The dust rarely has time to settle on a Johnson and Johnson holiday. We always make the most of our time and try to see just as much as we possibly can, that is without applying any kind of religious zealousness to the experience - we like to wear our smiley faces best of all! This trip was planned to be a combination of sightseeing as well as an opportunity to reconnect with some old chums. I admit I was flabbergasted when I calculated the exact number of years that had passed since we all first met - this honest indiscretion on my part censured at once by the girls from my term at RADA with cries of, "Hey, don't remind us!".
It was truly great to see everyone.
We were actually staying with a friend Judith had made at the London City Lit back in 1975 who also remarkably enough had connections with my RADA group - it's a small world. Sharon was a wonderful host, generous and considerate, patiently explaining how to buy tickets for the subway, the metro-train and organising tickets online for us for certain things we planned to do. She's a peach!
Shortly before we left on our trip, I'd rung an acquaintance in Wales whose services I'd employed earlier in the year and who'd been very kind and had helped me out in several ways to do with my late mother's furniture that had put him to some trouble. I simply wanted to thank him again for his kindness and to wish him a Merry Christmas. In the course of our conversation I told him where we were headed, and he joked, "Well I have to admit I'm a bit envious ... you're going to love it ... it's a fantastic city!"
He was right. It is a fantastic city. I've never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve as it were, but I reckon I just might manage an "I ♥ NY" on the front of a T-shirt (well, someday perhaps!).
The most famous areas of Manhattan were jam-packed, some people were no doubt taking advantage of the post Christmas sales, others were most likely on their winter vacation and of course there were numerous sightseers like us. At times we found ourselves moving at a pace that might be considered slow even for a zombie in an old living dead movie. Traversing Times Square and experiencing first hand the huge crush of people there, decided us once and for all against any notion of seeing out the 'old' and in the 'new' at this most tradititional NY location.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of all we did, but I can honestly say that everything was worth it: Guggenheim; Metropolitan Museum of Art (American galleries); Tenement Museum; Ellis Island; a walking tour of Central Park (generously provided by its friends); Mediaeval Cloisters; the Christmas train show at the Botanical Gardens.
The thing that astonished both of us was how swiftly this massive city seemed to become familiar, and despite its vast distance from our own shores it gave the illusion that we were never very far away at all. Our tours of the Tenement Museum and Ellis Island were particularly informative and thought provoking; the starvation, poverty, persecution and oppression that so many of these newcomers were leaving behind in 'the old world', brought home to us just why so many immigrants to America (particularly of my parents' and their parents' generation) always spoke of their new homeland with such pride.
However, it wasn't only NY I ♥ 'd. After visiting the Mediaeval Cloisters with our friend Sharon, she suggested the Dominican buffet for lunch. Judith and I pictured a mediaeval style refectory with food served by Dominican nuns or friars perhaps. She actually meant to take us to a Dominican (as in the Caribbean republic) restaurant near the cloisters at Dyckman Street. The food was excellent ... the waitresses were very welcoming ... you can return to the buffet as many times as you like ... I ate plantain for the first time ... ♥ ♥ ♥.