A Travellerspoint blog


Sorry for the very long break between posts

The next day we set off to Messina for the short ferry ride to Reggio Calabria in the toe of Italy. Even though Messina was a transport hub, finding information about ferries to the mainland was hard to come by. The multiple ferry office addresses and piers listed but we couldn't find the correct one. With time running out, I dropped off the girls and the baggage at what we thought was the correct terminal and then drove off to the car hire office. That proved to be 2 kilometres away from the pier so I had to hustle to get back in time for the ferry. On the way back I came across a quaint little three wheel truck which I stopped to photograph. The owner came out and offered it to me for sale. As interesting as it was I had to say no!

Halfway back to the pier I came across the real pier and ticket office for the Reggio Calabria ferry route. I checked the timetable and it was due to leave in 45 minutes. I called the girls on the phone and told them to grab the bags and head back down the road and meet me halfway. Unfortunately this message really didn't seem to get through to them. "And go where?", Shelly asked "Come back the way we came!", I explained, again and again. Anyway, I had to run all the way back to the drop off point where the girls were still waiting. It was very hot and I was exhausted from the long job and I must admit I had lost all sense of humour by this time, especially as I now had to drag the girls bags all the way back to the ferry terminal. We made it just in time, bought our tickets and jumped aboard moments before the ferry pulled away.
We didn't spend any time in Reggio Calabria outside of the airport as the flight was due to leave in two hours. We checked in, went to the cafe for a coffee and waited. The flight time came and went without any announcement. First one hour, then two, eventually three. The small airport was packed with impatient passengers. We were then all shuffled into a very small waiting room without food, drink or services. What's more is that there were no seat reservations on the flight so the passengers became tenser and tenser as time went on, jostling each other to get to the head of the queue. Eventually a plane arrived in the late afternoon and after disembarking its passengers we were rushed onboard. Surprisingly there wasn't too much scrambling for a seat and we all got to sit together. On the flight to Rome we flew over Naples and the view was so clear we could see the ruins of Pompeii.
By the time we arrived in Rome the sun was beginning to set. We took a crazy taxi ride to our apartment on the Via Gulia, near the Vatican, nearly T-boning a car that pulled out of a side street. The elderly taxi driver complained enthusiastically about the terrible drivers in Rome without any sense of irony.

We cleaned ourselves up and wandered through the neighbourhood in search of a meal. It was a nice area with little trattoria and 'hole in the wall' bars but again we couldn't agree on what to eat. We eventually found ourselves at the Palazzo Farnasse where we settled in for a very nice meal and wine at the Per Te Ristorante. It was delicious.
After dinner we wandered past the magnificent Pantheon building and on to Giolitti for gelato. I would unreservedly state that Giolitti has the best gelato in Italy.
The Pantheon is my second favourite building the in the world (St Sophia in Istanbul is my favourite). These two buildings share a tenuous link - until St Sophia was built in 556AD, the Pantheon had the largest unsupported dome in the world. The Pantheon's dome with its open central occulus is truly stupendous. The building we see today is a 2nd century renovation of a much earlier temple erected by the first emperor Augustus' right hand man and son-in-law, Marcus Agrippa sometime around the turn of the millennium. Agrippa's temple was a standard colonnaded Greek style temple and still bears his name on the lintel facing the square. The temple had fallen into ruin by the reign of Hadrian in the 120s, so he had the building completely remodeled. The architects retained only the first two rows of columns at the front of the building, joining it to a new circular brick and concrete temple structure. To carry the enormous weight of the elegant, concrete dome required walls six and half metres thick. The solidity of its construction is one of the reasons the building has survived the ravages of time. In 609AD the Byzantine emperor Phocas donated the building to the Pope, who in turn erected a column to Phocas in the Forum - the last thing ever constructed their before the place fell into ruin. The pantheon became a Christian church and is now the resting place of the Italian kings Vittorio Emmanuel and his son.

