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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    120

    Default UK to UK via NYC, Canada and Boston - Field Report

    To set the scene quickly, thanks to a recent job change, I have plenty of spare time now, so decided to share my love of North America with my Mother by taking her on a road trip around the North-Eastern US and touching Canada.

    Flying out of the UK on Sept 6th and back on Sept 20th, the itinerary breaks down like this:

    Sept 6th - 9th New York
    10th Niagara Falls
    11th - 20th Rockport MA

    This involves a serious amount of driving, which brought me to this site initially.
    It was then suggested that people may enjoy reading about our trip, so I'm going to try and blog as often as possible.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2008
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    Default

    Day 1

    Following a very late night spent making sure I'd packed everything that a well worn traveler could possibly require, I got in the car and headed to Mother's house at 9am.

    She was typically upbeat about our forthcoming trip, her first holiday in 20 years and her fist time flying in 25 and we were both eager for the cab to arrive that would take us to our second mode of transport for the day.



    Much has been written in the press about the new terminal 5 at Heathrow so I won't go into huge detail here, suffice to say that the terminal is massive and check in was particularly speedy.
    Within 10 minutes of arriving into the terminal we had checked in our baggage and were relaxing in the new Galleries South Lounge enjoying a bowl of soup and a sandwich.

    Having not routed through T5 before (my regular business flight doesn't switch to T5 until the end of September) we decided to leave plenty of time to get from the lounge to the gate and accordingly got to B45 early.
    Our priority boarding status got us onboard straight away however, although I did make Mum wait whilst I took a picture of the beast that was to be our home for the next 8 hours.



    Although I fly regularly, Mum isn't the only person having a new experience this trip – I have opted to fly us on the upper deck of the 747 both legs, being told to “climb the stairs” upon entry to the plane may not be quite as uplifting as being told to “turn left” but it runs a close second!

    Settling into the bed/seat a stewardess delivered a couple of glasses of champagne and we relaxed in the knowledge that our holiday was underway.
    Dinner was duly served and looked a lot better than it tasted.



    Unfortunately, from this point on our trip went downhill fast!

    Stood waiting at baggage reclaim, one bag arrived – no sign of the other.
    Checking with BA baggage services, it appears that another passenger has walked off with Mum's suitcase – great!!

    BA gives me the passenger's hotel details and eventually we get onto the subway and head for Manhattan.
    We landed at 6.15pm and it's now 9.45pm

    Check-in at the Embassy Suites went smoothly and I managed to talk to the passenger with our bag and arrange that I would get in a cab and head to his hotel to collect it.

    I finally got back to our hotel at 11.30 and decided it was time for dinner. Mum had gone to bed so I was on my own.
    In the interests of speed, I headed for the Mexican restaurant attached to the hotel – what a mistake. 40 minutes after being sat down I still hadn't been served!!

    Finally made it to bed at 1.30am – what a day!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default

    Day 2

    Up early this morning as Tropical storm Hanna has finally finished with the New York area (nearly 4” of rain on Manhattan yesterday) and the weather is fantastic.

    Decided to take advantage of the free breakfast offered by the hotel before heading out to show Mum Manhattan.
    Breakfast is the best thing about this hotel so far, $350 a night and they still charge for Internet access!!

    First call of the day was the World Trades Center site.
    It's been a year or so since I was last here, and 3 years since I was lucky enough to get a birds eye view of the site from an office in the Century 21 building and I'm amazed by how much it's changed – there is a building properly taking shape now.



    We then headed for St Paul's Chapel – the site of so much heroic behaviour in the days after September 11 – This place always moves me deeply and today was no different.



    As the morning was so clear, we moved our plan around a little and headed uptown straight to the Rockefeller Center and the “Top of the Rock” attraction.
    The views from the observation platform today were simply breathtaking – this place is much better positioned than the Empire State I think, and no-where near as crowded.



    The view of Central Park in particular had us both understanding why people are prepared to pay such huge sums for penthouses in this city.



