Sunday, July 15
Our last full day in New York, and still more to do. We start with a ferry trip to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Liberty Island, is of course the Island with the Statue of Liberty. As we have made some very nice photo’s when we were on the sailboat, we decide not to go off board, but stay on the ferry until the next stop, Ellis Island. It was here, where 12 million immigrants entered the United States between 1892 and 1954. On Ellis Island, the building, stairs and rooms are all still intact, how it was back then. We get an audio guide, that tells the story from the side of immigrants, and from the people who worked as immigrant officers. The stories are sometimes heartbreaking, as people who were sick or disabled could be refused entry into the country, and ended up separated from the rest of their families. Sometimes that meant that they were kept in the hospitals for quarantine, sometimes for weeks, or worse, were sent back to their port of origin.
Thinking back about the time and circumstances we immigrated ourselves with Tim, almost 16 years ago, it is a world of difference. We knew where we would stay, spoke enough English to find work, and had sufficient funds. The immigrants back then, arrived with all their belongings, and might not speak a word of English. How scared they must have felt, when interrogated by immigrant officers in uniforms. Now this process was only for the 3 rd class passengers, as 1st and 2nd class passengers were checked by immigrant officers on board of the steam vessels they arrived with, and were directly brought to land to start their new lives. A very impressive museum all together, we are glad we know more about New York’s history.
We take the Subway to Bloomingdales, an upscale department store with all the famous brands like Gucci and Prada. Marc and Rene take a break in the restaurant, while the rest of the team browses around the gigantic store. When we get outside it has started to rain, and we head for another subway ride to a flea market. When we arrive at the flea market they are about to clean up, as it is already getting close to 5 pm. From there, we walk to Times Square, as Eldon and Marc want to take another look in the Toys ‘R Us store. Done with their shopping, we leave the store, and all of a sudden, Eldon is gone, just nowhere to be seen! Oh boy, there are thousands of people here, he must be freaking out right now. We walk back, and luckily, find him pretty fast. A group of people had suddenly walked in front of him, blocking his way, and he had lost eye contact with us. Big sigh of relief for him and for us!
Finally we visit the store where Rene has seen the record player he wants to buy. Now this store is actually 8 stores next to each other, and Marc and I are going to check out the drum-sets. There is a man drumming, and he invites Marc to try out some really cool electronic drums. They play a bit together, and Marc is telling him, how he has drum lessons back home. Very cool experience for Marc, and we decide to buy him some new drumsticks as a souvenir. Rene has his record player, which is wrapped carefully with twine (touw) and handles, as we still have to take it back in the subway to the apartment. Outside the store is a (black) man, who starts a conversation with us, and again, we are amazed how friendly the people are, if you just take the time. Once back at the apartment, we decide to eat at the Chinese restaurant across the street. The food and service is excellent, and we take the-leftovers with us in doggy bags. Tomorrow we have to get up in time, as we will be traveling to Washington DC.
Monday, July 16
Since we really can’t take the leftovers from yesterdays dinner with us, we decide to have a “reversed day” and start with dinner… Mmm Chinese leftovers for “breakfast”… With a day of driving ahead of us, we get up and ready, and load the car. It fits, but it’s a bit of a puzzle, with the extra big box for the record player now in the back. It takes about an hour to make our way out of the city, even though it is past the morning rush hour. We did manage to stop by a longboard factory/shop, which was unfortunately closed. It doesn’t look that the traffic is ever slowing down here. We look back one more time, at the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. Hopefully, we can come back one day, we have more things to see and do for sure! We have our pick nick along the way, at a rest stop, and the temperature is still very warm. We are grateful for the airco in the car. The apartment at Takoma Park, just one block away from the Washington DC state line. The area is beautiful, streets are lined with mature trees, it is lush and green and the air is much cleaner than New York, for sure. The apartment has airco as well, and with a weather forecast for the next few days, of around a 38 C, that is very welcome. The owners of the house, live on the first floor of the house, and they have an information book in the apartment, with all kind of information. Now we know where the supermarkets are, we are heading out to get some groceries for “breakfast”. Tomorrow we’ll start discovering the city.