Emma had never been to Rome before so we attempted to set off early the next morning on a whirlwind walking tour. Roman history is "one of my things" so I was in my element. We walked first to the Forum and the Colosseum. Last time we were in Rome you could walk through the Forum but now the entire area is gated off and there were huge queues. Tour guides were constantly offering their services to jump the queue but we refused. When did this become a thing? Rome does have a lot of ruins and I guess it is fair to charge for their upkeep.
We circled the Forum and headed towards the Colosseum. Shelly noticed there was a Barbie exhibit at a nearby museum so took the opportunity to give the Colosseum a miss (I have dragged here there before.... several times) so Emma and I went on while I banged on about the Roman Empire. Many people these days assume the Colosseum is so named because of its enormous size, but this is not the case (although the Colosseum IS the largest Roman amphitheater). The Colosseum was built over the remains of Nero's private pleasure gardens, called the Golden House. One of the features of the garden was a gigantic statue of Nero (think Statue of Liberty size) modeled after the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Consequently everyone called it the 'Colossus.' After Nero's death, the Emperor Vespasian had the buildings torn down and gave the site over for the new Flavian Amphitheater (named after his family, the Flavians). The statue was left in place and stood roughly in the space between the Colosseum and the 4th century AD Arch of Constantine. Vespasian prudently had Nero's face replaced by a bust of the god Apollo. The statue itself was melted down for its bronze during the desperate years of the 6th and 7th centuries, but having stood beside the amphitheatre for so many centuries the name rubbed off.
The Colosseum is now pared with the Arch of Constantine, a much later monument erected by the Emperor Constantine to celebrate his victory over rival emperor, Maxentius. Constantine is renown as the first Christian Roman emperor and his rival is damned as a footnote and Christian persecutor, but this is largely the work of Christian propaganda. Constantine was a ruthless power hungry megalomanic who murdered his way to the top. His son, wife, brother-in-law, son-in-law were all murdered at his command and after he died his three surviving sons had all of their relatives murdered - just in case. But he made Christianity the legal religion of the Roman Empire so all can be forgiven.
Emma and I caught up with Shelly and we cut across town to Castel de sant Angelo. This Papal fortress scenically sited on the banks of the Tiber was the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian. The central core of its rotunda is built like the Pantheon of metres of stone and concrete so it made an excellent fortress for the Pope. We circled the Castel and headed to a tratorria that our landlord had recommended for lunch. It was rustic and the food was good but it wasn't amazing.
A couple of wines later we were back on the road and marching to St Peters cathedral. The current building is at least the third St Peter's on this site and was built by Pope Julius II in 1505 (but it took 120 years to finish). I've never been particularly impressed by St Peter's from the outside, but the inside is simply awe inspiring. The scale of the building is simply mind blowing. It really is a must see site in Rome.
After walking around for an hour or so with our necks tilted up to the ceiling we set off toward home. Shelly again left us to do some shopping while Emma and I swung back through the centre of Rome. We visited the Pantheon, Temple of Hadrian, Campo de Fiori, and Plaza Navarro.

That night we ate at a pizzeria a few streets back from the Pantheon. It was a touristy restaurant - which usually never bodes well - but the pizza were really very nice. We again finished the meal with gelato from Giotti and wandered over to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, which are marvelous at night, but we were surprised to find the area almost deserted.
The steps were under renovation and fenced off. We took a couple of photos of where they should have been and then headed home. On our way back from the Steps we passed the Trevi again and found that the crowds had dispersed so we got to take a load of photos.