    Time to check out the art-deco interior of the Rock building, Mum's a closet art-deco fan it turns out!
    They do a tour around this place, but we haven't got the time for that today.

    A quick walk and we end up in Times Square – I'm not sure Mum was prepared for her first sight of the square to be the Naked Cowboy though!!
    (Non Manhattan residents – Google is your friend!)
    We're here for a reason though – tickets for a Broadway show tonight – specifically Chicago.
    The evening tickets won't be on sale until 3pm however, so we decide to head out and do one of the excellent open top bus tours of the island.
    A fantastic tour guide made the trip so much better, her anecdotal knowledge of the buildings and scenery on route really made the area come alive.
    I must confess to being something of an old-hand as far as New York goes – this is my 3rd trip here in the last couple of years.
    Every time I do one of these trips though I learn something new.

    A few selected images here



    Flat Iron building



    Temporary waterfalls, Brooklyn and Fulton Ferry state park – this park offers stunning opportunities for “that” picture of the Manhattan skyline – it's where pretty much all the photos of the Trade Towers were taken from.



    The Donald's latest venture. Rather pricey but certainly distinctive.



    The Chrysler Building peering out from its surroundings.

    Once we'd finished the tour we trotted off to buy the tickets for Chicago - $233 worth of tickets for $126 – god bless TKTS

    3.30pm - Time for a late lunch – got to be Juniors – the best cheesecake in NY!!

    Being a Sunday, the show starts at 7pm rather than 8, so an express subway ride back South gives us 20 minutes to browse in Century 21 before hitting the shower and getting a cab up to the theater.

    Chicago was truly excellent, although the lack of an encore was a shame.

    A late evening walk through Times Square and a quick pint of Magners in O'Lunneys before getting the subway back to the hotel.

    All in all a top day, rounded off nicely by the news that Andy Murray has beaten Nadal to set up a final with Federer in the Tennis.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    9,266

    Default Great Report so far

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip -- great info and photos thus far.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default

    Day 3

    A small lie-in this morning, although the fact that we are nearing the end of our time in NYC and still have a long list of things to do meant that we didn't dally over the hotel's free breakfast and were on the way uptown by 9.30

    First port of call today was Times Square to join the Uptown loop of the Grey Lines open top bus tour – we did the downtown loop yesterday and it was great, so were looking forward to seeing Harlem and points North.
    I found myself intrigued by this building, without any idea of what it is – it looks incredible though, a real modern piece of engineering.



    The Time Warner building features heavily on this section of the tour, and more than one tourist commented on their alleged similarity to the World Trade Towers – I'm hoping they mean in terms of being 2 towers close together rather than height or looks.



    I guess I'm a bit of a closet engineer, and the latticework underside of the Brooklyn bridge? Always gets my attention.



    When I did this tour for the first time, I remember being amazed that Harlem (an area which, as a Brit, we'd always been told was something of a war zone, actually contains fantastic buildings like this.




    Once the loop was completed, we grabbed a sandwich from a deli and headed into the park to make like locals!
    Ate our lunch and decided to wander in the vague direction of the reservoir before heading out onto Central Park West and doing some shopping.

    Central Park really is a wonderful place to spend time and it's quite possible to be laid out on the grass and completely forget that you are in the middle of the capital city of the world's only superpower – no traffic noise etc.
    I wonder how much an apartment in one of these buildings costs with a view like this!



    We did manage to watch some of a baseball? Game though. I have no idea of baseball, so sadly mother remains unenlightened!!



    When we finally managed to exit the park, we were on 5th Avenue, so headed South, before turning onto Central Park South and then 7th Avenue, I had seen a Radio Shack on our way into the park and I wanted to check out the possibility of buying a CB and Radar Detector for our roadtrip.

    Walking back down toward Times Square, we popped into the box office for Mamma Mia just in case the show was on tonight. Sadly, like many on Broadway, the theater is dark on a Monday night.