Tuesday, July 17
The days in New York were great, but we are very tired, and sleep in this morning. We head out just after lunch, and the hot humid air is falling on us once again. It is indeed 38C today, and almost too hot to go out and walk around the city. Parking is possible at the subway station, but it works only on a sort of call in system, or quarters. The car needs to be parked halfway between the apartment and the subway station, but the walk is only 10 minutes. The street we walk through is beautiful, with houses that remind us of Bellevue, where we stayed a couple of time, close to Seattle. We take the subway (yeah, airco as well) to Union station, which used to be the largest railway station in the world, and it’s beautiful. From there it’s a short walk to the Capitol, the famous parliament building that houses the US Senate. Behind the Capitol starts the National Mall, a park about one kilometer long, with trees, lined with a collection of Smithsonian museums.
Today, we just go into the Air and Space museum. Of course, there is security, but no line up at all. The Smithsonian museums are free, which is really unbelievable. We stay just an hour, we will be back tomorrow to see more. We go back outside, still unbelievably hot and clammy. Via the Washington monument (the tall marble obelisk build to honor the nation’s founding father George Washington), we walk to the back yard of the White House, but we are ushered away by police/secret service police, as they are closing off the roads. Maybe the president has guests over for dinner tonight? Walk around, and we can see the house from the front though, and see snipers taking their spots on the roof. Something is definitely going on. From there, we walk all the way to the area called “Morgan Adams” which has all kind of little (record) stores and restaurants. We eat at a place called “Amsterdam”, a kind of snack bar, that sells fries and falafels. No one but us speaks dutch of course, but nice photo’s and posters of Amsterdam are on the walls. They even have mayonnaise and peanut sauce, which is always great on your fries! We take the subway back to the apartment, and we really need a shower! Great that there is a washer and dryer in the apartment, I got a feeling we might use it every day, as we sweat like little piggies!
Wednesday, July 18
The boys really want to go to the Smitsonian museum of Natural History, so that will be our first visit today. It’s absolutely the most beautiful museum we have ever been to. Exhibitions about evolution, oceans, mammals, fossils and gemstones to name a few. We take a lunch-break in the museums cafe, and leave at about 4.00pm. We can’t believe we were in there for 5 hours already, we haven’t even seen everything, but want to go back to the Air and Space museum once more, as we did not see everything yesterday. When we are inside, a huge thunderstorm breaks loose. Finally, maybe this will bring some cooler temperatures! The rain has stopped at 5.30pm, when the museum closes, and it is indeed a couple degrees cooler. We walk through downtown and Chinatown, have a snack and head back to the subway. We head to the supermarket and buy all ingredients for a lovely meal with a baguette with cheese and a salad with chicken, eggs and crab. The boys are very grateful for the dishwasher, after dinner!
Thursday, July 19
Our last full day in Washington DC, time goes fast when you are having fun, and we head out to see the Pentagon and the memorial that has been erected to honor the 184 people who died on 9/11. We can only walk around the building of course, and making photo’s is not allowed. We hear a helicopter take off, and look up, and see the letters on the side “United States of America”. Just then, a passerby says to us “you guys might be in for a show, that is the president’s helicopter”. Too bad, the helicopter moves on, and we don’t get a glimpse of the big man. We take the subway back from the Pentagon (which is in Arlington, Virginia) to Washington DC. Funny, it sounds far, but it is only a few stops with the subway. We haven’t seen the Lincoln Memorial yet, so that’s where we are heading. The temperature is again 36C today, we can’t say we haven’t had any summer. It is really impressive, and busy with tourists like ourselves. From there, we walk back trough the park to the Washington monument. On the way, we pass the Vietnam and Second World War memorials as well.
I would still like to do a bit of shopping, so we are taking the subway back to the car, and drive to a store comparable to our Winners, for the shoppers under us, you guessed it, ROSS. The men take a quick stroll through the store, and then head out to go grocery shopping, while I get some more time to look around. The (afro American) lady who greeted us on the way into the store, says to the guys “have a blessed day” when they leave the store, how nice is that? When she sees me by myself in the store, she says ” he, you by yourself now?”. When I tell her that I sent them shopping for food instead, she laughs and says ” you go girl! “. Again, such nice people we encounter, you almost think you are not in the USA! The boys pick me up, and got spare ribs for dinner, yummy! We cook our last meal in the apartment, and get busy cleaning up and packing, as tomorrow, we have a full day in the car, driving to the Niagara Falls area. Bye Washington DC, you are a beautiful city, and we hope we can return one day!