Posted by paulymx 06:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Taormina and Mount Etna, Sicily

Everyone we'd spoken to about 'must see's' in Sicily had said Taormina. Taormina is on the east coast of Sicily, in a bay slightly north of Mount Etna. On the south side of Etna is the sprawling city of Catania. As we wound our way north from Syracuse along virtually deserted highways where weeds grew thick along the centre lane and road verges we felt we had almost entered a post-apocalyptic world. The empty roads in Sicily were nothing like driving in mainland Italy, which were always busy and frantic with traffic. During the drive Shelly and I regaled Emma with tales of fear and trepidation from our previous Italian adventure - insane drivers, cliffside roads, narrow dual carriage laneways barely suitable for bicycles and our GPS' disturbing tendency to navigate us to life-threatening routes. All this time Etna loomed larger and larger ahead. We skirted around Catania and entered a zone of low plains and hilltop towns. The GPS then directed us into one of these towns and we found ourselves driving on steeper and narrower roads as near the centre. This must be Taormina we all though as the Lonely Planet mentioned the town being atop a hill. But it also mentioned Taormina being near the sea and we were quite far from the sea. We drove on - obviously this was not Taormina (I have no idea what town it was). As Etna faded from view behind us the highway ahead was leading us towards an enormous sheer faced cliff of rock. As it got closer we could make out little villages clinging precipitously to the sides and top of the cliff. As the view improved I asked Shelly to take a photo, commenting that "Thank God we're not going anywhere near there." But the longer we kept to this heading the more uneasy I became. I did a quick mental calculation - was the mountain 12 to 15 kilometres away? I looked at the GPS - distance to destination 13 kilometres. "That can't be Taormina.", I said, "Isn't Taormina a seaside town?" We all stared quietly at the mountain as it loomed ahead until we disappeared into a tunnel. Through the tunnel we turned right and found ourselves on a winding aerial roadway that led up the sheet cliff. Oh sh*t!
Taormina sits on the edge of a mountain spur jutting out into the Aegean so effectively it is on the sea - if you go straight down. We reached the town easy enough but the GPS led us on into the old town and our apartment. Of course in this location the GPS can't differentiate between drivable roads and mountain tracks. Many lanes in the centre of town are closed to traffic during the day (very sensible), but we were committed now and there was no going back. A policeman waved us away from the turn into our street, forcing us to drive further up the mountain. All the while the GPS helpfully advised us to do a U turn and go back - as if we could! We stopped in a driveway and tried to phone the apartment owner to see if there was another way of reaching the place, but he spoke no English so we pressed on until we found a road heading back down the mountain. This road took us through a cluster of pedestrian streets. If you've ever accidentally found yourself driving on a pedestrian street you'll know that everyone glares at you with disgust and doggedly refuse to move out of your way, regardless of how polite you ask. Then to make our experience even worse an Italian driver pulled up behind us cursing us furiously and impatiently for holding us up. After a tortuous journey we managed to locate a cross street to the apartment. The impatient driver squeezed past us drove up the road a way, parked and got out leaving her car in the middle of the street blocking traffic while she carried on an animated conversation with someone. I left Shelly and Emma with the bags and left them to check in. Stupidly I gave Shelly my wallet in case she needed to pay for the room in cash and headed off to find a parking spot.
To get down I had to go up the mountain again, then back through the pedestrian streets and down the mountain. Near the bottom I found an overflow carpark, but the guard needed 2 euro to let me in. Damn it! Shelly had my wallet and there were no coins floating in the car. Damn it! I had to go up the mountain again. I went all the way to the top until I found a vacant spot on a cliffside terrace. Directly above me where the expensive hotels with their views over the bay below. From here it was at least walking distance back to the apartment, so I headed off. The girls were all very excited with the apartment but I was hot and a little stressed. The owner had indicated that it was illegal to park where I did so I grabbed my wallet and the photocopied map he'd left and headed back to the car. From there it was back down to the foot of the mountain and the great subterranean carpark. I left the car there and took the free shuttle bus back to Taormina town centre. I was exhausted.
We wandered into the town that night but struggled to find a suitable restaurant. Sometimes it can be hard enough deciding where to eat with two people. The problem is magnified with three people, but after walking around the centre of town at least three times we settled on a nice little cafe-restaurant in a little sidestreet. We were the only customers eating there. The food and service was good and the owner gave us a free aperitif with our meal. For entertainment we watched the France vs Portugal match of the World Cup in the centre square. Fun times.
The next day we attempted to join a tour to Mt Etna but the tour we wanted to do was booked out. We ended up booking something online for the next day. With time to kill we took the cable car from the town to the beach. Taormina is a beach town after all. The little beach at the bottom of the mountain was packed with people and beach chairs. We enquired about a beach chair but the cost was extravagant - we don't pay to go to the beach in Australia! There was a small area of 'free' beach at the far end of the bay so we wandered down there. For a long time we stared at the water debating whether to go for a swim. Swimming meant changing and the change rooms belonged to the beach hotels. I just downed togs and whipped on my bathers but it was more difficult for the girls. Eventually we all went for a swim in the Adriatic. Job done!
After a drink at one of the bars (which allowed us to change back into our clothes), we headed back up the hill Taormina's main tourist attraction is its Greek amphitheater. The amphitheater is spectacularly situated in a natural hollow at the top of the old town, overlooking the bay. It is very well preserved and the views are amazing. After drinking in the views we wandered back to the apartment (with gelato in hand).
That night we stopped for a drink at a bar-cafe on the stairway across from our apartment. The wine was good and the food reasonable so we settled in for the night.

