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Days 1 & 2 - New York

1995 - Day One - Arrival in New York

After having being picked up by minicoach at the airport by a very nice lady from the tour company, very loud and flamboyant with an interesting hat, we arrived at the Milford Plaza Hotel in Manhattan at about 10.30pm (EST) but to our time clocks was actually 3.30am! The first thing we noticed on entering the hotel lobby was the armed guard! After freshening up we went down to the restaurant for a bite to eat.

This was to be our first introduction to the fact that America really is a foreign country, as we did not recognise anything on the menu! We decided on a sausage dish, thinking this would be like the good old British banger – we were wrong. Two enormous plates of food arrived with huge continental style sausages (which were also our first introduction to American portions!). 

This was just too much to face at what for us was the middle of the night, and after picking at it for a while, gave up and went up to bed! In the following weeks Mum would valiently attempt to specify she wanted a small portion as she only had a small appetite at her age, but it was to no avail and in the end gave up, accepted what she was given and just ate what she could. But it always irked her to see the amount of waste food going back to the kitchens.

1996 - Day One - Arrival in New York

After checking in at Heathrow we had no problem having to hang around waiting for our flight as Terminal 3 is much better than Terminal 4. There were lots of shops and entertain us until our flight was called and then it was straight on to the plane.

 The flight was very long (71/2 hrs), we took off at 10am GMT and landed at 12.30 EST and after getting through customs with no problems and picking up our luggage we just picked up a taxi at the airport to take us into Manhattan. We were staying at the Lexington Hotel on Lexington Avenue and were able to get into our room early and then went and had a meal in the hotels restaurant. I had a BLT and a coke, which cost $8.55.

After we’d eaten we went for a walk down Lexington Avenue as far as Grand Central Station, which was huge and very impressive. We cut through the main concourse to get out on to 5th Avenue and walked up to Rockefeller Plaza and had a wander round there, took a look at Radio City Music Hall, then went round St Patricks Cathedral. This was beautiful and very large, with stunning stained glass windows, marble and gold and wooden carvings and banks of candles at each side chapel (of which there were many).

After this excursion we were both very tired and returned to the hotel, which conveniently was not far, and went to bed. OK so it might only have been 6.30pm local time but to us it was 11.30 and it had been a very long day! We had to put in ear plugs due to the noise from the city roar which we weren’t used to and the beds were very hard. We could also have done with another blanket and we found the pillows very awkward. Slept fitfully, but woke not feeling too bad and definitely felt better once we’d had breakfast.


1995 Day Two – New York

It was a lovely, warm and sunny day and after breakfast of pancakes and syrup we went off on a coach tour of the city, up to Harlem and Spanish Harlem. We saw Central Park and 5thWales what are the chances of that happening in England, let alone a coffee shop in New York? Avenue, wandered around Rockeller Plaza and took lots of pics, and then on past the Flatiron Building and down Wall Street. We stopped in Little Italy for coffee, where we got chatting to a couple sharing our table who are doing the tour with us, and it turned out that their daughter was going to the same school I went to years ago! As it is a little private convent boarding school in the wilds of Wales what are the chances of that happening in England, let alone a coffee shop in New York?

After coffee we wandered through Chinatown, fascinated by all the weird and wonderful stuff in the shop windows, but it was saddening to see all the little dried seahorses for sale. Also saw the very elegant Dakota Building, where John Lennon lived and where he was shot on the sidewalk outside,  and also where Jackie Onassis lived and the nightclub where Barbra Streisand first appeared. Also saw the Guggenheim Museum, which is a fascinating shape. Then on past Times Square and down to the Battery and Clinton Castle at the very tip of Manhattan, where we left the coach to do our own thing.

We enjoyed lovely views of the Statue of Liberty and the Twin Towers of the Trade Center and Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry as we did a round trip – only cost 50 cents and has to be the best bargain in the world! The ferry was full of cyclists doing the Five Boroughs Cycle Race, who seemed to have taken over the city for the day! On our return we walked over from the ferry terminal to the Trade Center and went up to the Viewing Deck, enjoyed wonderful views of the city, including the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building. Which is where we grabbed a taxi to next, and nearly got blown off the outdoor walkway!  

After all this gadding about we were both very tired as we were still jet lagged so got a taxi back to the hotel on 53rd Street, had dinner and then just chilled in the hotel lounge until we went to bed. We were up on the 11th floor so had good views and even saw the Queen Elizabeth 2 liner pass by down the Hudson River not far away.

1996 Day Two – New York

After breakfast we walked up 5th Avenue as far as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then went for a horse drawn carriage ride around Central Park. We had a very nice driver who came from Florida and was very good at pointing out places of interest, including the building they used in Ghostbusters and where Bruce Willis, Al Pacino and Woody Allan lived. We also passed the skating rink and the chess players. It’s so strange seeing all these places for real after having seen them so much in films and TV.

After our lovely carriage ride we were dropped off at the Plaza Hotel and crossed the road to Planet Hollywood for lunch and after a long wait had chicken pot pie with a salad. (We weren’t impressed!) The walls are covered in movie memorabilia and we sat at a table underneath the actual machine in a suitcase that ET used to phone home! We also saw the bike Arnie used in the Terminator movies and the robe Sly Stallone wore in the Rocky movies. Also on the wall was the brown suit Jimmy Cagney wore in the movie Yankee Doodle Dandy. I never realised just how small he must have been!  I couldn’t resist buying a souvenir T-shirt and pin before leaving J

After returning to freshen up in the hotel we walked down Lexington Avenue to 34th Street and had a look round Maceys Department store, which is huge and exhausting, and then went up the Empire State Building and went for a simulator ride on the SkyRide, then went up to the Observation Deck and waited for the lights to come on across the city as it went dark. We had fabulous views of 5th Avenue, the Chrysler Building and Trade Center all lit up and the city skyscrapers going a beautiful golden colour as the sun set, while listening to the sirens wailing on the other side of the Hudson. We got a taxi back to the hotel when darkness had fallen and had an omelette for dinner before going to bed early as we had an early start the next morning.

Contd - Days 3 & 4