the daunting kind, not the now called Snickers bar. Even the Beignet Cafe gave us a morning jazz concert of a very high standard.

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We packed up rather reluctantly, sad that even though we had crammed a huge amount into our two day stopover, there was much we had missed. We hadn’t explored the ghost walks, the cemeteries or the voodoo ‘experience’. Chuckle. Actually, we caught sight of one of the cemeteries on our way to the airport. It was full of magnificent tombstones, presumably monuments to the great and the good, or maybe to the wealthy and bad. Ah well, New Orleans is yet another place on my “must return” list.

The car valet service at the hotel was excellent, even though the car park was 15 blocks away. The car was brought to the door at the appointed time, our cases loaded up, although the cheerful offer of directions was politely rejected in favour of ‘Sally the Sat Nav’. This time she didn’t play games or tease with alternative routes. We filled up the tank and rolled into the Budget car return in minutes. Even that was slick. No paperwork needed as everything was on a hand held computer with bar code readings. The car had done its job without incident this year and a mere 2065 miles added to the clock.

The timings of hotel checkouts plus the need to return the car on time, meant we had a long visit with Louis Armstrong, well, his airport at least. An internal flight with Delta to New York, a late evening arrival at our airport hotel and, apart from the small matter of an overnight flight from JFK on Sunday, that’s it! Our musical road trip is finished. We have experienced a wide range of musical genres, had a very large number of amazing times, seen, done, tasted a huge variety of memorable moments and appreciated all of it. Thanks for the fun times, Carolyn, and thanks to our families for their encouragement/indulgence of a couple of ‘girls’ of a certain age who like nothing more than an open road with places to see and people to meet at the end.

Goodbye New Orleans…..hello JFK

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

How to finish a journey which, through memories, will never end?

The final post is being written on a relative small plane doing the internal flight from New Orleans to New York. We are in Row 18 (four seats to a row) which, it transpires, is only two from the rear of the aircraft. Quite different to our transatlantic flight tomorrow back to the U.K. And, it has onboard Wifi!! (We haven’t paid for it!)

So, what of our journey? We set out to experience the music and the cities of the U.S. and we can count it as ‘mission accomplished’. It didn’t all go to the original plan when forces of nature intervened. We missed out Charleston and half of the Blue Mountain Parkway but those omissions can be rectified in the future, if we wish. We, unlike so many in that part of North America, were safe and in relative comfort. Our thoughts were with those who suffered.

The blog seems to be all-encompassing but a few quirks were missed out for brevity (and temporary amnesia – not caused by alcohol!). We added to them a few minutes ago when our pilot told us he was hoping to make “a smooth and speedy flight landing a few minutes early” and continued, “I’m hoping to make a few shortcuts!” Wot?!

Having recently accidentally emulated my mother’s admonishment, were I ever to have used bad language, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and water!”, what else can I add?

From the wet, rain-soaked vision of the pair of us in New York, we went to a wet, sweat-soaked vision of us in New Orleans but, in between times, the sun shone, or didn’t, and we smiled, looked, listened, and sang… whatever!

Driving:
It’s different. The “concrete arteries clogged with the cholesterol of cars” was how I described American roads last year in Los Angeles. Our roads this trip were virtually all free flowing and, for much of the time, straight and well maintained despite the overuse of concrete for roads and, especially, bridges. Traffic lights go from Red to Green without the intervening Red/Amber and you can turn Right on Red unless told otherwise. It surprised me that after a No Entry sign on the inappropriate carriageway of a Freeway (our Motorway) there was usually a second sign about 50 metres down the road saying “Wrong way!”. Which idiot would go down the wrong way, I asked myself. Well, I did. Albeit briefly. Turning left on to a multi-lane dual carriageway at night in the dark (see how I’m building the possible excuses) where the Sat. Nav. showed a sharp left turn and then sharp right, I found myself, suddenly, facing potentially oncoming traffic. Fortunately, I saw the cars a distance away and had an exit. Phew.

I was impressed, as always, by the 53 feet length and over 11 feet tall trucks who, occasionally, on this trip suddenly had a ‘skirt’ underneath. Apparently, called ‘wings’ and, I assume, useful for aerodynamics. As a former Maths’ teacher, I do like the U.S. use of Median for the central reservation.

