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Loving family help Mum and Dad ‘travel’ to New York after coronavirus stops holiday of a lifetime

PUBLISHED: 08:07 21 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:07 21 May 2020

Ed and Barbara Higgins superimposed on board the QM2 on their virtual holiday (C) Alex Ozansoy

Ed and Barbara Higgins superimposed on board the QM2 on their virtual holiday (C) Alex Ozansoy

(C) Alex Ozansoy

Aylsham couple whose trip of a lifetime was cancelled due to coronavirus enjoy a 10-day ‘holiday’ with a difference thanks to creative daughters.

Barbara and Ed Higgins superimposed on the QM2 on their virtual holiday (C) Alex OzansoyBarbara and Ed Higgins superimposed on the QM2 on their virtual holiday (C) Alex Ozansoy

When coronavirus grounded an Aylsham couple’s 50th wedding anniversary trip to New York their daughters organised a spectacular lockdown “holiday” with a difference.

Ed and Barbara Higgins had spent years planning the trip of a lifetime and had booked their celebratory trip 18 months ago, counting down the days until they boarded a plane for America on May 9.

The plan was to spend four nights in the Big Apple and tour the famous landmarks, staying in a Times Square hotel, before boarding the Queen Mary 2 luxury cruise ship for the homeward leg of the journey.

During the trip, Barbara would have also celebrated her 70th birthday in what is a landmark year for the couple who have two children and three grandchildren, Max, George and Aleyna.

Dinner from Chef 2 Dine 4 delivered to Ed and Barbara Higgins (C) Barbara HigginsDinner from Chef 2 Dine 4 delivered to Ed and Barbara Higgins (C) Barbara Higgins

The Higgins started courting on April 23 1967 and married three years later. They worked together for 45 years and raised two daughters, Alex (Ozansoy) and Anna (Griffiths).

“Mum is always busy and spends her time looking after others having worked hard all her life until her retirement five years ago. She is such an amazing and beautiful person,” said Alex.

“Dad retrained to be a business life coach 20 years ago to support others through their careers and life changes. For the last seven years Dad sends out a daily inspirational quote to his subscribers and every day, without fail, he sends a personalised version to me and my sister.

“My Mum and Dad are very special and loving people.”

Barbara folds along with the Queen Mary 2 workshop on towel art (C) Barbara HigginsBarbara folds along with the Queen Mary 2 workshop on towel art (C) Barbara Higgins

Although Ed and Barbara obviously understood why their trip had to be cancelled and that the lack of a holiday was nothing in comparison to other peoples’ suffering and their own health, it was still a huge disappointment after such a long wait.

Currently self-isolating at home, the pair watched the date of their dream holiday creep ever-closer on the calendar.

“I was on a video chat with my Mum on April 25 and she said ‘two weeks today we would have been going on our once in a lifetime holiday…’,” said Alex.

“Thirty years ago Mum and Dad earned a trip to New York through work and absolutely loved it but have never had the opportunity to return.

Card, flowers and chocolates fromThe Black Boys in Aylsham (C) Barbara HigginsCard, flowers and chocolates fromThe Black Boys in Aylsham (C) Barbara Higgins

“Mum is a huge fan of musical shows and it was her dream to go to a show on Broadway. They had never been on a cruise and were so excited about enjoying food and entertainment from around the world.

“My Mum is normally so strong but as she spoke she welled up. It broke my heart. She then mentioned the beautiful dresses she had planned to wear each day. I suggested that she get dressed up a couple of times and have a wonderful dinner.

“Once I’d finished the call, I called my sister, Anna, and the ideas started flowing and we began organising the ‘trip’. We wanted to make sure it was an uplifting experience rather than give the feeling of sadness and regret of missing out.

“It was my sister who came up with the idea of sending some meals and we started looking at options. We felt this was a great opportunity to support local smaller businesses that were probably struggling during the lockdown.

Ed Higgins enjoys afternoon tea from The Walnut Tree in Norwich (C) Barbara HigginsEd Higgins enjoys afternoon tea from The Walnut Tree in Norwich (C) Barbara Higgins

“I didn’t tell my parents anything so it was a complete surprise when we sent it to them on the evening of May 8th!”

Alex spent almost a fortnight working all day every day to create an incredible virtual tour complete with ‘visits’ to a host of attractions including Times Square, Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, a helicopter tour and the Empire State Building.

There was Le Nozze di Figaro at The Metropolitan and musical Kinky Boots at Broadway to watch online and virtual tours of Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, the Botanical Gardens, Fifth Avenue, and ‘shopping’ at Macy’s and Bloomingdales.

And there was a livestream Mass from St Patrick’s in New York and fun online workshop tutorials from the Queen Mary to take at home, from cocktail and luxury scone making to towel art.

Barbara Higgins making cocktails along with an online class (C) Barbara HigginsBarbara Higgins making cocktails along with an online class (C) Barbara Higgins

The presentation of 150 slides linked to a series of videos, 360 tours, 3D maps, virtual tours and guided tours and walks and Alex arranged subscriptions to BroadwayHD and the Met Opera so that shows and concerts could be accessed.

The virtual trip began on May 9 with airport drinks before Ed and Barbara were given a copy of the inflight magazine to enjoy during their journey.

After ‘landing’, there was a time-lapse taxi ride from JFK to Times Square before virtual tours of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, the hotel where the Ed and Barbara would have been staying.

In addition to the virtual holiday, Alex and Anna with help from their husbands Burhan and James, organised the delivery of meals from local suppliers.

On May 13, on what would have been the couple’s last night in New York, Alex and Anna arranged for dinner to be delivered to their parents from Chef 2 Dine 4, while on May 15, when the pair would have been having tea in the Queen’s Room on board the QM2, they were delivered a colourful afternoon tea from Walnut Tree Catering.

