Since the Rockefeller Centre was just around the corner from our hotel, it would have been remiss of us not to have been up to the Top of the Rock to take in the view. Since it was another one of the options on the City Pass it was easy for us to do that. Friends had told us that the view from here was better than that from the Empire State Building. I think I disagree, although it’s a close run thing and the view over Central Park was great. This view also has the advantage of including the Empire State Building itself.
The Empire State Building has a number of exhibits about the history and building of the tower. By contrast, the Top of the Rock is a jump in the lift, see the view, come down again, experience. Which of those is preferable is probably down to taste. I liked the no-fuss approach at the Rockefeller, whereas TBH loved all of the hoo-ha at the ESB.
Quiet and/or leafy places seem to be at a premium in Manhattan and we were very grateful for this little space opposite our hotel where we sometimes sat to eat a meal.
I was very taken with this shop, perhaps because even though it’s a five floor building, it’s dwarfed by the buildings either side, and even more so by the skyscraper behind.
We were heading initially for Central Park for another, very hot, wander.
We were heading for The American Natural History Museum which is situated on the western boundary of the park.
We had a timed entry, but even so it took quite a long while to get into the museum and then through the very crowded and noisy entrance hall.
This is another one of the attractions available via the City Pass. We discovered that because we were using the City Pass, entry to the extra exhibits, which would normally cost extra, was included for free, so we booked times for the Planetarium, a film on the birds of the Prairie Wetlands, and a temporary exhibit on sharks.
The museum is enormous. We were there for many hours, but I suspect we barely scratched the surface.
I think I took photographs of almost all of the dioramas in the Hall of African Wildlife, but calmed down a little after that.
The planetarium was great; perhaps a little too relaxing. Snore, me? No – that was someone else you heard.
The film was fascinating. I hadn’t previously even heard of the Prairie Pothole wetlands.
The shark exhibition had some comfortable benches.
It was one of those modern exhibitions where the content is films and models and information boards, but there aren’t any actual exhibits.
Elsewhere, the museum was absolutely brimming-over with interesting stuff. For example, there were rooms upon rooms of artefacts from Indigenous American cultures, from across both continents.
It was amazing, if somewhat overwhelming. When I visit the British Museum, which, admittedly, I haven’t done for a very long time, I tend to wander about until I wash up somewhere which sparks my interest that day, then I have a really thorough look at that section. Then I leave.
But I suppose we weren’t sure when we might be back in the AMNH, if ever, so we greedily crammed in as much as we could. Even so, we must have missed huge swathes. I believe there’s a dinosaur hall, which we didn’t get to. We did tour an exhibition of macro photographs of endangered insects (obviously right up my street), but we didn’t find time for the nearby display about the Big Bang.
I took a lot of photographs, but have been for selective for this post. However, I do feel compelled to include this picture of Indonesian shadow-puppets…
So that I can mention the fact that TBH and I once holidayed in Indonesia…
It was twenty years ago. Here’s TBH, at Borobudur, touching Buddha’s thumb, which reputedly brings good luck. We were treated to a shadow-puppet play whilst we were there, a part of the Mahabharata. It was good, so much so that TBH wanted a memento and decided to take some photos. It was dark in the room, so she switched on her flash, and then greeted the images with consternation when each showed….. the inevitable blank screen. Meanwhile, I was struggling to suppress a fit of giggles, not wanting to spoil the show for the other tourists present.
There were so many fascinating things to see from myriad cultures from around the world, that I decided to confine my photos to representations of faces.
I felt some sympathy with these two characters…
At the time, this fella put me in mind of Davros, leader of the Daleks. Now it makes me think of the short Bertolt Brecht poem, the Mask of Evil..
On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer.
Sympathetically I observe
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating
What a strain it is to be evil.
Later, the rest of the family went to the theatre to watch a production of the Musical version of Harry Potter. I'm much too grumpy for musicals. Or Harry Potter. With hindsight, I should have sought out the Blue Note or Birdland or something else more to my tastes. But I was well into Jonathon Franzen's 'Freedom' and was more than happy to have the hotel room to myself to relax with my book.
So, our first full day in New York – time to get out and about and see what’s what. By the time I took the photo above, just down the block from our hotel, we’d already eaten breakfast at a small but very busy sandwich bar called Toasties.
Heading back from there, we came across these very large, unusual sculptures…
Seated next to a water feature you could walk through…
We were heading down 5th Avenue looking for East 34th Street, but on route we stopped off at the New York Central Library…
Downstairs there was a small museum, accessed by booking only. We hadn’t booked, so I had the slightly surreal experience of being helped, by the man on the door, to book online, before he scanned the resulting QR code and let us in. Anyway, it was well worth a visit, because among other things it had the original toys immortalised by A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
You’ll notice that there are no pictures featuring books – the public lending library was across 5th Avenue. The Central Library did have reading rooms with specific collections of books, but they weren’t open to the public.
