Our globe-trotting correspondent Margaret Patten recalls a seasonal visit to New York.
It was snowing lightly as the plane landed. We were visiting New York for a long weekend shopping trip pre- Christmas. A taxi took us to our hotel which proved to be in a central position for exploring, and our action- packed time here.
New York, the city that never sleeps. It is also the creative art centre of America. We hit the city ‘running’. Fifth Avenue, just window shopping was a delight. The department stores are a must. The Christmas feel was everywhere, with Father Christmas on every street corner. How confusing this must have been for young children. Perhaps the real one just needs extra helpers.
Next it was off to Central Park, for my daughter to ice skate. Not for me though. I have in the past, but didn’t want to risk an accident. I left that to my daughter who was doing so well, until bump! As she limped off the ice my first thought (after showing her sympathy) was ‘great’, we might need a hospital visit. Fortunately it was just bruised, so after strapping it for support we were able to continue. A carriage ride around Central Park was magical as light snow was falling. A must if you have the opportunity.
That evening I had booked a Broadway show. We were lucky to get tickets as it was proving to be very popular. We had eaten earlier, and there is an abundance of restaurants to suit every taste imaginable. Portion sizes can be large, so probably good for the waistline that our visit was short.
There is an on/off bus, which is ideal for sightseeing. Midtown Manhattan, the Rockefeller Centre. Between the headquarters of wealth are open plazas with fountains and flowers.
We took a ferry past The Statue of Liberty – the iconic lady who heralded freedom and a new life to people of all nations arriving by sea. Beyond is Ellis Island – the Island of Tears – their first experience of their new home. Imagine the happiness of those accepted into this new world and the utter despair of those rejected. The end of hope after long journeys. The island houses a tragic array of objects, brought into America by some of the twenty million immigrants. Many of those accepted formed their own communities, and continued with their old way of life which was the origin of places like Chinatown. I found Ellis Island to be quite an emotional visit.
Greenwich Village is fascinating and pretty. Trees line the streets, with art galleries and boutiques to explore.
The Empire State Building with its far reaching views . Long queues can form, but we were fairly late going there, so had the bonus of seeing New York at night.
To us, a must was Harlem. It became a black community during 1920’s. In parts it has a rich cultural heritage. Other parts are sadly ghetto. Not wise to go on your own – take a guided tour. Our aim was to experience a Church service with Gospel Singers. The singing was wonderful, although I did worry about the health of the Pastor as he became more and more animated. A delightful and a very different Church service to the ones I have been used to.
By now snow was falling heavily. We booked a taxi to take us to the airport. Next stop Niagara Falls for another brief visit.
Niagara Fall is the one of the greatest natural wonders in North America. Spanning the border between the US and Canada. This incredible spectacle was formed by the Niagara River flowing from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Ordinarily a huge cascade of water, it was so cold that most of it had formed icicles. We had to keep scarves over half our faces as breathing was difficult.
From the American side you can go down in a lift, which is cut into the limestone cliff. You are then given a raincoat (you would get very wet from spray without it). The falls apparently look wonderful at night when lit, but we didn’t get to see this. We found plenty to do for the rest of the day as we were due to fly home the following day. We booked the trip to the Falls in New York and the package included flights and transfers. Yes it was an extra expenditure, but being so near we felt it was worth the cost. The flight time is under an hour.
It had certainly all been quite an adventure. It was now snowing heavily but flight home were only slightly delayed fortunately. Christmas was coming so it was time to get home.