Heading south again

Leaving Edinburgh this morning we varied our route slightly by taking the A701 down to the motorway. The hills, forests (both coniferous and deciduous), the river and various places and footpaths to stop and explore mean that this is a road to come back to in a good light for photography.
A701 28 Mar 2016-1
There was snow on the highest hills and on farms with lowland fields, the first lambs enjoying the break in the weather. Coming into Dumfries & Galloway, James commented that the sun on the tussocks of last year’s grass which were glowing yellow, resembled Donald Trump’s hair. They were certainly not scruffy enough to look like Boris Johnson’s. North of Moffat we passed the source of the River Tweed and a path up the flank of a hill to a ridge which promised good views and which we must do on a dry day. There are a variety of bridges over the river, some in use, some not. This one is almost camouflaged by the surrounding foliage.Bridge on A701 28 Mar 2016-1

Moffat provided a good coffee stop before hitting the M74. The first few miles were fairly quiet and we braved the crowds at Gretna outlet village to get some outdoor kit we needed and which we had not found in Edinburgh. Having escaped from there, it was a reasonably easy run with everybody else returning from their Easter break and HGVs. There was predictable slow traffic through the roadworks near Lancaster and nearer home. The two examples of bad driving seen were both provided by BMW drivers. Now I must check that the holiday rail works have not overrun or been delayed by the storms and hope I can get to work on time tomorrow.

Looking for spring en route to Edinburgh

Friday’s mild, warm and sunny weather had lulled us into a false sense of security and we really did not want to believe the weather forecasts. I even managed my Street Pastoring shift without any rain and the thermometer still read 8 degrees at midnight. We were up at 5.30 this morning but the birds were already up ahead of us and singing in the trees. Despite only getting a few hours of sleep, I was glad we were driving up to Edinburgh today and not yesterday when the M6 was stationary heading northbound at 3pm. James did not change gear from getting on the motorway to leaving it 100 or so miles later for breakfast at Tebay. Up here it was very windy and a few ducks were braving the waves on the pond but these and a few seagulls stayed on the grass.
Ducks at Tebay 26 Mar 2016-1
The tops of the hills were shrouded in mist but as we approached the city, it brightened up a little. In Edinburgh, signs of spring abounded. The crocuses were out on Bruntsfield Links although a little battered.
Crocus on Bruntsfield Links
In town, the buskers were out, there seemed to be almost as many people handing flyers out as there are in August and the Socialist Worker Party were trying to get more signatures for their latest petition. I always check the mural on St John’s Church at the West End, this is the latest:
St John's Mural Edinburgh 26 Mar 2016

We had planned to do most of the necessary jobs in town on foot but halfway through, it poured down with rain so it was back to the car. The cherry tree outside the flat is coming into flower but the wind is already blowing a lot of the petals off. As we won’t be here for another month, I will probably miss the big show. It is certainly not a weekend for hill-walking or beach-combing.

Coming home

New York was having an unseasonably warm day as we checked out of the hotel and walked down to catch the bus to the airport. I was wondering how many more miles I would manage to walk today other than the three blocks to the bus stop. Our driver on the return trip was a complete contrast to the one we had a week ago. He was very careful to ensure that we all knew which airport he was going to and which terminals all the passengers needed to be dropped at. He was amazingly adept at squeezing the bus between other vehicles in the city centre and soon got us out of town. Across the river I saw a huge cemetery with gravestones more densely packed in than any other I have seen. A real treat a little further on was spotting a bald eagle perched on a tree by the water’s edge. I was not expecting to see one so near to the city. Their numbers have increased over recent years due to conservation work as they had declined and in 2007 they were taken off the endangered list. Waiting to take off, I was plotting our route from the airport, across Manhattan and into New Jersey, now that I am fairly orientated, for our late June trip and then watched the film ‘Everest’ wondering about the motivation of those who take such extreme risks, leaving their families bereft. Back at Heathrow, we had a flight cancelled so a longer wait than expected for the connection to Manchester. I was so tired that I almost left my handbag at the gate and have not quite managed five miles around the airports. The temperature back at home is considerably less than that we left so the fire is now on.
Plane at JFK 9 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)

Last day in New York

On our last day here we decided we were not going to any more major attractions as we have had our fill of security checks and queues. There will be plenty of airport security checks tomorrow and on Thursday so a day free of them is very welcome. My first task was to get a good shot of the Lincoln Highway marker as I was not happy with the one I took a couple of days ago and James will not be happy to divert and stop at this busy corner when we are crossing Manhattan in June.
Lincoln Highway Marker 8 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Wandering around I enjoyed seeing all the specialist shops, one for trimmings (passementerie) and this bead shop. It was a good opportunity to find some things to put on the cuff-link bases that I found in craft store last year and promised to make some cuff-links for James. I don’t think that I have ever seen so many beads in one place.
Bead Store 1 8 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Today was considerably warmer and it’s hard to believe that it was snowing only a few days ago. The stalls and buskers were all out and folks relaxing in outdoor cafes. On our way past Union Square to an indie music store I had found, I spotted this Ladder-backed Woodpecker on one of the trees.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker in Union Square 8 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
The Audubon Bird app on my phone is very useful for North American bird identification without having to carry a book around with me and also means that I can log a sighting. Now it is time to get organised as tomorrow we start our journey home, leaving a city like many others, full of extremes. There is a soup kitchen next to the hotel, homeless people on the streets and some empty shops but also endless new buildings and renovations and of course, Macy’s here, is the largest store in the world.

