New York City Sights

IMG_4329Our very last day of three weeks on a cruise ship. It could have lasted much longer – it was wonderful to not have to pack and unpack all the time, to be in one room, with fabulous meals and room service. To magically get from port to port…

But now we’ve spent three days and two nights at sea, leaving the Caribbean, passing Puerto Rico, even passing through the Bermuda Triangle without vanishing…

IMG_4245And now our final port is in sight. We get up early because how often in your life do you get to sail past the Statue of Liberty? She stands there in the early morning hours holding her torch high after we sail under the George Washington Bridge. IMG_4249

And then, after one final breakfast, we have to leave our stateroom. Dragging one little suitcase each, we leave our bubble and re-enter the real world. For as far downtown Manhattan can be classified as the real world.

We can actually walk from Pier 88 to our hotel, which is less than a block from Central Park. We’re happy to get the exercise and the weather is great. It feels like spring. IMG_4315

Even though it is only 10 AM, our room is ready The hotel is unusual: it seems a cross between a rinky dink old building and a modern hotel. A large empty lobby, tiny rooms. Some things are renovated but the window is old and single pane. We hear all the sirens of New York all night long. But the place is half a block from Central Park. (https://www.morganshotelgroup.com/hudson/hudson-new-york)

As almost always, I book most trips through: www.orbitz.com

And right next door is a fabulous eatery, a cross between an old fashioned diner and a trendy restaurant, Fluffy’s has amazing breakfasts, anything you could think of for lunch and good coffee, plus gorgeous pastries at good prices: http://fluffyscafe.com/fluffyscafe_main.html

IMG_4311We walk to Broadway, cross Time Square. I love the weirdness, the wildness of NY. Everything is possible in this city that never sleeps. I don’t either. 

IMG_4283My favourite is a visit to the New York Public Library with its famous lions. We visit the children’s library and I sign the copies of my books they have. And we admire the original Winnie the Pooh, Eyeore and Piglet on display. How cool is that. IMG_4305

The next day we planned on renting bicycles to see all of Central Park. But a cold wind helps us to decide against bikes and to just walk. We end up walking 10 KM – criss cross through the park, past the Met and the Guggenheim, along lakes and statues and the carousel. What a fabulous foresight the designers had who decided, well over a hundred years ago, to set aside this land for a public park. And how awesome that greed never turned it into  yet another high rise here or a condo building there. 840 acres (340 hectares) of public lands where people hike, jog, ride, stroll. Squirrels chase each other, birds sings. You can almost block out the sirens and the honking rows of yellow taxis here.

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What would Columbus think now?

For the very last night of our holiday, we find a lovely Italian restaurant with out-of-this-world-pizza. OMG, best pizza I ever had: http://bricconyc.com

So we sit in this little hide-a-way Italian place in Manhattan with pizza and wine and toast: to a great cruise, and to our next trip!

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The Panama Canal

IMG_3822The main reason for selecting this particular cruise itinerary was that it included going through the Panama Canal. With its fascinating history, we were curious to see this crossing on the narrowest bit of land between Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

And finally, after almost a week of cruising south, we were entering the Panama Canal around 8 AM. Many people on board got up very early in the morning so that they wouldn’t miss a thing.

There were many decks and a good view on either side so we found ourselves going up and down, from starboard to port side all day long so that we always had a good idea of what was happening.

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The Bridge of the Americas

There are three sets of locks between Pacific and Atlantic, bringing the ship up a total of 26 meters in elevation.

The canal was built over many, many years. It took tens of thousands of people, many different countries. It required the creation of a new country and claimed countless lives. It truly felt like a sail through history and we were left in awe of the power of the human will to cut across a continent.IMG_3722

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Notice the ship in the new canal at the top

A wonderful narrator came on board. He explained the entire process in details, clearly and with lots of anecdotes. This made the whole crossing pleasant and understandable even for someone like me who’s not too technical about locks, construction, etc. He even alerted us to the fact that a crocodile was sunning on the bank.

From the Pacific Ocean, we first sailed under the tall Bridge of the Americas. We passed through three sets of locks: the Miraflores Locks, the Pedro Miguel Locks. Then we crossed the bulk of Panama through Gatun Lake, entering the Gatun Locks before reaching the Atlantic and sailing into the Caribbean Sea. 

IMG_3701It took about 10 hours to cross the continent at this narrowest section. What really amazed me was that it take about 1.5 hours by train to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic here. In Canada that would take about 5 days! Our ship’s itinerary did not include a land stop in Panama so we continued on.

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If you are really interested in the mechanics, it’s a good idea to also take a land tour of the locks. It was really weird to see how our huge ship fit into Locks that seems much narrower than the ship itself. We did only have inches, probably less than a foot, on either side. The little trains you see in my photos keep the ship from bumping into the sides.

IMG_3705This is a wonderful video of the history of the Panama Canal. As far as I know it is quite accurate. Just listen closely, the narration is very fast:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR_hCMR2Xvc

If you can’t go in person, there are web cams that allow for a virtual trek through the Panama Canal. The first link is to the Canal’s web cams on shore. The second link it to a site with links to different ships, using their bow web cams.IMG_3746IMG_3845

http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html

http://www.cruisin.me/cruise-ship-webcams/

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