This was where we had been heading…
The Empire State building is a full on tourist attraction. First you have to queue to have a family portrait taken, so that later you could buy photographs of yourself green-screened onto various views. This turned out to be a common theme just about everywhere we went in Manhattan. Little S took great delight in vying with the sales-people to discreetly take snaps on his phone of our portraits when they were trying to entice us to shell out our hard-earned on their pictures.
King Kong was one of many attractions on the lower floors. He was animated, so that, whilst TBH was posing, his face went through a huge range of expressions, which was quite amusing.
I enjoyed the time-lapse footage of the tower in construction. Astonishingly, it was built in 410 days and finished ahead of schedule.
We got views from the 82nd and 86th floors, if I remember right. We could have paid extra to go up to the 102nd floor, but were quite content with the view as it was.
The bit of green in the foreground is Madison Square Garden, with the Flatiron building just beyond. The Hudson River is on the right and you can see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty in the distance. The sky-scrapers on the left are in Brooklyn and those on the right are in Jersey City.
The views are pretty amazing and I took a lot of photos, but they all essentially show lots of tall buildings, so I’ll limit myself to three here.
Back on the streets the rest of the family got excited about…
With the obvious exception of Central Park, green spaces are at a premium in midtown. This is Bryant Park just behind the Central Library. We were looking for a relatively small building which we had spotted from the Empire State Building and had all taken a fancy to. From ground level we couldn’t agree which building we had been admiring.
We’d bought a week’s pass on the Metro and used it a lot. It could be confusing at times, but was generally very convenient.
I often felt that everywhere we visited had a song associated with it. I got particularly excited about 110th Street, although if I’d remembered more than just the chorus of the Bobby Womack classic I might have been less keen to visit. Apparently, 110th street was traditionally the boundary of Harlem, and the song is about surviving in the ghetto. Today it seemed very leafy and unthreatening.
The station is at the northwest corner of Central Park. We walked diagonally across the park to catch the Metro again on East 60th Street, which given how hot it was, was quite a hike.
The Mall has statues of William Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns – why no American writers?
Eating out in New York was expensive. Actually, eating in in New York was expensive. Well, everything in New York was expensive. But, we found a fairly reasonable place called the Tick Tock Diner and I discovered the delights of a Cobb Salad. Very tasty.
One way to save money as a tourist in Manhattan is to invest in a City Pass. It gives you entrance to a number of attractions and whilst it isn’t cheap, it does save a lot compared to buying individual tickets. We thought it was good value. As a bonus, a City Pass entitles you to a second, night time, ascent of the Empire State building.
Again, the views were stunning. Sadly, my phone seemed to be overwhelmed by the lights and the many, many pictures I took haven’t come out very satisfactorily. Still, quite an experience.
At the end of August, my Mum and Dad came to stay for a few days. It was the first time we’d seen them for quite some time, so it was great to have them with us, and also very handy that we had some pretty good weather for their visit.
I think we sat out on our patio quite a bit, but we also managed to get out for a number of walks.
I think Mum and Dad were particularly impressed with our walk on Heysham headlands.
B likes to come to Heysham headlands with his friends to watch the sunset and to swim when the tide is in, and I can see why.
I should mention that we had lunch at Tracy’s Homemade Pies and Cakes cafe, which was amazing value and very tasty. Highly recommended.
We had a day out in Kirkby Lonsdale too, although I don’t seem to have taken any photos. I was shocked by how busy it was; we did well to find car-parking spaces. I knew that it was touristy, but hadn’t expected it to be so thronged.
Looking forward to some more blue sky days, and for infection rates to settle down so Mum and Dad can visit for a few more walks and a postponed Christmas dinner.
Early in May, we met up with our old friends for a walk, and to celebrate Andy’s birthday. We had the least far to travel, since we were meeting at the Littledale carpark on the edge of the Forest of Bowland, not too far from Lancaster. So, naturally, never knowingly on time for anything, we were the last to arrive. I think the last of Andy’s bacon butties had yet to be washed down with a mug of tea at that point, so we may not have delayed things too much.
Leaving the cars, we started with an easy ascent of Baines Cragg, which, despite many previous visits to this area, I’ve never climbed before – it turned out to be an excellent viewpoint. It’s a shame the skies were so grey – I shall have to go back and have another look when the weather is more clement.
Apparently the Thirlmere Aqueduct, which transports water from the Lake District to Manchester, is the longest gravity-fed aqueduct in Britain (source).
