New York Holiday
Ed Prynn & Emma Kent
On the 19th November 2009 Emma Kent and I flew out to New York from Newquay airport, Cornwall. It was a cold blustery day and we arrived about two hours before time. There seemed to be a big number of people as it was the first direct flight to New York from Newquay. This was a big day for the airport and the people of Cornwall and I think one day it will be a great asset to the economy of Cornwall.
We booked in August so we had 3 months to get excited and do the research about what we were going to do. The plane was a Boeing 757 and it was the first time I was going to fly on one. At the check-in desk Emma asked the lady if we could board first as with me being partially sighted I didn't want to hold anyone up and the lady said yes. We went through to the departure lounge and had a cup of tea and looked around to see if we knew anyone. Emma saw a friend she worked with and I saw a chap called Dave who had been to visit my stones and was lucky enough to win the Cornish Guardian competition for a trip to New York.
At about 9 am we were called up to board the plane first. We gave in the boarding passes and had some security checks and then they said we could go and board the plane. We followed the path around to the plane and just before the steps Emma stood aside to let me go up first. The steps were about 25 feet up and the wind was blowing like hell! I handed Emma my stick and I held on for dear life as I was worried I'd fall down. We sat on row 19 in the aisle which was on the wings and even with my limited sight we couldn't see very much out of the window. As we sat there I was reminiscing about when I was 19 and I worked at St Mawgan airport. Before it became a commercial airport there weren't many planes using the runway so I use to ride my bike to work, throw it over the main gate and if the lights were green I'd ride across. It use to take me 7 minutes to ride across the runway as it was so wide! Well there it is, as I sat in my seat and watched all the passengers coming on I knew very soon that we'll be taking off for New York.
When everyone was on board and the doors were shut the captain started up the engine and soon shut them down again. I thought to myself this is trouble. The captain made an announcement that here was a technical fault and he had to get an engineer on board to take a look as he didn't want to take any chances travelling so far.. Once again the door was opened up and I said to Emma I think this is a bad omen and I feel that I better get off the plane. No, she said you'll be fine don't get off. It did sort it self out and after an hour the captain said it's all fixed and we'll be on our way. There were 3 pilots on board and the airline was called Jet2.ccom. I suppose they had that many pilots as it was a long journey which they don't usually do so didn't want to risk anything. We took off from the Northwest end of the runway and flew towards St Columb Major. After a steep climb the captain said we were going to turn the right and head out across the Atlantic. I was absolutely petrified that the plane was going to crash and then suddenly one of the engines made hell of a noise like it was grinding. I said to Emma we are going to crash! She said, no you'll be fine in a minute it'll be OK. She tried to ask me questions as we got about an hour into the flight and I said it's no good Emma I can't talk to you I'm too scared all I can hear is the engines. I think when you work with machines you get to understand how they work and what they sound like if there is a problem. There is an expression you say that if the engines are running OK you say they are singing and after a while the engines started to sing and I thought New York here we come! The couple that was meant to be sitting next to me moved back a few seats so me and Emma had the 3 seats to ourselves which was nice. The plane would hold 229 people and I should think there was about 20 seats empty. They brought us our meals about 2 hours into the flight and we had lovely braised beef with roast veg which was hansom and I didn't make any mess on myself. Emma kept a constant watch over me as she heard from Paul Murt about what I was like on the China flight with me food. I struggle to get in all the packets as they make them all so bloody difficult. Luckily Emma was one step ahead of me and opened my cartons up before I had chance to make a pigs ear of it!
The flight soon slipped by and the stewards were bringing cups of tea around and before we knew it I could see down over Canada. Aeroplanes always feel as if they are suspended in the sky and are not going anywhere when you are up there but before we knew it we were coming into land at Newark airport. We got off the plane and headed for customs where there was a massive great queue. Anyone arriving in America has to go through it all and fill out the green cards and then get questioned by the guards about what you are doing in the country. We stood there for an hour and half and just before our turn some Chinese people pushed in front and they got sent out the back for questioning. When I got to the guard I heard him say that he didn't trust them and things didn't make sense about there visit so he sent them away for further questions. After we got through we had to go and collect our bags from the carousel and then find the bus for our hotel. The bus was packed when we got on as we seemed to be one of the few held up at customs but we soon found a seat and then started to head off for the hotel.
