Thursday, October 30, 2008

New York and Washington DC

Day 1:

Left home(Detroit) at 3.30 am in the night. Drove about 2-3 hours till Cleveland, took a break and slept around 2 hours in the car. Had breakfast and started off fresh again. Then had a wonderful scenic ride in the morning as we passed through Pennsylvania. The Fall colours were so vibrant, with trees in various shades of yellow, orange, carrot and red. Cruising along at 70-80 miles an hour, with nice music and a bright day outside, it was blissful. There was hardly any fatigue. Started approaching New York in the afternoon, the traffic suddenly became quite crazy with people driving rashly, I was somewhat stressed as I had already been driving for 12 hours. On top of it my GPS system and Google Map directions were leading me up the garden path, and I was sort of lost. But using my general sense of direction and recall of the map, somehow made it to our hotel. I had thought that I would be too tired for any further exertions, but got a second wind, and with a 30 min rest in the hotel, we were all set to go out and explore New York. We went to Times Square, took us about 45 min to cover 5 miles in the bus, was sadly reminded of Bombay traffic.

The neon dazzle of Times Square did not disappoint, people of all nationalities were in full glory. Roamed around generally, admiring the various stores. Then by 10pm we were dog tired and craving for some well-deserved rest.

Day 2:

We were up and away early, braving the rush hour traffic on the roads and sidewalks, made our way to the pier to undertake a cruise of Hudson river, was a breathtaking sight admiring the towering Manhattan skyline from the boat. With an informative commentary on the history and significance of the various neighbourhoods of NY. Soho, Tribeca, the Greenwich village, Chelsea, Brooklyn, Queens. Went passed some of the world's costliest river facing apartments belonging to celebrities like Will Smith, Calvin Klein, Robert De Niro, Nicole Kidman etc. Then viewed the majestic Statue Of Liberty. Post the Cruise ride we purchased a subway pass to roam around the city and view sites like the Rockefeller Center, St Patrick's Cathedral, Wall Street, the WTC site etc. The highlight of the day though was watching a play on Broadway. It was a comedy play called 39 Steps, a hilarious spoof of the Hitchcock thriller of the same name. In this play 4 actors effortlessly played over 70 characters! Must be a record of some sorts. The witty dialogues and innovative use of props was a treat. It was staged in a heritage building called the Cort theatre. We ended the day with a few cocktails and sumptuous Thai dinner near Union Square with Meghna's friend who works as a reporter with Forbes magazine and had some interesting anecdotes to share, including an interview with an Afghan warlord.

Day 3:

Roamed in Central Park, an oasis of green and serenity in the hustle bustle of NY . Very well preserved. The nearby inhabitants are a mighty lucky, and may I add a very wealthy lot. Went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A massive complex, one of the largest museums in the world, with about a couple of million artifacts. since the collection was so overwhelming, we opted for a guided tour so that we could admire and get insights on some of the highlights. The Picassos, Rembrandts , Van Goghs were dime a dozen. Particularly liked Andy Warhol's wacky paintings. So after spending half a day there, we were on our way out of NY in a jiffy to beat the rush hour traffic.

After spending a few hours shopping in a huge outlet mall in New Jersey, we were on our way to Washington DC. Though it was a pretty tiring day, but driving was not a chore. In fact I was glad to rest my butt on the seat, as the whole day I was just walking or standing. It was a comfortable drive, listening to melodious Hindi songs, and we reached DC at midnight.

Day 4:

Washington DC must have one of the world's best and most traveller friendly subway system. It covers the vast suburbia through a classic hub and spoke layout. Modern and clean trains and stations. DC seemed so spacious and relaxed compared to NY.

Most of the DC attractions are amenable to a brisk walk schedule, but since we were so tired after the NY stint that we decided to take a hop-on hop-off tourist open decked double decker bus. Admired the architecture of the various stately buildings. Visited the Arlington cemetery, it was a sombre sight viewing the 3,00,000 plus graves of all the American military personnel. Saw glimpses of the huge Pentagon and the Washington monument. The Capitol and the area around it remind me a lot of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, North and South Block in Delhi. Then paid a visit to a few of the Smithsonian museums, they have such a amazing repertoire , and the best part is that there is no admission fees in any of the museums. Particularly enjoyed seeing the vintage aircrafts, the cursed Hope Diamond, the only painting by Da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere.
The White House was an anticlimax, it looks so ordinary and small compared to all the footage that I have seen in various movies or TV. I have seen Kothis in Delhi larger than it. But I am glad I saw it, as I was really keen. There are always some protesters in front of it, this time we saw some Anti-nuclear and Tibet activists. After this whirlwind tour of Washington, we went to a Lonely Planet suggested bar, downed a few beers, then went to a recommended Ethiopian restaurant, and had an exotic meal.

Day 5:

Got up late, and started on the drive back, again some spectacular scenery on the way. Reached Detroit at nightfall. Was a marathon driving effort on my side. More than 1500 miles on the whole! but it was well worth it.