Living in Upstate New York

Wow! What a week we had! With temperatures 15 degrees F above average, in the 80 to 90 F range we were, as Bob put it, shown a good cross section of the American way of life in a rural community in the Summer. Sitting in our Adirondack chairs on the deck each evening, sampling yet another Australian wine thanks to John’s diligence, we watched the mountains in all their forms, either wreathed in wispy cloud or stark against a brilliant sunset.

Thursday

We had the morning to ourselves so explored the six acres, drank coffee on our deck and listened to John Denver, all in beautiful sunshine.

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Looking at Bob and Nancy’s house from our balcony

The afternoon saw us on a hike to a Lean To, in a forest of birch trees. Here we admired the outdoor toilet constructed by Bob (he dug the hole) as part of a community project. Nancy brought tea and cookies.

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The Ausable Club

We dressed up for dinner at the impressive Ausable Club which had just opened for the season. First we had cocktails at Sarah’s unconventional house in the Ausable Club compound. The living room was once an artist’s studio and was in a separate building to the kitchen and formal dining room. Full of antiques, Chinese and American, it was a fascinating slice of American history. The club house is a huge, imposing four storey building surrounded by covered verandas and topped with dormer windows and wide chimneys. We all enjoyed our salmon and John his scallops.

Friday

Lunch today was at Paul Smiths College where 900 students learn hospitality and cooking skills as well as as numerous other courses. We had a delicious three course lunch with a view across one of the many lakes in the area. Think “On Golden Pond” and you will see the picture. To work off lunch we walked on one of the VIC trails. It was a one mile loop called Boreal Life. It began with a 1600 foot boardwalk through spruce and bog.

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An early TB treatment cottage

Sarawak Lake was a fascinating, picture postcard village. Doctor Edward Trudeau basically went there to die as he was diagnosed with TB or consumption as it was then known. He found he actually improved in health and so began Sarawak Lake’s association with researching the cure of TB. Many of the local houses have screened verandahs as fresh air was part of the treatment. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the famous visitors and his house still stands.

The evening finished with a genuine New York pizza from Lake Placid eaten in the screened deck of the house at Rerun.

Saturday

imageThis morning we set off along the Memorial Highway to walk White Face. It is New York State’s fifth highest peak at 4,867 feet. We didn’t have to hike from the bottom as the road winds up the mountainside. Built during the Depression as part of the New Deal this road would not be built today for environmental and economic reasons. At the top is a stone castle, a 27 storey elevator and a summit house. We began by climbing the nature trail which is only a fifth of a mile but steep and slippery at times. There were hand rails and impressive views over lakes and forests. At the top we met swarms of little black beetles and worse still black vampire flies which leave itchy bites like sand flies. We took the elevator down through the rock to find a shivering huddle of people in the 38 degree F tunnel waiting to come up. 426 feet later we were out in the sunshine of a hot day.

In return for their hospitality we invited Nancy and Bob for dinner in our little cottage so we spent the afternoon preparing. Bob and Nancy were heading off to Mass at St Brendan’s in Keene so we joined them as part of our immersion in their lifestyle.image

Dinner was served in the screened side verandah of the cottage. The black flies make the screens a necessity but I still have a row of bites on my neck as a souvenir if the Adirondacks. John barbecued fillet steak and we had a delicious meal of local produce including the asparagus recently growing in the garden.

Sunday

imageOur last day in the Adirondacks saw us crossing Lake Champlain to Vermont by car ferry. The goal was to visit Shelburne Museum. It was so vast we didn’t get to see it all but we explored the Round Barn, the Ticonderoga, a 1906 side wheel steamboat, the furnished New York rooms of the museum’s founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb, full of famous art works by Monet, Manet and Degas, a Lake Champlain lighthouse, a luxury 1890 rail car and steam engine, a long building displaying hand carved circus animals and a gallery of American Art. The rain finally poured down, putting an end to the heat and our tour of the museum.

A right turn into the Shelburne Winery gave us the opportunity to try the famous ice wine which is made from grapes frozen on the vine. It is a sweet dessert wine but lower in alcohol content than most dessert wines. It sure has a lot of sugar! We also tried all their whites, a rose and reds which were a little on the sweet side. I will add we only took very small tastes of each!!!

Then it was back on the car ferry and home for our last evening with Bob and Nancy, cooking up leftovers and sitting on the deck with a glass of wine, watching the clouds swirling around the mountains for the very last time.

