A brief word about last night: We were land-side fairly quickly. The longest part in the process being the route march from the gate to the “UK Border”. Noticeable that there were no long lines for Americans and other “Tourists”. The process of a UK citizen (sorry, EU citizen) entering isn’t quite the nod it used to be either. The agent I got wasn’t quite as surly as his US counterpart, but I reckon he’d been taking lessons – barely a grunt in response to my Good Evening. Oh well.
We beat the bags to the carousel and ours came off quite quickly. I left Kay to guard the bags at T3 while I hiked to the bus station for transport to Bath Road. A 140 bus arrived straight away, but there was a brief delay while the driver had an argument with a Sikh visitor about wether the “hotel” he was going to “near Southall” was in the free zone or not. In the end, given the visitor’s evident difficulty with change for the fare, the driver let him on.
I wished I’d put my big coat on as I crossed Bath Road to the Renaissance as it was bitingly cold with freezing drizzle – a taste of the weather to come. 13 degrees My Arse! The hotel receptionist sorted the car park ticket out without a hitch and I was picking Kay up in no time at all. From landing at 19:30 we were on the M4 by 21:00. We stopped for more vastly overpriced, but very welcome, grub in the form of BK at Toddington services and were back in Derby just after 23:00. There were endless 50mph restrictions on the M1 as roadworks were being set out at very regular intervals. End of the Financial Year anyone?
The doom and gloom for snow this weekend seems to have followed us over the Atlantic – in fact it is quite remarkable how similar the weather 3,200 miles apart seems.
Highlights and Wrap
The usual Bests: Kay gives Top of the Rock and Coney Island at the top of her list, followed by Chicago. I’d have to say seeing a real Broadway show was probably my highlight – I was as intrigued by the process as much as the show itself. Best meal for Kay was Ruby Tuesdays followed by Heartland Brewery. For fairly obvious reasons I’d reverse that order myself, but we both agree on last night’s Applebees experience as an unexpected bronze medallist. Honourable mention to Tony’s at Coney Island.
I recall saying this in respect of the particular host city after most US holidays, but I think I’ve got New York out of my system for a while. That it is an exciting & vibrant city with plenty to see and do is redundant to say. So too is the fact that in 2013 it’s a flipping expensive place, especially when viewed through 1990’s eyes as I tend to do! I’m less than impressed with (but fully understand the reasons for) the practice of automatically adding 18% gratuity to every tab which seems to have developed in recent times. True, there is always a clause that allows the “guest” to reduce or remove the gratuity, usually followed by “speak to your server” to do so. How many people, unless they’re really hacked off, or have leather thick skin, are actually going to do that though?
There is a stark contradiction when it comes to spending money in the US at the best of times: On the one hand we are bombarded with coupons and discounts, and on the the other there’s a system which adds ‘hidden’ charges and/or vague pricing which leads to a weary resignation in never really knowing what you’re going to pay (exacerbated by exchange rates & credit card fees in our case). All of which leads to a “sod it” attitude and to care about every dollar would lead to migraines. Again, the ‘system’ wins.
I did wonder at one point whether the 6:1 ratio of NYC to road trip was a misjudgement. Whilst I really enjoy ‘real Amerca’, I found the La La Land of the city equally fascinating. As I said above, I feel I’ve seen enough for now though.
PS Thanks for all the comments everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed the virtual ride as much as I have enjoyed sharing it. Stay tuned for The Great Escapade commencing 1st May.