Driving on the right side of the road

Sunday 2nd June 2013


We had a whole morning in New York City before having to head to get our hire car. So we decided to go up the Rockefeller building which neither of us had done before. So after our all American breakfast of fried potatoes, streaky bacon and eggs (sunny side up) we wondered down the road to the Rockefeller centre.


When me and mum were in Paris over Christmas we went up a building that wasn’t quite as high as the Eiffel Tower but was the highest building other than the Eiffel Tower. We soon discovered we had found a hidden gem of views across Paris that included the Eiffel Tower. I suppose you don’t really think when you are going up these high buildings that once you’re at the top you are effectively just looking at all the other buildings below and not the actual building you are in itself. What finding that other viewpoint did meant that we saw the whole of Paris skyline from a height and including the main feature of the Eiffel Tower itself. The same thing applied here. I have been up the Empire State Building twice now I think, and each time was really great, and the views are spectacular, but what was even better this time was that the Empire State Building was part of the view. I would recommend going up the Rockefeller building over going up the Empire State Building simply because of this fact. Its also probably cheaper.


Anyhow another beautiful morning meant a perfect day to take pictures of manhattan and beyond before finding our way down again and making our way to the place we were hiring our car for the next few weeks of road tripping!!



I think mum was particularly nervous about the initial drive out of New York City, and although I’m insured to drive the car too I was very happy to be navigator at this point 🙂


It wasn’t as bad as expected though. We were pretty close to 1st avenue that linked us right onto the main highway off manhattan and eventually out of the city. Our first stop off is in Rhode Island where we will be staying with a fantastic family friend (who we know through my lovely grandparents on my mums side) Julie bacon.


Once mum got the hang of the highways it was all pretty simple. We worked our way on the main highway through the Bronx and then out and over the state line into Connecticut. The roads are so huge and wide and considering the time of day they were pretty empty in most places.


We stopped off for water and food halfway, just off the highway. Literally EVERY services stop has a McDonald’s and that’s about it. Fortunately at this one there was also a subway. So we tucked into one of those whilst sat outside in the sunshine before continuing in our journey.


It’s not too far of a drive to Rhode Island. About 3 hours, and it seemed to fly by. There was plenty to look at out the window.


Rhode Island, and in particular where Julie lives in weekapaug is beautiful. Her beautiful house overlooks some lakes that lead out to the ocean which you can also see. It is so wonderful seeing Julie. We last saw her at Christmas in London, and visiting her house in Rhode Island is particularly special. We opened a bottle of rosé and had some cheese on arrival and then had a guided tour aided along also by Julie’s dog max who is a very cute dog and so well behaved!!

We had dinner reservations for 7pm at the inn overlooking the ocean that you can see from the house. So we sat on the veranda of the inn and ordered nibbles and bits and bobs and drank wine and chatted and caught up. I also had clam chowder. when fresh its literally my favourite! Its still nice enough to sit outside but a storm is heading our way now so we thought we out to make the most of the weather!


New York, New York!

So we did quite a lot in this one day. So I’m continuing this blog from the last one just to break it up a little…to be honest it’s amazing what you can do in a short amount of time when you know that that time is all you have. If only we could all live by this philosophy everyday. Like if everyday we chose to be tourists I reckon there is no end to what we could discover and achieve. Unfortunately when you get into a routine it’s far too easy to just let time slip you by and not make the most of it. I’m promising myself here and now to constantly be a tourist. Even in my home town. I think every day deserves to be a story.


Anyways…. After sunning ourselves in Central Park for quite some time we then made our way to the subway where we took a ride down to ground zero. Here we feasted on some luncheon that overlooked the ‘occupy’ people of downtown New York, and they had situated themselves pretty much directly by the world trade centres.


We then went through a small queue to get into the 9/11 memorial at ground zero. Obviously you don’t have to pay to get in. But if you want a 9/11 wrist band you need to donate at least $10 to get one. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I mean as some kind of subtle money maker it works, and goodness only knows how much it is costing to keep the two massive waterfall memorial fountains going. But compared to the other times I visited ground zero, this put me slightly on edge.


So the first time I visited was in 2004. At this point ground zero was very very quiet. People walked around the site, (still full of debris) and read the billboards that gave information about the 9/11 incidents. It was really quite a moving experience. I mean; I never saw the twin towers when they were standing, but I have watched movies where they feature, and sit coms etc. so in a way I grew up watching them pop up here and there. And of course I watched 9/11 happen pretty much live on the tv screen at home. So even though I had never seen them stand tall, I still felt moved by the whole experience. It made what had appeared on tv come to life I guess. I’m sure most of you watched the twin towers falling and can remember where you were and what you were doing. But I guess the whole thing seemed a little unbelievable. We’ve become so desensitised to horrors like this going on in our world because of the amazing things that movies and special affects can create on our screens. And often we are so far removed from these seemingly other worldly happenings that it is very difficult to relate to an experience that you’ve never really had.


