After not nearly enough time in Canada we headed back to the States. Our first stop was Arcadia National Park in the state of Maine. There was another Trek America group staying at the same campground as us, so once we set up camp (and played a bit of frisbee) we got to know them. They were doing the Great 48 trip, which goes through all the the States except Alaska and Hawaii – in about 80 days…I cannot think of a trip that sounds worse than that to be honest. They were a group of 5 guys and were 3 weeks in… That afternoon there was supposed to be a kayaking trip, but it go cancelled due to bad conditions, so instead we explored the town of Bar Harbour. They ordered pizza for dinner that night, but an Ice Cap from Tim Hortons meant I was feeling too sick from dairy to join in sadly.
The next day we got up early, and by early I mean 3am. We drove up to a spot in Arcadia called Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise over the ocean – the first sport in the US to see it. Afterwards we set off on a hike up the Beehive. This was a clamber up rocks using bars and chains and was a lot of fun. We took the long way down which lead us by a lake. The leaders asked who wanted to jump in but everyone wimped out except Laura, Grace and I. We then continued on back to the van, refreshed and slightly uncomfortable in our wet clothes.
I really like puffins, not really sure why, but I have always wanted to see one. So when I heard that Bar Harbour had puffin tours I was adamant I wanted to go on one. Unfortunately, that day all of the boats were cancelled due to weather – so I still have’t seen a puffin. Instead, I went and had breakfast with Seth, Laura, Laura and Ben (the other tour leader). This was a very classic American breakfast place and was exactly what was needed after after a very long morning, and almost made up for not seeing puffins. We then headed back to camp for a bit and attempted to sleep before deciding that swimming in the pool was a much better idea. Later that afternoon we headed back to the park and hung out on the beach for a bit before going for a walk along the coast.
Maine is famous for its lobster, so for dinner that night we decided to cook some. It definitely wasn’t the best lobster I’ve eaten but it was a lot of fun and a fantastic end to my favourite day on the trip.
We said goodbye to Maine the next day and made our way over to Boston. This was a really long drive with traffic and our planned stop for the journey ended up being a non-existent dud. We were staying out of Boston in a State Park, so it was back to being eaten alive by mosquitos (although nowhere near as bad as Algonquin). That night while we were eating our dinner (breakfast for dinner) we heard a noise and saw a raccoon trying to get into our rubbish.
The next morning we headed into Boston. Laura and I decided to make Harvard our first stop for the day, which was a short metro ride away from the centre of Boston. We wandered around campus for a bit before finding a cafe in a student only section and impersonated being Harvard students for a while. Afterwards we jumped on the end of a fully booked walking tour which showed us a around the campus and was actually really interesting. The day continued to get hotter and hotter, and it was incredibly humid. So, by the time we got back to Boston Laura and I were really not wanting to be wandering around learning about the history of Boston. Instead, we went shopping and made a thank you card for Seth as this was our last night of the tour. Later that evening we went out to dinner with the group at a nice Italian restaurant.
The next morning we packed up our tent for the very last time and made our way back to Newark in New Jersey. There we said goodbye to everyone and went inside to book an Uber. However, when I googled the address of our hostel it said that it was permenantly closed. I then went to search for our booking email and found one that I had missed from the booking company saying that the hostel has closed down. Unfortunately, it was also Gay Pride weekend in New York City and everything was booked out or well over $600 a night. We managed to find accommodation for the rest of our stay in NYC, but nothing for that night. In desperation, we contacted Laura’s cousin Cainneach who she had met only once before (Laura’s mum is from a very big Irish family). Thankfully, he and his wife Kristen were more than happy for us to stay and even had a spare room. So we got a very expensive Uber to Queens.
Cainneach and Kristen and their dog Mercy/Murphy live in a really cool apartment in a very pretty area of Queens called Forest Hills that has more of a London vibe than an NYC one. When we arrived, they plied us with wine and asked if we wanted to go to a night market in Queens. We willingly obliged and had a great time sampling the food and even giving those bubble soccer balls ago. A few bruises later we headed to Brooklyn and spent the rest of the night there. We were also convinced to cancel our accommodation and stay with them for the remainder of our time in NYC.
