We packed it in until the end. We had a 10am Walking Tour scheduled – with the same guy who did the one Friday we discovered – and left the room after breakfast around 8:30 to walk around some before we had to meet him. The rendezvous point was the same fountain in City Hall Park we were at yesterday so we knew it was just a few minutes around the corner from the hotel.


 This was probably just before 7am. The sun’s reflection off the buildings was so bright we had to close the curtains.
Our first stop on our early walk was Trinity Church. (“National Treasure” anyone?) On Broadway where Wall Street begins, Jon Scott and I had stopped by this in 2011 but never went inside. This church has been around since 1696. The first Trinity Church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1776 from the Revolutionary War. A second church was completed in 1789, which later had serious structural problems and had to be rebuilt. This version has been here since 1846. With a 281-foot high steeple, it was the tallest building in NYC until 1890.
 “On this spot stood Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her gracious visit, July 9, 1976.” It’s Episcopal, which is American for Anglican or Church of England. Hence the visit by the Queen.



 Side chapel above; organ in the choir below.


 A WWII Memorial in Battery Park.

Clinton Castle, originally a fort to help defend the US during the war of 1812. Currently serves as the ticket office for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

 Above and below: Looking back at downtown from Battery Park.


We stopped by Oculus to add the fare to our Metro cards that we would need for the airport so we wouldn’t have to mess with it later, and met the Walking Tour right at 10am. Yesterday we kept joking about how we’d been in City Hall Park several times, somehow never actually saw City Hall. Today we finally did. It’s the oldest in the US, completed in 1812. It has a very classic design that we’ve seen in Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, as well as lots of buildings in Europe.

The tour we picked was to cover the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights, and DUMBO, or Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, an area popular with artists and high tech company’s along the river between the two bridges. We ended up bailing on the tour early, just as he was headed in to Dumbo, because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the airport. But we liked what we saw. Neither of us had been to Brooklyn before and while we only saw a tiny part of it, we enjoyed it. And of course had never walked the bridge, so that was fun for sure.


The Brooklyn Bridge was started in 1869 and not finished until 1883. The year at the top of this first tower is 1875, when it was finished. Can’t really see it in these photos but it’s there :) Pedestrians and bicycles go in the center, and cars on either side.


 This was Dante, the tour guide we had both yesterday and today. The umbrella was essentially his flag so we could keep track of him.
 This sign is a joke and a prohibition, referring to the love locks that had to be removed from the Ponts des Arts bridge in Paris because over time they added 45 tons of weight to it. Somehow folks had managed to get a few locks on this bridge in a difficult to reach spot just to the right of where I’m standing; they’re still there because it’s too dangerous to try to remove them. 20-40 of them maybe.


 We saw lots of great views of Downtown and Midtown Manhattan today. (These two are all Downtown; while we could see Midtown pretty clearly from the bridge, it was too far away to do well in photos.)


 Above and below: a war memorial in Brooklyn Heights, and the park it’s in.


 Lots of famous writers lived in Brooklyn Heights over the years, including Normal Mailer, Truman Capote (above), and Arthur Miller (below).


Dante took this for us. This and the one below were taken from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.



 Dan took these just as the tour was about to head into Dumbo. We split about this time.


 Part of the reason we left right then was we were at the Fulton Ferry Landing and wanted to take a ferry across the East River back to downtown Manhattan. And got some great views again.


 That’s our ferry above. It’s bigger than it looks. And it was air conditioned. We were oh so grateful for that. The last couple of days have been hot and humid (at least for us).

It was literally a 5 minute ferry ride to the pier at Wall Street. We found a noodle place to stop for a quick lunch and got back to the hotel around 1:40. We wanted to leave no later than 2:30pm and were able to get out by 2pm. And a good thing. There were delays due to modified subway routes and then Dan got stopped at security for a baggage search and that took forever.

His flight was leaving about 5:30 on American; mine about 7:20 on JetBlue. Despite flying out of different terminals, I went with him so he could plant me in the American lounge at Terminal 8. We said goodbye as they assigned us to showers. By the time I was done and had gotten situated in the lounge, he texted me he was already on the plane. Soon after, I was notified that my flight had been delayed until 8:30. So, although I sometimes give Dan a hard time about his thing for lounges (I call him a lounge lizard!), at this moment I am very grateful for it as it’s 7:30pm and I’m still here 3 hours after I arrived. Dan texted me 30-45 minutes ago that he’d landed already. So Not Fair :) But glad he’s safe in Raleigh.

A few shots of the lounge from the 2nd place I was sitting. I wasn’t at a table initially, and when I realized I would have time to actually write the blog – I would originally have been pleased to just get the photos organized – I moved to something more comfortable for writing.


