DAY 7 / PONT DU GARD – – 11 MAI 2013

Homage to the Original Highbridge – the Pont du Gard

I’ve always dreamed of seeing the Pont du Gard. It has a special significance to me.
Anyone who is not a bridge fanatic, or is not from Highbridge, may find this post a bit much, but I had to do it.

First, a bit of background.
As Manhattan’s population increased in the early 1800’s, serious problems with the water supply of wells and cisterns threatened to halt the city’s growth. The water supply was polluted, causing outbreaks of cholera, and the supply was inadequate to fight fires. The Great Fire of1835 destroyed much of Lower Manhattan, and demonstrated once and for all, the need for an improved water supply.

The Croton River in northern Westchester was determined to be the nearest source of sufficient clean water and a great Aqueduct project was begun in 1837, and completed in 1848. The Croton Aqueduct ran 41 miles into NYCity and had to cross the Harlem River to reach Manhattan. Laying the water pipe on the river bottom was the low cost option. Instead, to celebrate this great engineering marvel, which was essential to allow Manhattan to grow into the world’s premier city, a majestic bridge was built to carry the Aqueduct high across the river.

The Highbridge was designed in the style of a Roman Aqueduct, with 15 stone masonry arches spanning the Harlem River. The Highbridge is now the oldest bridge into Manhattan, 35 years older than that upstart Brooklyn Bridge, and after restoration should be open to pedestrians again in 2014. The bridge was constructed mainly by Irish immigrants who settled nearby, in a neighborhood named after the bridge. This Highbridge neighborhood in the far west Bronx is the neighborhood I grew up in.

Now, to bring this long bridge story up to date.
When we arrived at the Pont du Gard today, I was wearing my special “Made in the Bronx” t-shirt. I had to tell my Highbridge story to anyone who would listen, including a couple of guys responsible for crowd control. I’m not sure how much they understood, but one of the guys listened and pointed to my shirt. Then he smiled and said:

“Oh No!, Oh No!
The Bronx is hot, very hot.
(maybe trying to say “The Bronx is Burning”?)
Not for me.
Brooklyn, Yes.
Bronx, No.”

So even in the middle of nowhere in southern France, Brooklyn has all the street cred, and the Bronx gets no respect. Oh, well.

Here is the much loved Highbridge, as originally constructed:

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The Highbridge is the Bronx’s own Pont du Gard, but let’s look at the original:

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Day 5 – 8 MAI 2013

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It was an overcast day on the Cote d’Azur, but the clouds could not obscure the huge amount of wealth concentrated there.  We took the bus from Nice to Menton, almost on the Italian border, passing through one uber waterfront town after another.

Sure, we knew Monte Carlo would be high roller heaven, but we were suprised by all the other towns like Villefranche-Sur-Mer, St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and a host of others, which just oozed wealth.  Even Menton, at the end of the line, had a lovely waterfront setting, well worth the visit

The bus ride follows one of the corniches, the coastal roads that hug the cliffs between Nice and Monaco, each higher than the last, with spectacular views of the Med and the waterfront towns below.  The ride to Menton lasts about one and a half hours, takes you into almost 3 countries, and costs a grand total of one Euro.  What a deal

The next day we visited the Chagall Museum, a nice stroll across town from our hotel. On the way we met Angelo, a local guy who answered our burning question, Why are there so many Italian restaurants in Nice and more pizza joints than in Manhattan? Angelo told us that more than a quarter of the population is Italian, like he is, and that whenever someone loses his job, he opens up a pizza place.

The Chagall Museum was wonderful.  Belorussian painter Chagall escaped to the US during WWII, actually NYCity, then moved back to France where he could hang with both Matisse and Picasso.  This small museum was built solely to house Chagall’s series of Old Testament paintings.  Each painting has so much going on it’s best to get the audio guide for a fuller understanding

At dinner we met Carmelo, who had managed an Italian restaurant on Bedford st in Greenwich Village up until a year ago. I bet I had passed his place many times, but needed to be in Nice to meet him.

Villlefranche-sur-Mer

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dirty little secret of this part of the French Riviera. - that's no beach, more like a rock pile. LI beaches rule!

dirty little secret of this part of the French Riviera. – that’s no beach, more like a rock pile. LI beaches rule!

menton promenade, the poor sister in these parts , but still very nice.

menton promenade, the poor sister in these parts , but still very nice.

