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Published: June 26th 2017
We were due to dock early in the morning and when Lisbon appeared on the horizon we were soon aware of its charms. The buildings that we were fast approaching us were very cherry in their pale yellow, apricot, blue, grey and vibrant pink tones.
After docking Mark and I spent an afternoon wandering around and taking a long bus ride (on one of those hop on hop off buses) which went to the newer parts of the city. Nothing much to report here. There were industrial areas and urban streets with the usual square towers - a modern city like any other. I was keen to return to more interesting areas. We eventually visited two craft beer bars and just chilled. It was very hot!
That night we spent our last evening on board the ship and prepared for disembarkation.
Wednesday was our only full day in Lisbon. A visit to the fortress at the top of one of its 7 hills happened first followed by a complicated walk among the very confusing laneways of Alfama as we searched for the cathedral.
Lisbon struck me as an intriguing
place. It is very old (reputably one of the oldest European cities) and there seemed to be just as many crumbling abandoned buildings are there were well maintained ones. The streets around the Alfama district were particularly littered as the day before there had been a religious fiesta. We did a second route on the hop on hop off bus and had lunch at a restaurant specialising in bacalaù, cod fish, one of the city’s specialities. It was good, hearty, peasant food, very tasty. We visited other areas of the city with the bus which were obviously very beautiful but we only experienced them from afar. That night we found a restaurant where we heard fado singers. It was an interesting experience; the singing was probably the highlight – the whole staff joined in - the food, not so much.
Our visit to this city was too brief and I would probably like to return one day.
The next stop was New York.
I am very conflicted about what to say about New York. I have been here twice before and loved it. This time, my reactions have been different which
makes me feel as if I am being critical about an old flame.
On arrival at the airport I was very amused when the first local conversation I overhead was in Spanish. For a minute, I had to convince myself that we had actually flown for 7 or so hours in an westerly direction and left the Iberian Peninsula.
We waited very patiently and obediently to be allowed entry into the USA and when our turn happened, the man questioning us had to be reassured that we were in fact married, despite having different surnames.
Arriving at our hotel, my heart sank. We were going to be staying in Midtown just opposite Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. The traffic never stops. The noise from the street is deafening and is unable to be ignored from our room. The sirens blare (fire station next door!), horns honk seemingly at any time of the day or night. Yes, I know, this is the city that never sleeps. But when Rosemary doesn’t sleep, that is not a good thing. I am not a nice person when tired. Despite changing rooms, there was no
getting away from the incessant hum. I hated it.
The sun did not shine for the first three days of our stay. There was a fog hugging the tops of the skyscrapers that would not lift and the skies were a despondent grey.
The city was so dirty and grimy. The air was sooty and polluted. When we were out and about I saw sad, grim faces everywhere. There is so much poverty here amongst the outrageous wealth. We saw homeless people camping everywhere on the streets.
We stood briefly in the madness of Times Square on Saturday. I remarked that this was the closest I would ever get to understanding what the Roman Forum must have been like at the height of the Roman Empire. It was chaotic and overwhelming. Like the Roman Empire, I feel the time for this Empire is ending. There was a sense of decay wherever we went that was palpable.
Having said all of that, the entertainment on offer here is outstanding. When the rain would not stop falling on Saturday and we were soaked, we grabbed some half-priced tickets to see “Kinky Boots”
and it was a fantastic show. I have never enjoyed a musical so much. On Sunday, we saw “The Book of Mormon” which was equally good and an excoriating satire. Mark being Mark, we have been to about 9 different jazz gigs. On Friday night, we visited three jazz venues in Harlem: Bill’s Place, Showmans and Ginny’s Supper Club accompanied by Gordon Polatnick who organises bespoke jazz tours. Saturday night we went to The Jazz Standard to hear Tierney Sutton perform with her three fine musicians. That too was excellent.
I enjoyed visiting the High Line parkway on Friday morning with our big apple greeter Tom who also took us to the East Village where we saw some buildings used in TV and films (the “Friends” building and the one from “Rear Window”) That morning we had revisited the Empire State (for old time’s sake). I did my best impression of Meg Ryan as I stepped out onto the viewing deck. My own Tom Hanks got a little bit romantic as we hugged looking out at the view we first saw almost 30 years ago on our honeymoon.
On Sunday evening, we went to
three more jazz venues, Mezzrow's, Smalls and Bar 55.
Monday was a crazy day. It started off with a visit to the One World Trade Centre which was very impressive. I thought the memorial to the victims of 9/11 was a very moving one.
I got to visit a knitting shop I have been following on Instagram for a while called Purl Soho which funnily enough is located in Soho. We also stumbled into Little Italy and Chinatown – both places were extremely crowded and the temperature was hot, hot, hot.
Heading back towards our Midtown hotel, we had to pick up some clothing from a laundry and were just about to get there when the menacing grey clouds that had been threatening to burst did just that with a huge gust of wind. We were caught in the middle of the downpour and there was nothing that could be done. We got soaked to the skin eventually making it to a slim entrance to a building which we shared with about eight other wet, sad people as we tried to shelter from the driving rain. It was a long and
damp walk back to our hotel drip, drip, dripping all the way.
That night we met the editor of a jazz mag, Laurence, who took us to a very intimate venue called The Stone where we heard some very avant-garde performers. Mark liked the music. I tried to meditate and just survive it.
On Tuesday, we sought out the Levain Bakery (recommended to us by our daughter) and ate the most delicious and humungous chock chip cookie ever. As we were in the very elegant Upper East Side we popped into Central Park to say hi to one of the world’s most iconic public parks and later that day we visited its cousin in Brooklyn, Prospect Park, which is another huge and impressive green space designed by Frederick Law Olmsted the creator of Central Park.
While there we had also visited Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn Bridge Park and Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass) a really happening part of that borough. We ended up having a nice vegan meal at Bliss on Bedford Street which just happened to be closing for good soon. That is a pity because it was
great food! And it was also a pity we got to see Brooklyn so late in our stay as I found it a really lovely place.
Our last day in NYC was taken up with visiting The Botanical Gardens in the Bronx for the Dale Chihuly exhibition of monumental glass sculptures which weredotted around the gardens. It was fantastic – I just loved it and could have stayed there all day. A lovely farmer’s market supplied our very delicious pies for lunch and some local wildlife, a squirrel and a chipmunk delighted us just by doing what squirrels and chipmuncks do. After lunch, we went to the Whitney museum and that evening we attended another jazz gig at the legendary Village Vanguard.
I feel tired just writing all of that – and I can tell you I am tired! Thank goodness, the next part of this journey takes us to Halifax, Nova Scotia which I am sure will not be as fast paced as New York.
I forgot to give a special recommendation to the Europa Cafe just opposite Penn Station on 7th Ave. Every morning, except for our first
one when we paid an exorbitant amount for our hotel brekkie, we would march over to the cafe for our small cup of oatmeal. The cost was $3.95 but for only $1.00 more, I added banana slices and blueberries to mine. We skipped the coffee as it was a bit weak. A very cheap way to have breakfast in a very expensive city!
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