No day shall erase you from the memory of time.

September 11 2001 changed everyone’s world regardless of where you lived. I remember waking up that morning without knowing what had happened. When I got to work there was hushed silence and people crying. I thought one of my colleagues must have died.

“Haven’t you seen the news?” they all said in unison to my question of “what’s happened?”

Their explanation, without the TV footage was grim enough but after watching it again and again and again (as many of us did) the enormity of it left me speechless.

While we empathised with those who had been killed and the loss their families suffered we all felt that the world had become a sadder more dangerous place.

This week I went to the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. A dreary dark rainy day made indoor activities necessary. I think all the tourists in New York made the same decision and the queue snaked along for many, many turns. My museum ticket was for 2:30PM and when I joined the queue at 2:10PM, they were letting the 1:30PM tickets in. The crowd was getting restless and I felt for the Security and Memorial staff as many people asked what they should do if they had a 2:30 ticket.

“Go away and come back later”

The response was not well accepted

“What? In a minute? It’s 2:29 now?” The man with the thick Yorkshire accent asked.

“All the 2:30 people line up over there” the Security guy said. No-one moved. He was finding it harder and harder to keep his polite “have a nice day” demeanour in tact. After some conjoling, the 2:30 queue formed its separate line in the designated spot and let the 2:00PM folks walk past.

At 3:00PM we were shuffled into the final twists of the snake. The disquiet in the crowd began to settle. Puffs of fog drifting up as they sighed in imperfect patience.

At 3:30 we encountered the first of the ways in which the world has changed: metal detectors and bag checks – the now ubiquitous reminders of the sadder, more dangerous world.

The vaulted ceiling, the dark entrance and the quiet sounds whipped you back to reality and I for one felt guilty that I had been part of a crowd that complained my entry had been delayed.

The Memorial and Museum are both astonishing in their simplicity and reverence. Built into the foundations of one of the towers, the museum’s ramps take you deeper into the earth. The exhibits, both visual and audio are haunting. A loop of photos showing people in the street watching the towers burn and then fall; clutching their mouths; clutching each other, with the sounds of people’s memories of the day playing quietly in the background; so moving that tears flowed down the cheeks of those watching.

These squares of blue representing those who were killed that covers the graves of the unidentified

Images of those killed, nearly 4000; make a particularly poignant display, so much so I did not linger.

The photos made by Stephane Sednaoui in the hours and days after the attack vividly encapsulate the terror inflicted and the subsequent urgency of the first responders who came to help.

The mood of most patrons was somber and reflective. The accents of the world surrounded me. Two young women who were sharing a joke, reminded by fellow visitors that this was not the place.

The outdoor memorial is made up of two deep pools with water cascading down the sides and falling into what seems like a bottomless well. The names of those killed cut into the metal sheets that surround it. Again simple and reverent. Some names have a flower – a tribute to their birthday.

I give this site a five star rating but don’t go expecting to be entertained; go with the expectation that you will leave feeling that this world is still sadder and more dangerous.

You can get more information here: https://www.911memorial.org.

New York: Here I Come!

In the world of writing there are two styles of writers. The Pantsers and the Plotters. Pansters write by the seat of their pants. They don’t plan, they just let the story unfold. Their characters drive the story and take it in unexpected and often unwelcome ways. The plotters on the other hand will begin by writing a story arc. They have a beginning, middle and end in mind before they put pen to paper (or more likey finger to keyboard!).

When I write I am a pantser but when it comes to travel I am a plotter. I plot in  detail! I have spreadsheets. I book my flights months in advance. I book accommodation way ahead of time. I look up suggested itineraries. I check out Instagram for photo locations. I like to know where I will be when. As a solo female traveller, I like to know I have a safe place to stay and a way to get there.

While I plan the main event, I don’t let this get in the way of a serendipitous adventure if it becomes available.  My plan may be to do a photo walk through a city.   My route will be roughly mapped out so I can get back to my lodgings without getting lost, but if a little side street catches my eye or I become enthralled by some street musicians I won’t rigidly stick to the plan.

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Central Park – December 2009

I am heading off to New York in a few days and I have nearly everything planned. I’ve been to New York once before in 2009 but only spent 3 days there.

I thought I’d hate it. I loved it and can’t wait to get back.