    Grabbing the passing bus tour, we rode to Macys and went in – originally because Mum wanted to look around, but it ended up with me buying a few things for my 5yr old Goddaughter – I'll get in trouble for spoiling her, but that's what godparents are for...... right?

    The Flatiron building was spotted on this tour, a fantastic piece of architecture and one that I never tire of seeing.



    When we bought the package tickets for the bus tour, we also got a free boat ride along the Hudson, so we hopped back on the bus and headed for South St Seaport.
    Unfortunately the last trips of the day were full, so after a brief wander around the Seaport, it was in a taxi and back to the hotel to change for dinner.

    They say that New York is full of surprises, and it certainly was today.
    After seeing Venus Williams in Times Square earlier, it was the turn of law enforcement to take a bow, Judge Joe being filmed along with a female contemporary caused the bus guide to have a conniption and have to sit down!



    When the cab pulled up outside, the hotel was bathed in sunlight and I decided to walk over to the little park opposite and take a photo.



    That “little park” turned out to be the Irish Hunger Memorial, and what a fascinating little place it is to.

    Dinner tonight, our last night in NYC is to be a treat.
    I love a good steak, and nowhere does it better than Smith and Wollenskys.
    Reservation made, we head off and enjoy a mighty fine piece of cow!!



    2 more things on the list to do today, another bus tour and the Empire State.
    The bus tour uses a different route, heading into Brooklyn, enabling photos like this to be taken.
    Be aware though that it's not a hop-on hop-off tour, although there are a couple of stops en-route so any photography must be done from a vibrating bus.
    This image shows the 2 beams of light that shoot into the sky as a temporary memorial to the victims of the WTC, although it looks very bright, it actually isn't visible from all that far away.



    We decided to go up the Empire State at night as the view from the Rockefeller center yesterday was so special that there seemed little point in duplicating it.
    (As an aside here, if any RTA'er heads to the Empire State, don't bother paying the extra $15 for the 102nd floor, it's completely enclosed and the photos are better from the standard observatory)
    Also the skyride doesn't operate at night – this isn't really an issue, as it's not a particularly great atttraction and is only really worth it if the observatory queues are long, as it allows you to jump a fair amount of them!

    The Chrysler building shines its lights at night, making it one of the prettiest buildings downtown.



    The streets of Manhattan are bright at night, and the Empire State is a great place to see them from.



    Back in the hotel now, laundry in the machine we've planned tomorrow's Manhattan swansong and we'll be on the road in our trusty steed by 4pm.
    More reports from upstate NY later.
    Last edited by dangermouse; 09-23-2008 at 11:32 AM. Reason: to add in photos

  6. #6
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    Aug 2008
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    Default

    Day 4

    Our last chance to do the things that remained on the New York “list”

    Sadly the weather was against us today, and although initially fine, by the time we'd finished shopping at Century21 and started to walk toward the circle lines cruise the heavens opened.

    It was raining with enough force to make the manhole covers pop out of the road, but undeterred we headed towards the boat.

    I've taken the 3hr cruise before and I know that on its trip completely around Manhattan you get to see a totally different side of New York City and so it proved today.

    All that remains of the once huge Colgate factory in Brooklyn is this clock.
    Amazingly, the large hand moves 3ft every time the minute changes



    Someone in power in the city decided that it would be a good idea to commision an artist to create a number of watefalls on the Hudson, I don't think they're going to compete with Niagara somehow!!



    We sailed past Ellis Island, where every immigrant into the United States was processed.
    They keep immaculate records, so if you're tracing your ancestry, here's your nirvana – if you're just a tourist then not so much.



    Their first sight would have been lady liberty, it is still possible to tour the lady, but post 9/11 you can no longer head up into the crown – the observation platform is as high as you'll get.
    Remember you MUST buy your ticket on the mainland, otherwise all you can do is walk around on the ground.

