For more than half a century Alistair Cooke painted pictures for radio listeners in words with his Letter From America
I have 17 days to share with you the adventure of my own discovery of these United States of America.
So we began here at Manchester Airport waiting the AA fight to New York, (I didn’t have my phone on me as we flew but it mostly it was food and a little sleep).
Landing at JFK lines of people customs checks questions asked and finger prints taken then a soft spoken man named Frank who’s job was to take us from the terminal to our hotel The Skyline on corner of 49th and Tenth. He wasn’t the driver that was someone else both who kept saying sorry of the traffic which was so light it almost crazy.
2 May 2013
West 49th Street and the world is awake at 5:00am we leave on the first of many of our trips
First around New York its self then on to Boston, So want do I think of a city spent less than 24 hour crazy so far it more a jigsaw puzzle each piece fitting into the next making up a whole vast city
A four / five hour tour of NY on the way to Boston by Eddie a real New Yorker without anything written down he made from the our hotel all the Grand Central Station clear.
Clever and entertaining, traveling not only in space but in time, from the founding of the city, and its landmarks and the great man who built them, right to present day. Its a strange things having someone about there own city, there some how so deep in yet one step removed, its only they come across something they really know do see wants really going on,
Take the World Centre there’s the story we know that’s flashed around the world all stars and strips, but yet there’s other beyond the chain link fence and the lines and lines of sightseers, less then a block away there the walkway that over look the place people passing by without even a second look at the money making mad house that has become ground zero.
After that we headed around the park central park that witch is fact the real hart of New York once you pass the picture seller and the rest, even the squirrels stop to have the photographs taken, Block after block on row of films sets and iconic meeting places, move slowly by as Eddie tells us all about once,
Greenwich Village, Gramercy, Chinatown and then Battery Park City all were just names on a map but now there places, real places So Thank you Eddie.
Now its on to Boston which way out of New York I am not sure but it will be fun finding out.
One if by land, Two if by sea that is the order of day Boston is living history, the birth of a nation, not like you have in UK and handful of places marked on a map that only the learned would but its everywhere and in everything, the old north church and its cat.
And how Paul Revere’s finger prints are all over the place, all tales told by Ernest without malice as something to be proud of but not in the way you think. With one step your faced with history and two steps and around the street your stand right on the finish line of the second open wound this country has the pointless and senseless bombing of they marathon only three short weeks ago. I started use the video on by phone so you will get hear and see some of the things I do to.
Across the road/street there is what can only be classed as 24 hour non news story, there is small area with bike racking make up as altar to the three dead people but most of it is about the idea of want Boston before the bombing and want its now, And that a huge thing Americas love the idea but not always the people who take the action.
Evening time well 4:30 and we’re off around the bay on boat and then to dinner the first of many, seeing Boston from the water is fun you can really you get to see a whole city by the bay, a even old iron sides herself which in fact a wood oak boat called the Constitution
Over the commentary we hear the story of minute men and birth of the nation again which kind of as different people add things new things each time or add more detail so it like watching an old movie you know wants going on but you forget parts,
But I am getting off the point dinner now that was odd gathering people who don’t really know each other all trying to eat but remind diplomatic which hard when most people order lobster, and I not talking neatly clean here, just off the boat on your plate, I had stake Ok I know the when in Rome bit but I just didn’t feel like it,
Sharing the table with Jenny and Tom a fun, old couple from Mississippi he talks like and sounds like James Stewart she like a soft spoken Chinese lady,
Boston by night is just like any other city parts of it shut and parts are only just opening but the Boston alter is open 24 hours 7 days a week,
Along the Interstate, We travel heading for Canada thought New Hampshire, passing line after line huge fur trees spilt only by constitution, the odd house or even retail parks.
The crazy thing is that the Interstate are sponsored as if there a pet project more an after thought as the States were built on the railroad I guess they were. A rest stop at Flume Gorge peace full and still the lungs of the state as a pours to the 24 hour madness of New York and Boston.
A hour down the road we stop at Bath and The Brick House to say it was Americana would be a understatement, the stars and strips blowing in the hot may sun and creaking of the old screen door of the wood shack dinner you almost hear Miles Davis Summer leaking out.
Stopping duty free which in truth is just a small shop on the side of hill a few yards from the US/Canada boarder selling cheep alcohol and cigarettes I guess with the country being this big it hard to hop over the channel like we do in the UK.