And on May 16, the Higgins’ dressed in the finery they had planned to wear for a gala ball dinner at the Britannia Restaurant on board the ship and enjoyed a meal that was specially delivered from The Black Boys in Aylsham, which usually only offers takeaway. The restaurant added roses, Champagne truffles and a signed card from the whole team.

A final flourish was a birthday cake delivery for Barbara from The Cuppie Hut with a card from the Norwich Market company.

The couple said they had loved their virtual holiday in New York.

“After the disappointing news of the cancellation of our once in a lifetime trip, the virtual holiday was a wonderful surprise, although our daughters do have a history of coming up with creative and kind deeds,” said Barbara.

“Among the many highlights was St Patrick’s Cathedral, which was beautiful but eerily empty for the service on Sunday and the exhibition at the 9/11 Museum and Ground Zero, which was extremely moving”.

Alex added: “My favourite parts were all the food deliveries that gave my Mum a perfect reason to dress up and have something to look forward to and be excited about.

“But my stand-out favourite part was a call I got from my Dad saying that the virtual trip was more special and probably more memorable than the actual trip would have been simply because of how much we had done for them.”

ED & BARBARA’S GOLDEN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

(And Barbara’s 70TH Birthday)

NEW YORK and QUEEN MARY 2

SATURDAY 9TH MAY

Airport drinks

A cope of the Virgin Inflight magazine

Landing at JFK Airport

Welcome to New York

TImelapse taxi from JFK to Times Square

A virtual tour of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square

Virtual stroll around Times Square

SUNDAY 10TH MAY

Virtual tour of the 911 Memorial Museum

Virtual walk to Battery Park

Ferry Ride to the Statue of Liberty

360 Tour of the Statue of Liberty

Guided video tour of the Statue of Liberty

360 Tour of Ellis Island

360 Tour of St Patrick’s Cathedral

3.15pm: Live stream mass from St Patrick’s Cathedral stream of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Met Opera

MONDAY 11TH MAY

Helicopter tour of Manhattan

360 Tour of Union Square

360 Tour of South Street Seaport

360 Tour of Herald Square

360 Tour of Madison Square Garden

Virtual guided tour of the Empire State Building

The Beatles music-to-light show at the Empire State Building

You may also want to watch:

TUESDAY 12TH MAY

360 Tour of Grand Central

360 Tour of Top of the Rock

Drive from Times Square to Greenwich

Steam of Kinky Boots from Broadway

Billy Joel music-to-light show at the Empire State Building

WEDNESDAY 13TH MAY

360 Tour and walkthrough of Brooklyn Bridge

360 Tour and walkthrough of Central Park

360 Tour and walkthrough of Tavern on the Green

Walk through the Botanical Gardens

Drive along Fifth Avenue

Walkthrough of Macy’s, Bloomingdales. Louis Vuitton, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman

6.30pm

Last night in New York dinner at The View restaurant (delivery from Chef 2 Dine 4)

Video walkthrough of The View restaurant in Times Square

Last night virtual stroll through Times Square

THURSDAY 14TH MAY

Virtual embarking the Queen Mary 2

Video of The Queen Mary 2 departing New York

QM2 175th light show in New York

Welcome abroad from The Butlers

Virtual Grand ship tour

Cabin virtual tour

Walkthrough The Clarendon Fine Art Gallery

FRIDAY 15TH MAY

A stroll around the Queen Mary 2

Cunard’s Luxury Scone Tutorial

Another tour of the QM2

3.30PM

Afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room (delivery from Walnut Tree Catering)

Video of Barry Ball Artists

SATURDAY 16TH MAY

Virtual tour of the QM2 including the library

Towel animal art tutorial

Behind the scenes of the QM2 documentary

6.30PM

Gala ball dinner at The Britannia Restaurant (delivery from The Black Boys in Aylsham)

SUNDAY 17TH MAY

Virtual tour of the restaurants and bars

Fitness workshop

Fashion on board

A history of Cunard video

Cunard cocktail making lesson

Last night stream of Cirque de Soleil

MONDAY 18TH MAY

Virtual balcony video

12pm Birthday cake delivery from Godiva (delivery from The Cuppie Hut in Norwich)

QM2 arrives back to Southampton

Video of the QM2 in Southampton blasting horn for Clap for Carers

Farewell video

How to travel while staying at home

When your next big trip is to the garden centre or – if you’re self-isolating – a short hop to the kitchen from the front room, there are lots of ways to enjoy a virtual holiday from your sofa.

Technology has not only made it easier to work from home, it also offers a range of opportunities to travel without moving a step beyond your front door.

You can now harness the internet and ‘visit’ a host of places across the country and the globe, from museums to holiday resorts, landmarks to art galleries – you can even take a trip to Mars if you’re feeling adventurous.

Here are some ideas to transport you when you’re self-isolating:

* Started a new gardening obsession during lockdown? Get some inspiration with the virtual tour of Arundel Castle’s annual Tulip Festival in West Sussex here

* There are 2,500 museums where you can take a virtual tour online, including the Musee d-Orsay in Paris, the Musuem of Modern Art in New York, Tate Britain and the Nagoya City Art Museum in Japan. Explore them all at www.artsandculture.google.com.

* Take a trip with National Geographic to a whole range of places including Iceland’s glaciers, Indonesia’s coral reefs and get up close and personal with Tiger Sharks in the Bahamas here

*Aurora photography company Lights over Lapland has created the chance to virtually travel to the Icehotel in Swedish Lapland. Visit the local Arctic wilderness, meet local huskies and reindeer, go dogsledding and reindeer sledding and even join a Northern Lights hunt here.

* Visit Mars with NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover at Namib Dune here


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