This time I won’t be solo. I am meeting up with an amazing lady  I met in Canada back in 2016. (That’s you RJB!) She lives in New York City and is a travel plotter too!  We have been exchanging emails, refining the to-do list.  There are a few “in pen” events which needed tickets, like a baseball game; two live music concerts and a Broadway show.  The rest of the days are pencilled in with “activities from list”. The sequence of these events will be largely determined by the weather and our mood.

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Early re-building work at the WTC site.

Our list is expansive, and I doubt we’ll cover it all. RJB is a keen photographer too so lots of our time will be spent chasing the light. Here’s a taste.

  1. Racquetball/ Spa Afternoon/Dinner at Patsy’s (Best Eggplant Parm YOU WILL EVER HAVE!)
  2. Greenway bike ride to World Trade/Brooklyn Bridge
  3. Brooklyn (the Promenade, Dumbo)
  4. Bronx
  5. Queens
  6. High Line/West Village/Tribeca/Rocco’s/Molly’s Cupcakes
  7. Guggenheim/Upper East Side
  8. R’ball/Central Park Picnic
  9. B’day dinner (night of the 5th?)
  10. SoHo/The Bowery (Great shopping, architecture, and street art!)
  11. Little Italy – Massages ($45 for an hour), Dinner, Cannolis 😊
  12. NY Public Library/St Pats/Lunch in Bryant Park/Grand Central Station
  13. Book of Mormon on Broadway
  14. Street Art
  15. Architecture
  16. Yankee Game
  17. Philly
  18. Farmers’ Market
  19. Bar/Live Music
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An interesting view from one of the Museums!

 

I am also heading up to Maine for a few days to do some lighthouse spotting and hiking through Acadia National Park. I’ll need a holiday from my holiday!

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ACKKK! Straighten that horizon girl!

My goal is to get a real taste of what it’s like to live in New York. I hope to interview some New Yorkers to get their views and opinions. I’ll be posting as I go so I hope you’ll enjoy the stories and the photos. My first visit yielded very few ‘good’ photos. Given the potential for great subjects I have struggled to pick some from back then to add to this post.  This time it will different! I better buy some more SD cards!

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Stay tuned!

Confessions of a solo female traveller Part 1.

Washington DC – December 2009

It had been a long journey to get here, to this point; both physically and emotionally. Fifteen hours to LA then another five to Washington DC.

Obelisk - Washington Mall

It was -10oC and the circle of flags were fluttering noisily, standing out stiffly, stretched by the wind to their full length. The metal halyards clanked and whined against their posts.

I could hardly hear the voice on the other end of the phone – the conversation stilted and formal. Not warm or comforting. I complained that all I wanted was to have someone to sit in a nice warm pub with,  out of the wind.  I was not yet ready to take that step alone.  Silent, frustrated tears were freezing on my cheeks as I said goodbye to the man I no longer knew but had spent the last 25 years with. I was 16,000 km away but that was closer than I felt.  My heart felt colder than my un-gloved fingertips.

pc1201621.jpgAs the sun set behind the Obelisk it set on that part of me too. It was time to walk away.

Imagining myself silhouetted by the setting sun, I had an image of Scarlet O’Hara standing up in the vegetable patch; straightening her shoulders and vowing never to be hungry again.

Visibly squaring my own shoulders, I strode purposefully past the Pool of Remembrance as it crusted over, trapping leaves in its icy layers. I stood and watched the ice spreading, fascinated by how quickly it engulfed one leaf and then another and another. Finally, distracted by some chattering joggers– political types no doubt – running past in their active-wear, I moved on.

The Lincon memorialThe cold made me feel alive and I was keenly mindful of all that was going on around me as if I had suddenly transformed into some sort of superhero with special powers to see and hear the smallest of things; the tiniest details.

I repeated out loud “I will never be hungry again.”

 

But I wasn’t hungry… what was I not going to be…?  I searched for the emotion. It seemed nameless…and then…

“I will never be lonely again!” I realised that I felt less alone in my own company than I had in the last ten or so years living with someone who had become a stranger.

I was free. Free to be me.

In that moment of realisation, I had become a solo traveller. No longer a woman apologetically travelling without her partner but a woman choosing to travel alone, on purpose and with purpose.

A solo traveller freezing in Washington DC!

(These images were taken with a little Olympus. I am not even sure what the model was now. Suffice to say my photography has progressed!)