Saturday, September 27, 2008


Marie staged an "intervention" on me for Labor Day weekend, a few weeks ago.

I was at least 2 weeks past my "I have to get out of the City" point and was feeling sick and frankly quite low. We had talked about going to the Caribbean that weekend but by the time we looked into it more seriously, the prices had soared so I was bracing myself for a long weekend in New York, while desperately needing some peace and quiet, away from the noise and the energy of this place.

But Marie came to the rescue and called me announcing that she had booked us train tickets to Poughkeepsie and a motel room in Kingston, Upstate New York.

To be honest, we really had no idea where we were going but we were on a mission to relax and take long walks in the woods. Exhausted but excited, we boarded a train from Penn Station to Poughkeepsie at lunch time on Saturday, but not before loading up on a stack of gossip magazines and a copy of the New York Mag of course. The journey itself was great as we travelled north past beautiful lakes and white picket fence houses. I love American trains as they are so large that they almost feel more like a plane. They also have old-fashioned controllers who punch your ticket on the train, which I find so quaint.

We arrived at Poughkeepsie Station where we expected to take a train to Kingston, only to be told that there were none and that we would have to take a 45 minutes taxi trip. Little did we know at the time that it would be one of the many taxi rides we would take that weekend ...

Our motel in Kingston was like the ones you see in the movies - a few buildings of connected rooms, with doors facing the car park but ours had the added advantage of a swimming pool. When we checked in, the clerk asked for our car registration number and when we told her we didn't have one, she looked at us as if we were aliens. We hadn't thought of renting a car, assuming that the country side in the US is the same as in Europe in that you can walk everywhere. How mistaken were we!

We ventured out of our motel only to find a residential street on one side and the motorway on the other. We wanted to find a convenience store to buy water and cigarettes and therefore bravely crossed the motorway on foot ... yes, you read this right. It was quite something ... But there was no store to be found so we went into a pizza restaurant to grab a coffee. The owner chatted to us and upon hearing our plight called his girlfriend (who was on her way over, by car of course) so she could pick up some cigarettes for us! And he refused to let us pay for the coffee ... at least, we found out quickly how friendly people were.

The lack of car was not such an issue in the end however, as we called upon the services of the local taxi company to take us to and from places we wanted to see. They thought we were mad too and perhaps this is a sign that Marie & I have spent too much time in Manhattan already ...

On Sunday, we decided to walk around the Ashokan Reservoir, which provides water to New York City. The size of it took us by surprise as it spans 34km2 but the sense of wide open space was amazing and very calming. We quickly realised that we would only be walking a very small portion of it and strolled along the banks, admiring the lush trees and the completely clear blue sky.
When we were ready to leave we realised much to our horror that we had no mobile phone reception and therefore no means to call a taxi! Thankfully, our driver had originally dropped us off near the only police station in the area (with the words "this will be a safe place for you to come back to", which we laughed at at the time) so we made our way back there and asked the nice police men if we could use their phone ...
We decided to go into Kingston itself, which is a lovely town, set by the Hudson river. The city was in a very cheerful mood as the annual Irish Festival was taking place, meaning that there were a number of stands in the streets and bands performing. I'm not sure how many Irish descendants still remain in the town, but it certainly looked like everyone wanted to be Irish for the day! This made for terrific people watching and it was wonderful to witness the sense of community and neighbourhood of a place where everyone seemed to know each other.

We ended our trip with a long, leisurely boat tour on the Hudson and got back to New York refreshed and ready for City life again.

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