The bus driver was nice and he played Frank Sinatra's New York, New York song and he said if we look to the left in a minute you will see one of the best views in the world. So we were all sitting there poised and as we turned the corner we saw all the New York skyscrapers all standing up there in front of us like mythical giants stood up there watching us. We then turned into the Lincoln tunnel which takes us under the Hudson river and up into mid town Manhattan. The tunnel went on for ages and it was amazing when we came up the other side to see all the busy traffic, skyscrapers and yellow taxi's around us was just wonderful. The weather was overcast and raining but that didn't put us off. It's quite a story of how New York developed. In 1626 Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonial Director-General, purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lanape Native Americans for $24 worth of glass beads and the island was known as New Amsterdam. In 1664 the English conquered the city and renamed it New York.
We stayed at a hotel called Astor on the Park which was on 465 Central Park West on the corner of 103 street which was on the edge of Harlem. We soon checked in and headed up to our room. The room was small but we had a double bed each and an en-suite bathroom so it was a good base for the 3 nights we were there. The time difference was 5 hours behind Cornwall so it was about 11 pm at home and only 6 pm in New York. We were both exhausted and we thought we'd head out for a bite to eat before bedtime so we went over to the next street and had some tea in a café. I had some lovely chicken and chips with 2 hot chocolates. Emma had a hamburger and chips. At 7 pm New York time we were absolutely knackered so we both agreed that a good nights sleep was in order and we'd make an early start. We picked up some supplies from a shop and then headed back to the hotel ready for some rest and spend our first night in New York.
On Friday morning we were awake at about 4 am. Emma was reading her map and she let me watch her ipod as she had downloaded a New York video about a guy who had recorded his walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. I was so impressed with his film that I couldn't wait to get there. Emma seemed to know where and what we were going to do on our first day. Our main objective was to go down to the Brooklyn Bridge. We left the hotel about 6.30 am and thought we'd head down to Strawberry Fields in Central Park to see the John Lennon memorial and then head to the bridge. Just outside the hotel I asked Emma if it was raining so she stuck her hand out of the hotel door to check the weather and instantly a taxi pulled up! We laughed about it and thought we better had get in or we'll look a but silly. Next thing I knew the driver asked us our destination and I said like a shot 'take us to the Brooklyn bridge!' It was about a 30 minute drive and it was lovely for me to see all the skyscrapers as Cornwall is all so flat in comparison as we have the green fields and blue sea and New York is like a huge concrete forest that even blots out the sun in places. In the distance Emma pointed out the bridge to me and was telling me about what was around us pointing out buildings. We took the FDR road which runs alongside the east River so we saw the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges on our way. When we got near the Brooklyn bridge the taxi driver spoke to the traffic police to find out exactly where to drop us as he never had to drop anyone off at the pedestrian area for the bridge before. When we got out of the taxi it was about 7 am and it was lovely as it was quiet and a man was out with a leaf blowing machine clearing the pavements off. All around us were skyscrapers and I couldn't believe there were men at the top operating the cranes and walking around. I don't know how they can work up there as I know I certainly couldn't. T Emma has checked the internet and has found out that the big skyscraper we saw being built there was called The Beekman Tower and is 867ft (264m) high and will house a school, hospital and luxury apartments when it's finished.
We then started to cross the road and join the path for the bridge. The pedestrian path is raised up in the middle. I noticed that there was lots of traffic heading back and forth from Brooklyn to New York. The sun was starting to rise above Brooklyn and it was a perfect morning for the walk and for us to take lots of photo's. We started our trek across the bridge to Brooklyn and I grabbed hold of one of the steel girders and noticed the traffic was like an army on the move. I've seen documentaries about the Brooklyn Bridge and how it was built and I couldn't believe that me and Emma Kent were walking across it. For those of you that don't know the story it goes like this ... In 1870 construction started on the bridge so Manhattan could be connected to the main land for the first time. It took 13 years to be built and would not have been completed if it hadn't been for Emily Roebling who was the wife of Washington Roebling (Chief Engineer). Washington's father John was originally the chief engineer but he died before construction started leaving Washington in charge. A few years into the build Washington became ill with caisson's disease (also known as 'the bends') caused by working in the tower chambers beneath the water. This left him in a paralysing state and unable to work on site. This is where Emily comes into it as she studied Higher Mathematics so was able to work out the calculations needed for the engineering and supervise the construction of the bridge whilst liaising with her sick husband. The bridge opened on 24 May 1883 and Emily Roebling was the first person to cross it. So there you are that is the story behind the bridge and I was now about to cross the it.