    Lower Manhattan would have looked a little different than this when the settlers arrived as well!!



    Although it rained for a good part of the trip, the weather improved enough to be able to see the West side of the island in a good light.
    You can't tell from the outside, but the low building with the arches in this photograph is actually the sewage processing plant for the majority of Manhattan.
    It contains, amongst other things, a bowling venue, a public park, a concert hall, movie theaters and restaraunts!
    Apparently there is no smell !!



    There would normally be a US warship and a Concorde plane at this location as tourist attractions, however they are away being renovated until the start of 2009, so we had to make do with the Aurora – a cruise ship moored in the New York harbour.



    Having done the trip, there was just time to head to Planet Hollywood for a quick lunch before heading back to the hotel to collect our luggage and making our way to Midtown to collect the car.

    No issues here, Budget were their usual efficient selves, and although the Ford Escape I'd booked was replaced by a Chevy Equinox, the booking showed that we were taking the car out of state and into Canada, so by 5.45 we were on our way.

    Sadly the traffic getting off Manhattan proved to be our downfall, and it was dark by the time we got to a point where we could get off the Interstate.
    An executive conference was undertaken and it was decided that we should continue on the Interstate and get as close to the Canadian border as possible, the thinking being that the earlier we reach Niagara tomorrow, the earlier we'll be on the road and the more of small town America we'll be able to see en-route to Boston.

    So, we're now in a Days Inn in a town called Bath, NY (decided to head for here as we come from Bath in the UK, so a good photo op!)
    We very nearly didn't make it though, as the gas tank on the SUV was so empty that I managed to fit 15.5 gallons in a 15 gallon tank!
    Very nervous moments there!
    Last edited by dangermouse; 09-23-2008 at 11:35 AM. Reason: to add photos

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
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    3,319

    Default Chrysler Building!

    Anytime I see a photo of that wonderful building, I smile. Thanks!

    I enjoyed your report, especially the specifics. This should be helpful to future travelers.

  8. #8

    Default

    Very interesting read so far.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default

    Day 5

    Up early again this morning to take some photos of small town America before heading on up the road to Canada, as it was dark when we reached town last night, so we had no idea of the beauty that surrounded us, turning out of the car park this morning gave us some clue though!



    Although it looks fairly close on the map, this last section reminded us both of how vast the North American continent is, we'd estimated that this section would take about an hour, in fact it took closer to 3. It was past midday when we entered Canada.

    Stunning scenery and the open road reminded me why we'd started this trip, the roads in North America are so empty compared to those in the UK, and whilst the speed limits are just as pointless, driving is much more of a pleasure here.




    Eventually we passed over the Peace Bridge (if you're a UK citizen then no visa or paperwork is required) and following a tip I'd received we turned immediately onto Niagara Parkway and took a scenic drive toward the falls.




    Coming up the Parkway you're surrounded by expensive property on the left and the open water on the right with the USA in the distance – truly a scenic drive and well worth seeking out.
    Don't be tempted to stop and take photos too early, the opportunities just get better the closer to the falls you get.
    A small point to note, the tower structure with the round thing at the top is NOT the CN tower – I wasted a huge number of photos on what turned out to be a revolving buffet!!

    Upon arrival at the falls, there are several parking options – the official parks are $18, however if you take a left toward the sky tower there is a car park at the back for $5 all day – a much shorter walk to the water as well, an information point told us about a 62yr old woman who went over the falls in a barrel and survived – incredible.

    We walked towards the falls, getting wetter and wetter from all the spray (it turned out later that the wind was in an awkward direction and it's normally not so damp!)
    I'd been advised that many of the “attractions” at Niagara are nothing more than a blatant attempt to liberate the tourist from his money, so we'd decided to do only the Maid in the Mist tour and walk behind the falls.
    We did also walk a few KM up the river to the Rainbow Bridge as well.

    The American falls from a distance


    The American falls up close


    Canadian Horseshoe Falls.


    Both Falls – the noise at this point is unbelievable.