Monte Carlo casino. out front - 2 Bentleys, a Range Rover, a Mercedes (proably a poor man's car),a Maserati  - then I stopped counting

Monte Carlo casino. out front – 2 Bentleys, a Range Rover, a Mercedes (proably a poor man’s car),a Maserati – then I stopped counting

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behind the casino

behind the casino

Monte Carlo harbor. to put the sze of these yachts in perspective, look at the guy washing one of the boats (good luck with that).

Monte Carlo harbor. to put the size of these yachts in perspective, look at the guy washing one of the boats (good luck with that).

grand old hotel on the waterfront promenade in nice.

grand old hotel on the waterfront promenade in nice.

son of angelo. typical young boy, trying to go where he shouldn't

son of angelo. typical young boy, trying to go where he shouldn’t..

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adam & eve get the boot from the garden of eden.

adam & eve get the boot from the garden of eden.

for chagall, eve is a redhead. it's always a redhead !

for chagall, eve is a redhead. it’s always a redhead !

Tomorrow is a travel day. We head to Provence, via Marseille, and look forward to a very different experience than the Cote d’Azure.

DAY 2 – 6 MAI 2013

We arrived in Nice late Saturday, just past midnight, just in time to deal with the taxi “highway men” at the Nice airport.  We had been warned.

They don’t believe in posted fares, we don’t believe in getting ripped off.  After a brief stand off, we found a guy to be our taxi driver, who also gave us an overview to the city he obviously loved.  Soon we knew why.

They say first impressions are the most important. The ride in from the Nice Airport is along the waterfront.  On one side the Mediteranean Sea, on the other a string of classic, high end hotels and residential buildings.  The best of the bunch are dramatically lit at night.  Yes, Nice is nice.

Only 2 days here and we love the excellent public transit that gets us everywhere quickly and cheaply, and of course, the food and drink.  We found a lovely spot in the old town to sip local wine and watch the world walk by.  One of the local specialities is Daub, the provencàl beef stew, which is excellent, even better than Greg’s.  Their chévre, drizzled with honey and lightly grilled, takes goat cheese to a new level.

Today we hopped a bus to St. Paul de Vence, a walled medieval village that is inland, about an hour out of town in the hills. We were not alone – this may be the most visited village in all of France. Tomorrow, we head up the coast towards Monaco.

our neighborhood, a bit NE of the old town

our neighborhood, a bit NE of the old town

this really is southern france

this really is southern france

among the visitors this spring - cousin of Godzilla.

among the visitors this spring – cousin of Godzilla.

rue massena, tourist central

tourist on rue massena

old town, the best part of nice

old town, the best part of nice

st. paul de vence

st. paul de vence

young boule player, the big sport in st. paul

young boule player, the big sport in st. paul

E.T. call home - at the modern art museum, st. paul

E.T. call home – at the modern art museum, st. paul

st. paul street scene

st. paul street scene

night scene palais du palais, near le dinner

night scene palais du palais, near le dinner in nice

le port. guess they don't need a hotel room

le port. guess they don’t need a hotel room

our fave way around town

our fave way around town

ENGLAND 2012 – BEST PHOTOS / DAY BY DAY

Those of you who did not follow our journey across southern England as it happened on this daily photoblog, may prefer this recap of two dozen representative pix from the trip:

TUESDAY DAY 02 – LONDON:

Triathlon (M) – young Team GB fans in Hyde Park hoping their boys medal. One of the few events most Londoners were able to get to see – no tickets required. There were tens of thousands at the park for this one.

in Hyde Park, after watching the exciting finish on the big screens with Team GB fanatics Dai and Wilson. We celebrated the Brit brothers, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee’s smashing performance in the tri.

Stoke Newington – With our London hosts Sarah & Adam at their fave local to share a pint after dinner and to watch some Olympic events on the telly.

WEDNESDAY DAY 03 – LONDON:

Muggles think this is St. Pancras Station.

Ethan & Karina know this is King’s Cross, the one Harry used to travel to Hogwarts.

We travelled across town to old Earl’s Court in West London for the Men’s Volleyball QF matches: Brazil v Argentina, and USA v Italy. Brazil & Italy were the gold medal faves.

Italy was just too good in all phases of the game and won 3-0. We also saw Brazil demolish the Argentines. My money was on Italy to win gold.

