Tag Archives: America

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The big apple – last stop New York

New York was all that was promised. A perfectly formed island of towering buildings overhead and neat straight sidewalks under foot, with everything in between a bundle of energy and life. Manhattan is just as it looks in the films. A home to the icons, The Chrysler Building; The Empire State Building; Staten Island; Grand Central; Bloomingdales; Tiffany’s; the Statue of Liberty, few places herald a greater list of famous inhabitants. Even the streets are ‘household names’ here, Wall Street; 42nd Street; Broadway; Fifth Avenue. It makes this new and unfamiliar city appear more familiar than it really is, leaving me with a peculiar sense of the uncanny. I expect to see Carrie Bradshaw or Gordon Gekko appear out of a building and jump into a yellow cab at any minute. I feel a little wrong footed and a teensy bit star struck with this city.

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Manhattan streets, New York City (Louise Kenward, 2014)

A few days to explore on my own before I meet Sabrina, I walk for miles and miles. Just hopping out to catch an early evening walk gets me back at the YMCA for 10.30pm. I had no idea. Time disappears as everything seems so close, ‘it’s all in walking distance’ I am told. This is true. They tend to be very long walks. There is also much to distract. Visiting the Empire State Building gave a more honest sense of scale. Views spread across the whole city, creating a vision of 3-D Tetris. Reaching the edges of Manhattan and looking across from Central Park, you get a greater sense of the city. The Staten Island Ferry takes regular trips past the Statue of Liberty for the classic Manhattan skyline. 

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Manhattan skyline from Central Park, New York (Louise Kenward, 2014)

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View of Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry, Louise Kenward (2014)

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3-D Tetris – view from The Empire State Building, Louise Kenward (2014)

Another must see was the High Line Park. A converted rail track which was used to deliver supplies to the Meatpacking District. Now an oasis of calm and greenery it is a welcome contrast to the hectic streets below. The elevated walkway hovers 30 feet above the west side streets. Converted from a disused space, work began in 1999, with the first section opening ten years later. The park as it is today opened in 2011. A long narrow space, it is surprisingly easy to forget you are in the centre of such a built up city. Cast your gaze across and the skyline of concrete is always in sight. For me, this made it all the more special. You know you are in Manhattan, a few feet from West Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and the Meatpacking District. Yet surrounded by grasses, climbers and stretches of lawn, elevated above the ground, you feel as if you are in another place entirely. It is a little pocket within the city and outside of it.

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High Line Park, Manhattan (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Seeing my ‘old’ friend Sabrina (we met in Russia last October) it feels like I have almost come full circle (which I suppose I have). Arriving in the city a few days earlier, New York felt a little lonely. A familiar and friendly face, so happy to hear about my journey since we’d parted in Beijing, was a true tonic for the soul. Any travel weariness was quickly abandoned. It also meant I could enjoy reliving that early part of my journey with someone who had been there.

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On our way to pizza at DUMBO – Brooklyn Bridge with Sabrina, Louise Kenward (2014)

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset and had pizza at Grimaldi’s. We visited Queen’s to watch a baseball game and took a road trip to Philadelphia. Stopping at a diner on the way home for pancakes I wondered where Bruce Willis was and if Uma Thurman would soon emerge out of the loos. My own inner world, I would have been disappointed if they had appeared as they would not be in the characters I cast (on this occasion I am in Pulp Fiction). 

The baseball game was good fun. It really is like the movies, with ‘kiss cam’ (and some less than excited participants willed on by the crowd), burgers and milkshakes and loud pumping music gearing the players up. A great end to my time in New York and (at least temporarily) to my travels. This adventure is now returning full circle as my next destination is Bexhill, UK, where the project will continue…

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Mets vs Atlanta Braves, Louise Kenward (2014)

The storm after the calm

Emerging from two days of relative peace and tranquility on the train from Saskatoon to Toronto, I am rested and rejuvenated. My priority now being to see Niagara Falls. A few days in Toronto has brought wonderful memories of earlier times in my trip, the markets and area of Chinatown among others. It is also the ideal stop to travel to the falls from.

Once again I am joined by Annie (Brassey) and her journals providing guidance. Having left the ‘Sunbeam’ in Australia I have been travelling solo up until this point, joined again by Annie and her ‘Cruise on the Eothen’ (1872). It’s nice to have some company again.

Arriving at Niagara it was, as I had been warned, a veritable theme park, a concrete mess ‘dedicated’ to the waterfalls and yet brilliantly managing to almost totally obscure them in the process. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Annie, I may very well have taken the same opinion given to me in Toronto when a surprised receptionist looked horrified and said “three days?! that’s far too long”. This was supported by an equally alarmed fellow passenger on the bus from Toronto, herself going to St Catherine’s for the weekend to visit family, who just looked a little disappointed and rather perplexed and spent much of the trip trying to come up with imaginative and alternative excursions for me to take.

