I finally arrived in the big apple after a 13 hour non-stop flight from Jordan. Flight literally seemed like forever as there was no personal tv. Thankfully the iPod was fully charged to get me through.
Arrival was slow as there must have been 3 or flights all come in at once, so getting through immigration was slow at best. At the officials did the right thing in that once all the US citizens had gone through they let the international visitors use those terminals. Getting to the city was really slow as it was peak hour. To be honest I felt I could have walked from JFK airport to my accomodation before the bus did!
My accomodation here is located in the East Village well enough away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square down near New York University so the area itself has a really good vibe. Its so clean here and the staff are most helpful. Its also nice having a shower in the room so dont have to do any corridors runs first thing in the morning! There was always that fear of leaving the room and not having the key, therefore finding oneself stranded.
The time hear started off really well as I heard on arrival the NY Yankees won the world series (woohoo!!, my team) and that there was going to be a victory parade somewhere. It wasn’t my intention to go to the parade as I needed to buy a mobile phone (I refuse to use the word cell) and look at the possibility of buying the same camera I had stolen in Mongolia, before going to the basketball tonight.
Getting the phone was easy and directions to the camera store seemed quite simple. Only one problem as I later found out. The shop I was looking to go to was right at the end of the Parade route so I ended up being surrounded by a couple of million Yankees fans not being able to go anywhere at all. I couldnt even see the parade, and neither could they, but they were still so happy and full of pride that I couldn’t begrudge them. However I did feel like I was part of it and from there I didn’t even bother about the camera, well for today anyway.
Due to the people at the parade I ended up going to the World Trade Centre Tribute Museum to get out of the crowd. It was quite a relief but seeing as i though I saw it 2 years ago, I sort of wasted my money but it was still good to pay tribute once again. By the time I got out of there the crowd was leaving the parade and this sort of forced me to do a loop around the World Trade Centre Site to see the progress it has made. Compared to previous times I had seen it the progress is pretty much up to street level. When they complete the Freedom Tower will be anyones guess. Another visit in a few years will need to be made.
That night I caught up with my awesome New York friends (Jaimee, Gaye, Matt) and had a nice meal in a bar called Local, that served up the biggest plate of Nachos I have ever seen. The guacamole and sour cream provided was a lifetime supply! From there we headed to the basketball at Madison Square Garden (NY Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers). Being honest I only wanted to see the Cavaliers to see LeBron James in action and he definitely didn’t disappoint. I knew he was good but seeing him live showed me how good he actually is. There is no way he will waste his time coming to the NY Knicks next season. History shows that he ‘took his talents to South Beach’. The Knicks suck and even the New Yorkers acknowledge that.
It was also celebrity central at the game with people such as Jay-Z, Chris Rock, some of the World Series winning NY Yankees, some of the NY Giants and NY Knick legends present (Larry Johnson, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley).
Next day I wandered through Central Park and took in the eastern side of it. It was such a beautiful day. I thought about ice skatng in Central Park but too many people around especially if I stacked it, which would have more than likely. Could have spent all day in there but other places needed visiting. On the way to catching the subway up to Yankee Stadium I found a small coffee shop that sold Black & White cookies (as made famous by Seinfeld) and it was as good as I remembered from the last time I was here.
Arriving at Yankee stadium kind of felt surreal as only a couple of days ago they won the World Series at this very venue. The only problem I had is that all the tours had been booked out so I could only walk around the outside. It wasn’t so bad but I have bought a ticket to go on the inside when i return back to NY from the 19th November. From there I went down to the Rockefelor Centre to go up to the observation deck and wander around the shops. As the day was so sunny the views were fantastic and could literally see for miles.
Next day I was feeling rather lazy and just wandered around the markets in Union Square, Chelsea and Madison Avenue. Each market was different and selling different wares. My personal favourite was Chelsea as the food on offer there was brilliant plus it was indoors which always helps. At Madison Avenue I rediscovered the joys of a freshly squeeze lemonade and it was sooooo good. From there I headed down to City Hall Park where there is a good electronics store. I managed to buy the same model camera I had stolen in Mongolia. Its so good to have it back!
Following day I managed to get myself organised to send some stuff home. Finally I managed to offload that sleeping bag that I only used once, in Egypt, and the miriad of electronic chargers that I no longer need. My backpack now feels significantly lighter and a hell of a lot easier to pack now. After that I caught up with Jaimee once again and headed down to Coney Island. As it was summer, not alot is open down there but it was still good to see the old Cyclone roller coaster and ferris wheel.
Walking along the Boardwalk was pretty sweet but looking at the food stalls that were open, you could almost see the fat running on the floor. Well maybe not but you didn’t need to use alot of imagination. From there we headed into Brooklyn and had lunch at a really funky Cuban Cafe. First time eating cuban food and it was so good. Note to self to remember this place.
