Trains, Planes and Automobiles: Itty & Fee go stateside (Part 2: Out of town)

No! Imogen…you cannot have the Giant dog!

I did not want to lead us out of the big city with my story, before I mentioned FAO Schwarz. Sadly, I have read reports that the store is under threat of closure.

To escape the city heat, and use the loo, I led Imogen to this large toy emporium that sits just off Central Park….we were going to visit the Met, but queue’s were mad and well…this is a toy shop!

It reminded me so much of trips to Hamley’s. Huge plush animals, airborne toys being demonstrated by enthusiastic staff members and giant gobstoppers in the confectionary section. They also have the BIG piano….yes, it’s the piano from the movie BIG. As you can imagine this is a hit with the kids, who queue to run up and down on it. I observed with some disappointment. Not one kid attempted the tune from the movie, let alone a bit Chopin!


I can’t recall actually ever wanting a doll as much as I did on seeing the creations on display, 11042692_10153009122448759_5934166436085680298_nparticularly the TONNER dolls. These things are mesmerising!

Imogen, a while ago, wrote a poem about Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz meeting in later life and we have always planned on doing some kind of project on it…Some day (over the rainbow and when life gets out of the way) Much to our delight we found our girls in doll form peeking from inside a glass cabinet…We like to think they look like us 😉 Though, with a bit of investment Tonner will create the doll version of you. Funnily enough, we also encountered the Tonner workshop in Kingston, NY, later on in our adventure. I am thinking about making dolls clothes…just because tiny versions of things are great! (in most cases 😉

Freeky, life-like baby doll things….

We came across the life-like baby dolls section…they are so real looking…and hideous! We watched little girls and full grown women cooing over these rubber monsters…It brought to mind the fascinating documentary, ‘My Fake Baby’ aired on channel 4 a while back. I guess they are easier and cheaper than a real child…and they won’t grow up into teenagers and hate you for several years.

Get out of town!

I consider myself a experienced, knowledgable driver. This is why I was able to take the executive decision that I was not going to hire a car from Manhattan…no way in hell! So we had to come up with a starting point. We knew we wanted to road trip, but had no idea where…USA is quite big…where to start? Imogen was quick on the mark (Google saves the day) and found a National Geographic prescribed route. The Hudson Valley. So we booked our car hire from Nyack, NY for the following day.


We ventured to Grand Central Station to find a train to get us to Nyack. For anyone who has ever been to Central Station…Wow, right? And for those who have not been…Wow! In particular the cosmic ceiling fresco.

Fun fact: The elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling, conceived in 1912 by French portrait artist Paul César Helleu. The starry ceiling is astronomically inaccurate in a complicated way. While the stars within some constellations appear correctly as they would from earth, other constellations are reversed left-to-right, as is the overall arrangement of the constellations on the ceiling.

We approached a ticket booth and purchased a two tickets to Tarrytown, where there we would take a bus across the Tappan Zee Bridge (excellent name!) to Nyack. With our bagels, apple turnovers and coffee, train ride was smooth, taking us from a dense metropolis to countryside in just over 30 mins!

We rocked up in Nyack, like proper out of towners. On the hunt for the Enterprise car hire, we met a man called Sunny in the local Subway (as in sandwiches) We chatted with him as we had a drink (and used wifi) and we talked about our backgrounds. He was Pakastani born and had lived and worked in London previously, which he greatly missed and was not so happy living in the States. Hearing our voices seem to set off a familiar nostalgia for him. He talked about how he was always made to “feel like a terrorist” when he travelled anywhere (yikes), that the USA was a hard place to live and he missed Tesco!  He even invited us for dinner with his wife and family that evening…but we politely declined as we were only in town for the night.

We entered the car hire establishment… and red faced from the walk with our bags. The staff seemed amused by the fact we walked at all, as we could have been picked up.There seems to be a real allergy to the concept of walking in the US, and it’s

Our upgraded chevvy...we named her Tracy
Our upgraded chevvy…we named her Tracy

very easy to pick up the symptoms. The cars are big and comfortable with cup holders everywhere. Parking is not an issue generally (this exclude major cities other than LA), everyone drives and a comfortable pace and there is a drive-thru for almost anything…WHO NEEDS LEGS! Also…the girl working in this place was so on form, with her two slightly confused man/boy assistants. They were all nice, but she was getting all the jobs done while those guys were getting schooled!

TIP: Buy a road map…I know you may think it’s old school, and that a Sat Nav is better and who uses maps anymore yadda yadda eider…but I will tell you this:

1. It’s great to be able to actually geographically place your self in such a huge country and be able to see where there are mountains and national parks (Sat Nav will usually guide you the most direct and probably boring route)

2. Nothing was more un-attractive than the big beefcake jock guy at the car hire place, smirking when I asked if they had maps and then going on to boast that he couldn’t even read one and had never used one. Sad sign of the times (I sound so old)….Sat Nav is all very good…..until the apocalypse happens and I will be finding the next best person to Ray Mear’s to team up with….I bet he can read a map!

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We got settled at a local Best Western that was famous for cheesecake and salsa nights…we did not try either. However we did sample other delights of Nyack!

Childhood Home of Edward Hopper

A quaint wooden slatted and classic porched dwelling in the town centre. This was the birthplace of the famous realist painter. We were greeted by two women, one a fun and feisty Californian who seemed to be the manager of the place and a more gentle and local lady, who guided visitors around the space. (She got told off by lady number one for putting lights up to high in print room,  oops)
There is not ta huge amount of work displayed here. They explained that they had in the past exhibited some of his more DSC_0309 DSC_0311 DSC_0312

famous works, but it involved hiring 24 hour security and was of great expense. Now, they have his early sketches and prints. You can also wonder the upstairs rooms, though most of the rooms are actually rented out to artists. Oh for a studio in that place!


They also host work by other artists that have either a local or Hopper link. We saw work by photographer/filmmaker Jordan Matter. Work featuring dancers in urban settings, using a Realism style, referencing colouring and lighting similar to Hopper’s work. The exhibition was called Hopperesque Dancers Among Us

We got a photo on the porch, eventually, by careful guide from Imogen to the lady on how to use the iPhone. It was not the best photo ever taken.

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We wondered the local boutiques which sold things such as  gems and crystals, Hippy clothes, native crafts and comics. The DSC_0293owner of Funny Business comic shop is building a life size lego version of the Tardis and hosts Lego building workshops! Imogen teased him with the concept that Lego may stop manufacturing blue bricks. I am so impressed at how local independent businesses seem to thrive/survive in these US towns. It makes each place so unique, and is something we are losing quite rapidly across the UK.

Nyack felt like the kind of place that you would make friends in seconds, if you moved there. We were there for a few hours and got into nice chats with lots of people…

Imogen also enjoyed the largest burrito I have ever seen…I reckon it was almost the size of here head…She managed half…the rest may still be in the Best Western hotel room fridge.

Question: Do you think it’s good idea to eat something the same size as your head?

Onward on our Road trip….to be continued


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