Sitting back in an Adirondack Chair

Tuesday, 24th May, 2016

After five hours of train travel past vast stretches of water and tiny villages we arrived at Westport and clamboured down the steep steps to the ground. There we were met by Nancy and Bob who showed us around the historic railway station ( now also a theatre) before driving us through pretty Spring countryside to their home. It is on the site of a grand country hotel (now demolished) and was one of the cottages build for vacationers. They have since enlarged it and added an upstairs. As well they have built a granny flat which is our residence for the next six days.

We had an hour to unpack, shower and rest before meeting Bob and Nancy on the deck. In one day we had come from a room with a view of a brick wall in New York to views over birches and pines to distant rugged mountains in the Adirondacks. With a glass of Shaw and Smith and some local cheese, reclining in an Adirondack chair, life was pretty good.

John and Bob barbecued the meat, we had a convivial meal ending with delicious rhubarb pie and then collapsed into a warm and comfortable bed.

Wednesday, 25th May, 2016

There are only two minor problems with our current accommodation. There is no TV reception.. There is also no internet reception until we drive to the town of Lake Placid where my AT&T suddenly wakes up. Again not really an issue because our hosts have left inviting books about the local area, birds, trees and many more topics. But it does make it hard to post this blog.

There are videos, CDs, radio plus games and of course the stunning view. By one window is a bird feeder filled with sugared water where we can watch the humming birds hovering as they dip their beaks into the liquid. The houses are set on six acres. On our walk this morning we found patches of blueberries in flower visited by huge fat bumble bees. The flowers are white like strawberry flowers but are just growing out in the middle of a field.

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John Brown’s Farm

Before setting off this morning we packed a picnic and then drove to John Brown’s Farm. We all know the song “John Brown’s body lies a mouldering in the grave”. Inside a wrought iron fence and beside a huge boulder is the place where he was buried after being convicted of treason and hanged in 1859. His sons who died fighting the same cause lie there also. He is best described as a militant abolitionist and his life was complex to say the least but nevertheless he is revered for his contribution to the freedom of slaves in the United States. His first wife died after giving birth to five children. The second wife lived in the house we visited and gave birth to thirteen children, six of whom survived to adulthood.

Beyond the house we could see the giant ski jumps built for the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. They poked into the sky like huge cranes. Later, in Lake Placid we saw the ice hockey rink in the Olympic Stadium, the speed skating track in front of the high school and the bob sled track on the hill.

We had eaten a picnic by the Cascade Lakes but by late afternoon planned to have an early dinner at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. John and I shared a half plate of ribs but couldn’t eat it all. They were quite tasty, served with fries and broccoli slaw. This was washed down with beer.

Bob and Nancy worked in their vegetable garden in the early evening while John and I caught up on some sleep.

Farewell New York

I’m sending this from a Free Library in Saranac Lake so won’t have time to upload pictures.  I’ll put them in later.

Tuesday, 24th May, 2016
We are in the Amtrak waiting room at Penn Station, New York. It is raining so we caught a taxi and were stuck in traffic for ages. My backpack is full of food. Eggs, oil, vinegar, avocados, spaghetti, rice, garlic, tea – just as well we are travelling by train.

Back to yesterday. The sky was blue so we set off for the High Line. One end of it is about one kilometre from our hotel so we decided to walk there. The area is undergoing massive regeneration and tall silver skyscrapers are replacing train storage yards (building over the top). The buildings along each side of the High Line (an old raised train line) have suddenly become valuable real estate, with views of grass and trees a change from grotty industrial scenes. As the High Line progressed there were more trees and plants with voluntary gardeners busily at work, people reading, sun baking and generally enjoying the space.

At the end we were in the Meatpacking District. Here we found a great coffee shop and bar where our cortados were served in glasses.

Where to next? We wanted to buy some Australian wine for our Upstate New York friends so set off for the Flatiron building where I read there was a good wine shop. The owner was very friendly. He had lived in “Brissie” he said and developed an appreciation of wine when in Australia. He had a selection of mainly lesser known wines although we bought a Shaw and Smith. The other was from Bendigo so we hope it is good.

We were now in Fifth Avenue so walked along enjoying the architecture. Past the Empire State we continued to our own 39th Street but then had to turn left and walk from 5th Avenue to 9th. On the way we checked out a number of places for lunch but ended up in a Pret a Manger. They are on nearly every street corner in the Times Square area. I had one of the best salads in my life for lunch followed by fruit salad.

We arrived back at the hotel with tired feet but after a short rest we were off again. It was too nice a day to sit in our room. Amazingly John’s foot was holding up so we walked back to 5th Avenue and down to Central Park.