First thing the next morning we needed to move to another apartment across the other side of town. We dropped our bags and then walked back across town to the cliffside road where I'd parked on the first day. There we were picked up for our Etna tour. It was just the three of us and the driver. Etna was about and hour and half back the way we'd come. Etna is Europe's highest and most active volcano. It has erupted every year since 2000 mainly at the summit but also occasionally through side vents. The volcano itself is a vast mass of black, pumice-like rubble. Near the base is a hotel and tourist centre. You can walk up to the summit from here but it takes several hours. The quick option is to take the cable car. The cable car takes you about two thirds of the way. From there you take a four wheel drive bus up to the summit - or as near to the summit as is safe. This day the summit was closed - by a small white chain across the four wheel drive track. A multilingual metal sign said the summit was closed. It didn't stop some people walking around the chain and heading up on their own. The mountain rangers didn't seem too worried about that, given that they had a bus full to tourists to try and manage.
The walking circuit took us around one of the many older summit craters (there are 5 summit craters at the top and more below). The rangers tried to explain facts and features of the volcano as we walked around but it was difficult to hear what they were saying. Besides, the views were simply too distracting.

Posted by paulymx 05:20 Archived in Italy Tagged volcano Comments (0)

Ragusa and Syracuse, Sicily

sunny 28 °C

After driving around Italy in 2008 Shelly and I swore we'd never drive in Italy again, but to get around in Sicily we decided we had no other option. We hired a little Renault Megane and although it was a tight squeeze we did manage to fit three people and all our bags in. After nearly killing us all of at a railway crossing, we were soon on our way and driving south towards Agrigento with its ruined Greek temples.

Our GPS which told us Agrigento was only two hours from Palermo but it took us a lot longer driving through the dry Sicilian countryside. The roads weren't the best and there was a lot of roadworks, but at least the traffic was sparse. We drove through the city of Agrigento, which sits atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea, in the mid afternoon. With a fine collection of impressive churches and fortifications it looked like a great place to stop and explore, but we we had accommodation pre-booked in Ragusa so we drove down to the coastal plain and the Valley of the Temples.
Agrigento's ruins are pitched as the best Greek ruins in Sicily - and probably they are - but they were not as impressive as we had expected. This was once the Greek city of Akragas which was founded in the 6th century BC and became a wealthy trading centre. The temples were built during these early boom years of the 6th and 5th century BC. The city managed to stay out of the 30 year Peloponnesian War in the 4th century BC when Athens fought with almost every other Greek city-state to maintain its imperial rule (Athens lost the war mainly due to the cost of its wars in Sicily). Later the city was incorporated into the Carthaginian Empire before the Romans fought a three generational war with the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC, driving them out of Sicily and pretty much destroying the Akragas in the process.
Only a single temple is generally intact as it was converted into a Christian church in the 6th century AD.
It was a very hot day to be wandering around in the dry and dusty ruins, which dampened our enthusiasm so after walking the length of the site, we headed off to Ragusa.

