New York, February 2016

Saturday 13th February

We meet at 05.00 at Weydon so that we are ready to leave at 05.15.

Our flight is VS003, an Airbus A340-600, leaving Heathrow Terminal 3 at 08.50 GMT and arriving at JFK at 12.00 EST (17.00 GMT).

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Virgin Atlantic check-in
Saturday 13th 20.30 EST

We landed at JFK at 11.20 EST after a smooth flight. By 12.30 we were on the coaches on our way to the hotel and arrived there a good hour earlier than we had expected. We had not expected all the rooms to be ready by our original ETA and as we were so early we could only dump all our luggage in two rooms and head out again.

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Photo removed at the request of a parent
Snacks on the plane
We set off on the 3 line subway train to Times Square and then the S line to Grand Central Terminal, arriving just in time to see a proposal of marriage take place in the middle of the concourse. You think you've seen everything and then this! Can you imagine that happening at Waterloo?

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Some of the students on the plane
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Skating at Bryant Park
After looking around for a while we set off for Bryant Park where 42 hardy souls went skating. I call them hardy because the temperature was around 12 degrees F and it got notice colder as the sun went down.

By the time we reached Times Square, shortly after 17.00, the wind was bitterly cold. Everyone headed for the shops to look around and to warm up. We met up at Applebee's for a dinner of burgers or chicken or salad followed by ice cream.

I ♥ New York

Saturday 13th 21.30 EST

Back at the hotel we were delighted to find that the hotel had everything ready for us and everyone was in their own rooms within a very short time. It is now about 23 hours since the day started so we are all going to bed.

Sunday 14th 22.00 EST

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Breakfast, with phones, at the Manhattan Diner
Breakfast started at 07.30 with the students going off in groups to various deli's and diners. We all set out, in our three groups, at around 09.30; the Dramatists to their Stage Combat workshop, the Artists to the MOMA, and the Textiles group to The Met.

The Textiles group travelled by bus across Central Park and then walked through the Park to The Met. The water in the reservoir, whilst freezing, was steaming in the cold air. After they had seen the costume exhibition, they walked over 40 blocks to 42nd Street, looking at all the shops on 5th Avenue on the way.

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On the tour at the MOMA
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The Stage Combat workshop
The Art group travelled by subway to the MOMA and had three quarters of an hour or so to look around before being taken on an informative hour-long tour.

The Drama group also travelled by subway to a rehearsal studio on 54th Street where they were taught some very detailed stage combat techniques. I was able to watch this and was impressed by the quality of the fighting that they managed to portray without a single blow actually landing.

At the end of the morning everybody travelled to the Brooklyn Bridge and, again in groups, we all walked almost halfway across the bridge to see the views. We were pleasantly surprised by how 'warm' it was in the sun. Afterwards we all went to St Paul's Chapel, the church right beside the World Trade Center that was used as a respite centre by the emergency services on 11th September 2001.
We also visited the Reflecting Pools - part of the memorial to those who lost their lives.

Back to the subway and then to Times Square. The students were given another free half hour and then it was time for tea at the Bubba Gump Shrimp House. The silence seemed to indicate that people were enjoying their food.

I think I waxed lyrical about "Aladdin" last year and recommended seeing it if it ever came to London. The good news is a) it is as good as it was, and b) it is coming to London and opens, I believe, in the Spring.

Monday 15th, 08.00 EST

There is snow in the air!

Monday 15th, 10.15 EST

We all left the hotel shortly after 09.00 with the Drama group heading for their "Making a Scene" workshop, the Artists to the Met, and the Textiles group to their guided tour of the Garment District. We are due to meet up again at 12.30 at Herald Square for lunch.

I ♥ New York

It is still snowing. We met up between 12.30 and 13.00 and everyone went off in search of lunch. we allowed them quite a long time so I think some shopping might have been done.