Nomenclature:
Soubriquets included: Babe, Sweetie, Honey and, of course, the ubiquitous Guys. Being described as the most beautiful woman in the bar was tempered by his inebriation! Ah, well! I was reminded there of a song which we frequently heard on the Country Music channels on our car radio:
🎼🎶🎤 “They say I’ve got a drinking problem but it’s no problem drinking at all.
They call it a problem but I call it a solution.”

The road from Nashville to New Orleans is known as the ‘Music Highway’ and you can understand why. Musical oddities? One of the bands (hillbilly) at the Grand Ole Opry was called, ‘The Possum Touchers’ and a member of another band (cowboy), ‘Riders in the Sky’, had a green pronged item as neckwear which he called his Cac-tie! And I’m told my jokes are bad. The worst joke of that evening had to be… “We give him laxatives at night with a sleeping pill. It makes him sleep like a baby.”

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In Washington D.C., we got half of our hotel bill returned together with a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries after a complaint and ‘blagged’ our way into a museum without online booking. We Seniors don’t take any messing with! And we showed the youngsters how to ride the Segways! Right on, eh?! We Rock!

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Another wonderful Road Trip nearly over. Our ‘Thelma and Louise’ will never emulate Bing Crosby and Bob Hope in the ‘Roads to Wherever’ but we’ll try.

Bye for now.

 

 

It might as well rain until September…..

“The weather here has been as nice as it can be”…….not! Yesterday’s blue skies and hot sun turned to grey, overcast and, at times, just down right wet. But we had agreed we wanted to get up close and personal with Lady Liberty and, come on, we are Brits and used to a bit of weather. I confess to chickening out on the tour bus down to Battery Park when I opted for the inside seats rather than the open deck. Once there, it was fine again and I was giddy enough to persuade Carolyn that the top deck of the boat was the best place to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the New York skyline, etc. It was – but blooming windy so we both resorted to kagools rather than go down a deck.

We alighted at Liberty Island, took the ubiquitous daft selfies, walked the circuit and refused to contemplate climbing the inside of the statue. Poor lady, with all those tourists swarming all over the place! Anyway, we came, we saw and we left!

Next stop was Ellis Island, along with the announcement about America being the land of the free and a nation of immigrants. Nowhere is a better example of this than New York, but it would appear to an outsider such as I that, currently, any new immigrants must exclude Mexicans and Muslims. Just a thought.

We had, thus far, managed to stay dry, so emboldened by our good fortune (and as it was fine), we opted for the top open deck. Big mistake. Within 5 minutes of our 1 hour and 10 mins ride uptown, the heavens opened and the Big Bus was awash. Interestingly, as the bus moves quickly I found it a trifle painful to get heavy rain on my face. “On your right…..”, said the tour guide. “Ouch”, said I, (or words to that effect) as my left ear received a gallon of rainwater. Getting off at the end of the ride, I squelched and dripped. Carolyn suggested Macdonalds for a burger, a coffee and a warm, dry place to sit for a few mins. Of course the rain stopped immediately and only renewed its apparent challenge to soak us to the skin as we stepped out of the door. It was funny, especially after a hot bath and dry clothes.

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Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

Kath has a penchant for politeness and understatement – it was WET and we were saturated. It was not an unavoidable happenchance caused by the heavens opening unexpectedly. The forecast said RAIN; the skies said RAIN and, even when it was raining and we were asked if we wanted to go downstairs, inside and dry, we sat there resolutely like… ducks! However,…

I’d never been to Liberty Island and, other than from the air, had never seen the Statue in person, as it were. Somehow, as Kath alluded, the current political situation almost required me to remind myself that the history of the United States is one of multiracial, multilingual, multicultural and pluralism of religious beliefs. What is going wrong, I wonder? In the U.K., we have similar issues and it’s the very group(s) professing the more fundamentally literal views of Christianity who seem to be the most bigoted and, frankly, unChristian. It was reassuring to hear the commentary on the boat reminding us that America – and particularly New York – prides itself in being cosmopolitan and accepting of anyone who wants to come to this country. Still?! The sign on the left says it all, I think. Researching Daniel Boorstin, I came across another quote worth contemplating.