When we got to the first arch I couldn't believe how big it was. The stones that they used must have been about 2 – 3 tonnes each and without cranes it is amazing how they did it. After about 30 minutes of strolling over we arrived into Brooklyn. Emma asked me if I was up to walking back to the other side for some breakfast and I said yes that will be fine. As I walked back I thought about Emily Roebling being the first person to walk across the bridge and it gave me another chance to look at the stone work again and the massive steel cables.
When we got to the New York side I asked Emma what we were going to see next. She said we were right touching Ground Zero so I'll take you there after some breakfast. Emma led me through the busy streets as it was now about 9 am and everyone was heading to work. We found a lovely café that did English tea and fried eggs with toast so I was happy. We got to Ground Zero about 10 am and when we got there I couldn't believe that I was there. There was a huge construction site where the massive towers once stood. It was so sad to be standing there in this huge open space amongst the other skyscrapers. I was reliving what I had seen on the television on September 11th 2001 and the 3000 people that perished. We saw there was a museum at the side so we went in and had a look. It had footage of when the towers were opened in 1973 and they were the tallest in the world at that time. There was so much history about the construction and stories from the designers. It then got very sad as there were photos and films from the relatives who died. In the museum stood a huge piece of steel from the towers that we could all touch. At the end there was an area that you could write a comment on about your memories from the WTC. Emma wrote for me that we had travelled from Cornwall and that everyone was very proud of Rick Rescorla who had helped many people get out of the towers. In his home town of Hayle the people have put a memorial stone up so people can pay their respects to him. I thought about him and all the others that had lost their lives. I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive anyone that was a part of that as all that was left behind was more hatred. I don't want to get into religious talk but I often wonder what god thinks of us all. There is one god for everyone and sometimes I wonder why god puts people against each other. Many thoughts passed through my mind at Ground Zero. While we were down there we walked through many streets and we saw the Dow Jones building and Emma was reading to me all the time and explaining everything.
Empire State Building
The next stop was the Empire State Building. I am petrified of heights but knew I would have to face my fears and go up. We bought some passes before we went to America for £70 each that allowed us to visit 50 attractions in New York in a 3 day period which let us skip most of the queues. With my white cane I must admit that people do help me out and let us skip most of the queues anyway but the passes were good if you are in a hurry. We joined the huge queues and soon we were in the elevator on our way to the top and I didn't know if I could take it. It only took about 40 seconds to go 80 floors and when we got to the top there was an inner room with a 6 ft wide corridor around the outside. It was all fenced well so no one could jump over. I was almost afraid to look over the side as we were so high up! When I was a kid Charlie Harvey and Boss Nancarrow my school teachers use to talk about it being the highest in the world and I never thought for one minute I'd be on it. Emma took my photo up there and we had a good look around at all the skyscrapers. When we came down we found a lovely little café and had a little something to eat. I enjoyed it as I had Chicken Noodle soup, it was lovely but it was cold. I ordered another bowl and told the man it was to cold so when he bought the other one he told me to watch my hands as it was so hot! You would also think that by now the Americans would have learnt how to make an English cup of tea! The water is usually cold when they bring it out so I switched to drinking chocolate which they were good at making.
USS Intrepid – Air, Sea, Space Museum
We took a taxi down to the USS Intrepid museum which was located on Pier 83 next to the Hudson River. Emma had been telling me all about this museum so I was getting excited about what we were going to see. As the taxi got closer Emma pointed out the museum in the distance and when we got out I stood up outside the museum and there it was this massive aircraft carrier. What a boat! The bows were almost up to the pavement and it was 908 ft long. My friend Eric served on the HMS Hermes so I knew a bit about these aircraft carriers. We showed our passes and went through to the pier where Emma pointed out to me that there was also submarine. Emma really wanted to go on this submarine and we had to climb through a 36 inch gap before we got on to show we could get through the tight doors. The submarine was called the USS Growler and carried 4 cruise missiles and 9 torpedo's. I asked the girls lots of questions and we walked all the way through the submarine and took lots of pictures.