Old Ragusa is a city of two halves. The old, old Ragusa is an ancient city built on a peninsula sitting in the bend of a river. It's a marvelous defensive position but in 1693 an earthquake destroyed much to the old city and the inhabitants moved across the gorge an rebuilt a new Ragusa there.
The new town was built with regular street planning and better facilities so many families never moved back to the old town, leaving it as a kind of ghost town. Much later the old, old town was restored and people began moving back. It's now a tourism hub, although its isolated position means modern tourists tend to stay in new old town.
We booked small apartment in the modern old town and we walked down to the old town that night to explore and eat. The first view of the old, old town from the edge of the gorge is particularly stunning. After getting lost in labyrinth of streets we made it to t he main square and I had one of the best pastas I've had in Italy - linguini with porcini mushrooms. It was spectacular. Pistachio is a popular ingredient in Sicilian food and Shelly and Emma had pistachio pasta and seafood with pistachio respectively, both excellent.
The next day we wandered back to the old town to see it in daylight before setting off to Sicily's old, old capital, Syracusa.

Syracuse was founded at the end of a narrow peninsula by Ionian settlers from Greece in the 6th century BC. By the time of the Peloponnesian War (5th century BC) Syracuse had become " the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all" (Roman writer Cicero 1st century BC). Syracuse was considered such a rich prize that the Athenians attempted to capture it three times during the Peloponnesian War, each time losing their entire fleet and army in the process, and ultimately bankrupting themselves into the bargain. A century later the Romans attacked the city, but found the city ably defended by war machines devised by Archimedes, Syracuse's resident genius. One particularly terrifying device was able to grapple Roman galleys and haul them out of the water onto the city walls. Unfortunately Archimedes' inventions could only delay the inevitable and he was killed when the city eventually fell after a 3 year siege. Syracuse then became the Roman capital of Sicily.
Sicily today is quite a dry place and it is hard to imagine that Sicily could ever have been a land of plenty, but under the Greeks and then the Romans, the province was one of the most productive in the empire. Wheat, grains, olives and fruit trees were extensively cultivated and, as the island had no borders with troublesome neighbours, almost no troops were required to garrison the island. Sicily was so important that when the Arabs conquered Syria, Egypt and North Africa in the 7th century the East Roman (Byzantine) emperor Constans II left Constantinople with a large army and settled in Syracuse to personally see to the island's defenses. It seems like he decided to stay in Sicily as he soon began building a new imperial palace in Syracuse. This of course meant more taxes, which annoyed the Syracusans no end and in 668 he was beaten to death in his bath by one of his servants.
Constans' imperial palace is long gone but there are still a few Roman buildings remaining in the city, including an enormous temple (now converted into a gloomy church) in the main square.
Over on the mainland there is a large archaeological park centered around the Roman amphitheater. After walking around in the old city we attempted to find the archaeological park but our GPS could not find it and the street signs were of little help. After an hour of frustration we stumbled upon it, just prior to closing. As the entry fee was quite stiff and the singular ticket office was on the other side of the park we decided to give it miss. There would be more Roman ruins to look at elsewhere.

Posted by paulymx 22:35 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Palermo, Sicily