The next morning, Laura and I got up early and headed to the laundry-mat to do some very overdue washing. While we were waiting we got our very first New York bagels (which we unfortunately didn’t realise we needed to ask to be toasted) and sat outside minding people’s dogs and chatting to random strangers. With our washing finally clean, we caught the train into Manhattan. We had arranged to meet our friend Grace from the trek for lunch. She had spent the morning up the Empire State building so we decided to meet there at 12. It turns out, the Pride parade also started at midday right next to the Empire State Building, so all of a sudden we were packed in like sardines trying to move against 1000s of people. It was very overwhelming and I was pleased to finally escape, but it was pretty cool to see the start of the parade and the atmosphere surrounding it. For lunch we headed to the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This is where quite a few Broadway stars have had there big break and it involves your servers singing and dancing showtunes and pop music inbetween serving you. It was pretty expensive, but a lot of fun. Afterwards, we said goodbye to Grace and decided to catch the subway to the bottom of Manhattan. Unfortunately, the train we got on didn’t stop where we though it did, and we ended up in Brooklyn. Unfased, we changed our plans and instead decided to walk back along the Manhattan bridge which gives fantastic views of the city. By the time we got back to Manhattan it was time to head to the theatre to see Chicago on Broadway. This was really good, they incorporated the band into the musical and Velma was incredible. Then it was back to Queens with a quick stop in Buffalo Wild Wings for some really terrible food.
The next day was another bright and early start as we had a lot to fit in. First up was the Museum of Natural History. Last time I was in NYC I didn’t go as I didn’t think I would have enough time to do it justice, and this time we only got through a few of the exhibition halls. There is just so much to see, but it was all fascinating and I will definitely be going back one day. We checked out the animals of North America, The evolution of Man, the gems and the dinosaurs. There was still so much to see, but it got pretty exhausting. We then tried for a second time to get to the bottom of Manhattan and, this time, we succeeded. We jumped on the free ferry to Stattan Island to see some great views of the Statue of Liberty and then headed to the 9/11 memorial museum. We didn’t really get enough time to do this museum justice, but it was very busy and quite pricey. It was interesting, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you only have limited time in the city. The reason we ran out of time is that we had to get back up to Broadway to see our second show off the trip, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This was so good, it was funny and very well done (the oompa loopas were people’s heads with puppet bodies) and definitely worth seeing. We then caught the train back to Queens after a very long and tiring day.
The next day was our last in NYC and we wanted to slow the pace down a bit. We had our last NYC bagel in Queens and then explored Forest Hills before taking the train in. In the city, we walked around Central Park for a while before heading to the MET. The MET was not quite what I was expecting, it was more a collection of ancient art than a typical art gallery and it was quite confusing to know where to look – there was a lot going on.
We couldn’t leave NYC without trying Artichoke Pizza again, so we caught the subway back to the Meat Packing District. We ate some more delicoius pizza, then met up with Cainneach and walked along the Highline to the site of the night’s activity. Here we met Kristen and had a drink on a rooftop bar before heading down to line up for Sleep No More. Sleep No More is immersive theatre that is loosely based on Macbeth. It is located in an old warehouse and set over 5 floor with different parts of the play happening over the floor. All of the audience wore masks and wandered around the different levels, each having a completely different experience. It was really cool, but not quite what I expected. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to be doing and there wasn’t any dialogue (more dance) so I wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. But the attention to detail was incredible and I am glad I did it. Each room was decked out differently, one was a child’s bedroom, one was a candy shop (with lollies you could help yourself to), one was a cemetery, one a hospital… and you just wandered between them in near darkness looking at the details or watching the perfomers who would come in and out. Definitely worth doing, but be prepared for a weird night,
And so ends my time in NYC. It is safe to say I love this city and that I will be going back one day. But it was time to move on and return to Minnesota…
Apologies for any typos, it is not easy to blog in your phone!