The track which crosses Ottergear Bridge was presumably constructed as part of the engineering work related to the aqueduct. It took us to the path which climbs Clougha Pike from the Rigg Lane car park.
When we lived on The Row, we used to see Slow Worms in our garden quite often. They seemed to like our compost heaps. B did once find one in our current garden, but that was years ago.
They are thought to be the longest-lived of all lizards; the remarkable age of 54 years has been reliably recorded.
from ‘Fauna Britannica’ by Stefan Buczacki
Below the sculptures we found a sheltered spot, out of the wind, for our second cake/brew/lunch stop. For me, this was a highlight of the day. The heathery slope was comfortable, the view to the north, if somewhat hazy and grey, was still extensive and, above all else, the company was excellent.
Andy had been keen to tick-off Ward’s Stone, but the weather wasn’t great, so we decided to follow this track which looped around Grit Fell and then come back over the top of Grit Fell.
It was along here somewhere that ‘the trouser incident’ occurred. J has a pair of waterproof overtrousers, apparently designed for cross-country skiing, with zips down both the inside and the outside of both legs – making it possible, in theory, to put them on whilst wearing skis. However, with all 4 zips undone, and in a strong wind with driving rain, the trousers had 4 long flapping pieces and even without the encumbrance of skis, try as she might, J couldn’t get them on. It didn’t help that she got the giggles, which turned out to be infectious and soon, whilst TBF and TBH tried to help, the rest of us were doubled-up laughing and making entirely unhelpful suggestions. Eventually, the trousers were tamed, just about in time for the fierce shower to come to an end.
Andy’s account, with a better map, better photos etc is here.
Proper Fell walks have been few and far between for me, since the various lockdown restrictions began. This walk, from back in September, was a notable exception. To be honest, I don’t remember what the rules were at the time, and I was probably a bit vague about them even then, since the rules have always lacked clarity. I didn’t see any other walkers all day, just two mountain bikers in the afternoon, which makes me think that I must, at the very least, have been pushing the envelope a bit.
Anyway, it was a windy, overcast day. Cool with a few flecks of rain in the wind from time to time. But despite that, I enjoyed myself enormously.
I’d been perusing the map for quite some time the night before, always a dangerous occupation, and had hit upon the idea of combining two cherished ambitions – one was too explore the valley of Artle Beck and the other to have a walk along Hornby Road, a Roman Road which traverses the Bowland Hills
The first part of the walk took me firmly into the territory of my ‘Lune Catchment’ project. Sweet Beck, Udale Beck, Foxdale Beck, Artle Beck, Ragill Beck, Closegill Beck (streams tautologically named both gill and beck seem to be a speciality of the area), Bladder Stone Beck, Mallow Gill, the River Roeburn and Salter Clough Beck (again – aren’t clough and beck synonyms?) were all ticked off on my nominal list of tributaries of the River Lune.
I was quite surprised by Littledale Hall. It’s a Grade II listed building, dating to 1849 and possibly designed by Lancaster architects Paley and Austin. These days, it’s a residential centre for the treatment of addiction. I guess that it’s remote location makes it ideal for that purpose. It looked to me like a Victorian railway station marooned without a railway line.
A fallen tree in Melling Wood, on a slope much steeper than the photo suggests, was quite awkward to navigate. It seems odd that nothing has been done about it, given how much care has been taken with the path nearby…
Given that I’d set off with fairly ambitious plans, I hadn’t started very early. I think I dropped off one or other of the boys, somewhere or other, before starting the walk. Anyway, I soon realised that I was quite short of time. I’d originally intended to stick with Hornby Road until I could take the path onto Wolfhole Crag, partly because I don’t think I’ve ever been up there. But that will have to wait for another day, since I decided instead to take the track from Alderstone Bank down to the River Roeburn and then back up via Mallowdale Fell. You can see the track on the photo below…
From Ward’s Stone the walk was on more familiar territory – over Grit Fell, past the Andy Goldsworthy sculptures and back to the Littledale Road, where my car was parked, via a stalker’s path and back to Sweet Beck.
I even had some occasional moments of sunshine, and the light out over Morecambe Bay was absolutely superb. My photos don’t really do it justice, but it was lovely to keep getting views of it as I descended.
The route was around 17 miles, with a fair bit of up and down. I wish I could provide a map, but although MapMyWalk worked on the day, it subsequently lost the data. I’ve since uninstalled and reinstalled the app, which, touch wood, seems to have had the desired affect.
A great leg-stretcher, on a mostly gloomy day, which has left me with a number of ideas for further routes.
My mum and dad spent a week at Thurnham Hall, on the other side of Lancaster. Very generously, they booked us a few nights there too. Little did we realise then that it would be the last time we would see them this year.