At around 16.00, 23 students went back to the hotel for some 'R&R' and some packing. The remaining 32, not in the least daunted by the snow, set off on foot up 5th Avenue, arriving back at the hotel nearly two hours after the advance party.

At 19.00 we set off on the subway again, this time to the Dallas BBQ restaurant on 42nd Street where a huge meal of 'Wings and Ribs' was served. Apart from a few discussions over who had ordered what, everyone seemed happy with their food.

As we came out of the restaurant we found that the snow had turned to rain. We travelled by subway, the 'Q' line, to Herald square and then walked to the Empire State Building. Unfortunately the weather meant that there was precious little to see from the top as it was up in the clouds.

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The Hummer
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The Lincoln
When the students came out of the Empire State Building they saw a stretch Hummer & a stretch Lincoln parked outside. Admiring the cars it took them a little while to realise that they were there to transport them, in two shifts, back to the hotel.

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In the back of the limo

Tuesday 16th, 07.00 EST

It is much warmer this morning and it is raining a little.

Tuesday 16th, 17.00 EST

Everyone was up early this morning and we managed to leave the hotel on time. This was all the more remarkable as the students in whose room we were leaving all the suitcases managed to oversleep! Getting on the subway train in the rush hour is always a challenge with a large group so this time we did it in two halves. We still arrived in Battery Park good time to queue to go through security.

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US Coast Guard
We were quite surprised to see the US Coast Guard escorting our ferry to Liberty Island and we noted that they were escorting every ferry going out there. This was something that we had not seen on previous trips to New York and I later found some information about this - click here

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Apologies if there is someone missing from this
on the right hand side
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Whilst walking around the Statue of Liberty, still in the rain, a number of seagulls hovered over our group, hoping for food, with one almost landing on somebody's head.

When we went back to get on the ferry to return to Manhattan, a handful of people, including some staff, managed to miss the boat and had to wait for the next one. The rest of us carried on to China Town where people went out in search of bargains. Mrs Legat lost a bet with a student that a watch that he had purchased would have stopped working by the time we got to the airport - it was still working when we got back to Heathrow!

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In Umberto's
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In Umberto's
The 'ferry people' caught up with us in China Town and then it was time for lunch at Umberto's Clam House. This is the traditional closing event of the trip; the food is always excellent and the owner looks after us personally. If you are ever in New York, go and eat at Umberto's!

When we left Umberto's it was raining cats & dogs - very large ones. Fortunately it eased as we walked to the subway station.

The final subway ride of the trip took us back to the hotel where our coach was waiting for us. A chain gang was organised to get the suitcases down the stairs and we were soon on our way.

Tuesday 16th, 19.00 GMT

Just like last year, the traffic was appalling and we didn't get to the airport until about an hour and a quarter before our flight rather than the two hours that we had planned.

Photo removed at the request of a parent Security at JFK was a nightmare. It was clear that we would have a long wait but we also got split up and about half the group were still queueing for security whilst the other half were getting on the plane. I know that this worried those who were still queueing but there was never actually any danger of us going without them.

Wednesday 17th, 11.00 GMT

We usually expect the coach journey back from Heathrow to Weydon to be a relaxing end to the trip but this year's was to turn out to be a little different. First of all, the coaches were not waiting for us. It turns out that there had been a mix-up with paperwork and they were not expecting us until an hour later. Ultimately we had to wait for almost 90 minutes but everyone was in good spirits so it didn't matter too much.

Eventually we were on our way but shortly after coming out of the tunnel at Heathrow, some of the students on the first coach spotted that one of the luggage hold doors had come open and called for the driver to stop. It turned out that one suitcase had fallen out onto the road. Fortunately, the driver of the second coach saw it happen and retrieved the suitcase. The owner of the suitcase was, understandably, a little upset that a brand new suitcase had been damaged but the coach company have promised to replace it.

We arrived back at Weydon School just before 10.00 GMT.

If anyone wants me to add anything to this blog for the record, or spots a mistake, just let me know.


TL -