USA

Last week I told you about my flight to the USA to visit my niece, who was studying in the small college town of Ithaca in upstate New York. I thought this week I would mention one or two highlights of the trip.

Sitting in my niece’s flat, sipping water after having just arrived from the airport, I could hardly believe that I’d done it. I had got there, and it was an amazing feeling.

Our first outing, apart from shopping, was to a parade which was the climax of a local festival. This was a fascinating event. Every institution and community group in Ithaca seemed to be participating and there was an abundance of colourful floats. There was a “Seventies” theme to the parade so many of those taking part were wearing Star Wars costumes which my niece described to me as they rode past.

The prize for the most unusual costumes, though, must go to those worn by staff and volunteers from the local family planning clinic who did an interesting line in dressing up as contraceptives. Somehow, I can’t imagine that happening in the Swindon Spring Festival!

A couple of days later, we hired a car and set off for Niagara Falls. It was a large vehicle which I had to climb up into, (I think I have mentioned that I’m quite small). On seeing a picture of it on Facebook, my brother’s comment was, “You didn’t have to hire Thunderbird 2!”

We bought doughnuts, my niece’s customary way of starting a road trip, and off we went.

If you have been to Niagara Falls, you will know that the spray fills the air for miles around. If you take a trip on the Maid of the Mist, the boat that takes you right to the foot of the falls, you run the risk of getting absolutely soaked, so they issue you with a plastic waterproof garment that feels rather like a large bin bag. I wrestled with this briefly before giving up and letting my niece dress me like a toddler.

How can I describe our trip on the Maid of the Mist? I said last time that sensation is important when you can’t see. Well, I got sensation! As well as the movement of the boat, there was the roaring of the falls – and they are loud!

Then there is the water. It’s everywhere. The air is full of it.

We got pretty wet!

It was all worth it though. What an amazing experience!

We stayed in a nearby hotel overnight and the next day visited an aquarium. This specialised in rescuing injured marine mammals, including visually-impaired seals. Yes, they are very prone to cataracts, apparently. The keeper had to make a noise to let them know where to come and get the fish. I felt a sense of empathy for them and was glad they were being cared for by such lovely people.

After that we returned to Ithaca, only to set off the next day by bus to New York City.

The journey takes four or five hours so we passed the time playing cards. My niece likes a game called Dominion. Prior to my arrival, she had found a US company which produces adhesive braille labels for various games and had sent for a set of labels for Dominion. Earlier in my stay we had spent a whole evening sticking them on the cards. Now we reaped the reward of our labours as we whiled away the hours playing several rounds of the game. It is quite  complicated, but by the time we reached the city, I think I was just about getting the hang of it.

We stayed at the Cornell Club. I had never stayed in a club of any kind before and it made me feel like someone in a P. G. Wodehouse novel. We had a huge room which boasted a sofa and a desk besides two large, and very high, beds.

My niece had arranged for me to have a touch tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or “The Met”, as everyone calls it. This seems to be the New York equivalent to the British Museum and we had a guide all to ourselves showing us round the Egyptian exhibits. I do like to get hands-on with a sarcophagus!

Later, we took a horse and buggy ride in Central Park. I leaned back on the cushioned seat and imagined I was a lady in a Henry James novel. The guide kept pointing out places where various scenes in films and TV shows had been filmed. I hadn’t seen any of them but, fortunately, my niece had, so I let her chat to the driver while I pretended to be a Victorian lady of leisure.

Among our other outings was a trip to have ice-cream and coffee on the East Side. This, apparently, is a trendy thing to do, so I put aside my genteel 19th century persona and, just for a while, pretended I was a cool dude instead.

It was all a great adventure and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip.