September 26th 2004 Vermont – New York State
The following morning, it was bright in Moretown, but Hurricane Jeanne had hit Florida during the night and there had been major damage for the fourth time within a couple of months. We were on our way by 7:30am, heading for Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain. The bus manoeuvred onto a tiny ferry for the hour-long crossing to Port Kent. Lake Champlain is the sixth largest body of fresh water in the US. The lake is named after Samuel de Champlain, who discovered it in 1609. (Of course it was already well known to the Native Americans, to whom it was part of a route from the mouth of thee Hudson to the St Lawrence). It seems to have been the scene of many conflicts over the years and, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you were on), was the site of a major defeat for the British during the War of 1812. Anyway, according to the tourist leaflet, we were just a few of the two million people who cross the lake every year. Again, we enjoyed spectacular views all the way across the lake.
Then, on to Lake Placid, where we had a couple of hours to wander around and have lunch. Lake Placid was the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics and the main Olympic Center was right in the middle of town. This was the year that Robin Cousins won the men’s figure skating and marked the first time that artificial snow was used in an Olympic Games.
I was delighted to come across this restaurant named “Northern Exposure”, which reminded me of one of my all-time favourite TV programmes of the same name. It was dramatic, funny and a bit surreal and I loved it.
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel (room was complete with a balcony, beautiful views and the obligatory two beds) we set off for our packed afternoon. First we visited the ski jump centre. We rode halfway up on a chair lift and then 20 floors up the tower in a glass lift for a view down the ski jump slope from the very top. I was experimenting with my first video recorder and I decided to film the view from the top and down the slope with my video camera. On my return home, I tried to convince my five-year-old granddaughter that I had actually skied down it, but she was not convinced! However, I did somehow manage to win a gold medal!
From there we drove to the shores of Lake Placid to board a small boat. We sailed around the perimeter of the lake. There were many houses around the shore, some of them being available for rent. It was picturesque and there was no sign of the giant crocodile from the film of the same name.
After a quick swim (at the hotel, not in the lake, for goodness sake), it was time for the ill-fated “farewell” dinner. It was our tour manager, Barbara’s first time on a large Cosmos holiday. She was pleasant and helpful and dispensed information as we toured around. But this didn’t seem to be enough for some people and there was some muttering and complaining which always seemed to be going on behind me. As we came towards the end of the tour, it fell to Barbara to arrange a farewell dinner at our last hotel and she made the fatal error of assuming that people would follow instructions correctly. A list was sent round asking everyone to 1) confirm their attendance at the dinner and 2) make choices from the menu. Some people completed list 2) but not list 1), Barbara did not check one list against the other and, as a consequence, too few dinners were ordered. There was huge consternation when it was discovered that the hotel might not be able to serve anything at all to the people not on the list, followed by anger, complaints and muttered threats not to give Barbara a tip. Thankfully, food was found for them, although not the excellent food of the celebration meal.
September 27th 2004 New York State – New York – Manchester
We had another 7:30am start as we had to drive right through New York State back to New York. We drove steadily on, stopping at Saratoga for a coffee and at a roadside services for lunch. Mr Le had told me that he wanted to buy me lunch and I think he really wanted us to have the opportunity to eat at a reasonable restaurant. Sadly, we ended up at the Roy Rogers Burger Bar! The scenery changed gradually to become more urban and the trees lost their fabulous colours. The passengers sitting immediately behind me spend the journey whingeing about things that had gone wrong and criticising the tour manager. I spoke loudly to Mr Le (who may or may not have understood) about what a great trip it had been, how much we had seen and how helpful Barbara was.
We made such good progress that we arrived back in New York soon after lunch. It was interesting to see the New York skyline appear as we headed for Newark. Some of my fellow travellers were staying on for some extra days in New York but I had decided I would draw a line at 10 days away – long enough to be enjoyable but, hopefully not too long if I was desperately unhappy. We were dropped off at Terminal C at 2:30pm and Helwan, Nicki and I were able to check in early and get rid of our large suitcases. While we were waiting around, I dropped my flight bag and broke a large mug I had been carrying since Boston. We were 5 hours in the airport but, thankfully, the flight took off on time. It was wonderful to see the lights of New York, stretching as far as the eye could see; then to fly over Boston and some of the other places along the coast, which we had visited.
I watched the new version of The Stepford Wives, which was nothing like the dark 1970s version I remembered. I think I had a couple of hours’ sleep. I was straight through immigration was and soon home.
My first trip was over and I was ready to try something different. Something bigger and more exciting. I wanted to do the next trip at the very top of my bucket list.