Holidays Our little holiday diary

New York Part Two

Day Three.

Before we begin, a quick update on the state of my toes. Four of my toe nails are a beautiful shade of midnight black and a fifth one is hanging on by a thread.

On to the trip. Having already checked out the pickup point for our three day coach trip (see New York Part One), we walked confidently round to the corner of Bowery and Canal Street. Fooled you, no problems. We were met by a young Chinese lady who told us that our guide was waiting for us a few hundred yards away on the other side of the road. Sure enough, our tour guide Tony was waiting for us. Having established that we were on the right tour, we and our travelling companions were herded round the corner where we found the coach for our trip.

Away we went, travelling through the Holland Tunnel (a very long and narrow tunnel) and on through Jersey City, Newark and beyond. Tony did say that Newark was a large naval base and that Jersey City has a large amount of petrol (gas) stations because the prices are so low and it attracts motorists from New York City to come over to fill up. He was also telling us about where we were going and what we were going to be doing. He gave us the usual talk on safety while we were on board the coach. Once we were out into the countryside, he then came on to the matter of the optional extra tours that were available to us. There were a number of tours on offer including Maid of the Mist (a boat ride at Niagara Falls), The Thousand Island Tour, another boat ride round a lake from Alexandria Bay. Corning Glass Museum, in Corning of course, and Madam Tussauds in Washington. These were offered at about 99 dollars for the lot. He then came on to the matter of the Service Charge for himself and the driver (which is compulsory). This was a minimum of 6 dollars each per person per day, making, in our case a bill of 36 dollars without any of the tours. We have done a fair amount of coach tours both in the UK and on the continent and as far as we are concerned, a service charge, gratuity, tip, call it what you will, is given at the end of the trip and is directly related to the standard of service provided by the driver and or guide. We didn’t like being blackmailed into giving at the very beginning of the tour as the guides and drivers do not have any incentive to be either informative or helpful, but we had very little choice. We did not book any of the tours on principal and as it turned out, we seemed to have made a wise choice.

Anyway, onward and downwards, heading for Philadelphia. Tony told us that we would be stopping for about 45 minutes there to get a quick look at the Liberty Bell and to grab some lunch. What he forgot to tell us was that it was Labour Day and nearly everywhere was closed. They dropped us off across the road from the Hall where the Liberty Bell is housed. There was a queue out of the door and we were told that it would be at least a half hour wait to get in to see the bell. Fortunately, we spotted the bell through a convenient window so we managed to see it and take a couple of quick pics. We then found a local burger bar where we had a hasty snack before returning to catch the coach for our journey on to Washington DC.

We arrived in Washington fairly late in the afternoon and after catching a fleeting glimpse of one of the Houses of Representatives and the Botanical Gardens, we hurtled straight to The Capitol Building as our first stop for a photo opportunity. Ten minutes later, back on the coach for a quick dash to The White House for the same reason. Tony told us that the reason for all the dashing about was the threat of heavy rain approaching. (The edge of a hurricane).  He wasn’t wrong, on the way to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the heavens opened and we could hardly see where we were going. Nevertheless, we bravely left the coach and ran to take shelter within the Memorial. We couldn’t get any decent pics because it was so dark. Quick dash back to the coach and on to the Lincoln Memorial. Still pouring down with rain and another dash into the sanctuary of the Memorial. The whole site is awesome. After taking a few more pics, we were again herded back onto the coach for a twenty five mile drive up to the Hampton Inn Hotel in Germantown, stopping on the way at a small retail park where we were invited to dine at a rather cheap looking restaurant.  We arrived at the hotel at about 8.30pm. What a surprise. This was an excellent hotel. Full marks to whoever picked this one. After all that travelling, we were happy to just retire for the night but not before we were told the coach would be leaving at 5.45am the following morning.  Not even a drink to finish off the day, what is the world coming to!!!

Day 4.

Up at 4.45am in order to have our luggage ready for loading onto the coach prior to our departure at 5.45am. We found out later that the hotel provided a free breakfast….which started at 6.00am. Just our luck. Anyway, Tony said that we would be stopping for breckie at about 8.30am. He was true to his word. We stopped at a petrol (gas) filling station which had a small shop attached to it. 48 of us had 15 minutes to select and pay for sandwiches and drinks. Some breakfast!! We ate one of our sandwiches on the coach on the way to Corning Glass Museum. While the others were in the museum, we wandered round the gift shop and found a TV lounge showing all about how they blow glass and produce goods for the gift shop... Result…. Back on the road again, this time en route to Niagara Falls. A long trek. We got there at around 3.00pm. Tony gave us 5 hours to do what we wanted. As we hadn’t booked for the Maid of the Mist boat trip under the falls we wandered around on the American side for a while and then realized that we could get a better view of the falls from the other side of the river. We had spotted a bridge nearby so we headed for it only to find it was a border point for entry into Canada. Fortunately, we had packed our passports so we navigated our way past a very grumpy immigration official and entered Canada. We did indeed get a better view of the Falls. We spent some time there, meeting a very friendly and helpful hotdog seller called Avi and his assistant. Whilst the people of Niagara Falls were friendly, the town itself is very tired and looks like a cheap seaside resort. We got some half decent pics and a quick bite to eat before making our way back over the bridge and through immigration with equally grumpy officials on this side also. They even have the cheek to charge 50 cents at a turnstile to leave Canada. Back on the coach at 8.00pm (The Falls are floodlit from 8.30pm) for a short 30 minute ride to our hotel (The Sleep Inn) at Amherst.  Again, an excellent hotel, but we were too tired to appreciate it.


Day 5.

Again, getting up at 4.45am to be on the road at 5.45 for the next leg of our tour to Alexandria Bay, a very pretty little town which is where they got the boat for the Thousand Island cruise. We had a gentle wander round the town and we eventually found a Post Office and bought our stamps for the post cards. They cost 94 cents each as opposed to one dollar fifty in New York. (Remember, we mentioned these in New York Part One Day 2). After buying a few presents for the folks back home we made our way back to the coach for the long haul back to New York. We made an unscheduled stop at the Pennsylvania Visitor Centre. We were told that another coach from the same tour company had broken down and they needed our coach top bring their passengers to the Visitor Centre while their coach was recovered. We were stuck there for an hour and a half with nothing to do. It was in the middle of nowhere. Once all that had been sorted out, we continued our journey back, stopping at a MacDonalds on the way for a food break. They tried to charge us for drinks we didn’t want and we got hash browns with our meal that we hadn’t ordered but had paid for. Talk about forcing extra’s onto you. They got quite upset when we complained.

We finally arrived back at Bowery/Canal Street just after 8.30pm. As we disembarked, Tony had the nerve to say that whilst not compulsory, it would be nice to leave a tip for himself and the driver. No way!! What cheek. We stumbled back to our hotel and fell into bed.

Off to New York Part Three

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