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Published: December 25th 2011
First of all, a very Merry Christmas to one and all! Hope all who are reading this, if it happens to be on Christmas Day, are having a happy and holy holiday season – if not, hope you had a good one!
I must admit, contrary to what the title of this blog says, I’m not actually writing this one from New York, but nearby – in a small town called Washington Crossing, just over the border from New Jersey into Pennsylvania state, about an hour by train from the Big Apple. Here is where my “tocaya” lives- tocayo/a is a Spanish word you use to refer to someone with the same name as you, and here lives a distant cousin of mine amazingly called “Alex Waring”, and staying with her here for a few days.
Washington Crossing is a significant town in the history of the American nation, for it was here that George Washington crossed the Delaware River by night in order to surprise the British troops who were encamped on the other side in Trenton. In fact, the operation itself took place on Christmas Day 1776, with the American troops crossing under extremely
treacherous and icy conditions by night, spawning a famous 1851 painting by German artist Leutze, on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and is re-enacted every Christmas Day to this day. It is hailed as the most decisive moment in the American War of Independence, which tipped the balance towards their side, and in the end led to the downfall of the British Army and the eventual success of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4th
1776. Indeed, earlier this afternoon, Alex and I headed down to the very spot on the Delaware River where this happened 235 years ago to the day, where every year they stage a re-enactment of the crossing itself, complete with old wooden boats with huge wooden oars, American soldiers including "Washington" himself, and much smoke and cannonfire. It was a treat to watch, with so many others turned out to watch too, though I guess 235 years ago I would have been arrested and probably shot for being a British spy! The mood was very much more jovial today, and the crossing occurred under splendid sunny weather conditions, and no ice. Just chilling this afternoon now, before two of
New skyscraper being built at Ground Zero
Alex’s friends pop by in a couple of hours for a proper Christmas dinner – looking forward to that!
So I have been in Washington Crossing since Thursday, when I sadly left behind the great Doug and his family in Washington DC after a memorable time there indeed. I caught an Amtrak train up to Princeton New Jersey that evening, to be met at the station by Alex, and taken back in her beautiful Riviera vintage car to her even more beautiful home in true suburban America. Yesterday was spent visiting Alex’s friends and old neighbours in the nearby town of Pennington, and then on to Princeton, town of the famed university in all its academic and studious splendour, and a lovely Christmas Eve dinner in the famous Yankee Doodle Room at the Princeton Inn.
Although Christmas Day itself has not been spent in New York, I did go on a day trip there on Friday, which I enjoyed very much, but figured a few things had changed in me since my last visits there. I have been to the States twice before, each time to New York City, and just loved the place – the people, the
traffic, the noise, the buildings – the whole city to me just felt like a living and breathing gigantic concrete, tarmac and glass metropolis which I enjoyed being a part of. This time, however, I think I’ve aged somewhat, and found it to be hectic and stressful – not seemingly my cup of tea anymore. Perhaps it was the fact that there were not many New Yorkers around, having probably gone home for the holidays, and the city was just full of tourists, so it didn’t feel quite authentic enough. But I think it’s more down to me growing older a bit, and appreciating more nature, tranquillity and peace as I travel…
Nevertheless, spent the day in true tourist-style, by snapping away at the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue and the Flatiron Building, before catching the extremely confusing underground system downtown towards the southern tip of Manhattan Island (not helped by the fact that I didn’t have a subway map on me, and there were none to be handed out by the ticket offices, and very few on display). Down there I joined the throngs of tourists on boat trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which
I hadn’t visited before and for the first time was able to view the crowned lady of liberty from up-close – majestic and stunning, and a true testament to the very nature of the American ideal – the land of the free, where the poor, downtrodden and oppressed can at last find liberty and freedom in a land and nation which grew and developed as an antidote to the mistakes made by certain Old World countries and governments. And what a success this country has become – well done guys!
After catching some pretty amazing photos of the New York bay area, with stunning sunlight and rays creeping between the dark and brooding cloudscape, boated it back to Manhattan where I was able to view up close the new developments happening at Ground Zero, site of the tragic events of 9/11. It was difficult to see what was going on there, as the whole area is very much a construction site in progress, but there were two very stunning skyscrapers which were about half-way built, and the finished product will have about 4 major skyscrapers surrounding a memorial garden where the original location of the twin towers will be
left as pools or open areas surrounded by gardens and trees. It was interesting to see this historical work in progress.
Finally, a stop by in Times Square as dusk approached, to be surrounded and dazzled by lights 40 times bigger and better than the comparatively tiny illuminations we have in Piccadilly Circus, and again throngs and throngs of tourists but no New Yorkers to be seen anywhere!
At 6pm I was on board the train out of NYC again, sitting next to a great guy called Andy, at university in Nashville who explained to me the curious system of college “fraternities”, and how to apply for “membership” into them – he was hoping to go in for it next semester. Felt happy to have had a nice day in the Big Smoke, but happier to be leaving and exploring more of the States than this humungous city. I feel in a way that I want to do the opposite to what most visitors to the UK, and perhaps USA with New York, seem to do – that is, visit London and London alone, and believe that this is representative of England as a whole. I can’t wait
now, as I anticipate my flight heading to the mid-west tomorrow, to see beyond NYC as to what this country really holds in its true hinter and heartlands.
So the plan is - US Airways will be taking me tomorrow from Philadelphia Airport out west to Chicago, where I’ll be spending the night in a decent downtown hotel, before catching a Greyhound bus on the morning of the 27th
even further west towards the Iowa border, to catch up with my good friend Brad, who I met while travelling in South America last year (you can read about this in my earlier blog entries here…!!), and take it from there.
American mid-west, here I come!
So again, wishing all a very Merry Christmas, and look forward to updating again real soon.
All the best
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