Nick, the greeter at Selfridge’s, was very helpful and points out where all the good pubs in the neighborhood are.

Wallace Collection – a small gem of a museum, overlooks Manchester Square, near Oxford Street.

THURSDAY DAY 04 – LONDON:

St. Paul’s Cathedral, with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline. While not as big as St. Peter’s, the interior may be just as impressive.

Women’s Basketball SF: USA v Australia.

These two had played for the gold medal in the last 3 Olympics. The Aussies played tough defense in the first half.

We had a young Aussie fan Alex in front of us. I told her I would root for the Aussies in the first half because Americans always root for the underdog. When the Aussies powered ahead by 7 points with time left in the half, I told her: “No Deal!” I started to root for the USA, which obviously made a difference. Yanks won by 13.

Sharing today’s perfect pint of Czech Staropramen at Coach & Horses in Stoke Newington on our last night in London. Sarah and Adam joined us late on a work night. Bravo!

FRIDAY DAY 05 – LONDON / CANTERBURY:

Hyde Park – The London mounted police dress a bit more formally than the NYPD mounted.

Canterbury – view of the West Gate, a medieval gate house and the largest surviving city gate in England. view is from our restaurant table in the very fine Cafe des Amis. The next day when talking places to eat with a local, she told us that this was her fave restaurant in town. We went there because it was still open late at night and it was near our hotel. Sometimes you get lucky.

SATURDAY DAY 06 – CANTERBURY / RYE:

Rye rooftops after we climbed the rickety stairs to the roof of St Mary’s, the local parish church.

Rye is a day trip from Canterbury, just a bit down the coast from Dover. Very scenic town was the home of Sir Paul McCartney. Just across the channel from France and near the scene of the crime – the Battle of Hastings.

If this is the Thomas Becket Pub, then this must be Canterbury.

In the center of the historic part of town with a good selection of beers. Inside hanging from the rafters are dried local hops, and on one wall is an eyewitness account of Thomas Becket’s assassination.

SUNDAY DAY 07 – CANTERBURY:

Westgate Gardens. Perfect for a picnic or just a stroll along the riverwalk.

Canterbury Cathedral at night from the Christ church gate. We were lucky – this gate is usually closed after dark, and we walked by just as a car exited the grounds.

Only a block away from this peaceful scene, back on the main drag (High Street), all hell was breaking loose on a Friday night in Canterbury. Who Knew?

MONDAY DAY 08 – COTSWOLDS:

Morton-in-Marsh / Redesdale Arms. A nice room booked at the last minute. When we found out there was welcome sherry, we thought it was a very nice room.

TUESDAY DAY 09 – COTSWOLDS:

Typical Cotswold Cottage in Stow on the Wold.

With Lisa & Billy from Liverpool at the Kingsbridge Inn, right on the village green in Bourton on the Water, in the Cotswold’s. We shared a pint, talked a bit of football. They were disappointed that we did not include their town in our trip; we told them next time, for sure. They gave us a super recommendation for dinner.

To my Highbridge mates: not only was this the Kingsbridge Inn, but across the street was a shop named Highbridge Jewelers – how this can be?

WEDNESDAY DAY 10 – OXFORD:

View from our room at Oxford University’s Keble College. With the students away, between semesters, it was quiet and I could work on my thesis – “The differences between British and American IPA’s”.

The Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library. Of course, there is much more to the library than this original building.

THURSDAY DAY 11 – BATH:

River Avon as it flows through Bath. Kind of confusing because there are Avon rivers all over England – it’s the celtic word for river.

Sharing a pint of Doom with my new mates, Ben & Adrian. Even if it didn’t taste good, the name makes it today’s PerfectPint. Ben and Adrian are from up Manchester way and were in Bath for a day at the races.

All the pubs were showing the big test match between England and S.Africa, the two best cricket teams in the world. Ben and Adrian were kind enough to explain some of the intricacies of the sport, so that we had some idea of what we were watching.

FRIDAY DAY 12 – STONEHENGE:

Stonehenge, about 8 miles north of Salisbury, is one of the most famous sites in the world, attracting about 800,000 visitors a year. Composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks, the first stones were probably erected in 2400–2200 BC. Still a mystery – WHY?

A map of our journey / pub crawl across southern England. First days were in London for the Games, last day was spent just outside Salisbury in Stonehenge.