So we have crossed the boarder heading Quebec bound, even the ground around has be come rolling hills and green fields, as apprized to the huge mountings of the US,
The hills have given way to flat land and rows of trees its like walking thought corn field, even the odd house or farm look as if they are out of time all painted wood like a chocolate box, I don’t mean that as bad thing far from it people take pride in there homes here, not out of any sense of keeping up the Jones but because they want to.
Having spent the last few hour here my head still can’t get around the fact that English is not the first language spoken its in fact French and unlike the welsh the was never the beating of chidden to make them use only English.
Its ever harder when shopping its like talking underwater, TV its a painful thing I didn’t really take much mind of it in US but my father switched it on two channels out of almost 25 were in French but that’s not a bad thing what is that a 45 minute show is an hour long so that’s 25 minutes of ad or sponsorship, but if and when the show does come back there a recap, its TV for children all I can say is thank you BBC.
We have a breakfast today at a place called Le Chemin Du Roy and we gather together after very quiet sleep the sun is out and every pretty much all smooth sailing so far the counting of seats has started.
Well the food was good and lots of it just like all the food they have a around here. The old half of Quebec is a world a way from the TV shows of last 24 hours, in fact its filled with the heritage of the four founding nations of the city, yet unlike England they all were never dividend by wars or kings so brick, stone and even tin are mixed into form amazing city,
You didn’t say the Irish, French quarter its just old or new but even than there is no out and out line of derivation .
French being the first language here it does put a few people on the back foot older people who can’t really remember there school French and that would include myself, Like all the main city we stay in We get a guide but not just someone who know the numbers, facts and figures
But someone lives in this within the city Eric was our man is time and just like the last I used my phone to video some of want he was say and passion which he used, We have second of the two group meals later, wants going to happen is really anyone’s guess.
Evening time in Quebec after the four course meal and a beer in oldies hotel and the whole city is now something out of an old noir film there is even a sound track to my back there is group playing with fire throwing it around over there shoulders to beat of techno drum,
Yet under the light of information touristique a gentleman playing the saxophone its crazy, People keep say the Quebec is a poor mans Europe but that doing the city a huge injustice Quebec is a totally different thing with the four founding cultures something grew out of that to form Quebec
Another trip down the interstate sorry TransCanada highway two and half hours we will find inland of Montrel, We past the old Olympic stadium its a strange thing working at the city ground it just a building of what has been not want will be, lunch time soon then we have a tour and free time so photo and film will be the order of the day,
The cool winds and we shall have sun which has been beating down on we us all for the few days, Most of the history here mostly fur trapping and trading with the natives, until the family with money started the sell outside the city walls the amazing thing is that all the railways shopping center and the rest are under ground so when the winter come the life of the city carry’s on.
Being a city an old walled city there are links to other walls cities around the world the main one be Germany in there center of the shopping/office space there have section of the Berlin wall,
Our guide today was a man called Dennis more like a school teacher that the others we have had that is to say softly spoken more facts and numbers, But being here just one night it a hell of a lot history to cram in.
Food now there is a very hit or miss subject there chains many which are all over and some that aren’t Tim Horton’s is one such coffee and pastries chocolate covered and not, which is something we should have in the UK.
Now if your talking real food in Montrel then there are less chains and more smaller restores one such is just off the Rue Sherbrooke down Rue Peel called Le Sait Mare which is French style and for around £60 Canada dollars you can get two good stakes and salads which believe me is well worth it real food even on the other side of the world.
Another day on the highway but this time onto Ottawa the road has become of small hills and long flat farm land, As everyone works out what’s going in the next few days and beyond, it gives me time to talk about our tour director we’ve had with us from the start of this grand adventure
Barbara A Buryiak. New Yorker by birth, Bostoner by chose which means we get, the fast talking quick moving New York mantle without the manic crazy madness, she cares very much that everyone gets want they need and enjoys there holiday, and to have done want she does for so long takes a huge set of skills.
Its now five o’clock and as look over the skyline of city having walked half it total length well that is to say from ByWard Market to the corner of Elgin and Cooper thought Park Major’s Hill Park passing the National Arts Center, War Memorial and Ottawa City Hall,
There something about this city and the people in, it not like Quebec there its all history with a little forward planing for summer travels, but here, Ok you have history and the tourists but there hard to define Ottawa doesn’t feel like a huge city in the way Manchester feels it more a town with a slow pace of life about. I can out over the skyline here and squirrels running around over the roof top or the side up Elgin and count the number of cars that pass by life.