    62yrs old you say.... in a barrel you say..... No thanks.


    The Maid in the Mist tour was amazing – it's been running for over 100 years and I can see why.
    We ended up being completely soaked – don't listen to anyone that tells you you can stay dry!!



    A quick bite of lunch and we were off to walk behind the falls.
    This attraction was not so good – I expected it to be like the falls I've visited in Switzerland where you walk along behind them and instead all you get are 2 small opening through which you can see and hear a wall of water. Save your money!!



    After a brief walk around the Falls area and a visit to the giftshop it was time to get back on the Parkway for the scenic drive back into the USA before hitting the road toward Boston.
    Determined to stay off the Interstate at least until it was too dark to see, we program the sat nav to use route 20 as recommended and head out.
    What a recommendation – a fantastic drive through some of the most amazing scenery.
    They say that New England is like Old England on steroids, and on the strength of this 100 mile trip I would agree wholeheartedly.
    This building typified these few hours. America at its best, unpretentious, untouristified and exactly what we wanted!



    Eventually it got too dark to see anything so we decided to stop for dinner before hitting the Interstate and munching some miles.

    It's always hard to decide where to stop for dinner whilst on the road, and we decided to take pot luck with this Italian restaurant we spotted in a strip mall in Canandaigua, it turned out to be a great choice.
    Unpretentious and great value, it served a fantastic Penne Alfredo and filled us both up completely

    Whilst we were eating. Mother mentioned that she would like to pass through the Berkshires in daylight, so we decided to head for the Days Inn at Lenox and stop for the night.
    1.45am we roll into Lenox to discover that the Days Inn is doing a passable impression of the Marie Celeste – quite literally the lights are on, the doors are open but there's no one home.
    After a few minutes we give up and head for a Quality Inn that we'd seen on our way through Lee.
    $160 later and 2 rooms are ours for the next 5 hours – bargain!!
    Last edited by dangermouse; 09-13-2008 at 08:16 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Default

    Day 6

    A surprise stop this one, I'd been doing a lot of research on the Internet prior to this trip and the name Old Sturbridge Village kept popping up as somewhere it was worth visiting.
    Checking it out on the map, it was right on our route, so I made a decision that we'd stop there.

    This turned out to be one of the stand out days of the trip so far, an amazing place and definitely recommended.
    Very very child friendly, it offers something for everyone and the 4hrs that they say it takes to cover the whole thing were nowhere near enough.
    We spent 5hrs and could have used at least another 2.

    This attraction is a reconstruction of life in a New England settlement around 200 years ago.
    It's as authentic as it can be and is a great way of spending a dry day – probably not so good in the wet as a lot of the paths are mud.

    Some photos below.

    A brief history of the flag that seems to hang everywhere in this country, from car windows to schoolrooms. The patriotism that is encouraged amongst its citizens is one of the main reasons I like the USA and its people so much.
    In the UK nowadays it is almost illegal to be patriotic.



    An overview photo of a small part of the village, the actual settlement is much bigger and requires comfortable walking shoes!


    All of the staff are in costume, and all are the genuine article (the blacksmiths genuinely are blacksmiths etc.)





    What would your kids say to sleeping here?!


    How about going to the toilet here in the outhouse?


    Once we left there at 5.30, it was a mad dash round Boston's ring roads to get to our holiday cottage at Rockport on the Massachusets coast.
    I'd prepared for this trip by buying an American sat-nav on my previous trip here in March, unfortunately it didn't have the exact address in its memory, so I had to use my UK mobile to call the cottage's owner on her US mobile - $100 later and we were in!

    The cottage is great, and it's lovely to be able to unpack somewhere other than a hotel.
    However, as there's no Internet it's proving to be a bit of a disaster for me!

    We threw all our stuff into the cottage and then headed out for a quick bite before hitting the hay for a few hours.
    Last edited by dangermouse; 09-13-2008 at 08:17 PM.

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