Short and long trips to the US, from big cities to small towns.
Browsing: Exploring the US
We are in Ogdensburg, New York State. Mark’s first international trip. Oh, I’m so proud of him—so far, he behaves.
Okay, this is not exactly and new-and-exotic location. Ogdensburg is the closest US town from Ottawa, a quick one-hour drive from home. But still, technically, it’s the first time Mark goes abroad—the three or four international trips he took when he was in my womb (France, New York State, NY City, France and London) don’t count, do they?
The morning we left New York City, the temperature had dropped and it was pouring rain. We took it as a sign: time to head home! I had no regrets: we visited everything we wanted to see and had a blast. Of course, it’s always tempting to hang around but I learned that when traveling, it’s better not to overstay—take the best and leave the boring routine to the locals. Otherwise, lovely places can show their ugly side and ruin travel memories.
On our last day in New York City, we decided to save some energy at the end of the day for some night pictures. We ended up not pacing ourselves (everyday, we left the hotel in Long Island around 10 a.m. and walked around Manhattan for about twelve hours!) but still found some energy to head to Brooklyn Bridge Park and Times Square to capture NYC by night.
Since we had decided to stay in Long Island, where hotels are cheaper and where we could park the car for free, we had to rely on NYC’s subway system to get to and around Manhattan. That didn’t scare me: I love public transportation systems, and it beats driving in a congested city.
Chinatown in Manhattan is huge. It sprawls from Grand Street to Allen Street, and from Worth Street to Lafayette Street. It is both a residential and a commercial area: green-grocers, fishmongers, restaurants, banks, jewellery shops and bakeries are clustered around Mott Street and Canal Street, and some quieter streets have apartment buildings.
“The Village”, an upper class residential neighborhood on the west side of Lower Manhattan. While we didn’t rush there to spot Chandler, Joey, Rachel, and Monica’s apartment building—come on, this is like soo last century!—we were still curious to check out the neighborhood.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Central Park: some parks in large cities can be poorly maintained and downright seedy (for instance, I wouldn’t hang out in the Bois de Boulogne at night in Paris…), and in American thrillers, body parts and lurking serial killers can often be found in Central Park.
I don’t go to museums as much as I used to, except when I travel. In New York City, we had to make a choice: to visit either the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The latter was high on my to-do list because I was hoping to see some modern Western masterpieces such as The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon by Pablo Picasso, and work by artists I admire such as Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Francis Bacon and Roy Lichtenstein.
We decided to walk along the Fifth Avenue, the famous thoroughfare often ranked among the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Indeed, the street is lined with luxury department stores and prestigious boutiques, but I was more interested in a number of famous landmarks in the neighborhood (plus, my credit cards do have a limit!).
Our first choice was the mythic Empire State Building, the 102-story skyscraper located on Fifth Avenue (Plan B was the Rockefeller Centre). Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Empire State Building is again the tallest building in New York, and I couldn’t wait to see it up close.
From Wall Street, we walked to the site of the World Trade Centre, where the Twin Towers stood until 9/11. Like most people, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard about the attacks—I was living in Hong Kong at the time, thousands of miles away from the U.S.A. geography and culturally-speaking, but yet the events affected me.
We arrived in Times Square, the first place I wanted to see with my own eyes. Like most people, I caught glimpses of NYC in movies. Over the years, books and songs from famous NYC artists helped me draw a mental picture of the place. But of course, seeing it turned out to be quite different.
The bugs followed us. We could see the swarms clearly now that we were driving slowly. They were just about everywhere: hovering above the grass, the water, resting on cars… It felt like being in a bad horror movie—and you guessed it, Feng and I were probably cast as the two dummies on a short road trip who stumble upon a new deadly species of mutant bugs engineered by the NASA and the CIA.
We were the only car on the road. The silence was deafening. And then I spotted the sign, on the side of the road. “No Kill Area”. “Great” I thought. “We are in a horror movie”. You know these low-budget Hollywood movies where a couple—or even better, a group of cute but dumb college students— decide to take a road trip and their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
On Civic Holiday weekend, we suddenly realized we needed a break, a quick change of scenery (I only had one day off) to see something new. We picked Lake Placid, a three-hour drive from Ottawa, in New York State.
The small village in the Adirondack Mountains was twice the site of the Winter Olympic Games, in 1932 and in 1980. I didn’t know that but I have an excuse—I wasn’t born.
I admit it, I don’t know anything about cars. I can barely tell a convertible from a Hummer and I tend to forget where I park in the parking lot—I wish our car was painted yellow or pink because it would be easier to spot.
Yet I can’t resist a good photo opportunity.