Our last morning in NYC was a relaxed affair. I popped down to the MAC store to replenish my dwindling makeup pile and then we stopped in at the local deli for some truly American food in generous portions… wow!
We realised early on that neither of us are big eaters, and the portion size in USA is incredibly huge. Breakfast is always served with potato, whether it be fries, mash or roast potato pieces, and most deli’s and American restaurants will serve your meal with a side of pickles. Not sliced, just whole or halved. We found that we simply could never finish the large portions and sometimes I just had to order the appetiser. While food was generally not very expensive it never included the tax and tip. For dinner we could order two meals, two drinks and share an appetiser for under $US50, but we nearly always forgot that we would have to add 8.25% tax (10% in Washington) and a 15-20% tip. A tip is always expected, and as a result, service is almost always very good.
New York City is full of cabs (taxis) and it’s fairly cheap to hitch a ride from Central Park to SoHo (more than 6 kilometres) for about $6-8, but don’t forget the tip! A typical tip for a cab ride is 10% of your total fare. It was quite amusing working out how to hail a cab in NYC. While there are thousands of cabs on the island of Manhattan, you will find it hard to hail one if you are not doing it right.
We quickly learned that the right way to hail a cab is to stand on the road, about 1 metre from the kerb, with your hand high in the air. No whistling or waving required, just a hand in the air. This seemed simple enough, but at first it was a little nerve racking standing on the road in the middle of Manhattan, during rush hour trying to hail a cab.
I much preferred the Subway as there was an array of strange and wonderful people to observe. Sometimes we were treated to a group of African American men singing in harmony to “Stand by Me”, or something similar, just to earn a dollar or two from the passengers. While we did see our fair share of homeless and rough sleepers, surprisingly it was not as bad as what we’d seen in San Francisco. And, the weather in New York was much milder, approximately 17 degrees Celsius during the day and night in May.
Our New York landlady, Nanda as her name turned out to be (for several days we were tossing up between Nanda, Katie and Miriam), was very lovely. I am not sure what it is that she does, but she was always ‘going to a class’ and was returning to Puerto Rico to buy another investment property. She lived next door to our studio with her cat, Nicolai. Nicolai had travelled with her to Puerto Rico the week before and liked to visit our apartment when we left our door open. All of the people in the building seemed very down to earth and genuine. Nanda was so trusting she frequently left her door open or unlocked. We chose not to follow suit, keeping in mind that we had no travel insurance to cover for theft.
Though travel insurance would not have helped when we misread a time on an email and missed our bus from NYC to Washington DC. Luckily we were near Penn Station and there were other bus companies that were willing to take us to DC. And they dropped us closer to our hotel, which is a great help when you arrive after dark in a new city after a four and a half hour bus ride (but it was a quarter of the price of a train or plane ticket).
The first thing we noticed about Washington was the humidity. The second thing we noticed about Washington was the heat.
We found out that the USA summer officially commences with Memorial Day (three days after our arrival in Washington DC) it was very hot, reaching above 30 degrees Celsius during the day and in the high twenties during the night.
Being Queenslanders, we braved the humid conditions and caught the hop-on hop-off tour bus for our first full day of Washington DC.
Side note: Have you noticed that we are big fans of bus tours? Bus tours are such a great way to get navigate in a new city. And, once you have completed the first loop, you have a much better idea of what you want to go back to see later in your trip.
Washington DC is a beautiful city that is a federal district located between Virginia and Maryland, but is not in a state of the United States. We were lucky enough to view most of the iconic landmarks from the open top of the bus, taking snaps of the Washington Monument, White House, United States Capitol and other Smithsonian museums located along The National Mall.
The National Mall is a large, open park in downtown Washington between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol. The Washington Monument and the Jefferson Pier are located near the centre of the mall, south of the White House. The Smithsonian Institution is an educational foundation that maintains 16 museums and galleries and the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. All of these are free of charge.
Travel Tip: Washington DC cannot be achieved in two days. If you are into history and love museums, you will need at least a full week here. And, it’s almost all free!
We jumped off the bus at the Lincoln Memorial to climb the famous staircase and view the large bearded statue of the United States 16th President. The interior of the building is divided by 36 enormous columns and surrounded by inscriptions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address and his Gettysburg Address.
As it turned out, we had timed our trip to DC to coincide with Memorial Day preparations and several stages were being erected in and around town. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of renovations and repairs being completed to many places since they were hit by a small earthquake last August that damaged some of their monuments. For these reasons we were unable to climb the Washington Monument and enjoy the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (the one that Jenny ran across to get to Forrest in the movie Forrest Gump).
Travel Tip: You need to book well in advance to visit the White House. And, remember to go to the loo before your trip as there are no public bathrooms!
That afternoon we enjoyed a stroll down the main streets of Georgetown, a historic neighbourhood located in northwest DC, along the Potomac River. The town was founded in 1751 and was once considered quite poverty-stricken. It is now one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in Washington. It is a beautiful place with amazing architecture and old homes from the late 19th century.
After a spot of window shopping and a stopover at the Genius Bar in the local Apple store, we wandered to a nearby pub for a late lunch before returning to our hotel for some much needed clothes washing.
Distracted by a marathon of Law & Order: SVU re-runs and a phone call from the in-laws, we didn’t get to the washing until late, and poor Dan was left running down to the first floor several times during the night to check if our clothes had dried. He gave up at 2am and we had a late start the next morning trying to dry the rest of our clothes.
Unfortunately, we were only able to squeeze in a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum before wandering through The National Mall and Sculpture Garden later that afternoon. We really enjoyed the Air and Space Museum and got to see the Wright Brother’s first plane and some real spaceships and memorabilia from the Apollo missions.
And for those that are wondering… I would have struggled with all of the walking if it wasn’t for my fancy old man cane! It has even helped us skip some security lines and queues for sites. Winning!
That evening we rushed back to our hotel to collect our baggage and scooted off to the international airport for our flight to Iceland, which is where we will meet again in my next blog…
J & D
First Published on: May 30, 2012 @ 14:47 #12monthhoneymoon