Checking Out Newport and New York City

It’s always great fun to have Nancy on the phone.  And this time, she comes up with a great surprise:  an invitation to see Bev and Bob, her sister and brother-in-law living in Newport, Rhode Island.   And as always, the invitation comes with Nancy’s very special all-inclusive package, meaning that when Nancy is with Franziska, Felix, and Katharina, she offers Mecki and Mike to spend a day or two out of town, while she would have fun with the kids on her own.  “Just think about it”, she says on the phone, “from Newport, it’s only 3 hours to New York City by train.  I’m sure you’d find something interesting to do there.  And in Newport, by the way, everything is prepared for you:  The little cottage in Brewer Street will be available for you, and you’d be seeing Heidi and Nevad with their kids.”  About such a great invitation, Mecki and Mike don’t have to think twice, neither do the kids.

 ”Do people speak English or French in Newport?” is Katharina’s question.

”Well, English of course”, answers Franziska, “Newport is not in Quebec, it’s in the States.”

”Then we have to go there”, says Katharina.

Felix quickly makes up his mind as well.  ”Great, I’ll finally make it to the States.  Don’t forget that Franziska has already been there ten years ago.”

So it’s a deal to go to Newport, the beautiful little town at the Atlantic that until 1983 hosted the America’s Cup for more than half a century.

But one important issue still has to be resolved: finding accommodation in New York City, where prices are known to be much higher than elsewhere.   How good to have Kim, the friendly landlady from Ottawa, who has lived in New York City for years and knows what to do. “The thing is not to get nervous and book a grungy and overpriced hotel” she says. “Better wait until a few days before you plan to arrive, because by then the hotels that still have free rooms will have gotten nervous and they will give away their rooms for very little money in the internet.”

That’s how Mecki and Mike try to do it.  Constantly telling themselves not to get nervous (which was only partly successful, but never mind), they log into the day prior to their departure to Newport – just the way Kim showed them – check 4 stars under category, offer some ridiculously low price, and get  ......  Well, Mike feels a bit uneasy about that, because he prefers camping over staying at the New York Hilton.  But camping in downtown New York is a tough thing to do, and looking back, he has to admit that the Hilton was in fact quite convenient: the room was clean and spacious, and neither did he have to pitch a tent, nor to inflate his sleeping pad.

So the stage is set for a great week in the States.  But unfortunately, even the best of vacations start with getting there.  To get to Newport, Mecki, Mike and the kids take Autoroute 10 (almost empty) and Route 135 (still less traffic) to the U.S. Highway Springs Border Station.  There, the Immigration Officers accomplish great things:  a two-and-a-half-hour wait at passport control.

Mike rolls his eyes, he was so much looking forward to driving through the mountains of Vermont, but instead, he has to wait at the border line with no end in sight.  The kids seize the opportunity – getting on dad’s nerves is so much easier when dad is already bugged by something else – and start to fight about who is worst off.

Franziska, for example, is continuously treated badly because she has to share a room with Katharina. “That’s not true!  You are treated best of us because you MAY share a room with me!” snaps Katharina.  Felix is disadvantaged, because he is the only one with two sisters, and anyway, Franziska has already been in America, that was only ten years ago, while he has to sit and wait in this stupid car instead of entering the States now.

“I didn’t go to the States ten years ago either”, adds Katharina, “that’s as mean as in your case.”

“No, that doesn’t count, you weren’t born back then”, says Felix.

“That’s the meanest thing of all, it’s always me who doesn’t count because I wasn’t born!” complains Katharina.

“I’m disadvantaged, too”, thinks Mike, “being among kids that have nothing better to do at the start of their vacations than fighting about who is the most disadvantaged”, but with all the fuss around him he doesn’t manage to make himself heard.  Eventually, they proceed to the immigration officer.  They produce their passports, leave the car, and then the officer thoroughly investigates if permission to enter the U.S. can be granted to these Heinzelmanns or rather not because who knows if they might constitute a threat to the States’ security?  Forms are to be filled in, fingerprints and biometric photos are taken.  Eventually, the officer gives the go-ahead:  “Have a nice trip.”

Klick on the photos to enlarge them.

So off the Heinzelmanns go, through Vermont and Massachusetts to Newport, Rhode Island.

And what an amazing town Newport is.  Along Ocean Drive und Belleview Avenue, the famous mansions built around 1900 by some of the richest families of the U.S. – like the Vanderbilts, Astors und Bouviers / Kennedys – are lined up next to each other.  Further down at the marina, super expensive yachts give evidence that Newport is still a prime destination for the super-rich of today.

The next day, Mecki and Mike head off to New York, and Nancy moves in at Brewer Street.  For the kids and her, two days of beach vacation begin.  Bright sunshine, clear water, and a decent surf make sure they spend a pleasant time.

Meanwhile, Mecki and Mike start discovering New York City. Their hotel is right next to ground zero, and Manhattan is a great place to discover on foot.  Past Wall Street they head to Brooklyn Bridge, then they return to Manhattan to take the ferry to Staten Island.  The ferry passes right by the statue of liberty, and the view onto the skyline of lower Manhattan is fantastic.  Afterwards, they take the subway to midtown Manhattan to buy two tickets for a night-time visit at the observation deck at Rockefeller Center and to check out 5th Avenue, Tiffany, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Grand Central.  Everything is within walking distance, and it feels great to have these impressive skyscrapers all around you.  Mike, however, gets a bit tired from a day of walking, and he remembers having read something about museums and the like in his travel guide.  “Should we really keep on walking all day and put the cultural attractions, I mean museums and all, to the sidelines?” he cautiously asks.  “What would Grandpa Max say about that?”

“But what we see are top cultural attractions”, says Mecki, “New York’s skyscrapers are world-class architecture.  And when we pass by Chinatown”, she says with a smile, “we can also add some food culture to our program.”

And so the second day in New York is all about culture as well.  Architectural culture along 5th and 6th Avenue, the new World Trade Center, Trump Tower, Flatiron Building, Greenwich Village, the Chelsea Market and the Highline, with a short interruption of food culture in a restaurant in Chinatown and – should that really be mentioned? – Subway.  When they board the train back to Rhode Island in the late afternoon, Mike is tired and all too happy to take a nap to get fit for two final days at the beach in Newport.

After the final beach days, it’s time to return to Montreal.  And again, there’s the border.  But this time, things are different, the Canadian immigration officer isn’t really interested in fingerprinting, taking biometric photos, or collecting immigration questionnaires.  If we like Montreal and how well we have settled in is of more concern to him.  Then, he stamps all five passports, and wishes us a pleasant stay:  “Bienvenue au Canada.”

“What a slack passport control that was”, says Franziska. “When entering the States, we had more fun in the car.”

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