One of the snippets of information which our Bus Tour Guide related to us was about Peter Stuyvesant, a Dutch notable and benefactor, who built the original Wall from which Wall Street got its name. The wall was built to keep out the Native Americans from his part of the then New Amsterdam, now New York. Our guide suggested, I suspect tongue in cheek, that he got the Native Americans to pay for the wall. Of course, over history, the Native Americans have paid a far greater price.

The musical notes for the day? The first had to be, “Didn’t it rain, children” of which I remember a black and white Granada documentary version from eons ago sung by Sister Rosetta Tharpe. My second ear worm was Gerry Marsden’s version of “Ferry ‘cross the Mersey” which, related to the purpose of Liberty Island’s Statue, could be retitled “Ferry across to Mercy”.

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Finally, as a prelude to beginning the road part of our American Music Road Trip tomorrow, the driver for our journey… extolled in Stevie Wonder’s wonderful:

“Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
But just because a record has a groove
Don’t make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
When the people start to move

They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people

Music knows it is and always will
Be one of the things that life just won’t quit
But here are some of music’s pioneers
That time will not allow us to forget
For there’s Basie, Miller, Satchmo
And the king of all Sir Duke
And with a voice like Ella’s ringing out
There’s no way the band can lose.”

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No lullaby on Broadway today

If anyone is in need of inspiration in the art of filling a day, look no further. I hadn’t realised when we left the hotel this morning how far we would walk or even that it would be 12 hours before we returned, tired with a capital ‘K’.  Which pair of idiots would walk almost two miles from the hotel to the start of the very beautiful High Line walk and then walk another 1.5 miles along this scenic route?  We even walked a few blocks at the end whilst deciding what to do next!

 

The ‘next’ took us to lunch at the Chelsea Market which is a delightfully revamped warehouse full of individual outlets selling every kind of food you can imagine. We fell for the one selling fresh lobsters (served every which way), huge oysters, crabs, etc, but settled for bowls of chowder.  Now what?  More walking before hailing a cab at the Flatiron and heading for the 9/11 Memorial.

 

The queue for the observatory at the top of the One World Trade Centre snaked endlessly around the front of the building. After yesterday’s mammoth queuing experience it was a line too long or a queue too far, so we headed to the beautiful memorial pool and the more recently constructed monument which is based on a white dove of peace and a phoenix rising from the ashes. Onwards to the church which survived the collapse of the towers and a short break for peaceful contemplation of the restoration of the whole area.  New towers are going up – 2 already built and 5 more in process or planning.

 

Now where? By this time we were hurting and it was hot. There was only one solution – the Big Bus hop on hop off tour. A few more blocks and we could sit for a while and enjoy commentaries on the delights of downtown, uptown and midtown New York. We made our final hop off at Times Square and headed for dinner and great blues music at BB King’s. Ribs and a performance by guys who can make their instruments sing. What could be better?  The only downside was that we had stiffened up and had almost a mile to walk back!  Phew.

 

Carolyn’s Curios & Musical Notes 🎼🎶🖌

As we’re on a Music Tour, I decided to change the subtitle. No other reason, I suppose, than I like it.

So our first full day in New York was a… full day! Lots of walking but compensated with stunning cityscapes and the incredible High Line. Very well worth the walk – including the extra we walked back to find Ann’s preferred Tee shirt! We chatted to one of the many volunteers and she had a distinct London accent. She told us that she came over for a fortnight every year to volunteer and help in the garden areas. Commitment and a belief in the ‘cause’.

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I like listening to music and, frankly, don’t do enough of it. However, I, also, have fun with musical miscellany. So, today, walking past the train sidings and bus storage at the start (North) of High Line, I had in mind Debbie Harry’s New York post-punk band Blondie and their classic album ‘Parallel Lines’.

 

As we walked through Herald Square, the song in my head, of course, was “Give my regards to Broadway” and, when we got to Chelsea Market, Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” became my ear worm for more than a few moments.

 

In between times, a sign about nude bodies which we didn’t know whether it was a warning or an invitation, an advertisement for Shawn Mendes’ fragrance (forwarded to my granddaughter who has him as her favourite singer of the moment) and the ubiquitous Rainbow which was irrelevant as we brought our very own.