A day of great views

Taking note of the guide book advice to go early to avoid the crowds, we set off for the Empire State Building this morning. So far, this was the warmest day we have had here so there was some haze first thing.
View with Chrysler Building ESB 7 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
We could even make out the Brooklyn Bridge where we were heading to later.
Brooklyn Bridge  ESB 7 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Back at street level we did some shopping. I am usually shopping for shoes in the USA or Northern Europe as in the UK, it is harder to find women’s shoes in size 9 (US 11). If you type ‘Women’s size 9 shoes’ into the search box on Ebay in the UK, it comes up with transvestite-type kinky boots, not really my style! However, I was not looking for shoes today. As we have done so much walking (and I have done more than the 5 miles a day I pledged for Lent) we decided to go to the cinema. I had meant to see The Revenant before now but not managed to so we decided to do that today (I am not one for a feel-good movie). Afterwards, sitting in Madison Square, I spotted this sign, usually ‘Keep off the Grass’ but in this case:
Grass resting 7 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Later, we wandered over the Brooklyn Bridge:
Brooklyn Bridge 3 7 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
The craze for attaching padlocks to bridges which began in Paris, has obviously spread further afield.
Padlocks Brooklyn Bridge  7 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
On the way back to the hotel, walking through the Village, we almost got run over by a motorised skateboard. We have seen several skateboards and Segways, marvelling at people who can keep their balance so well, but this was something new. As it was dusk and he had no lights, I did wonder whether he was allowed on the road but he zoomed off into the distance and we headed for our hotel.

Central Park and the Met

We are definitely on Eastern Time now and no longer first down for breakfast but woke with enough time for a cup of tea before heading downstairs. If I thought that this was going to be peaceful I was mistaken as James discovered that he could watch English football on the TV over here. There is no escape as I was confronted with Chelsea v Liverpool. A little later, heading out to the Met via Central Park and only a block from our hotel came across the Hell’s Kitchen flea market. Had I not been in decluttering mode at home, I am sure I would have discovered lots of goodies.
Hell's Kitchen flea market 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Walking through Central Park, still in the grip of winter, we did see some wildlife.
Sparrow in yew tree Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Squirrell Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Anna Vaughan Hyatt Huntinton's Jaguar Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
The Met is so full of good things, we had to be selective so focussed on American art and furniture then prints and photography. I love Arts & Crafts stuff and am exploring printing so enjoyed these sections very much.
Arts & Crafts lamp Met 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Jasper Johns Alphabet Met 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
In the museum store I found a small book on snowflakes, written by a physicist.It’s ironic that back in the UK there is enough snow for the first time this winter to enable me to try out macro-photography of snowflakes, but I am on the other side of the Atlantic. Emerging from the Met the sky was now blue and I was overjoyed to find a Strand Books stall and a few more books were purchased.
Central Park 6 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)

A Downtown Day

Today it was time to head downtown. James was keen to visit the 9/11 Museum so we walked all the way down 8th Avenue and Hudson Street into the West Village and then on to Ground Zero.
Ground zero 5 March 2016 (1 of 1)
The museum was very moving and reminded me that on that date in 2001, I was running a conference in a BT Training Centre in Staffordshire. There were a lot of TV screens in the foyer and finishing late afternoon, I was organising lifts to the station for speakers and caught sight of a screen showing a plane crashing into a building. I assumed this was a movie until I caught up with the news on the car radio while giving a speaker a lift to the station. At that time I was responsible for the training of junior doctors and some who the local people thought were Muslim, had dog shit put through the letterboxes in their doors.
Building near World Trade Centre 5 March 2016 (1 of 1)
It was then time to walk down to the waterfront and take the free Staten Island Ferry which gives great views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Manhattan. I found a spot on the upper deck at the stern between all the selfie sticks.
Statue of Liberty  from Staten Island Ferry  2 5 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)
Ellis Island from Staten Island Ferry  2 5 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)

View  from Staten Island Ferry  5 5 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)

Afterwards we had lunch in deli and then visited the Museum of the American Indian which covered communities from the Arctic to Patagonia. We then walked back to the hotel for time to relax, eat, digest the New York Times and catch the sunset from the hotel rooftop terrace.
Sunset 5 Mar 2016 (1 of 1)