We talk about British chocolate box views a lot, its kind of the same thing here but they just don’t have the same age.
Kington is one such place one of the first things you see is the old railroad station but now its information center selling all kinds of history, just behind this are all the chains, subway, McDonald’s and as we’re Canada Tim Horton’s,
But just to the left of all that is Morrison’s blue and red old neon sign over the main window inside the countertop runs down the left and there are booths down the right, and that’s it there is no flash no bang just a true Canadian food at real prices.
What can tell you about Toronto, I talked before about how New York was a jigsaw well Toronto is more patchwork parts of the city don’t match totally with the other and want is left of the old city is being remodeled and almost hid by all the new building, I not saying this a bad thing as a city without development is a dead city but at some point there be a stopping point.
We have boat trip tomorrow around the port which may help marry the place a little better,
And the rain came so we all went the St. Lawrence Market and it would appears it be the center of the city, its a huge food hall over floors covering all kinds of food stuff’s you could name there’s not just one or three seafood stalls but six or seven its just like walking thought an old 19th Century bazaar, We also have a boat ride around soon like I said yesterday.
Well that was very fun around the small in land waters ways of Toronto all the island’s used by Canada’s to send booze down the fresh water river the yanks at height of probation
There was even at one a had a funfair, rollers coasters the whole bit just sell beer a bit like Boardwalk Empire only with a Canadian voice, Talking of high’s we have a meal on the 360 Restaurant at the top of the CN tower,
Oh boy that was something and I don’t just mean the view, the stake I had was as big as my right hand and as thick as my fore hand, I am not joking one bit.
The whole thing moves clockwise around so you see the whole city below in the day time its all shiny glass and steel but night as the lights of the office blocks are switched on and then the neon lights spark into life the city become a huge light show.
I have photo of the view even a short video of the walk around which dose give you some idea of want its like. We move on to the falls tomorrow, which mean another six am start so good night.
Up the Queen Elizabeth interstate and then on thought the wine country by the Niagara Parkway a sleepy little town wide front homes with even wider driveways, we have stopped at farm shop a real shop all open plan with big glass panel doors the rain has started a little just like at home but that’s not what this blog is about no more weather reports, across the river we can New York state and the hyo-power plant.
We’ve stopped again this time twice once to let off the people paid too travel on the helicopter which I don’t really like the idea up and down in a airplane will suit me just fine and a second at the whirlpool over which hangs a cable car that I also did want to do this is a high thing but at 11:30 am I just don’t think is the right thing to do. On we go to the falls.
Well want can I really say, One side the US the other and the side I still on Canada that the strange thing about all that lays between them are two huge falls of water one the horseshoe Falls the other the American funny that, there is bridge you don’t have row over the water like the first nation’s did at that were the border is back into the US.
But if you like there is a boat called Maid of the Mist which goes as close as it can to both the American Falls and then the horseshoe without crossing the lines of the border and as you can guess people get wet.
Oh Canada Eh ? a night of song, dance and food all with the theme, of guess what, That right Canada, its not as bad as it sounds in fact its magic, a huge theater group bouncing around the room making people laugh, smile, sing and even at some point bring you food,
I know many of you will be thinking its all a put up job, just for the tourists and yes you maybe right about that, but that’s the whole point of the English this kind of thing is all round us the fish and chip shop the real stately homes, but Canada and the US are new country’s so there history is not in buildings its still in the people,
We cross into the US again tomorrow, it may take hours or minutes so it a very early start.
27 minutes thought the boarder and all I got asked is ‘when are you going home’ I understand that grades are meant to be unfriendly but still the only question,
We’re back on the interstate again heading thought some weather, after early start most are sleeping or just nodding, we have a long drive today there’s a rest stop coming soon so I should be able to work out were we are.
Well I didn’t work out were we were to the letter around the top of New York state heading into Lancaster, but Barbara gave us a little quiz sheet to fill out and we had maple feats of cookies and a pop all made from the Canada maple leaf or the spurs three.