 

Luck be a lady 🎼🎹🎤

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It felt a ‘Vegas sort of a day’ as we set off under the hot sun and clear blue sky to explore a little.  In Vegas you have to accept the exploration of hotels involves lots of walking, i.e. the buildings themselves are enormous and, therefore, it is sensible to decide a mode of transportation from one point of interest to another. Granted you miss some of the sights along the way, and there are plenty of those (!), but you can cover greater distances. The cab was our choice – fairly inexpensive and a door to door service.

We started with breakfast along the way as we were walking to The Venetian (we hadn’t seen the light, or rather felt the pain at that point). This is probably my favourite hotel here and it seems to have improved even since my last visit. I just love the shops and restaurants underneath the artificial sky with the gondoliers singing to their passengers. OK, so it is fake and Carolyn and I worked out that the gondolas were electronically operated by foot pedals. Still a shot of expensive Las Vegas fun.  Maybe next time I will find the sort of excellent deal we got at The Bellagio.

The cab ride to our next port of call was very necessary as it was a very long walk to The Luxor. I had been in previously but had forgotten that it was a bit on the gloomy side. There are some Egyptian replicas around but the most fun you get is riding the elevators up the inside of the pyramid and feeling them go upwards and sideways at the same time.

As we were off to the theatre this evening, I had planned some relaxation for the afternoon in the form of swimming and a poolside snooze. I hadn’t reckoned that the strong winds would close the pool in this heat. But, sure enough, we could see the loungers blowing into the various pools and the elevators just would not go to that floor. Shame, but there are lots of nice things to see and do in the hotel which don’t involve losing your shirt (or your house) on the gaming tables.

Summoning more energy it was off to the theatre, all dressed up, to see ‘Rock of Ages’.  Great music, full blooded noise, enthusiastic cast and even more enthusiastic audience. Many knew the songs (every single vocal and some of the tune!!) and stood to mimic the dance routines. We had fabulous seats and Carolyn had found prices cheaper than the bucket shops. The drinks were a bit average (coolers rather than cocktails) but a great night.

This was the first day we not only failed to encounter our beloved Route 66 but we did no driving at all – the first time since leaving Chicago. Back on the road again tomorrow to find Barstow.

Carolyn’s Curios

A day in Las Vegas. Two kids from Preston… ‘hanging out’ on the Strip. We didn’t consider that even as a possibility those years ago. Well, we’re here and tomorrow, we leave on the last but one leg of our road trip on Route 66. Today has been unusual as this is the first day we haven’t been on Route 66 (we managed 600 yds before our long detour to Vegas yesterday). In fact, as Kath said, we haven’t driven at all. We walked and taxied to cover our travels which involved Paris (across the road), Rome (Caesars Palace), Venice (Venetian), Egypt (Luxor), Mexico (Margaritaville), Brazil (Rio), New York, New York etc.

Tonight’s treat was a showing of Rock of Ages. Perhaps it was that the music was from the 80s, but I didn’t engage with it as I have with “We will rock you’, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Let it be’, ‘Sunny afternoon’ and others. However, a raucous, fun-filled show which was well worth the discounted tickets. We followed it with snacks in the Rio casino. I took a copy of the quote on the back wall of the theatre which said, “The dreams you come in with may not be the dreams you leave with… but hey, they still rock!” Enough said?!

It is astonishing how big these hotels are and how fixated they are on gambling. Yesterday, we walked 12200 steps, 4 floors and 8.7km despite only arriving at 3.00. Today we walked 11500 steps, 13 floors and 7.8 km despite using three taxis!

The Bellagio isn’t the biggest hotel in the world nor even the biggest in Vegas but it is has a bigger population, albeit temporary, than Kirkham!

Impressions of Vegas? Big, bold, brash with pretentions of class. Most people here come to gamble but the sights are worth the trip. Despite the relative ‘luxury’ of the accommodation, I’ve found more places on the journey where I would prefer to return first.

So, tomorrow we drive to Victorville via Barstow. Barstow is the penultimate named town in the Bobby Troup song which has focussed our journey. Only San Bernadino to go before we arrive at our current journey’s end at Santa Monica pier. Needless to say, we’re hoping to echo Sheryl Crow and “… have some fun until the sun comes up on the Santa Monica Boulevard”.