I have never had a yearning to travel to New York, in a conversation with a girlfriend some years ago she was quite shocked that I hadn’t been. But then again I had never had a yearning to travel to any of the places I had just spent the last six months wandering around, so what changed, what made me do it. A sense of needing time and space to process the end of my career working in a corporate environment and what happened during those last few years. A time for myself after years of motherhood, and being a wife, looking after everyone else and being at the bottom of the list. A time to think about what’s next and decide on whether or not I had the energy to do it. New York was the final stop the last night before flying home, and I was lucky to be sharing that with my good friend Wilma who was also travelling home to see her family.
We had booked a hotel not far from Penn station which was on a direct line from Lancaster, no changes. But I am getting ahead of myself a little, we had had quite a late night the day before, Wilma working and me keeping her company whilst watching some silly reality tv program. So we both slept late the next day and awoke with less than two hours to get ready before we had to leave. We were already mostly packed, I cooked us a good breakfast and was going to make us some lunch to take on the train, but simply did not have the time. The Uber was ordered and I was juggling with phones, my American one had run out of money the day before, I had tried to top it up but was unable to because I didn’t have an American zip code that would work, obviously! Why do American systems always think you have an American address. Anyway, having booked the Uber I was trying to get in touch with him to confirm where we actually were and failing miserably, so I was standing on the doorstep looking for him when I neighbour ambled past and asked how Wilma was. Well not quite in those terms, I know the lady who lives here, where is she... I explained I was a friend from England and had been staying with her. So then I was quizzed on my opinion on the breaking news about the Russian diplomats being asked to leave after the poisoning of a Russian man and his daughter in the U.K. Did I think Theresa was doing the right thing and then he started to tell me that she had got it all wrong. I started sticking up for our Secret services and Theresa, thinking I could do without this, when along cane Mr Uber, saved by the Uber, I was so thankful.
We loaded all our stuff into the cab and took the short trip to the station, took the elevator to the platform area, and waited for the time to descend to the platform. We had to walk through to another carriage once on the train to find a luggage holder as we simply were not going to be able to lift our cases into the overhead rack. A step too far, anyway we found an empty luggage rack and a seat nearby and spent an easy three hours traveling. Almost in New York I was trying to get the skyline on camera, but it was an impossible task, so disappointing, every time I thought I had an opportunity something would get in the way. Anyway here are the results.
Finally we arrived and got off the train, tried to find a lift with all the luggage, stairs were not a real option, which took some time, and then trying to find our way out, such a huge and confusing station. Made even more difficult by pulling luggage around. Finally we found a way out and were treated to the sight of the Empire State Building, we had google maps open to work out how to get to the hotel, it turned out it was five minutes by cab and five minutes to walk, so we decided we would walk, and walking through the hustle bustle was really quite exciting, very different vibe to London which I am very used to having lived and worked here for more years than I care to remember. How is it different, I suppose it doesn’t have that English reserve, people seem more individual and they are definitely louder. The streets were packed and the roads jammed. Well that was my first five minute experience view of New York.
Once in the hotel, we had been upgraded to a room on one of the top floors, but it had a double bed, so we asked for a change to a room with two singles, and moved down a few floors, much to my relief. The room was bigger too, which was good, you don’t get much floor space for your money in New York. Wilma was still working on conference calls etc., and we had arranged to meet one of our new friends from the weekend at the Roots and Blues festival, David Fleming the harp player, that evening. So first of all we decided we needed to eat something, Wilma found a little Italian around the corner, great place and I had a fabulous plate of spaghetti with clams, so good, service was just great, wonderful vibe.
Walking to the restaurant I realised I had been to so many cities in the last six months, that in a way the New York which I had maybe been a little afraid to visit, was just another city. Every city has its own vibe, all different, some better than others, but it just hadn’t occurred to me until that moment just how far I had travelled in so many ways. Physically, in terms of miles and in terms of steps, emotionally in terms of reviewing my life, revisiting difficult feelings of loss, feeling thankful for my wonderful family and especially for my boys, hopeful that I would be able to make a new life when I return home, and start a new adventure, energised, relaxed and happy.