As I have been talking about Barbara, I guess I should talk about bus driver Roger, he’s from New England he’s very hard working a just like Barbara goes out of his way to help the older members of the tour, watching them work together is quite funny really just a double act, one playing off the other.
South bound Interstate 81 is the road were and so far everything is move Ok, we stopped a few miles back at the home birth place of Little League Baseball the name of which I can’t really remember right now but I a few photos of both the town and the interstate so there’s that.
We are in Pennsylvania .Lancaster with mean Amish country for those not up speed on such things it people who only use conveniences of modern technology. if and when its needed so that mean no TV, computer or telephone and they ride around in horse drawn wagons.
Now you may think its crazy but to tell you truth I think the joke is on the people who come to see them and point or stir spend a lot of money doing so, The Amish are real people would just and live the life they want without to much brother from the outside world
The Amish Farm and House “Where Today Touches History” or that’s want says on the side of the vans is little sad in a way the whole house is now stuck at the end of a supermarket car park as the world has grown around it, Like I said last night you see the real true Amish don’t deal with modern world unless they want so you get all your information second hand maybe one day soon one of them will be willing to help out.
We stopped a few miles down the road at place called Intercourse its no joke that’s its true name why we stopped is for the Canning Co. a sweet looking place it like walking on to the set of film sorry I think I may used that saying but its ok is not wide west but the small row of shops across from the can places look very iconic the stars and strips blowing in the wind and as its Sunday you only get the odd car or cart passing by.
Mr. Moore goes to Washington
We made all the way to DC in the middle of the afternoon and from want I have seen so far the place is a huge park and at each end the huge great monuments full both children and Adult’s DC really is a world until it self there are rules to makes this really happen, I will find the information for you later and we can have history lesson then,
Anyway back to want I did, we stopped outside one of the many museums all of them fall under the name Smithsonian, after walked a little way down past the Mall and though the park of modern art, I found the Hall of Records the home of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Yes the US constitution all four pages of,
If you don’t know it starts “we the people..” and ends will all the names, I even brought a copy the same size as the ordinal one now there is a reason why I did but I will get into all that in the next set of blogs.
We start at Arlington National Cemetery, in Flanders fields the poppies grow row upon row, to take photos of a working cemetery some how seems wrong so if your looking for those I don’t have one even the grave of JFK and the other members of his family so lets just bypass that shall we.
So onto the landmarks we start at the land of the living with one foot in past both wars and then Americans human shame the Vietnam war, our guide today had a huge military link but she wasn’t like you see on TV she was just a mother waiting for news of her son,
The way the Vietnam landmark is setup your down with all the names all the dead, row on row of names all reflecting the people reading then.
The Lincoln the first father of the true Untied States looking out over the pool back over the nation, you can stand on the spot than Martin Luther King Jr. stood to giving his famous speech. The crazy thing is that you can really feel the power of both of those men.
1600 Pen. Avenue the white house it a very strange thing it not just like looking at any other building at home Number 10 is just a door in a house,
Ok people find the iconic or cool Britain it but that’s all the white house is something totally different it some set a part off the rest of city. Even if you see it in a book or a TV show it doesn’t feel real, all that lay between you and the south entry is a lawn of six feet and countless hidden security guards.
The Mall or Museum Village from the end of the reflection pool the Smithsonian start yes there is more than one,
We start at the Indian one which covers the history of all the naivete peoples of the worlds then the so blood shocking mess which as the true story of naive of want would become the USA. Its not like the Amish one this run by themselves or relatives who even give talks answering any questions you may have, and it even goes as it call the government out on more than a few things, but it
Air and Space next which is huge it covers every thing from the first balloon, to the moon landings and beyond there is even the Wight Brothers plane, I could just list all the things I saw but the would take up another ten pages and I would still miss something out so I will just link to the photos I took.
So we come to the end of the tour and head back to New York, I say the end but I have a few more days yet want it is really is the end of the group, I haven’t talked about the people in it because that wouldn’t be fair and that’s not want this trip is about.
As head out of DC marine one or two flies out over us yet one see it but me, I got to see the birth of a nation in Boston and now in DC I got see want almost 200 years became of this land and both set of people who meet on that day.
We got to Philadelphia and made it to the suite of Independence hall and the National Constitution center so in way I have seen both the past and present of this country in two weeks.
We drop off six people Newark airport and head back into New York all making plans for the few extra days but also plans to get out here when the time comes which turns out to be a shuttle bus which should be fun.