ENGLAND 2012 – DAY 12 (FRI)

Today was our last day in England. We travelled to Salisbury, about 1 1/2 hr by train from Oxford, to see the cathedral and to catch the bus to Stonehenge. This mysterious ancient site has been on my bucket list for many years. Some say it’s no big deal, but after our visit, I disagree – it’s worth the trip.

A bonus from a visit to this cathedral is that it houses one of the 4 surviving original Magna Cartas in the world. Written in 1215 on vellum, the Magna Carta is written in abbreviated Latin.

You can get pretty close to the document itself but, of course, no pix allowed.

Salisbury Cathedral, one of the finest medieval cathedrals, was built in only 40 years. You can see that we had a sparkling clear day. In fact, the weather on our trip has been splendid and it was a pleasure to leave all that heat and humidity in NY behind.

Salisbury was spared Nazi bombing because the Luftwaffe used Britain’s tallest spire (at 123 meters / 404 feet) as a navigational guidepost as they targeted other English cities.

They say the Cathedral rests on a four foot foundation – making me more comfortable outside than inside.

The Cathedral also has the largest medieval cloisters.

We figured we would catch one of the last busses to Stonehenge and avoid the crowds at the site.

not happening. although it must have been even more crowded earlier.

Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks. The first stones were probably erected in 2400–2200 BC.

Stonehenge, about 8 miles north of Salisbury, is one of the most famous sites in the world, with about 800,000 visitors a year, including this pilgrim.

Even though you are sharing the stones with many others, the experience is still special.

countryside around Salisbury.

Oxford / Wellington Square: lodging for our last night in England.

Today’s PremierPub: O’Neill’s. not exactly an old traditional pub, but a nice selection of draft, and it seemed to have fewer students, and was quieter than other pubs. On our last night quiet was important.

Today’s Pint: Oxford Gold, a nice lager and the last pint to add to the collection. After this it’s just bottled water.

Conclusion:

We want to thank everyone who helped us in our travels, esp Sarah and Adam in London.

Thanks also to those we shared a pint with now and then, and just generally, to the people of southern England, who we found to be unfailingly pleasant company.

Postscript:

To top off what had been a wonderful trip, we found ourselves flying home in business class on the upper deck of a 747-400, thanks to the kindness of the BA gate agent. She has our eternal gratitude.  

ENGLAND 2012 – DAY 11 (THU)

Today we journeyed to Bath, the historic Roman and Georgian spa city, which is about 100 miles west of London, and about 1 1/4 hr from Oxford by train. We explored the town, visited a small museum with a special exhibition, and made some new mates who educated us on cricket. We finished with maybe our finest meal of the trip at Portvcale, a superb Portuguese restaurant, which serves a wide array of delicious Petiscos.

Hogwarts – the smaller dining hall for muggles. Ethan didn’t think we could find our way here.

Oxford – Christ Church college. too bad they had a delayed opening this day.

Christ Church College dining hall – if they had been open this is what we would have seen.

Ethan & Karina – does this look familiar?

Oxford – Bud & Pat, I think I have figured out how the P.O. can solve their deficit problem – new mailboxes.

at Oxford train station – definitely the preferred mode of transportaion in this town

Bath Spa- Around Britain’s only hot spring, the Romans built a temple and bathing complex 2,000 years ago that still flows with natural hot water.

Bronze, gilded head of the goddess Sulis Minerva whom the Romans worshipped in Aquae Sulis (Bath). The most important Roman artifact found at the site.

Bath/High street: the real reason folks come to Bath – shopping. I’m sure the Roman legionnaires posted to this god forsaken place at the edge of the empire would be amused at what has developed here.

…although not too many folks shopping for Wenlock & Mandeville.

River Avon as it flows through Bath. Kind of confusing because there are Avon rivers all over England – it’s the celtic word for river.

Today’s PremierPub: The Boater, with a nice beer garden out back overlooking the river.

Bath, the Holburne museum: special exhibition, the Art of Portrait sculpture.

Madame Tussaud, eat your heart out.

Today’s Pint: it’s a pint of Doom. even if it didn’t taste good, the name makes it a winner. Sharing a couple of pints with my new mates, Ben & Adrian.

They are from up Manchester way and were in Bath for a day at the races. all the pubs were showing the big test match between England and S.Africa, the two best cricket teams in the world. Ben and Adrian were kind enough to explain some of the intricacies of the sport, so that we had some idea of what we were watching.

