Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th May 2022
After receiving our test results yesterday, Robert successfully completed on-line check in for Matilda but even after multiple attempts, found he was unable to check himself in. This should have rung alarm bells.
Next day at the airport seemed to be a training day: we felt that this was the only way to explain the excessive staffing levels.
Matilda felt it did not bode well when, even before checking in our luggage, her passport was marked with a green sticker but Robert’s was branded with a red one. As we came through security, Robert was selected for a random security check, that included a substance test, with a strip wiped across hands, belt and shoes. We then continued through the airport but at the gate, several names, including Robert’s were called and he had to go through for further questioning and scanning.
Matilda waited on the other side of the gate, watching while he removed his shoes; unpacked his ruck sack and was questioned by successive members of airport staff and homeland security. She mused upon the potetnial irony of passing the Covid test and still not being allowed to travel.
Eventually airport police were called and they just laughed when Robert told them that he had been to the lava tunnels. Evidently he had been randomly selected for the substance testing but traces of fertiliser had been found. The police told him that the lava tunnels are known to produce this result. Interestingly the homelands security people had never heard of the lava tunnels! We were some of the last few passengers to board the plane. [Note: lava often contains sulphur, as does the water in volcanic regions. The sky lagoon has sulphur in its thermal water. Sulphur is often used in the manufacture of explosives.]
Once in New York, the combination of the time difference [an extra four hours in the day] and the stresses at the airport made us feel as though the day was almost done so we went to celebrate our safe arrival with a snifter in Valhalla, one of the bars which had been recommended to us by a school friend of Robert’s brother. Matilda wanted a half pint, but it seems that beer only comes in one size here – a US pint. A British Imperial pint contains 20 fluid ounces, while its US Customary counterpart has 16 fluid ounces.
We discussed the best watering holes in the city with Connor, the very personable and knowledgable barman. He endorsed many of Guy Haslam’s recommendations and suggested some more bars we might like to try when we return to New York in about a month’s time.
We then moved a little further down the road to Craft and Carry.
The time difference and the beer were catching up with us and we went in search of food before turning in for an early night.
Breakfast was not included at our hotel so we went in search of a New York deli. Robert went with a traditional egg and bacon roll whilst Matilda opted for the local stalwart of a bagel with cream cheese which we took back to our room to eat before walking to the station.
The route took in views of the Empire State Building.
Over the years some of Robert’s railway enthusiasm has clearly rubbed off on Matilda as she felt a frisson of excitement at the prospect of catching our first Amtrak train.
We departed from Moynihan Train Hall which is an expansion of Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), the main intercity and commuter rail station in New York. It is situated in the former main post office building. The Beaux-Arts exterior has been retained and it resembles the original Penn Station which was demolished in 1963, since it was designed by the same firm of architects, McKim, Mead and White.
Inside the roof has been replaced by a grand 5,116sqm free-form steel and glass canopy.
The hall is named after the US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan [who served in President Kennedy’s administration and as an advisor to President Nixon as well as being the US ambassador to the United Nations] who had originally championed the plan.
Robert had booked business class tickets and so we were able to wait in the Metropolitan Lounge.
The train was quite full but we both had window seats and so could enjoy . . .
. . . the views of the New York landmarks as we left the city behind us on our way to Boston.