Alas, Niagara Falls was a much anticipated highlight of my trip and with Annie as my guide I could not fail to be impressed. She surely was, waxing lyrical, and at length. She also spent about three days there.

I had also splashed out on a room to myself, about thirty minutes walk from the falls at the hostel. I intended to make the most of this. As soon as I arrived I ventured out for a view of the falls. A walk along the river and first sight comes after about twenty minutes, through the Rainbow bridge that connects Canada with the US, a steam of water can be seen as it crashes into the river below.

Niagara Falls, Louise Kenward 2014

Niagara Falls, Louise Kenward 2014

Walking a little further on and the Horseshoe Falls come into view at about the same time it hits you just how disappointing the bits on land are. I held my faith, ignoring everything to the right of me and continued along the river to get the best views of the waterfalls. I remembered that Annie had taken a trip behind the falls and so duly followed suit. It was incredible, to imagine the short distance from my earlier viewpoint and I was actually a part of the falls. As much as you can be without being in a barrel and risking life and limb (for which there is a whole museum dedicated to those who have). Not surprisingly it is the sound of the water, all two million litres of it, every second, as it plummets over the edge, which is most demanding of attention, but there is also an ever so slight vibration throughout the whole of the tunnel which is thrilling if a little unsettling. There are two ‘viewpoints’ of neat squares cut out to stand behind the water, about 10 or 12 feet and from where you can see the blanket of white water and the illusion that it is dancing in many ways as the light plays tricks. It looks metres deep, almost like a solid mass, and impossible to see through. You can then stand outside, at the edge of the falls, looking upwards, and be struck by just how far away you need to be from the water and still get soaked. I came away a little disappointed however, this was not as I remember Annie’s account, although I wasn’t expecting to have to strip and dress in oilskins as she had.

Standing behind the Horseshoe Falls, Louise Kenward (2014)

Standing behind the Horseshoe Falls, Louise Kenward (2014)

'Behind the Falls', Louise Kenward 2014

‘Behind the Falls’, Louise Kenward 2014

Having discovered that the ‘Maid of the Mist’ only runs from the American side, and that the equivalent boat ‘The Hornblower’ does exactly the same thing from Canada, I decided I needed to go to America.

Feeling a little disloyal (Canada does have the best views though), I set out the next day with passport in hand. It may not have been the same bridge Annie crossed but it was, surprisingly a good deal cheaper. She was charged one and a half dollars to cross the suspension bridge. I paid 50 cents (and then a $6 entry fee into the US). It was surprisingly straight forward and America welcomed me.

The ‘Maid of the Mist’ was much more than I anticipated, having been watching it from the land for several hours the day before. Actually sailing up to the falls, along the falls, around the falls and back again genuinely gives you another ‘up close and personal’ perspective of the falls. And, not for the first time, made me worry that I had killed my camera once and for all. The force of the water is palpable when you are so close. Turning from a fairly serene, albeit fast flowing river, at the top of the falls the speed it gathers and amount of water involved as it tips over the precipice is still astonishing.

From the 'Maid of the Mist', Louise Kenward 2014

From the ‘Maid of the Mist’, Louise Kenward 2014

It was only after this that it fully dawned on me, Annie had visited the falls from this side. Her trip was around Canada but the ‘Maid of the Mist’, Goat Island and the ‘Cave of the Winds’ was accessed from here. ‘The Cave of the Winds’ is no longer a cave unfortunately, that has been closed about a hundred years. But there is now a walkway of the same name that takes you around the bottom of the American Falls. Another close encounter, and one I could take rather more at my leisure, or as much as my waterproofs would allow. Again I feared for my camera. My watch got pretty wet here too but both have thankfully recovered.

American Falls, Louise Kenward 2014

American Falls, Louise Kenward 2014

The ‘Cave of the Winds’ was also seen in much better sunlight than had been present the day before. And I saw a rainbow. It was beautiful, and an entire half circle, sitting serenely atop the torrent of activity beneath of splashing and crashing, thundering waters descending as fast as gravity will allow it.

From the 'Cave of the Winds' (Louise Kenward, 2014)

From the ‘Cave of the Winds’ (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Needless to say I was captivated and awestruck. There are places on the boardwalk where you are so close that all you can see is the white froth of the foaming waters above you and heading straight at you. I felt truly immersed and a part of the waterfalls. It is possible to imagine just how punishing a fall from the top would be.