Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Driving in Newport

Naseeb may disagree but I was happy that the 4-day trip to Virginia was cancelled. It gave us an opportunity to drive around on our own. It was a first time for me, also for Naseeb. We wrote down the directions and thought a GPS would help but were unable to rent it out. So, it was now upto me to check the directions and navigate. We were careful in the beginning not to miss any route or exit, but became a tad over-confident and missed getting on to the correct lane. Luckily for us, we could get back onto the right track again without losing much time, thanks to Google Maps on her phone. Needless to say, we were very careful from then on. We reached our hotel, owned and run by an Indian. Surprising! as this was one far corner of USA and a really old port city with minimal population.

Within minutes, we set out again, armed with a local map and mutual trust between me and Naseeb; I had confidence in her driving and she trusted my navigation skills :). There was no other option anyway. Part of the route was driving past huge mansions, which is what Newport is famous for, apart from the port itself and various lighthouses. The mansions seemed like they were coming straight out of fairy tales and story books.

We had got onto the 'Scenic Ocean Drive' part of the route and scenic it was, true to its name.
Now, I had to drive here, couldn't wait any longer. We stopped at a really beautiful spot with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a state park on the other side. It made for nice pictures of blue and green background. We switched places here and I finally got to drive which I enjoyed thoroughly.

A couple of miles later, we got to a place called Fort Adams. As we approached the coast, a picture perfect view appeared out of nowhere. Hundreds of sail boats in still water and a beautiful mansion atop a hillock. It looked like a painting.

The pictures are from my new SLR, limited by a 18-55mm lens. Nevertheless, I thought most of the pictures have come out well. We drove back along the same scenic ocean drive to catch the sunset which was not bad considering the weather change due to Hurricane Hanna.

The next morning was a damp start due to rain and mist but it did not prevent us from checking out the mansions. We saw one of them in detail and were struck by the luxuries.

I don't think I will ever live in them even if someone gifted it to me ;).
A really stupid thing happened or had already happened when we were about to exit out of the mansion. We had left the car keys inside and locked it (and that was the first time, we were to repeat the act again in the evening. The next time Naseeb calls them, they know what to do :) ). Thankfully, the AAA guys came and opened the car quite skillfully. It was an impressive show.
We saw another mansion right next to the ocean. The rains in the morning and the fog had not detered surfing enthusiasts. There were quite a few of them providing entertaiment for curious tourists. The ocean looked really vast and scary, especially with the mist making the horizon invisible.

We headed for home earlier than planned, due to the expected thunder showers. We got lost yet again, but came on track after going around in circles at one place. At the end of the day, it was a great experience for both of us.

Cycling along Manhattan

I was waiting to get off the tour bus and meet my friend, Naseeb after 3 days. As the boat tour which was part of my tour got delayed, she left for her next destination and we planned to meet at Madame Tussauds near Times Square. As I got off the bus and walked back towards South Street seaport, I felt a sense of freedom. I was all by myself in NYC, with no clue how to get to Times Square. It was to get even more complicated with me having no phone and no credit card. I still hadn't known about pre-paid phone connections then.

I relaxed for some time over a sandwich, watching all the people, soaking in the energy that this amazing city has and feeling part of it. I was trying to figure out which form of transport to take to Times Square when I saw this bicycle rental place called BikeAndRoll. A quick enquiry and everything looked fine; it was a reasonable price ($15), a great route along the coast(as can be seen in the photo), manageable distance(5.5 miles) and I could just leave the cycle at 42nd Street from where it was a 15 min walk to Tussauds. But then, I had one problem; I did not have a credit card to be able to rent the cycle. I tried convincing them that I am OK to make a cash deposit but it wouldn't work with them. Now, I had to make a call to Naseeb to get her card details, but there was no phone. I tried calling from a public telephone but it dint go though and I gave up after losing one dollar. Back to Bike&Roll and some more convincing and confusing, finally managed to get the cycle after giving my debit card details for identification. And there I was, cycling along Manhattan on a cool 10-gear TREK bike; I couldn't the hide the smile on my face :).

After a few hiccups in the beginning, (had forgotten to pick up the map), I got onto the right path; it's called the Green Path and goes around the coast line of Manhattan. The path is shared by people on roller skates and cyclists and they just whizz past you. There are specific traffic lights for cyclists to allow for pedestrian crossings. I cruised along on the route, enjoying the views of the beautiful skyline. After a while, I couldn't see the numbered streets and was a little worried, so checked with a couple of fellow cyclists. They confirmed that I was on the right track and I should be able to see the numbered streets again. And yes, they did start appearing.. 23rd street, 30th street, 40th street, 42nd street, 12th Avenue. I had reached my destination.

I just had to park the cycle at Bike&Roll, no paperwork and quickly started walking on 42nd street. 42nd street is quite famous and it houses some big names including Madame Tussads, a few theatres, New York Times off South Station. I couldn't see other big names as I had to really rush; I was already late by 10 minutes. Another 10 min and I was there, 20 minutes later than the planned time. Naseeb was frantically looking for me and we finally met for the second time in the day. It was past midnight when we reached home. Uff, what a day!