How nice then, to get to spend some time together. Most days we managed a bit of a walk, aiming for somewhere without contours, by the Lune Estuary near Glasson, across the Lots at home, or along the prom at Morecambe for example.
We did embark on one overly ambitious walk, from Thurnham Hall to Wallings Ice-Cream Parlour on the other side of Cockerham. The long-grass in the fields and the surprisingly sodden tracks which followed were energy sapping for all concerned. Fortunately, once we’d sampled the ice-creams, we arranged a taxi for a couple of drivers to collect our cars and then return for the rest of the party.
We played ‘Ticket to Ride’ and no doubt other games, and ate out a few times, now that ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was in full swing. After a curry in Lancaster I had a brainwave about walking back to Thurnham Hall, basing my intended route on a hazy memory of the map. It was much further than I had thought, and it was pitch black by the time I reached Galgate. Fortunately, TBH was happy to come out and pick me up.
Now, though we won’t see them over Christmas as we usually would, with the vaccines being rolled out, we have the real prospect of safely meeting with my mum and dad again to look forward to. Bring it on!
This was the day after our wander around Lübeck. In retrospect, I wonder how we got away with another sight-seeing tour in consecutive days. Not usually the DBs kind of thing.
Somehow in my many visits to northern Germany, I’d never been to Schwerin. Of course, when I was young it was over the border in the DDR and so off-limits, but with hindsight it seems slightly odd that I haven’t visited since given that it’s relatively close to Ratzeburg.
This time we were a smaller party, with just my Aunt J joining us for the day.
The castle sits on an island in the lake, but is easily accessed by bridges. The current building is nineteenth century, but this spot has featured a castle for many centuries. Nowadays, it houses both the local parliament building and a museum. We opted to wander around the gardens, which had the massive advantage of being free.
Hercules and the Cretan Bull?
A theatre and an art gallery, I think.
The facade at the front of the castle was wreathed in scaffolding, but that had been rather cleverly covered with a photograph of the building.
It had been very overcast when we arrived, and while we picnicked by the lake shore, but it really brightened up as we toured the gardens.
We also had a brief wander into the town, but not too far – J was taking us for Kaffee und Kuchen, which I’ve always regarded as a national obsession in Germany, although my view may be coloured by the preferences of my aunt and uncle and their friends.
I thought my aunt told us that this was her favourite cafe, but the kids assure me that she actually said that it is one of her favourites. They suspect that she has many favourites. It was certainly very nice.
Replete, we emerged to discover that the weather had completely changed.
Dark skies prevailed and pretty soon rain was hammering down.
We were completely unprepared for this eventuality, and sheltered in various shop doorways, occasionally running for another canopy when we thought we’d overstayed our welcome.
The DB’s seemed to find the whole affair highly amusing – particularly when they took cover underneath this sculpture…
Near to the Rijksmuseum, there’s a much smaller gallery called Moco.
They had, and still have I think, a substantial exhibition dedicated to the work of Banksy. I found it immensely enjoyable. I think this Mickey Mouse swallowing constrictor was my favourite, but it was a close run thing.
There was another exhibition – which sadly looked more interesting on their web page than it did in reality.
They also had artworks from their permanent collection which I think had been selected as being precursors of Banksy or in some way relevant to his work. I seem to remember works by Warhol, Koons, and Lichtenstein amongst others.
I was more impressed by these paintings by Keith Haring…
…by Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Little S, meanwhile, not always a lover of art galleries, was very taken by this sculpture in the small garden outside…
One reason, possibly, why I’ve fallen so far behind with the blog, is that I’ve struggled to know what to say about Amsterdam. TBH and I have wanted to visit Amsterdam for a very long time, but when we got there is was extremely busy and much, much too hot. I didn’t want to go to the Anne Frank house, the kids weren’t really struck with the idea of the Rijksmuseum, and we couldn’t book a boat to tour the canals despite all of TBH’s efforts.
I took lots of photographs of massed bicycles, and impressive architecture and canals and such like, but looking at them now – they’re a bit rubbish to be honest. My heart can’t have been in it. So – just a couple of photos. The first, taken by a waitress, is from a little road side cafe where we had a superb lunch. Decent vegan food even! The boys had burgers, which became a bit of a theme for a while, although in Germany they discovered the delights of Schnitzel, which became their new favourite. I had a delicious salad and really enjoyed the cafe’s soundtrack of 70’s reggae and 80’s rap. I even managed to smile for a photo, which is virtually unheard of.
We did walk ‘through’ the Rijksmuseum – there’s an archway/tunnel which walkers and cyclists can use – and were all impressed by the giant spider sculptures in the gardens…
These are the work of Louise Bourgeois apparently – you can find out more here.
We were on our way to another, much smaller gallery, of which more to follow…