Friday, July 20
It’s going to be about a 10 hour trip in the car today, so we leave early. Luckily, the weather has cooled down quite a bit, and it is cloudy and rainy for a change. We even encounter periods of heavy rain, but we are progressing just fine. The cottage where we will be spending the next 2 nights, is not in Niagara itself, but in Wilson, on Lake Ontario, still in the USA. It is a 20 minutes’ drive from the really touristic Niagara Falls area. We arrive around 6.30 at night, and the owner Joe drops by to say “hi” and gives us some tips for things to do in the area. Now, we only planned to be there one full day really, so unfortunately, we don’t have time to see any of his suggestions, other than the Falls. The area is again beautiful and quiet, we have a good rest.
Saturday, July 21
It’s time to check out the Niagara Falls! Now, the Falls have a Canadian side and a US side, and René has been to the Canadian side before, and knows that the view is way better from that side. We park the car on the US side of the Falls and start walking around. The weather is perfect, around 27C, with a little breeze. Sooooo much better than the 38C, we had the past 2 weeks. We make photos and Tim is filming, and have our lunch in the shade. The Falls are beautiful, but very crowded and touristic, as expected. We brought our passports, as the plan is, to walk over the Rainbow bridge, to Canada and back. Getting into Canada is easy, the female customs lady is efficient and friendly, when we explain that we are just going to cross to see the Falls from the “good” side. It is a waaay better view from the Canadian side, no if-what-buts around it! We have an ice cream, walk all the way to the world famous Horseshoe bowl of falling water.
More than 6 million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water falls over the crest line every minute in high flow, and almost 4 million cubic feet (110,000 m3) on average. Before we are going to walk back over the bridge to the US, we have a bite to eat and a drink at the Niagara Hard Rock café, always a “hit” with the boys, no pun intended. When we are waiting at the US pedestrian border crossing, we put our serious faces back on. For some reason, the US border control employees, take their jobs so serious, that you can’t help but feeling interrogated every time you want to enter the country. Anyway, our papers are good, and we are allowed entry again. We drive back to the cottage. It is not completely dark yet, so we are taking a little walk to the lakeside, from where we can see the city and suburbs of Toronto lighting up on the other site of the Lake. It’s a great view. We also see a lot of bats flying around, and some fire flies, with their little lights going on and off, really neat to see. It is late, when we finally go to bed.
Sunday, July 22
The big challenge this morning is to get everything packed in our flight bags, including all the records René bought this trip. They are quite heavy, and we try to distribute the weight as good as we can. The still unopened box with the record player, needs to come with us on the plane. Let’s hope WestJet is ok with that. We stop on the way in Oakville, where a Ford car show is going on, with mainly Ford Mustangs etc. but still nice to see. There is also a sign for a flea market in Mississauga, and we even stop there for a visit. When we arrive at the airport, we park the car back at the Hertz office, and drink all the left over drinks we still had, as we cannot bring them through security of course. After 3 juice boxes each, plus René and Tim a beer each (Tim actually did not drink the beer, as it wasn’t cold enough…) we check in and proceed to the bag drop off point. The WestJet attendant is very helpful and friendly, (they usually are), and allows René to bring the record player with him as an extra carry-on, with no extra charge. Plus, he advises us to pre-board, as we have kids, they are not small, but still kids, to have the best chance to store the box in the overhead compartment. A good plan, and it works! A big sigh from René here. The flight is around 4 hours, and we watch the Food Network on tv, always fun.
When we land, our bag arrive quickly, and our friend Peter is picking us up from the airport in our own car. We get home about 5.30 pm, and it’s good to be back. The guinea pigs are happy to see us too. Vienne Janssen has done a great job looking after them while we were gone. Francine has left us a note, and has bought us milk and croissants, what a sweetie. What a great feeling to be in your own bed again, no matter how good your vacation was. We sure enjoyed our road trip together with all the 3 boys, it might have been the last time. Fun vacation? absolutely! Well rested? Not at all, but that was never the objective! Another “Amazing Race” finished, without anyone getting seriously hurt or ill, no car trouble, no robbery or losing important items. It could not have been better, how blessed we are that we have been able to do this!