We were able to have a little rest before getting ready to go out, Wilma decided to join us a little later. I met David in the bar downstairs and got my first taste of New Yorkers in the bar, the woman next to me trying wines because they were no longer selling the one she wanted, and not being satisfied. I ordered a glass of Merlot, and then David arrived, we chatted away over a drink, and then he took me in a cab to the lower east side, to his favourite place to eat, which was a hot dog place. Inside there was a telephone kiosk which you went into and lifted the phone to try and get access to a speak easy next door. So the place was filled with suits hanging around waiting to get in next door, and non suits eating hot dogs. I must say the dogs were great. We then went to a bar where there was going to be some live music, and were joined by David’s young lady, Mystie and Wilma. We listened to a couple of great sets and then they took us to a punk bar, for cocktails, which was much fun. Finally we got a cab home, a bit the worse for wear I have to admit and crawled into bed around 1 am.
Our plan for the morning was to go to MOMA but we were just too tired, so after much indecision we packed went down to reception and checked that our late checkout was still ok. No, they hadn’t sorted it out the day before, but they brought our bags down and we went out to look for something to eat. By this time a late breakfast was really a lunch. We were going to go to a bagel place but the queue was enormous, so we found an Irish Bar, good place to be, after all the next day was Paddy’s day, yes I am married to an Irishman, so I am allowed to call it that. The bar was well decorated in readiness. We had a good lunch and a couple of glasses of something, and made the decision to get a yellow cab to the airport. I couldn’t use my Uber account any more because I had been unable to change my telephone number back to my English phone, and the issue was still with Uber tech support, had been for over 24 hours. But we discovered that a yellow cab to JFK was a fixed price. We couldn’t face the train, because we would have to change and we just had too much stuff. So eventually back to hotel and they found our luggage and got us a yellow cab and I would like to say we sped off to the airport. But no we crawled through traffic, although I must say the cab driver was amazing at cutting through, changing lanes and reducing the time the journey could have taken.
We were both leaving from different terminals and I was dropped off first for my Delta flight, once Wilma was checked in she came back to my terminal, to try and get us into the Delta lounge, but no joy as she wasn’t travelling with Delta, even though she was a member of their points system... the things we do for a free drink!
So we said our farewells and I settled down to wait for my departure. Reflecting on my amazing journey and looking forward to seeing my family, but not looking forward to the final leg of the journey when I got off the plane as I had told them not to come out to Heathrow to meet me. The journey was easy, but the plane a little smaller than the other transatlantic flights I had been on, so not as comfortable as usual. I had a delightful lady to chat to, she was off to visit her daughter in London to help her move house. We both slept fitfully, as usual my sleep was very limited, my mind full of what next. How could it be over so soon.
As we landed at Heathrow it was starting to snow, yes snow, I think in the last six months I had only experienced snow twice. Once in Colorado and once in Lancaster. I had hoped that I would be coming home to spring, and had been so thankful I had missed one of the worst winters the U.K. had experienced in many years. Snow, snow. No please. No thank you. Arrgghhh. I know I am from Iceland but I hate snow. Oh well.
I made my way through the airport, it was great not to have to stand in a long queue at Passport Control for once, and my luggage arrived in one piece. Incidentally it weighed in at 20 KG, how about that for a result. As I reached down to pick it up, I felt my back go a bit, amazing that never happened whilst I had been away. It wasn’t too bad but I thought oh no, now I have to get two tubes and a train and then walk from the station with all this stuff and my back is in danger of hurting big time. I was, I have to say, feeling quite sorry for myself on so many levels by this time. I walked through the doors and had a quick look around in case the old man had come to the airport despite the fact that I had told him not to. I didn’t have my glasses on for some reason, but my eyesight isn’t that bad, then I spotted this big white board, which said at the top Wanted. I thought that’s a funny thing to write on a board looking for people, it must be a list of people they are picking up. The next line I read was One Mother, oh I thought, next line was Recently Retired, then I looked up and saw my son Ásgeir and his girlfriend Tayla, laughing. What a wonderful surprise, we had the biggest hugs and I was whisked away home via the M25. The old man had bought me lots of flowers and was very pleased to see me, and Ásgeir cooked a lovely family dinner, I did have a small nap to get me through the day.
Of course that’s not the end of this story, the story goes on. I have been very busy getting my house ready to sell, and helped Ásgeir and Tayla move into and decorate their new flat as they start a new life together. I have spent a week in Liverpool visiting family and friends. My house went on the market yesterday and tomorrow I am off up to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow for a week of meeting up with more friends. A lot of activity in the five or so weeks since I have been home, plus of course I have been trying to catch up with as many people as I can which has included trips to Art Galleries, lunches, dinners, a retirement party and much more. One change in me which I was quite surprised about is that I am seeing things more as a traveler now, not taking for granted where I am and moved to take photographs wherever I am. I am very much enjoying that change, but I suppose it is also about having and taking the time for myself.