ENGLAND 2012 – DAY 10 (WED)

Today we travelled just down the road from the Cotswold’s to Oxford.

We checked into our room at the University (Keble College), where I could work on my thesis – “The differences between British and American IPA’s”. Then a visit to the Museum of History and Science, a pub or two (and this is a town with more than a couple of pubs), and we finished up with a concert of Tudor music at the chapel of Exeter College.

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Oxford Keble College – view from our room.

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Oxford – Bodleian library.

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Oxford – street scene with Lincoln College library.

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Oxford – would not be England without a bit of rain. the only day we had to pull out our brolly, and in this town when you need to get in out of the rain, you are never more than a few paces from a pub.

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Today’s PerfectPint: Young’s Double Chocolate stout at the King’s Arms. a fine way to wait out the rain.

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Oxford Museum of History and Science – working instruments of the Royal Microscopical Society.

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Oxford – lots of high brow music available.

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Chapel at Exeter College – attended an evening candlelight concert of Tudor music here. Decided on this instead of another pub. I’m so proud of us.

Celia says: “Look, we already had been at two pubs today, and had a fine Chilean cabernet with dinner. So please stop patting yourself on the back for a bit of culture.”

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Chapel at Exeter College interior. as it grew more dark outside, the candlelight made it more magical inside.

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Today’s PremierPub: Turf Tavern. First recommended to us by Droppin’ Dave, then by numerous others, including the very proper Englishwoman I shared a seat with on the train to Oxford. This place is famous for being Bill Clinton’s hangout when a Rhodes scholar (where he learned not to inhale). For me this place rocks because it is the pub that Inspector Morse would drop by for a pint after work.

ENGLAND 2012 – DAY 9 (TUE)

Today we toured two of the classic English villages in the Cotswolds – Stow on the Wold, and Bourton on the Water. We took a hike along one of the scenic trails outside Bourton, visited Birdland (not the Jazz club), and finished the day at a nice restaurant along the River Windrush in Bourton.

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Moreton in Marsh – if it’s tuesday, it must be market day.

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Stow on the Wold – main square

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Stow – Lucy’s Tea room. makes me think of me mum.

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Stow – typical Cotswold cottage.

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on the way out of Stow – the only way to tour the Cotswold’s.

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Bourton on the Water – local cemetery headstone.

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outside Bourton – a walk in the Cotswold’s

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a walk in the Cotswold’s – he better be careful, seems like every restaurant features lamb.

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a walk in the Cotswold’s

Today’s PerfectPint: Old Hooky, handcrafted in the Cotswold Hills since 1849. Enjoyed on the back patio of the Duke of Wellington pub, overlooking the Windrush river in Bourton on the Water.

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Bourton – King Penguin @ Birdland

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Bourton – Rhea @ Birdland

 

Bourton on the Water – sometimes described as the “Little Venice” of the Cotswolds.

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Today’s PremierPub: Kingsbridge Inn, right on the village green in Bourton, with Lisa & Billy from Liverpool. shared a pint, talked a bit of futbol. they were disappointed that we did not include their town in our trip; we told them next time, for sure. they gave us a super recommendation for dinner.

To my Highbridge mates: not only was this the Kingsbridge Inn, but across the street was a shop named Highbridge Jewelers – how this can be?

ENGLAND 2012 – DAY 8 (MON)

Today was our big travel day – cross England from East to West, so not too much in the way of photos. We left Canterbury in SE England in the morning and headed back to London’s Charing Cross Rail station. Then humped the bags downstairs to the tube to go across London and humped them upstairs at Paddington Rail station. Just no way around it, if you want to get out to the Cotswolds – and for Celia that was a must see.

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Paddington Bear vs Wenlock and Mandeville – no contest!

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on the way to the Cotswolds: destination Moreton-in-Marsh

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Moreton-in-Marsh street scene (next day actually)

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Moreton-in-Marsh: Redesdale Arms, very nice room booked at last minute. Celia thought it was a nice room; when we found out there was free sherry at welcome we thought it was a very nice room.

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Today’s PremierPub – the Black Bear pub in Moreton-in-Marsh. they have a blackboard outside the front door. It says” thank God. football is back” guess some of the local footballers were not Olympic fans.

Today’s Pint: the locally brewed Donnington Bitter, not bad.