This is the first of three posts on our visit to New York, Boston and Cape Cod in September 2018.
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One item firmly on my bucket list was to go to the US Open Tennis Championships in New York. Months before the event I found out that American Express card holders had priority for early booking. I soon dug out this rarely used card and got online the day priority tickets went on sale. This card proved to be a boon in another way.
We decided to extend the trip to Boston, where we hadn’t been for almost 20 years, and to Cape Cod where we were last in 1979.
Getting to New York
Thomas Cook turned out to be the best deal from Manchester to JFK with return from Boston. The flight, on a Sunday, was uneventful and on time, though the food left a little to be desired. There was a spectacular view of Cape Cod as we approached Long Island. We arrived at the International Terminal at JFK, the one where “any other foreign airline” arrives. We were extremely glad we had been to the US recently as the immigration queue for those who did not have an ESTA (Electronic Travel Authorization to the US, a kind of visa which you get online), or were entering the US for the first time on an ESTA, was enormous.
Carmel Cars got us to Candlewood Suites on West 39th St in good time. Later we went out for the first of four nice meals with our friend Nancy.
New York Botanic Garden
There was one day before the tennis and so with Nancy we went to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, about a 25 minute ride on the Metro North Railroad from Grand Central. It was very hot, into the 90s (yes the Americans still use Fahrenheit) in the shade. The garden is more like a big park and so we decided to take the tram trolley tour. There were some lovely trees including plenty of conifers.
It seemed like every bit of the garden was named after a donor.
Even though it was Labor Day, the US holiday which signals the end of summer, it wasn’t too busy.
Lunch was in an air-conditioned cafe. After that we ventured into the heat again to look at some perennials and other flowerbeds and at some beautiful water lilies.
The highlight was a special exhibition about the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s visit to Hawaii in 1939 and the paintings she did there. Several paintings were on show and there was plenty of supplementary information.
The huge conservatory was also showcasing Hawaiian plants which brought back memories for us as we have been to the botanical gardens in Kauai and the Big Island.
We had to retreat to the cool of the cafe again before leaving.
Tennis on Tuesday 4 September 2018
Tuesday was the first big day. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Long Island on the subway. It seemed to be even hotter, but the American Express deal included a huge air-conditioned building with a separate area for card holders. We got there quite early and had time to cool down before going in search of lunch.
The food village consisted of a long row of booths where all except one were serving large helpings of junk food and fizzy drinks – no wonder the US has an obesity problem. We managed to find something a bit healthier then found our seats in the Arthur Ashe Stadium. We were at one end and had a good view in spite of being a long way up. Thankfully we remained in the shade all the time.
The first match was between American Sloane Stephens, the 2017 ladies champion, and Latvian Anastasija Sevastova. Much to the disappointment of the partisan crowd, Sloane was clearly having an off day and Anastasija won easily 6-2, 6-3.
The men’s quarter final between the two giants, 6ft 10in American John Isner and 6ft 6in Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, was more evenly matched. There was a surprising amount of support for del Potro, the eventual championship runner-up, who won 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2. Isner started the match wearing a shirt with large bright green, grey and white stripes, but had to switch to a white one after he had used up all the striped ones. He said afterwards that he had got through 11 shirts in the heat. It didn’t seem to bother del Potro so much.
Tennis on Wednesday 5 September 2018
On the Wednesday I took myself to the tennis center and, after a brief cool-down courtesy of American Express, looked round a lot more. There was a huge number of different baseball hats on sale in the shop, for $30 each. I was one of very few people who were not wearing one – I took my Australian floppy hat instead. In fact most spectators appeared to be wearing the same uniform of shorts, T-shirts, white trainers or sandals, and baseball caps.
I walked to the Grandstand Stadium at the far end of the center to see Jamie Murray in the men’s doubles, but two games was enough in the glaring sun. I took some photos but did not see him and his partner Bruno Soares lose the match. Unlike on Arthur Ashe, a steward was stopping people entering the stadium except when they changed ends.
On the way back to Arthur Ashe I discovered a Dean and Delucca food outlet well away from the junk food places. I bought a very nice sandwich at this upmarket food shop. It was almost the certainly the most expensive prepacked sandwich I have ever had at $18.
I had chosen a side-view seat for this day, but realised the day before that this seat would be in the sun later in the afternoon. In the first match I saw the eventual women’s champion Naomi Osaka win easily 6-1, 6-1 over Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko. I read later that Lesia had nearly withdrawn as she wasn’t feeling well.
Second up was Japanese Kei Nishikori against Marin Cilic of Croatia. This turned out to be an excellent match. I managed to move to a seat in the shade after two sets, but my view there was getting blocked by people wandering up and down, usually carrying more junk food. It’s nothing like Wimbledon where nobody moves except when the players change ends.
It was also becoming even hotter so I watched the last two sets on the American Express big screen. The winner was anybody’s guess until almost the end of the final set. Nishikori won 2-6, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, only to fall easily to Djokovic in the semi-finals.
After another nice meal in the evening we had a walk round Times Square which is only a few blocks from where we were staying. Tennis was the number one priority for this visit and I didn’t mind not seeing much more of New York.
We have stayed in a good number of places in New York. Hotel rooms there
are usually quite small and dark, but we liked Candlewood Suites a lot. We had a big room complete with kitchen, desk and chairs, and wifi that worked. It was on the 16th floor (out of 32) with a big window and so got more light. It was easy to buy some breakfast food at the delis round the corner in 9th Avenue. The hotel also had iced lemonade in the lobby which was so welcome coming in from the heat outside.