Final Thoughts[All of the above was written in the lounge. Most of this below was written Sunday morning. I got home around 1:45am, unpacked, went to Safeway, and was asleep by about 3am. Had slept a little on the plane, then up again just after 6:30. I’m sure my sleep will be wonky for a few days.]

So that’s it for this trip. As is our tradition, we conclude with some final thoughts about the trip overall, in no particular order.

  1. Dan’s favorite parts: the mosques in Istanbul and how welcoming they all were. Then Stonehenge and the 9/11 Memorial. And he loved the opportunity to experience the Conrad, as did I.
  2. My favorite parts: Istanbul in general, Dover Castle, and the 9/11 Memorial. And I enjoyed Stonehenge a lot more than I thought I was going to.
  3. We also enjoyed just being in Istanbul and experiencing a culture that was on some levels very different than anything we’d experienced before, and on others it seemed very normal. I am grateful that the first hour in the taxi wasn’t an omen for the rest of the trip: loud, hot, uncomfortable, aggressive; some because of traffic, some because of the dynamics between the driver and the additional passenger we picked up at the airport. What were we thinking? Thankfully the rest of that trip was pretty stress free. We found the people to be lovely, truly friendly, and welcoming to us everywhere we went. We loved experiencing the mosques and learning more about Islam. And we loved people watching in the neighborhoods. It’s there that you really see different cultures as just people: couples being couples, families being families, eating, drinking, laughing, all the same things we love and do. You don’t need to understand the language to observe the humanity we all have in common.
  4. Driving in the UK was interesting. Dan drove us over 630 miles in 7 days. In the end he said he was glad he got an automatic because adjusting to drive on the left was enough, so not having to layer a stick shift into that was good. That aside, the driving really worked for us for this kind of trip and we would definitely do it again. We did have challenges parking and next time we will be better prepared for that. Google Maps again was our friend. Our car had a USB and we just plugged the phone in and followed the navigation. (Oh I made that sound so simple. There were times it wasn’t; the signs in UK were confusing and often didn’t match what Google was speaking so it was disorienting. It took us nearly the whole trip to realize the signs at each exit of a roundabout tell you where you’re going, not where you are.) In addition to navigation, we used Google to find ATMs, parking garages (“car parks”), to learn that Salisbury had a free lot on Sundays, etc. It’s our #1 tool when traveling.
  5. The other priceless tool for us are portable phone chargers. Can’t use Google as much as we do without them :) We had one last year; this year we had two!, although rarely used both at the same time. They allow you to be worry-free about where you’re going to be next. We would often walk around with the phone connected to the battery in our pocket. They also come in handy in airports that aren’t as update as we’d like them to be in 2017.
  6. On this trip, the English Heritage membership was also incredibly valuable. It never occurred to me to consider looking for what is essentially a country-wide museum pass. That we stumbled across it that first Friday afternoon in English changed the focus of the whole trip.
  7. One thing we weren’t prepared for and I don’t see how we would have thought to look into this: some of the British currency we brought with us, leftover from our 2014 trip, didn’t work. The 5’s we had were put out of circulation in May after the Bank of England issued new ones last summer. And new 1 pound coins were recently introduced. Parking meters weren’t accepting them almost as a rule because they were 12-sided, not perfectly round, and they weren’t calibrated to accept them. We exchanged the 5 we had at a Cardiff bank, and in Oxford got a bank to change a 10 for us into 2 and 1 pound coins, ensuring the 1 pounds were “old.” The teller just smiled knowingly when I explained the problem. (And there’s a little bit more about the Oxford driving/parking nightmare I didn’t get into on that day when I wrote it, but helps explain our frustration with all of it and why we were ready to move on by the next day.)
  8. We typically walk an average of 8-9 miles a day and driving didn’t get in the way of that. Our average for the trip according to our iPhones was 8.4miles. From the same source, the most number of floors we climbed were 44 – that was the day of the neighborhoods in Istanbul, 2nd day of the trip. All those hills!
9. And finally, one of the things we both loved about Istanbul was hearing the Call to Prayer. It is broadcast 5 times a day. We didn’t hear it each time, but when we did it never failed to mesmerize. It was oddly comforting, despite also being the touchstone for “you’re not in Kansas anymore.” One of the things I love about foreign travel is how immersed you become in it right away, and this was a layer we hadn’t experienced before. That immersion is what helps me disconnect from work and the daily routine we left behind, and hearing this prayer several times a day just served as a reminder for why we travel: to create time for reflection, relaxation, learning, and experiencing new things.
Thanks for coming along. We hope you enjoyed it and look forward to the next time. We don’t know yet where or when it will be, but there will definitely be a next time….



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