I am going to set up my Mentoring business and have lots of ideas and plans, so watch this space. My next task is to publish my story which I talked about a few months ago. Now the house is finally straight after being in a transient state with my son moving all his stuff in and out as he prepared to take possession of the first home he has bought, and my house went up for sale yesterday. I have as I was once taught, cleared a space to make a place for the new things that are coming into my life, the things I am so excited to be working on. I have to also admit I have now got the travelling bug, I am planning another trip to Australia and Bali, I want to spend some proper time in New York, and we are going to France for a month in June. Fingers crossed that the house sells and I can move to my landing place soon.
If you are interested in mentoring or being mentored please get in touch through my contact form. It will still be a while, but plans and ideas on how and what and when and why are formed and will be implemented soon.
On a sadder note, my good friend Ira Nottonson passed away on March 27th, it was not unexpected and I am so thankful I got to visit with him one last time in Colorado, and to rekindle my friendship with the wonderful Sam his partner for over fifty years and meet Sam’s daughter Kelly, precious memories.
Rest in Peace Ira, we will all miss you.
I do hope you have enjoyed the ride so far and that you will stay on for the next part of the journey.
My flight to Philadelphia was very easy, the plane wasn’t too full and the weather reasonable so not too many bumps. I was meeting my friend Wilma at the airport. I have known Wilma for as long as I have know Phil and Derek, who I visited in Nelson, can you remember that far back? It almost seems like a lifetime ago to me now. Phil, Wilma and I all worked together for a company called Personal Computers Ltd, a PC dealership, it became a plc whilst we were there and was eventually bought by one of the big wholesalers. Anyway we formed a bond many years ago, there are two other women from that time, Christine who now lives in Italy and Louise who lives in Glasgow. Even though we are spread out across the world we try to meet sometimes all together sometimes one on one, to me they are very precious friendships. Anyway I digress. Wilma is currently working in the US and away from her family most of the time, and is based outside of Philadelphia in a small town called Lancaster, about an hour and a half driving time. Wilma was flying in from Toronto where she had been working for a couple of days. She arrived just ahead of me and my flight was early, so through the wonders of modern technology we managed to find each other and had a big hug in the airport, trying to remember the last time we saw each other, I think I was working in Edinburgh, and she came for a flying visit.
Anyway we managed to find our way to the car park and even found the car without too many issues, and set off on our drive. It had taken Wilma quite some time to find a place to live when she had been asked to take on this role, and she settled on Lancaster because it reminded her very much of an area of London she had lived many years ago, I think it was London Fields, but I may have got that wrong. Quite up and coming, and charming. There is a big Amish community there too. When we finally arrived there, having passed a few Amish carts, we stopped off for some lunch and then the obligatory visit to the supermarket for a few bits. The licensing laws in Philadelphia are different and alcohol can only be purchased in one or two supermarkets and there is a limit of three litres per visit. Generally you have to buy it at the government owned outlets, very much like the system in Iceland. So we visited one of those too, to get a couple of bottles of wine.
Then home to the house where she lives, a brick built terraced house, with a big back yard and parking space behind that. The ground floor is made up of a big kitchen dining room at the front, hallway and stairs and two rooms at the back, a living room and then another room behind that which was probably a later addition to the house, but is also a good size, the fire in there makes it a very cozy place to be. Squirrels and birds are all in the back yard and I spent some time watching them during the days. The squirrels were of course very adept at helping themselves to the bird food from the bird feeders Wilma had put up, practically hanging upside down at one point.
That was were I would usually spend my mornings especially if I was writing. Upstairs are two large bedrooms and a bathroom and then there is a second floor which has a huge loft room. So plenty of room for the family when they came to stay. The house is also very central, within five to ten minutes walking distance of the town centre. Just the sort of place I would choose to live too. Wandering around the town there are lots of interesting buildings, and many of the houses have porches on their frontage complete with chairs. I went into the graveyard of one of the churches one afternoon. As I was walking back home and was looking at all the gravestones of the founders of the church. All the old service men had the union flag on their graves, usuLly placed there on Independence Day every year. It was only a small cemetery and I was making my way out when I saw someone locking the gates, I was lucky I didn’t get locked in.