After a week's intermission in Perth we set off for round two of our world trip: our destination - Sicily. Joining us on this leg was our friend Emma. None of us had been to Sicily before. The view from the tarmac at Palermo airport is quite dramatic with a mountain of sheer cliffs forming a backdrop.
We had a booked an apartment in the old town. The building itself looked like it was a 1980s office building. Quite ugly. But the room was newly renovated. In fact there were renovations going on all around us.
We had to wait in the lobby for quite a while while electricians, fitters and plumbers maneuvered around us until someone came down to let us in. No one asked for ID or money and the whole things was very casual. Shelly and I shared a room facing the street while Emma took an adjoining room. Both rooms were stiflingly hot even and only became marginally more comfortable in our room after the air-conditioning had been one for a few hours. Emma's room had a completely ineffective air-conditioner. But we were in the heart of the city and had a balcony overlooking the street.
Sicily has been a crossroads at the heart of the Mediterranean since time immemorial. The Greeks settled in Sicily in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC, Sicily cost the Athenians their empire during the Peloponnesian War. In the 2nd century BC the Carthaginians, the Greeks and the Romans fought over possession of the island. Sicily was one of the breadbaskets of the Roman Empire until the Arabs conquered it in the 7th century. The Byzantines and the Arabs fought over her for centuries until it was finally reclaimed for Byzantium in the 11th century AD. The Byzantines held onto it for less than a century before it was seized by the Normans. The Normans were followed by the Germans, who were followed by the French, who were followed by the Spanish, and so on and so on, with each empire and people adding another layer over the top of the previous, creating a unique mosaic of culture and history.
Palermo was the capital of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. The late 11th century was the golden era of Norman expansion (if it can be called that). The Normans were the descendants of Viking raiders who had settled in north western France in the 8th century. They started as a mercenary Viking army hired by the French to protect France from invasion by other Vikings. For two centuries they settled down and became civilized - to a degree - until the mid-11th century they suddenly burst forth in their own wave of migration and conquest. William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy invaded and conquered England in 1066AD. Other Normans headed south and east into Italy, serving first as mercenaries for the Byzantines before breaking out on their own. Robert 'the cunning' Guiscard drove the Byzantines from southern Italy in 1071 and then turned east and attempted to conquer Byzantium itself. That attempt ultimately failed but his sons became leading figures in the First Crusade and conquered kingdoms for themselves there.
Robert's brother, Roger, invaded Sicily in 1061 and completed the conquest of the island from the Byzantines and Arabs in 1090, and was crowned King Roger I. Palermo became Roger's capital as it was situated on the north side of the island with transport links to Norman Apulia and Calabria on the Italian mainland (contrasting with the Byzantine capital of Syracuse, which was on the south east with links to Greece and Constantinople and the Arabs, whose capital was on the southern side of the island linked with North Africa).
Scattered throughout old Palermo are Norman era churches and palaces, notable for their interesting merging of Arab, Byzantine and Norman-Romanesque architectural traditions. Even the churches have distinctly Islamic motifs and Arabic inscriptions (as more than half the people in Sicily spoke Arabic at the time).
At the little church of St John of the Hermits, we where offered helmets to climb the bell tower. We laughed at the time but found that they did come in quite handy as the stairs were very low and narrow.

The major tourist site in old Palermo is the Norman Palace. The apartments and chapel preserve stunning 12th century mosaics and decorations.

High above Palermo, is Montreal (the Royal Mountain) where William II built a magnificent church and palace complex. The interior of the church is a riot of Byzantine style religious narrative mosaics and Arab style abstract geometric design.
William II is depicted on either side of the high altar, not easily visible unless you view from the side.

Thanks to its turbulent history, Sicily has a distinct cuisine. Everywhere in Italy of course has gelato, but in Sicily it is served in a brioche and topped with whipped cream. It looks disgusting and sounds like a heart attack, but it is absolutely delicious!