On the way we stopped at Bryant  Park next to the New York City Library and settled on one of the many folding chairs to watch other people. Obviously hundreds of other people had the same idea. There was an outdoor library if you wanted to read a book. A couple of girls were spinning hoops expertly. Another group was unsuccessfully trying to make a human pyramid.

Onward we trudged. Near Central Park we went into the Apple Store just because I was curious to check out its design. It did not disappoint. On the surface is was a clear cube with a white apple in the centre. A circular glass walled elevator dropped to below ground level. Here hundreds of people were engaged in various digital pursuits. We ascended the curved glass staircase and were out of there.

I loved the way two new dark coloured skyscrapers accentuated the white gothic architecture of St Patrick’s Church.  Its not so obvious in this photo, unfortunately. We had used the subway so now we used a bus with the same metro card. It took us back to 42nd Street so it was only about another kilometre home. Now we really needed a rest.

We had booked dinner at an Italian restaurant over the road. It had one Michelin star but reviews on Trip Advisor were mixed. When we arrived at 7 it was almost full and very noisy. Our waitress was from Romania. She and the waiter were run off their feet while the owner was hard task master. We opted for salads and seafood mains. As soon as had I taken the last mouthful of my salad it was whipped away and the main arrived. In one hour from arrival of we had finished the whole meal. Efficient yes but not my idea of dinner out.

We didn’t get to do many of the things on my list but the plan was always to not try and do too much as John recovered his fitness. New York is such a great place to walk around with every area exhibiting a different vibe. Looks like we’ll have to come back again some day!

Footsore and Weary

Sunday, 22nd May, 2016

Happy birthday Cameron, even though it is over now in Australia and you are getting ready to go to work on Monday.

We are both recovering from a tough day of walking despite efforts to use public transport where possible. Our wake up time seems to be around 4.00 am but we waited until dawn to get up and still had an early start to the day. A quick trip to the Hell’s Kitchen markets which were still in the process of setting up was interesting but there was nothing I wanted to buy.

Because we are leaving from Penn Station on Tuesday we decided to walk there and see if we needed a taxi with our luggage in tow. Even though it is only 700 metres we think we will take the easy way out. We bought our Metro Card at a food kiosk in Penn Station with $19.87 or 8 trips on it. John and I can share it and top it up if necessary. Not sure what to do next we asked a man in uniform and were directed to a downtown platform. On the train a chatty American woman and John hit it off and so we followed her to a shuttle bus at Chambers St because of weekend track work. We alighted half way between the ferry terminal and One World Trade Centre.

imageIt was time for a coffee so we tried Gregory’s near Wall Street, enticed by the decor and the sign, “see coffee differently”. They didn’t  have flat whites but their cortado was very good and quite similar.

We walked between the construction sites of surrounding buildings and observed the two square waterfalls on the site of the former twin towers. They are mesmerising, as water falls down in sheets and then disappears over another edge to oblivion. The names of those who lost their lives in the towers, the firemen, the people in the planes and those from an earlier terrorist attack are all engraved on the surrounding flat edges.IMG_6155IMG_6163 The queue for the museum was long so we walked instead to the edge of the Hudson River. John saw sailing boats so was immediately excited. The whole area from North Cove to Battery Point consists of boardwalks, gardens and pleasant vistas of the Hudson and of course the Statue of Liberty.IMG_6177

 

We hadn’t planned to go out to Liberty or Ellis Island but found ourselves waiting in a long line for the ferry with John muttering about crowds on weekends. Forty years ago we were so cold we stayed in the warmth of the ferry but this time we walked around the island listening to headsets and admiring the size and construction of Libertas, the torch bearing Roman Goddess. Four million people a year visit the Statue of Liberty and good few of them were there today.IMG_6214IMG_6223IMG_6203

Back on the ferry we landed at Ellis Island where a three storey museum in what was once America’s immigration station told the stories of many new settlers to America.

 

Unfortunately John’s foot gave out. We had walked many kilometres and now we had to get home. He looked longingly at the yellow taxis but we followed the reverse of our morning trip, ferry, shuttle, train and walk. Hopefully he will recover for our last day in New York.

I read up on how to take the heat out of a too hot chilli dish. I tried them all – add a can of pineapple, add two tablespoons of butter, serve with rice and top with yoghurt, add lots of salad. The mince was just edible but it has now gone in the bin and we are eating out tomorrow.