We had a great evening catching up with each other, and then the following day Wilma went to work and I had a day of pottering around. As you probably know by now I like to do little after a travel day unless I am pressed for time. This leg of my journey has been rather fast and furious to say the least, so it’s good to know I can unpack and settle for a couple of weeks.
That evening we were going into Philadelphia by train to see an Ice Hockey match, if was a corporate event Wilma had been invited to and I was her guest. I used to play hockey at school, that’s a few years ago, but have never experienced the ice version, boy was I in for a surprise. The Amtrak train takes about and hour and fifteen minutes to get into Philadelphia, it’s quite a comfortable train, and it wasn’t too busy. We arrived in the station which was a beautiful building, these old stations in the USA are quite palatial. Very high ceilings and large ornate pillars. Then into an Uber once we had worked out where the pick up area was and on to the the Wells Fargo Centre Arena where the game was. Traffic was quite heavy but we made it in plenty of time and found the VIP entrance, collected our tickets and made our way to the box where we were being hosted.
It was an amazing view of the ice hockey pitch, we were offered food, drinks and did some socialising and then we settled down to watch the game. There were a couple of young boys there with their Dad and they were getting into the spirit, it was wonderful to watch them. The game is split into three sections and even within each section there are breaks. They wheel all sorts of stuff out at the breaks including a car in one break. They also have a team of people who come and sweep the ice, on skates of course, and various opportunities for crowd spotting and congratulations. All good fun. The Hockey was fast and furious but the Philadelphia Eagles did not fare to well against their opponents I am sorry to say. The young boys asked their Dad if he thought they could score enough to win in the last 10 minutes and were quite deflated by the negative response. The goal keepers were funny, they wear great big leg pads and go down in their knees with the lower part of their legs splayed out in order to prevent the puck getting in. I tried to photograph it, with limited success. Finally the game was over and the exodus began, it was pouring with rain, and very cold, trying to find the place for the Uber pickup was a bit of a challenge, the traffic was awful with everyone leaving the stadium, so we were waiting for quite a while. Finally we were in the warmth of the cab, and on our way back to the station where we got a coffee and waited for the platform to open to get the return train home. It was very dark, and Wilma wasn’t very familiar with the route, the announcements were also very difficult to decipher. I was trying to count the stops, because I thought I knew how many to Lancaster. But we were also watching out for other people going there by listening to conversations with the guard. Successfully exiting the train at the right stop and a five minute drive back to the house and bed. Great evening, we both enjoyed it enormously.
The following day I went to investigate the local market, housed in a huge high ceilinged building, which was full of all sorts of lovely things from fresh veg and bread through to ready made meals, and cheeses. Some of the vendors were women from the Amish community wearing there long skirts with aprons and some form of head gear. I often wonder seeing women from different communities, religions, countries wearing the uniform required of them whether they yearn to be able to be more individual. Not that the majority of women dress as individuals as they are often influenced or restricted by fashion, age and budget. I myself can’t imagine the not having the freedom to dress the way I want to dress, and am currently enjoying dressing in denim after years of corporate dressing, anyway I digress again. I bought some bread, a crab soup and a couple of limes for gin and tonics. We had bought the gin bought so far failed to find any tonic water. I went on a bit of a mission looking for some, there didn’t seem to be any small supermarkets in the town centre, there are a few corner shop type places, but no luck there. Then I went to the local garage store. They must have had every drink under the sun, but no tonic water. I asked at the counter and they didn’t know what I was talking about, I said you know you put it in gin, oh seltzer you mean, no, not seltzer. Hilarious, it is one of the staples in the U.K. in any small shop or garage, anyway I failed, no g and t for us today.
The next day we decided to go for a walk, there was a big park area and we were hoping that it would be a good place, sadly whilst quite nice, there were a number of trails, but not really what we had hoped for. We opted to walk one trail which was mainly along a road, but it served some purpose of getting us out of the house and taking a bit of exercise, but we didn’t get the feel of being in a country park.