Posted by paulymx 05:17 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

New York

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At one end of the La Guardia airport is a circular complex that was once New York's flying boat / seaplane port. This little art-deco relic decorated with modernist wall murals was virtually empty and unused. I'm sure the airport authorities are dying to tear it down and replace it with some shitty concrete and glass concourse. It's the modern way.
We grabbed a cab and headed to Manhattan. We'd booked a hotel in China Town as it was the only place we could find cheap accommodation in New York. Last time we were there (6 years ago) we had stayed at a wonderful new hotel complex just off Times Square. The place had obviously just opened and prices were discounted. Unfortunately there was nothing like that available this time. The taxi driver drove us around and around the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge trying to find our hotel but we just couldn't see it. We decided to just get out and walk. It was only when we were right on top of it did we see the little sign above the door. The hotel directly faced the bridge, maybe only 10 metres away. As we gazed up at the bridge a train roared passed - the noise was deafening. Oh shit we thought, no wonder this place was cheap. As we checked in I said the guy at the desk, "I hope we are not facing the bridge." The guy said not to worry, "the windows are soundproofed." I was unconvinced. Our room WAS facing the bridge but to our surprise (and relief) the double glazing very effectively cut out the noise.
Chinatown was very Chinese. It really didn't feel like we were in New York at all, except that we could see World Trade Centre One. It was a long walk from there to anywhere, but at least there was a subway line nearby - and a Popeye's Fried Chicken! Mmmm, Popeyes! We walked the long walk from Chinatown to Little Italy and then on to Greenwich Village It was the end of our holiday and we were pretty aimless., although we did visit a Star Wars exhibition in Times Square.
In the late afternoon we returned to the hotel to change for the Mad Men Walking Tour. We were the only people who dressed up, Shelly getting the opportunity to wear a beautiful 50s style dress she'd picked up in New Orleans. At least this time we weren't the only people on the tour. We drank era appropriate cocktails and visited a couple of nice bars before stumbling home.

The next we made our way to the Chelsea Market for lunch. The place was absolutely jam packed with people but there was a lot of interesting food vendors and shops. From there we wandered over to the Skyline, an aerial parkway constructed on a disused trainline. The Skyline was a fantastic example of urban renewal. Rather than tear down the disused aerial trainline, the track was turned into a park and pedestrian zone. As it was a beautiful day it was crammed with people.
We walked the High-Line to the Meatpacking District and got off near the Frying Pan, a former lightship that has been turned into a bar and restaurant. There was an enormous queue of young things waiting to go aboard, but it didn't take us too long to get in.
After a drink we headed back to the Skyline and visited a couple of the fancy rooftop bars. That night we did a bit of pub crawl through the East Village.

The next day we set out looking for antique shops but were thwarted at almost every step by a gay pride parade that effectively split the city in two. Disappointed in our search we ended up the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art. The building itself is as much a work of art as the collection, very little of which was actually on show at the time.
Almost the whole museum was given over to the work of Czech modernist painter, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. I really liked his work.

Although we were quite exhausted after so much walking, we decided to head downtown to visit a couple more rooftop bars (I don't want to say Shelly was obsessed with New York's rooftop bars, but she was). To our great frustration four of the six bars we'd identified were either closed or reserved for a private party. One that we did get into had such bad service that we walked out after taking a couple of photos.
We gave up and headed to Greenwich and a couple of speak-easys, which proved to be as elusive to find as you'd have expected in the 1920s. By this time the gay pride parade was over and the drinking streets of New York had become a gay love fest so we slipped into 'Employees Only' bar and restaurant and were lucky enough to get a table. We enjoyed a lovely last dinner in New York before an extremely long walk back to the hotel (as New York's subway system runs north-south and not east-west).

The next morning we packed up our stuff and headed out to the World Trade Centre memorial. It was a actually a relatively short walk due west from Chinatown. There is still a lot of building going on at the site, but the memorials are quite impressive. The footprint of each of the towers is now an inverse space with water cascading into the void. The 911 museum is under the ground, within the enormous sub basements of the buildings. It is a great use of the space. I wonder if the sight of the building's structural supports, the enormous steel beams and the thickness of the concrete walls makes visitors question the preposterous claims of the official story that all this death and destruction was caused by a few thousand litres of burning kerosene? It's physically impossible, but what was it Hitler said about the bigger the lie? Nevertheless, the museum IS a impressive monument to the murder of 3,500 people in whose name so many greater crimes have been waged.

And then we were done. Back on the plane flying New York, to Los Angeles, to Sydney to Perth. It was a pleasant series of flights. I felt a small sense of relief to be home; to be able to rest for a couple of days without needing to plan the next step or book accommodation. And I would sleep in my own bed.

Posted by paulymx 06:04 Comments (0)

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