Thursday 16th August 2001 NY NY

Our first task was to find the United Airlines desk at the World Trade Center, where we hoped it would be possible to change our flights. (The accident in Dallas had lost us two weeks of our US tour, and we calculated that we could make up that time by cropping a few days from the rest of the trip.) Ideally, we should have found an Air New Zealand office, but as Air New Zealand has no flights into New York, another Star Alliance partner was the best we could hope for.

The ladies at United had no access to our flights, and at first it looked as though we would have to contact Air New Zealand directly. But they were interested in our problem, and it was a quiet day, so they made some phone calls. Within half an hour we had confirmed seats on all but one of our chosen flights. We hurried back to the hotel to meet Nora.

Nora’s husband is not well, so she could not spend long with us. We picked an Italian restaurant round the corner, and ordered pasta. It was lovely to see her. John reckoned it must be 30 years since they had last met, but she had barely changed.

Nora had been terribly upset over John’s father’s death, 18 months ago. The family had always been close. Her daughter had just left on holiday, and was sorry to miss us.

Later that afternoon we took the 3-hour Circle Line cruise around the Island of Manhattan. It really was a great way to see New York’s skyline. We learned all about the smallpox hospital and Typhoid Mary, we ducked involuntarily as we passed under the lowest of Manhattan’s bridges, were awestruck by the beauty and size of the Hudson River, and ah’d affectionately as we passed the little red lighthouse.

It was beginning to get dark by the time we arrived back at the dock, so we thought it would be a good idea to grab a bite to eat, and then view the City lights from the World Trade Centre observatory.

As we walked up to TGI Friday’s, John spotted an electronics store. He had wanted a Garmin hand-held GPS for ages, so it seemed a good idea to look at the prices. They had a model which seemed just right. There was only one left in stock, so John started to haggle over the price. Brigid turned to walk out of the shop. The price came down again. Sold.

It was a quiet evening at the WTC, but there was still a small queue for the 59-second lift ride to the 107th floor. Even from the safety of the observatory, looking down at the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, Brigid complained that her knees felt quite wobbly … then she spotted an escalator with a sign that read, “Please do not use this escalator if you are afraid of heights. In order to exit, it is necessary to cross the roof.” Despite her wobbly knees, a view from the roof seemed to good an opportunity to miss. So up we went, to the 110th floor!

The view really was magnificent. But it was difficult to hold the camera steady in the wind, so once again, our photographs have not done it justice.

Back at the hotel, John put batteries in the Garmin, and switched it on. For a while all seemed well, then a message, “Memory Battery Low”, appeared on the screen. He turned the unit over, looking for the panel containing the lithium memory battery. We read through the instruction book. The only reference we could find said that the battery had a 10-year life, and should only be changed by a recognised service agent. Bummer.