The next thing we saw, which even caught my eye, was a British Airways Concorde at the end of the pier. I always think it looks like a space shuttle. We went up the steps and walked through the plane. It held 60 in the back and 40 in the front. I only wish it was still in service so I could get a ride back to England on it. I looked at it's wings and wheels and spent about 20 minutes admiring it. This particular Concorde was called G-BOAD and did the trip across the Atlantic from London Heathrow to JFK airport (New York) in the quickest time of 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds from take off to touchdown!
As I walked away I thought that the next breed of planes will probably do the trip from London to Australia in 45 minutes.
Eventually it was time to go aboard the USS Intrepid Aircraft carrier. I couldn't wait! To me it was a giant, giant ship. We took the elevator to the top deck first where all of the planes and helicopters are kept. They had a plane called the Blackbird which was used for spy missions and would fly at 100,000 ft. There were also several helicopters there such as the Whirlwind. Whist we were on the bows of the ship I looked back towards the stern to see if I could see the end but it was to far for me to see. Emma walked me to the back of the flight deck on the stern and I said to Emma this is the biggest ship I have been on but this is small compared to what they have in this present day.
After we admired the planes on the flight deck we noticed that we could go up to the bridge. Again this was very exciting as this aircraft carrier had seen action in WWII. Emma suggested I climb into the captains seat so I did. I imagined I was the captain looking out at the planes taking off and coming in to land. It was a great day for me as I have been on some of the great ships but there was so much to see. During the war it was hit 5 times by Japanese Kamikaze pilots which killed many men on board but it always survived the attacks.
I remember Emma telling me that an astronaut was going to be at the museum on the day of our visit and so we went to the aircraft hangar and I could hear in the distance someone talking. We headed that way and saw the people talking to him. Just before he went I stood up and asked someone if we could speak to him and have a photo. His name was Michael Massimino and he had done 2 space walks to repair the Hubble Telescope. I walked up to him and he was a giant of a man and I couldn't believe that he had been in space and rode on the shuttle. We shook hands and I said sir can I ask you a question? He said yes. I said in 200 years time how do you see space? He said I see a planet with 100's of people on it, in fact 1000's of people living on it. I believe that and so do my friends and that there will be a planet for people to go and live on. I asked if I could have my photo with him and he said yes. I must tell you I was floating! Emma will tell you I couldn't think of anything else. There were a few others I would like to have met but that was tops! The connection between space and the USS Intrepid was that during the early days of space travel the capsules returning to earth had to ditch into the sea and the USS Intrepid was sent to retrieve them.
We finished off looking around the museum and then went back to the hotel and called it a day. That was the Friday over with. Back in the hotel Emma was trying to get the TV to work but it was hopeless. No good channels!
On Saturday morning once more we were up at about 4 am and I asked Emma what the programme was for today. She said today we'll use the subway to get around. I have heard people say that you shouldn't stare at people on the subway. Emma seemed to know where she was going on the subway just like Paul Murt in China.
Our first stop on Saturday was Strawberry Fields. We got off at 72nd St and Emma led me out of the station across the road to Central Park. She got her map out and said the John Lennon memorial was around here somewhere. We started walking and then a sign appeared that said Strawberry Fields. It was a lovely park with beautiful trees and the floor was just a carpet of leaves with lots of squirrels around. In front of us on the floor was a circle of stones in the that said 'Imagine'. Sometimes you can't touch statue's or certain things but they built this memorial for John Lennon so people could pay their respects. It was good that the American's did that for him. I stood there and imagined John standing there with his guitar singing. It was a tragedy that he was murdered so young. Again the guy who did it achieved nothing but I felt happy now that I had visited the monument. We couldn't see the exact place he was shot but it was in the area.
The next stop was the Rockefeller centre. I didn't really know much about this but as were queuing up it all became clear why it was an attraction. I expect you have all seen the picture of the work men having lunch on a steel girder high up above New York? Well that was the men building the Rockefeller Centre. It was very high up, about 872ft or 266m, and Emma grabbed hold of me to take a photo and I was nervous as a kitten. We could see the Empire State building about guessing half a mile away and also the USS Intrepid. We didn't stay up there for long as it was a bit cold for me.
We then caught the Subway down to Wall street to look around. We saw the New York Stock Exchane and the Federal Bank. I asked Emma if we could go and have a look around at Ground Zero again as I wanted to see it. In a few years they would have done lots of work on rebuilding the place. At the museum I met this black lady who the day before I had mistaken for a man as her voice was very deep. She worked there and as we were queuing up she recognised us and we had a laugh about it. She was very kind.
