New York - Part One
29th July 2013 17:21
40 minutes on the bus to Auckland airport, 3 and a half hours on the plane to Sydney, 13 and a half hours from Sydney to Los Angeles, 5 hours from LA to New York, 30 minutes on the wrong train doing a lap of the airport terminals, 45 minutes on the subway to Manhattan and the nearest T-Mobile store for my 3G SIM card (priorities!) and finally 40 minutes on the subway to Brooklyn and my couchsurfing hosts.
So after what felt like possibly the longest 24 hours of my life, I was in NEW YORK BABY!
The subway train gave me my first real taste of the city. In a relatively short period of time, three different sellers peddling quality merchandise made their way through the carriages. One was selling various snacks for $1 - bargain (apparently). The following lady was selling chocolate bars. I was sensing a confectionary theme to the proceedings, but that was blown out of the water by the “Smell Good Man”! “I’ll make ya smell GOOD!” he loudly advertised. “Sometimes when ya turn a corner in this subway, it’ll blow ya HEAD OFF!”. I was learning a hell of a lot about the New York City population already... He concluded his act, and having made no sales of his homemade fragrances, trudged along to the next carriage to repeat the performance. I knew instantly I was going to love New York every bit as much as I expected.
You know when you fly from one country to another, and stupidly wear something that was completely acceptable at your departure point, but wildly inappropriate at your destination? Well, I did that. I received some strange looks on the subway, sitting there in shorts, flip flops, and my fleece thrown on for good measure. Thick coats and scarves were the order of the day, and after exiting the subway I could see why. I was absolutely freezing. After buying my SIM card I managed to pull some socks and my sandals out of my overloaded bag, and cover my frostbitten toes. I had trousers in there somewhere but there was no way I was going to pull everything out of my bag and repack it, and I had nowhere to change into them anyway. After a cold onward journey, I reached my hosts, Amber, Emily and King.
The girls were from Louisiana, Ohio, but had come to the city for an adventure and had been living and working there for nearly a year. King is their hyperactive, rescued pitbull. They were great fun, as you can see from the photos, which is just what I wanted, to end the year on a high note.
Amber is a huge Game of Thrones fan, and there was an exhibition running while I was there, displaying the props/costumes etc. The following day after all of us woke a little late (I was catching up on much needed sleep and they were both off work that day), we made our way along there intending to check it out.
Funnily enough, on the subway there, after just talking about how great it is to see performers and musicians on the subway, at the very next stop a bunch of guys with bongos got on and yelled “good afternoon!” to the carriage. We were the only ones who replied! It reminded me of the tube in London where everybody is in their own little unresponsive bubble. They sat down and played and they got off at the same stop as us. After tipping them, we chat to them for a while and they said how surprised they were that people had said hello to them, until they found out we weren’t from New York and then they weren’t surprised at all!
After exiting the tube, we managed to find the exhibition, but the entrance queue stretched right the way to the corner of the block, and almost to the other corner as well. We didn’t want to wait around for that long, so quickly abandoned that idea.
A brief glance over my “to see” list and the plan quickly changed to The Bronx Zoo. Amber phoned a friend who had a car and was already in the area, and we were soon driving over there to say hello to the animals. Brisk walking was key, as we had actually arrived fairly late in the day after waking late in the first place, and then our failed exhibition visit. We got to see most of the animals before closing though. Oh, hundreds of peacocks as well... if you have a strange peacock obsession, make your way to The Bronx Zoo.
After being forced out of the zoo due to its closing, we went to get dinner (pizza, naturally!), then a crepe covered in chocolate, fudge sauce and the like for dessert. I was remiss in not taking any photos here, but I made up for that during the rest of my visit. As they say in America, go hard or go home. As it turned out, I went hard, then went home about 10 stone heavier.
I hasten to add - this wasn’t all consumed in one day.... more like two.
So after feeling cold again at the zoo, I realised I needed to buy some cold weather clothes. I’d nearly made it one year without needing them, but it was just too cold in New York! I went out and bought a cheap coat, hat, gloves, and plimsol type shoes - emphasis on cheap as I already had no money!
After getting warm I hopped aboard the Staten Island ferry. I didn’t particularly want to go to Staten Island, but due to Hurricane Sandy, this was the cheapest (free!) way to get near to The Statue Of Liberty. The hurricane had damaged Ellis Island, where the statue stands, and it was closed for repairs for the foreseeable future. Disappointing for me, as I’d wanted to go up to the top of the statue, but a photo from the ferry would have to do! It also gave a nice view back across to Manhattan.
Times Square was next on the agenda for the day - visit number one - daytime. I reached the iconic square, and actually encountered the real Spider-Man. Much to my surprise, I also found Batman and Catwoman chilling there too. Oh, and Darth, Chewie and a storm trooper...
I had no idea this was where they all hung out! I guess it’s as good a place as any.
My (essential) nighttime visit would take place another time, as I made my way back to the house, picking up some beer on the way, chilling with the girls watching a movie, drinking, and ordering takeaway. Ahhhhhh...... lovely!
I had pre-booked my place for the following morning - the 9/11 memorial site understandably has extremely strict security measures in place. This includes reserving your visiting time slot online beforehand - registering all your details, and a comprehensive airport-esque security check on your arrival at the memorial. After making your way through security, you come out on a large expanse of land, in stark contrast to the congested blocks surrounding you. In the footprints of where the towers stood, two large pools have been constructed, with water cascading down the edges before sinking into a hole in the middle to repeat the process. The names of all the victims are carved into bronze panels surrounding the pools, allowing the public to stand and pay their respects.
While this is a memorial, the sheer number of people there does mean it isn’t exactly quiet, and all the people taking photos (guilty of this myself) does make it seem like more of a tourist attraction unfortunately. It’s a sad place to be when you think of all the people who lost their lives there, but overall I think what they’ve done with the memorial there is appropriate and fitting. The new tower is called One World Trade Center (with the crane on top in the Manhattan skyline photo I included earlier) and was actually finished just after I left. It now stands higher than the Empire State Building at 1776 feet.
I was looking forward to that evening, as I had a ticket to go and see the Yankees play at Yankee Stadium. I had some time to kill before then though, so I visited Central Park and spent a few hours there. It’s absolutely huge, you could probably spend the whole day there if you really wanted to. I never saw Macaulay Culkin running around with a weird pigeon lady though, which I was pretty upset about. And if you don’t know what I mean, how can you not have seen Home Alone 2 as a kid?! Your childhood wasn’t complete, go watch it, quick.
OK, full disclosure... I’ve never watched a baseball game in my life. I have no idea what the rules are, how exactly you play (other than trying to whack the ball then running), or how it’s scored. Despite all that, I just HAD to go see a Yankees game while I was in New York! I actually think it would have been criminal for me not to do so.
I paid for the nosebleed seat, on a budget... high up in the stands, getting there nice and early to soak in the pre-game atmosphere and sink my teeth into my corndog! Oh, and my chicken strips...
The game started, and as predicted I had absolutely no clue what was going on, but I was excited anyway... I was glad I’d bought my hat and gloves and coat too, as high up in the stands as the night drew on it started to get freezing cold again and the match dig tend to drag on a bit...
The good news is the Yankees won 4-2! Looks like I’m a lucky mascot. Maybe I should buy a season ticket...