Anyhow the point I’m making…. Right. So the second time I went, there was progress, there was still rubble, a lot of building work etc, but new buildings had started being erected and in general it was a hub of activity. Still however there was relative silence. A profound respect for the loss of lives and ability to deeply reflect on the goings on at that place some 7 years ago at the time.


This time however was weird. As soon as I got into the area I wanted to get out. There were tourists everywhere. Outside the entrance men were lined up selling memorabilia, there was no silence, and it felt really wrong. The waterfall fountains were incredible. Don’t get me wrong. And what they’ve done to create a memorial site is absolutely incredible, and beautiful. And it should end up being (hopefully) a wonderful memorial space for anyone to come to sit, reflect and pay their respects. But I couldn’t help feeling what the family members of those that perished in the events of 9/11 would be thinking if they were there now. I don’t want to be too cynical about the donations situation, but I was uneasy about it. Nevertheless, I gave my $10 and received my souvenir wrist band…. The whole thing was weird. But in retrospect I’m glad we went. And its just fascinating that every time is different and will evoke different thoughts and feelings. I guess in summary; I was overwhelmed by what they had achieved there. It is indeed incredible. And with the new world trade building still being built it will be great to go back again in a few years and see its progress. I just hope the true meaning of why the memorial was constructed in the first place doesn’t get lost behind the swarms of tourists, the to-be constructed museum and the heaps of tacky memorabilia for sale around the area, and that the inevitability of people trying to maximise off the back of this tragedy doesn’t taint the perception of the original vision.



After the literal 10 minutes we spent at the memorial we walked down to battery park where the idea s to get a boat out to Ellis island to the museum there. Unfortunately it was closed, which is quite sad as it’s the one thing I’ve never done in New York City (amongst many I’m sure!) and really wanted to. By this point though we were shattered and so we headed back to the tube station to go back to our hotel to freshen up before disappearing out for dinner and night time in NYC.


A short walk around the corner from our hotel and we were in Times Square. Another hub of tourist activity! For the sake of nostalgia mum and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We had been there 5 years ago when we were last here together. Nothing had really changed much in 5 years in Times Square. The lights still blazed over the street, people on the street still tried to sell us tickets for comedy shows and musicals, music burst out of every venue, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s still had a gigantic queue of people inside and the naked cowboy still patrolled the sidewalk singing and shouting at everyone he came across.

I think after dinner we were so unbelievably tired that I couldn’t have stayed out if I tried. Beside I also had an extremely strong cocktail wi my dinner and with the heat and how long I’d been awake for I literally stumbled back to the hotel with mum where we practically just fell into bed.

Tomorrow we pick up a rental car and start our road trip to Chicago. First stop Rhode Island…

Goodbye to the ocean

Day: Friday 31st May 2013


Ships position: 41 degrees 42.44′ N, 065 degrees 52.28′ W

Ships time: 14.30

GMT: 18.30

Weather: sunny with a light breeze. Sea very calm


So! Final day onboard the Queen Mary 2. It feels like its been forever to get to this point but also that its gone really quickly. All the days on the ship seem to have merged into one, so much so that if I was on here for any longer I think I would lose sense of day and time entirely. It’s weird enough as it is trying to remember the ships time versus the land time in the UK and the states. Last night we had to set our clocks back an hour and we have to do that again tomorrow morning when we dock into Brooklyn docks in New York at about 6.30am.


Our last day onboard didn’t really consist of much more than doing laundry, eating, packing and sitting on deck reading and doing sudoku in the sunshine. I guess ultimately I was waiting excitedly for 4pm as mum had booked us in for a 80 minute stone massage….


As I’m sure it sounds, it was pretty incredible!! A great way to finish off the cruise.


It had been such a beautiful day and so I took a final opportunity to wonder around the ships decks at sunset. I am ridiculously excited to get into New York tomorrow morning. We have a pretty awesome road trip ahead of us that will get us into Chicago in just over a week.


To be honest I’m pretty excited about seeing some land. Don’t get me wrong, the ocean is awesome, and the experience is once in a lifetime stuff. I love water, sea, ocean etc in general, and so I have been somewhat in my element. I think just the anticipation of what’s next has overwhelmed me at this point. Tomorrow = New York City!


Encountering Episodes

“It is impossible to know both an objects position and its path simultaneously. If it were possible, then we’d be able to predict its future unmistakably” – Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Over the past year or so the above idea has embedded itself subconsciously in my mind. Although I believe this theory to be based around mainly scientific relevance, I think it’s astounding how much it can resonate in other areas of life, albeit personal, philosophical, to do with every day goings on, planning for the future and I think it also has a roll to play in determining fate.

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