New York, New York. So nice they named it twice! I boarded the first of many long distance Amtrak rides on Friday, December 5 from Framingham, MA. I was on the Acela Express, a daily commuter train (http://www.johnnyjet.com/2014/08/the-good-bad-and-ugly-about-taking-amtraks-acela-express-train/). I chose the “quiet car” (hereinafter referred to as “the QC”) so I could write thank you notes to the many people who had blessed me with retirement gifts. The QC passengers are very serious people. These folks were not on an adventure, like I was, but just wanted to get from point A to point B with very little interruption and could this d–n train arrive on time please!
Even the conductor had a no-nonsense, Dragnet persona (just-the-ticket-ma’am). I guess the QC is for sleeping. Don’t be talking on your cell phone in the QC and, whatever you do, don’t talk to your neighbor. I was asking people sitting behind me a question about the process and the conductor chastised me! “This is the quiet car. There’s no talking in the quiet car.” He conveyed that information to me by talking. In the QC.
Writing on the Acela Express was very challenging. The bump and sway of the train made my handwriting look like I had Parkinson’s, so I gave up the thank you note task. In addition, the quiet car was creepy quiet, so I made my way to the café car. I didn’t realize how dark the “quiet car” was until I was in the café car.
The café car had large windows and the lights were on. The QC was to the cafe car as a morgue is to a circus. People were talking on cell phones (which I could do without–they all talk LOUD about their personal business, gossiping and complaining), playing cards and board games, and talking with each other and laughing. One guy was watching porn. No joke. A true slice of American pie.
I had a nice conversation with a man who was trying the train for the first time. He has to make many trips between Boston and NYC and usually flies. The rest of the time I watched the scenery fly by. I did not take pictures of the scenery because by the time I thought “that would be a nice picture” it was gone. The Acela can reach speeds of 150 mph.
My sister and I were meeting in Penn Station. I was arriving by Amtrak and she by Long Island Railroad. The original plan was to dash to our hotel, dump our luggage, head to the TKTS booth for Broadway show tickets, grab a quick bite to eat and then go to a show. My sister saved us from dashing and bought tickets in advance to a revival of On the Town. Happy retirement to me!
With so many people on the move, it felt like the options were move with or get out-of-the-way! It was raining a good part of the time and we had to have our umbrellas out.
We had dinner at Desmonds Steakhouse on West 38th http://desmondssteakhouse.com. We both ordered short ribs and talked about a million things I don’t remember. We walked in the rain to the Lyric Theater for On the Town. The show was fun fluff with great dancing and exaggerated New York accents. We headed back to the Americana Inn on West 38th (if you can avoid it, don’t stay there!) to get some rest for a full day on Saturday.
Our first stop Saturday morning was The Cloisters. If you have never been there, you must put it on your bucket list. We were as far northwest as you can get and still be in Manhattan. Once an independent museum, The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park, New York is now a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This grand collection of medieval art and architecture will amaze you. Read more here: http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters. It’s one thing to ship a sculpture, painting or rooster aquamanile from Europe to the US, but to dismantle entire rooms, ship and then reassemble them on site is mind-boggling. The stonework is impressive. We’re talking massive columns, carved stone archways and gigantic doors with original hardware as well as limestone tombs. I did not ask if the bones of the dead originally buried therein were still in the tombs. It was something I wondered. Photography is not permitted, I cannot show you any pages from the book without express written permission from the publishers which I did not get. 😥 It is beautiful, just go and see for yourself.
We headed to the completely opposite end of Manhattan to go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. After several hours at The Cloisters and nearly another hour traveling by bus and subway, we stopped for a bite to eat. It was raining on and off all day and outdoor pictures were not a thought. I can’t remember if photography was permitted inside the museum; however, I didn’t even consider taking pictures. I was just about being there.The pools are imposing, though with the rain and our need to catch a train to Long Island, there wasn’t a chance to walk around. I did look over the edge of one and the feeling is of bottomless infinity. Hypnotizing. I don’t believe one must be a native New Yorker to feel the solemn intensity of this place, another destination to add to your bucket list. http://www.911memorial.org.
We high-tailed it back to the Americana to pick up our luggage and get on a train to Long Island. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we just made it on the train that was leaving NOW. I stayed the next 3-1/2 days at my sister and BIL’s home on Long Island, visiting a couple of nearby relatives, being treated to several restaurant meals, and just hanging out. My sister set me up in grand style with a bedroom, sitting room, and separate room for my luggage-like a suite at the Ritz Carlton.
All good things come to an end and it was time to move on. Thanks Cathi and Steve for being so generous. I enjoyed my visit and look forward to next time.