We went to Macy's store to have a look around but it was so busy we left. We decided at about 4 pm to get back to hotel as we had walked miles and it was getting dark. We tried to get a taxi but no one wanted to take us. We had to get the subway and Emma asked me if I was up to it as it was a good 20 minute walk to the subway. When we got on the train it was packed and a lovely chap gave me his seat. We got talking and he was a baptist. I gave him one of my cards and said if he was ever in the area to look us up.
That night we were all in as I wasn't feeling to good as my ankles were sore, I forgot my gloves, scarf and long johns that day so I was a bit cold. Emma started packing up the cases as that would be our last night in the hotel. We did have plans to go down to see Times Square at night but to be honest we didn't feel that safe out and about at night and it was a bit of a way to get down there so we decided to go in the morning.
On the Sunday morning Emma finished off packing the cases and stowing all our purchases away. We couldn't believe that it was our last day and that we would be going home to Blighty that evening. We had a final check of the room and then checked out of the hotel. We had to be back there for 5 pm to get the coach so we planned on taking it easy. We caught a taxi down to Times Square. Every city has a special place and Times Square was special for me. There were 1000's of people and it seemed to be a hive of activity. In China there were lots of people but nothing like this.
After some breakfast Emma said we were off to Madame Tussauds in Times Square. The last time I went to Madame Tussauds was about 50 years ago in London so it didn't do much for me but thought I'd go along with it as Emma was keen. Once I got in there I couldn't believe how different it was from 50 years ago. I could get my photo taken with all the wax works. I took some photos of Emma as well but for every 10 I take I probably get 1 good one! We went around and we saw Benny Hill, Ghandi, Johnny Cash, Muhammad Ali, John Wayne. We came across Albert Einstein and Emma said I looked just like him. We saw the Spice Girls and Emma told me to kneel down on the floor in front of them and she took my photo. I had a photo next to Princess Diana and then I just looked at her. I saw the Americans looking at me and they must have known I was a Brit. We started moving around and there was a statue of Barack Obama and you could sit in the seat and make out you were making a phone call at the White House. I pretended to be phoning my son. It really was great there and a highlight of the trip.
Central Park Zoo
We strolled back up through Times Square to get some last minute souvenirs and Emma said we'll go up to the Zoo now. Once again we got a taxi and he took us up to the entrance of the Zoo. I was looking forward to seeing the animals. I'm not one for locking up the animals but after watching the programmes I think we need to lock some up in case they became extinct. The animals will then become stars. We had a bit of lunch in the cafe first and Emma read me the leaflet about the Zoo. It wasn't a big zoo but it was a beautiful afternoon and we spent about 2 hours there looking around and enjoying the atmosphere. There were 2 polar bears that were huge, almost bigger then South Devon Cows. We also saw the sea lions being fed at 2pm and they put on a show for everyone.
At about 2.30 pm we left the zoo and Emma said lets walk up through the park as we have a few hours left and we can then go and spend an hour at the history museum. Central Park was so beautiful. It was a mild autumn day and we must have walked for a few miles and took loads of photos of the park. The park was packed with families, runners and cyclists just out enjoying themselves.
Natural History Museum
We got to the museum at about 3.30 pm and I was so impressed with the way it was laid out. They had amazing monuments and dinosaur replica's. I particularly liked the T-Rex as he was huge! I would pretty run if he was after me. The museum was huge and i'm sure you could spend a whole day there if you had the time to.
We then got a taxi back to the hotel. It wasn't long before the bus arrived and we were on our bus travelling through New York back to Newark airport. We had a long wait at the airport but Emma Kent was cracking jokes and keeping us entertained and a few people recognised me.
As we boarded the plane I thought about America and the lovely few days we had there. It always reminds me of the Wild West. I know a few of them carry guns and they have the pow wow's and that is why I like it. On the plane again we had a long wait as there was a cock up with the fuel and I thought maybe they hadn't paid the bill. About 11.30 pm we took off and the captain said we had a tail wind so it'll take 6 hours. We had the aisle seats so we could sleep. When we woke up we had breakfast and then the captain said we'll be landing in 30 minutes. As we came in Emma said we were flying over St Columb and then we touched down in the stormy weather.
Just as we came out of the airport I met Tiffany Truscott from Radio Cornwall who asked me what the holiday was like. We then met Taz for our lift home and within 15 minutes we was having a cup of tea in our own house. That really was the icing on the cake for us.