The following day was a big day out, back to Philadelphia for the Museum of Arts and then to see the Harlem Globetrotters show at the Wells Fargo Arena the same venue we had seen the ice hockey. The weather wasn’t too bad, but I have to say I was missing sunshine. We caught an early train, but later than we had hoped because I had managed to misread the timetable, for some reason I couldn’t get the Amtrak app working on my phone, and Wilma was having problems downloading it, so I had relied on Google and clearly not specified Sunday. Oh well. Finally we were on our way,
We got an Uber to the art gallery. It was walkable but we needed to be careful with the time we had. The cab driver told us that there were roadworks because a bridge had been closed and it was causing mayhem. Anyway we arrived with a plan of exactly what we were going to see which was quickly abandoned, we walked in and saw the most amazing display of a temple which had been installed in the first room we came too. It completely took us by surprise, and was so beautiful. Then there was another, a Japanese Tea House which had been installed not just the original house but the surroundings too. Clearly a creative team at the Museum the way these buildings had been installed. All the rooms with period furniture, of which there were many, were also set out beautifully, breathtaking if the only way I can describe these rooms. We managed to find all the pieces we wanted to see and I have to say I was extremely impressed by the museum.
The steps which lead to the Art Museum at the front entrance, we had come in through a different entrance, are known as the Rocky Steps, they were used by the character Rocky in the film of the same name, to train by running up and down them. So when we came out of that entrance, although it took a bit of finding for some reason, I then had to have the obligatory photographs taken, not of me running obviously, just stationery half way down.
Then off to see the Harlem Globetrotters, they are doing a world tour with what is really a show. They play the Washington Generals, a team which was dissolved because it was failing so badly but has been reformed. The game breaks up every once in a while for a bit of showmanship of sorts. It was highly amusing. Things that surprised me were that there were two women in the team, and that’s not a new thing, and even though they were very short by comparison to the majority of the male players they were not short on skills. The team as a whole were real performers in every way. Clearly it was a set piece, but so well done and a drama in its own right. Towards the end, a nail biting finish with Washington in the lead, a couple of the Harlem guys climbed up onto the hoops and were causing all sorts of mayhem and doing mad tricks up there. Particularly the one who decided he couldn’t get down. Very very funny. I would highly recommend going to see them.
It was much easier to get away this time, the traffic was not nearly as bad and no rain. We got back to the station and were both hungry because food was a little on the too fast side at the venue, so we hadn’t had much and we discovered a bar in the station which did food, only burgers, but they were really good. There was a bit of excitement in the bar, a woman who had left without paying on a previous occasion had come in and was trying on the same stunt again, but the staff recognised her, they called the police. Of course you never realise in the moment what is going on and only sort of pick up the pieces after the fact, perhaps as well. Off to catch the train and not quite as stressful in terms of knowing when to get off this time.
Monday of course is back to work for some people, sorry Wilma, I had a relaxing day doing this and that. During the week I had a beauty appointment, and we went out for dinner a couple of times, and even had a takeaway. I explored a bit and wrote a bit, I had a lot of catching up to do after my whistle stop stays. It’s difficult to know where the time goes sometimes. But we were both looking forward to the weekend because we had booked weekend passes for the Roots and Blues festival in downtown Lancaster. I had spotted this tiny poster in a window the week before, and we decided it would be fun. So Friday night came and and we wandered into town and went to see J J Grey, he was amazing, it was in one of the main halls. So a big audience and it was bouncing.
We got home quite late and a little the worse for wear and the next day we were off again, this time we were going to see the Phil Gammage Quartet in a little club. We got settled in at the front standing by the side and once again had a great time, some people were dancing and it was a lot of fun. So much so we decided to stay for their second set which was on an hour or so later. We were definitely reliving our youth that night, we laughed so much. We got talking to the band afterwards and then made friends with Phil and David Fleming the Harp player, don’t ask me why they call Harmonica players Harp players, I did ask but didn’t get and answer. If anyone out there knows please let me know. After their second set we want on to a couple of other places and finally we were queuing to get into the only place with a gig still playing, but the queue was too big, so we decided at midnight it was time to call it a day and go home. The following day we say another couple of really good acts, including the Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones and the Blues Doctors, such a great festival, we met some fun people. The Festival is, I think, only in it’s sixth year but I would definitely go again
The next few days were spent in the usual sort of routine, with Wilma working, I was starting to prepare myself for going home. I was flying home from New York and Wilma was also booked to fly home that weekend too. Unfortunately Wilma had a small car accident on the way into work one day, so was relying on being picked up and dropped off. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt in any way, and also fortunate that we had already made the decision to travel to New York by train. We were going the afternoon before our flight home, in order to experience a little of New York night life. So a busy week for Wilma preparing to travel and working.
The day of departure arrived all too soon. We were catching the train at about midday and Ubered, is there such a word now I wonder, to the station in plenty of time to board the train for the final stop of what has been the most amazing adventure.
See you in New York.