Wow all that walking and not only did we visit the inspiring Intrepid but also found Donna Bell’s without really trying and yes I have photos of both, the idea is that we will go to Donna Bell and buy something we would have tonight but after eating at Cosmic Diner on Corner of 52nd Street it was a huge amazing meal.
A wonderfully late start to the frist trully free day in New York late being 8:30 and yes New York never sleeps just make sure you have thick glass windows and air con to cover the sound.
Found it Donna Bell and guess what its on the same street we’re on coffee, apple sausage muffin all the way to Central Park, then on the Metropolitan Museum of Art we got a little lost on the way but finding a book shop.
The Met is a huge level after level and don’t try to walk around without a map also its a pay want you like but its well worth it I gave $20, and if you think its anything like the Tommy Crown film just forget it,
Getting back into the Park we came thought strawberry fields which makes me smile John Lennon would tell everyone stop being so crazy and more on and by the way John Lennon was never even a Liverpool football fan.
Making it to Time Square a few miles down the road yes its as mad as it looks on the TV people photos of them 24 hour ads with other dress as Hello Kitty and Elmo
Let just talk about the TV in the US to its full of ad and what’s more there are ad in, there are some free channel’s but most of the others are pay for, Fox shouting the odds and ABC fill there air time with 24 hour non news.
So lets see TV over here is bad with only a handful of good shows and two of them are by ins from the UK that is the last bad thing I am going to say everything else will be holiday
Donna Bell again today yes I know I am sad but it was on the way to the Rockefeller Center all 69 floors of it,
They call it the Top of The Rock what it is are to three level observation deck which look out at in midtown Manhattan and as far as Central Park it cost $27 each and if buy a map $3 more but you don’t need one,
Oh yes this is the second place were we got our photograph taken before we entered the first being sub at the Intrepid they add in whatever place your visiting and sell them you the photo as you leave, and second note don’t take anything you can’t put in very small bag or in your pocket, you get checked and even my phone got passed though a x-ray scan you have been warred.
The view once you get there is worth we were there at around 10:20/30am so it was quiet you got stand stare without many people in your way I even filmed the view which is not something I had been able to do since Quebec.
Heading east we walked to the Chrysler Building there was not any real point in going to the top as why want to see the Rockefeller and Empire State again, I thing the point of the Chrysler is way it looks not the view from the top, the same can be said of the Empire State too.
After going inside the Chrysler we went back to Grand Central for more photos which was cool as we could stop and take good around there is even an audio tour which i hope will work back in the UK.
Some how to we also past Tiffany and Co. its on the same Ave as Trump Building which is not the same as Trump World Tower
Back to Time Square again on the way back to the Skyline this time it was full of crazy people q ing to photos of themselves on the one bill-broads and other people just walking in the middle of the road trying so hard to sell.
Last night New York tomorrow we try and go home, the airport was easy getting in lets see if getting will be as simple.
Anyway our last night we went to La Rivista a very cool rest. Italian ok American Italian but real Italian people working there,
The food is out of this world there is even a piano which was not being used when we there but even without this it is one amazing place.
Good Miss America, and all the ships at sea, lets go to press our last day in New York and our in America full stop, What can be say about the weeks I have spent exploring two other country’s
America is still a new country its history is still it is people not the building, there is no class system is money that is the biggest thing here as long as you pay your way your welcome to want it can offer, there is no middle ground its a two party structure and until that changes American is going to run into problems very soon.
Canada now there is a county which is not divined by anything it started out as three nations who helped each other and only killed a handful of people, in war but it was never a civil war, unlike the UK and the US.
I am not say Canada is perfect no country is but Canada is a more everyone together kind of a place but they still haven’t forgot how far they have come in such a small space of time.
We wait for the airport lift we have a hour so we wait in 13 hours we should be home.
This time I had to remove my shoes but it didn’t take as long as I thought it would what did was drive thought New York we took a hour and twenty to cross back over to JFK this we didn’t get an what we did get was ear hurting radio song station after station song after song same dumb crap,
But we are here now at gate 39 waiting for AA 210 sorry make that gate 38 it only across the way so here we now sit,
So what are my final thoughts about this country the USA and its people… I the truth is I don’t really have any yet but hopefully over the next few blogs I will form some
If I have done thank you for reading