The following day I headed into the Times Square/Broadway area with Jessica, whom I met in the hostel a few days beforehand. She was pretty desperate to try and get tickets to the Letterman show. Just for fun I signed up for the lottery, thinking I had no chance and didn’t really care if I won or not, to recieve a phone call about an hour later to say I won tickets. Jaimee who I put down as my guest as I nominated multiple days couldn’t come so the people at Letterman allowed me to bring Jessica along instead. I dont think she could have been happier.
In the time between signing up for the lottery and picking up the tickets, we wandered around the Times Square district and 5th Avenue visiting various stores such as M&M World, NBA Store, GAP, NBC Experience and Lindt before heading to a Japanese place for lunch for noodles. I couldn’t believe the size of the bowl. I dont normally get beaten by food but I could only get halfway through this bowl of noodles!
Time was upon us to pick up the tickets for the show. The line up was huge to collect. Even though there was only about 400 people the queue still ventured around the corner. Finally we got the tickets in our hot hands and was told to come back in 45 mins to enter the theatre. What to do in 45 mins? Well the pub was calling and seemed like a good spot to kill some time!
After all of this we finally got to the line to enter the theatre. Behind us were some US Marines who were in town on the USS New York and we just started talking to them as there really wasnt too much else to do when in line. From talking to them, I just jokingly asked if we could have a private tour in the morning. Much to our surprise the guy we were talking to was the Leiutenant Commander of the vessel and was more than happy to assist. What a bonus for us! He gave me his number and said when we get there, dont worry about the queue, just ask security to call him and we’ll be fine.
The Letterman show itself was much better than I expected. The major guest for interview was Jack Hanna who runs the Colombus Zoo who bought a whole menagarie of animals along and the musical guest for the night was Shakira. She was so tiny but was awesome. Much to my surprise I found Lettermans jokes funny (who would have thought?) and the CBS Orchestra with Paul Schaeffer were pretty cool. After the show we headed out to the street to see if we could spot Shakira leaving the theatre. When we got there, there were heaps of paparazzi present. We waited and waited and waited some more, then she quickly appeared. I popped my camera up in the air, hoped for the best and clicked one shot and happened to capture her smiling face. BONUS!! I had all of about 0.5 of a second to get the shot and I nailed it. Maybe paparazzi photographer can be my next profession. After all that excitement it was time to head back, get something to eat and just relive the day all over. What a fantastic day and had some pretty awesome company as well.
The USS New York private tour was first thing in the morning. Seeing as though the queue was 4 blocks long to see it, we were very blessed to jump the queue and be escorted around the ship by the Leiutenant Commander. It was pretty cool going inside the tanks, helicopters, playing with the bombs, machine guns and rocket launchers. What made this ship special is that some parts of it were made from the recycled metal of the World Trade Centre. They also had some tributes to 9/11 on board and one in particular had a piece of the fuselage of one of the planes that hit the building. To touch that was a weird feeling and almost brough a tear to my eyes. From there I said farewell to Jessica who was flying home and I headed down to the NYC Annex of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
What an awesome place that was, seeing various objects from stars, including really bad jumpsuits that Elvis and Mick Jagger had worn amongst smashed guitars, Madonna outifts and Beatles memorabilia. The most special part was an exhibition dedicated to the years that John Lennon lived in NYC. The most tearjerking moment in there was seeing the brown paper bag, Yoko Ono received back from the police with John Lennon’s clothes after he was murdered. When viewing that, Imagine was playing in the background and it was hard to hold back the tears.
From there I wandered around Little Italy before heading back to the hostel. Ended up going back there and Chinatown for dinner and drinks. Saw lots of gross food in Chinatown such as Goose Intestine and ducks feet which I was not even going to consider.
We settled for Dim Sum that was cheap and tasty before heading back in Little Italy to Cha Cha’s restuarant for what they claim is the best tiramisu in the world. I have to admit it was really good, but worlds best, I am not too sure. Its up there though. Whilst sitting there we could overhear a conversation between some movie big wig and his cohorts. We think the name of the move is going to be ‘Payback can be a bitch’ which will be something along the lines of the Godfather movies. Lots of talk about Fat Joe and bodies in trunks. One guy there had on a mafia stlye hat and looking all serious. By this stage we couldnt stop laughing and had to leave. On the way back to the hostel we stopped in for a few Coopers ales in the Eight Mile Creek Aussie bar and it was so good to have a taste of home even though I am a long way from it.
Next stop is Detroit followed by Boston then back to NYC again from the 19th to the 28th to celebrate Thanksgiving with Jaimee and friends. Cant wait.