Getting to Know New York

Friday, 20th May, 2016

I forgot to mention that last night at dinner we saw the most extraordinary people arriving. Some wore black and were extremely tall and thin, others were dressed in cloaks or had white makeup on their faces. One wore a body stocking or maybe she was just painted. I asked the waiter what was going on. He replied that it was the Domination Convention. I looked it up and found that it was for the world’s Top Dominatrices, Bondage and Fetish models, Webmasters, Fetish Photographers, Performing Artists, Educators, Leatherfolk and Lifestyle People. What will they do? You might well ask, but according to their web page they will have demonstrations, seminars and panel discussions. Unfortunately I wasn’t brave enough to ask to take a photo.

This morning we woke early, checked out and caught the shuttle to the airport. We were given seats right in the middle of the middle row so John would have been trapped but after much discussion and sweet talking on John’s part we were given the seats behind the baby bassinets which were great, especially as there were no babies. Once in JFK airport we decided to splurge on a taxi to save John’s foot. It cost us $70 (with tip) because of peak hour on a Friday afternoon but we pulled up at the Candlewood Suites with some daylight left to see around us.

First visit was to the Big Apple Meat Store to buy food for meals. After putting all that away I couldn’t face cooking so we walked to the corner of the block and had a Greek meal at Snack Eos. We opted for Greek fritto misto, shrimp Santorini and lamb triangles. This was accompanied by a glass of New York red wine – a Shinn Estate Vineyard Merlot. The food was great and the waiter very amusing. He was interested in the blog and hoped I was going to write about more than the wine. Looks like I’ll have to write a review on Trip Advisor as well.

The flights have taken their toll and John was unsure if his foot would see him to Times Square and back but we made it. It is only a few blocks away and worth going to for the flashing signboards, Disney Characters and the people who come to look at them. Hopefully John will be able to walk tomorrow but if not we can adjust the program. The weather was quite pleasant today but rain is forecast so that will just mean more indoor activities.

Saturday, 21st May, 2016

When you look out the window of our room on the 21st floor you see a building opposite with many windows. Looking down you can’t see the road. Looking up you can’t see the sky. Our room is a good place to sleep and sometimes eat but there is no reason to stay in otherwise.

We headed out this morning with no clear plan in mind. Well, I had one but John likes to play it more by ear. Sometimes that works and it did today.

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Checking out Times Square

We walked back through Times Square towards Central Park. Last time we were in New York we completely missed Central Park, partly because it was so cold. We passed a lot of young people trying to sell us rides in horse drawn carriages but John decided he was fit enough for a bike ride. We hired some bikes with helmets at $15 for two hours in a shop a block away from the park and wheeled them down to the bike track.

It is such a good way to see Central Park. There are no cars and there are designated bike tracks with fast and slow lanes. I even managed the hills without too much difficulty. The only problem was the seat on my bike progressively tipped foreword so that I was continually trying to get back up. The bike company looked pretty new so I was quick to tell them about the seat adjustment when we returned. John was still walking without any problems so we decided to go home via the Rockefeller Centre. As the weather is grey and almost raining a trip to the top was not a priority. We explored the food courts and shops in the basement. The area was quite dark and gloomy on this grey and gloomy day but we found a Pret a Manger where we bought a couple of sandwiches as we realised we were quite hungry.

The walk home was interesting as we saw Radio City and Carnegie Hall which are so familiar in our subconscious memory. Our hotel is near the garment quarter where every shop sells material. A street over is the jewellery quarter. As we arrived at 339 W 39th Street we could see the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market at the end of the street. Definitely something to check out tomorrow morning early.

We usually like to cook some of our own meals when we are in a new city. This way we get to shop locally and experience some of the local culture. We bought pretty basic staples. Spaghetti, a jar of Bertolli Arrabbiata sauce and some minced streak, a salad mix containing 15 different types of leaf and a small bottle of Balsamic vinegar and a bottle of olive oil which should stay with us for the entire trip. To put a bit of zing in the mince mixture we bought garlic cloves and some West Indian chillies. You would think that I would know my chilli by now but these looked fairly innocuous. I removed the seeds and put all four chillies in the mince mixture. Bad move!

When not only my fingers but the top of my hands started burning I realised I had made a mistake. Only large amounts of spaghetti, salad and water helped the mince go down. I looked up my little chillies on Google and found they are also called Scotch Bonnet and are the 21st hottest chillies in the world. John had three helpings so he thought they were fine.

The more mundane activities today included washing down on C level where a kind young man helped me negotiate the washers and dryers. Later when John found he had a bottle of red wine and a broken corkscrew the same young man arrived with a replacement. Surely this deserves a tip! I have his name but how much and will he still be around?

