Monday, September 8th 2014
This is our last day in New York and I am excited about going home to London and collecting Freya from the cattery. Our flight does not leave until 6:20 pm local time so we have the morning and afternoon to fill.
The flight takes around 7 hours and London is 5 hours ahead of New York, making an apparent journey time of around 12 hours. We shall therefore arrive at Heathrow at about 6:30 am. I know from our trip to Canada that jet lag, if it is going to happen, is worse when travelling east than when travelling west. My plan is to try to have a sleep, even a short one, on the plane in the hope that this will fool my body into thinking that I have spent the night and am now starting a new day. Will this trick work?
We went to the New Apollo diner for breakfast for the last time. It has served us well and I shall remember it fondly.
We entered the subway system at Jay Street station and travelled once more to Manhattan. We had a specific goal in view, to visit a well known building, famous for the beauty of its decor.
We had come to Lexington Avenue, number 405, to be precise.
Yes, we had come to the Chrysler Building in the hope of taking a look inside. The Chrysler Building was competed in May 1930 and for just short of a year, it was the tallest building in the world at a height of 925 ft (282 m) to the roof and 1,046 ft (319 m) including the spire. What ended its short-lived triumph? Why, the Empire State Building, of course, which beat it by a mere 408 ft (124.2 m) spire to spire.
Where the Chrysler Building still wins is in its design. Saying that the style is Art Deco is true but doesn’t do it justice. I think that architect William Van Alen achieved something unique that will remain unique for all time. The public is allowed into the lobby and can take photos. What the rest of the building is like, I have no idea and would like to know. The following selection of pictures will give you some idea of what we did manage to see.
In the penultimate picture, the “rottweiler gates” installed to admit authorized personnel only are obviously modern but they have been painted to make them blend in with the existing decor. The last picture shows what might seem to be a simple posting box for people to deposit letters in. It does serve that purpose, of course, but it is also attached to a chute that rises through the height of the building so that people can post letters on any floor and that these letters will fall to ground level where they are collected. I wonder whether mail ever gets stuck on the way down.
We started walking to our next destination and on the way discovered another piece of unusual decor, this time more Art Nouveau than Art Deco but not really either. The details shown below come from the façade of a branch of the Chase Bank.
Our last visit of the day and the tour was another famous landmark and symbol of New York. It is not a statue or a building that seeks, like the Tower of Babel, to reach Heaven. It is in fact a railway station. The third iteration on its site and build between 1903 and 1913, it is officially called the Grand Central Terminal but is more generally and affectionately known as Grand Central Station.
It is a large and complex building and, mindful of the passing of time and the need to get to Newark Airport for our return flight, we felt we had time only to look at the main concourse. This, though, was worth seeing and Grand Central is an impressive and handsome station. We might take a longer look another time. Now for the pictures:
The curved ceiling is painted blue to represent the sky and on it classical-style representations of the the constellations of the Zodiac have been delicately traced. This was an unexpected but beautiful element of the decor. What style do we ascribe to this legendary station: is it Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Modernist or does it have a quirky style all of its own? Maybe all of these. Some of the decorative details, are intricate and lyrical enough to claim allegiance to Art Nouveau. The vast open concourse, untroubled by pillars, invites you to stare, rotating on your heels, as you take it all in. Other people were taking photos, as we did, but the majority were standing waiting or hurrying to trains or the exits, no doubt grown blasé from frequent use of the station.
We had checked out of the hotel in the morning but had left our bags in its care. Though we had plenty of time, we preferred to collect our bags and make our way to the airport. It was preferable to spend time waiting there than to risk unforeseen delays later on. Newark Airport is quite a step away from Brooklyn, in New Jersey.
Back at the hotel, we had a snack lunch in the bar then went to reclaim our bags. Next, we had to think how to get to the airport. We decided to take a last ride in a yellow cab but, as I turned to ask reception to call me a cab, the man who had fetched our bags, overhearing our discussion, asked
“Do you require car service, sir?”
A little injudiciously perhaps, I said yes, and he led us across the road to where some limousines were parked, their drivers standing on the pavement chatting. We were ushered into one of these while our little bags were ceremoniously stowed in the capacious boot. The journey was quite long but was made interesting by the views rolling past the windows. Tigger got into conversation with the driver who proved to be an amiable chap whose first language was Spanish. Occasional misunderstandings caused hilarity.
When we arrived at the airport and our bags were rescued from the cavernous boot, the price of the journey was announced. It was a little steep but, on the other hand, we had had a pleasant trip and I had enough dollars left. Just to make sure, I repeated the price but in Spanish. This startled, then amused, the driver.
In the airport, we addressed the ticket machine and this time everything went smoothly. Our visa waiver details must have spread through the system. Once again we endured the tedious process of passing through security and sat down in the departure lounge to wait for our flight to be called.
The aircraft was much the same as the one that had brought us here. Don’t ask me what make and model it was as I have no idea. I dislike flying and to me a plane is a plane is a plane. This time, the passenger in front of me insisted in having his seat tipped back for the whole journey. Somehow I managed to arrange myself, if not comfortably at least not too uncomfortably. On the way in, the cabin temperature had been low enough that I, and many other passengers, had availed ourselves of the supplied blanket. This time, however, the temperature was warmer throughout the flight. I have been told that the cabin crew raise the temperature on night flights so as to encourage people to sleep thus leaving themselves relatively little to do. Whether or not that is the case, I did manage to sleep for a short time as per my plan. Throughout the flight, I watched the moving map on the back of the seat in front, enjoying our increasing proximity to a certain small island on the edges of Europe.
We landed at Heathrow somewhat after 6 am local time and walked through what seemed miles of corridors to passport control. Arriving in New York, we had been photographed, finger-printed and narrowly scrutinized with our passport photos held up beside our faces. Here, our passports were zipped through the machine and we were finished. We exited into the hubbub of the main concourse and made our way to the subway, er, I mean the tube. The good old London tube. Welcome home, Tigger and SilverTiger!