The Long Journey North

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A cool and cloudy day in Los Angeles

We have arrived in Los Angeles! It must be old age but 14 hours in a plane is as long as I can take. We seem to have been travelling forever. First a taxi to the railway. Then a train to the Sydney international airport. Rydges was a really convenient place to stay, just a short walk from the International Terminal and with a great view of planes landing and taking off. We had a pleasant meal at the Blackwattle Grill before trying to get a good night’s sleep.

The first seven hours in our Air Bus 380 was relatively pleasant with lunch, movies and a glass of sparkling wine. I’ve decided that is about as long as a flight should take but alas we had seven more hours until we landed at 6.00 am Californian time.

We caught up on a few movies. Following an American theme we started with “Brooklyn” which we both enjoyed, and then the “Revenant” which had me gripping John’s arm tightly but at least it took my mind off flying. We both started on “Amelie” which we hadn’t seen but John gave up and moved on to reminisce with Mrs Robinson in “The Graduate”. I really couldn’t face another movie but with three hours to go opted for “Wild” about a woman who hiked the West Coast of the USA. For our health we wore our travel socks, did our foot exercises and walked frequent laps around the plane, drinking large amounts of water.

Immigration at LA was slow but everyone was polite and friendly. As we emerged into the grey morning we saw masses of mini buses to various hotels and were soon on the free shuttle to the Hilton. I asked an American woman about tipping the driver as I don’t want to make a mistake. She suggested a dollar a bag so I am so glad we had changed a $50 bill for some small notes in Westpac in Wollongong.

With an hour and a half to kill before our room was ready we had coffee. John mischievously asked for an espresso but was given some black percolated coffee and told to add milk. What did he expect! Meanwhile I found my phone wasn’t connecting to the local telco although we could use the hotel wifi. Some time later after a shower and a sleep I contacted Telstra Support Chat Line and a helpful man called Ronald turned on International Roaming. Don’t panic. My phone is prepaid and I have lots of free credits so won’t receive any huge bills. Just don’t ring me in the middle of the night.

After resting up in LA we will be back on a plane tomorrow to New York. Maybe by then I will have taken some photos.

North America 40 Years On

Slide 17
Almost freezing to death

In 1976, on Christmas Day, we arrived in San Francisco after an 18 hour flight via Fiji and Hawaii.  It was our first experience of America and my first big overseas trip (you can’t count New Zealand).  There I am in my inadequate orange parka braving the minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 F).  We were staying with my husband’s aunt (a war bride) in Muskegon, Michigan.  Looking outside at the bright blue sky we decided to take a walk, so borrowing scarves and gloves we set off down the road.  After about ten minutes the cold really hit us and we started to shiver.  A car pulled up and a friendly face looked out.

“You must be the Australians” he laughed.  “No-one else would be out walking in this weather.”

Slide 126
One way to keep warm

We gratefully accepted a lift as he turned out to be a cousin and were soon back in the warm house.  Never had we seen so much snow.  John enjoyed shovelling snow from the path each morning so we could get out the door.

We had already visited friends in Seattle and Vancouver and were on our way to New York.  Walking home from Broadway one night after seeing Richard Chamberlain in “The Night of the Iguana”, the snowflakes falling gently on our heads and shoulders we couldn’t believe how different this was to life at home in Wollongong.

Slide 191
This view will look very different on our next visit

Of course the Twin Towers were there then.  They were still relatively new but we didn’t go to the top, choosing to go up the Empire State Building instead.  We had a good view of them from the ferry as we forged our way through ice to the Statue of Liberty.  We were too cold to get off the boat so waited in the warm until it returned to Battery Park.

We had a Fly Around ticket which allowed us to travel in a circle around the USA but it omitted New Orleans and Florida.  So we opted for Las Vegas and Los Angeles next as we were suffering from continual frostbite.

Slide 31
Linda and John forty years ago

That brings us to the present.  Thirty nine years since our  frozen visit to New York and we would like to catch up on some of the places we didn’t see before and visit some that were not even there then.  In this blog I will trace a route from Sydney to Los Angeles and then to New York.  From there we will travel to the Adirondacks to visit friends, catch a train to Niagara Falls and a bus to Toronto.  Another train will take us to Montreal where we will board a ship and travel along the St Lawrence Seaway.  Arriving in Boston we plan to drive to Cape Cod before flying from Boston to New York to Los Angeles.  Here will will rest awhile in Santa Monica before the flight home.