After eventually getting in by bus from Boston, even though the driver took some weird direction to get to the bus terminal down 5th Ave and Central Park at peak time, some 45 minutes late, I headed straight to the hostel for a quick clean up before catching up with Jaimee, Matt & Gaye for dinner and few drinks at Eight Mile Creek in Little Italy.
It was so nice to have a Coopers Sparkling Ale on tap available as well as the Pale Ale by the bottle. Just like being at home. The food was awesome, though a little pricey in the end but it was definitely worth it. Downstairs in their lounge area, MiG who came 3rd in the reality show Rockstar INXS was playing and was good to hear him live, if only briefly.
Next day started with breakfast at Max Brenner’s Chocolate Cafe near Union Square. The hot chocolate was good but not as good as LA Burdick in Boston but his cookie was to die for. From there I had a tour of Yankee Stadium to attend to. At least this time I pre booked the tour as opposed to just rocking up and hoping like I did last time. Given the Yankees won the world series only a couple of weeks back there was still a celebratory feel in the air. Got to look around the museum, monument park, sit in the Yankees Dugout, stand on the hallowed turf, as well as going past the change rooms (which we were not able to take a photo of). Even though it’s a brand new stadium you can really feel the history.
After that I headed down to Madison Square Garden, mainly to pick up my ticket to the Ice Hockey, but ended up doing a tour of the stadium by chance. I had done it before, way back in 2001 and to be honest it hadn’t changed that much. One improvement is that I got the opportunity to get a photo with one of the Knicks city dancers!! Lets be honest, what sort of male is going to pass up that opportunity. Also got to view the arena from a skybox, go to both the Knicks and Rangers change rooms as well as a newly created bar celebrating the musicians who have played there over the years. One could say I was like a kid in a candy store.
On the way out, I found that there were a couple of College basketball games being played that night in what was the Coaches v Cancer Tournament. It was featuring teams from Syracuse, Ohio State, California and North Carolina. Being a North Carolina fan, I had to go as its unlikely I will ever get to see them in person again. The first game was between Ohio State and California which was a consolation final. Game was good but atmosphere was lacking. I did have great seats, just 11 rows from the floor and could see everything. The second game between North Carolina and Syracuse was the Championship Game and the atmosphere was the most amazing one I have ever seen at a basketball game. Never realised how much basketball was a stand up spectators sport. To have rabid supporters all around going nuts over the slightest thing, is so hard to describe. Unfortunately my team lost but it was an experience I will never forget.
Following day I headed to financial district of Manhattan, wandering around Wall Street, the Stock Exchange and Federal Hall before making my way out to South Street Seaport to check out the shops, the old ships and also The Bodies Exhibition in the Museum. That exhibition was really interesting to see the inside of the human body and how everything is interrelated. I never realised what complicated instruments our body actually is.
After that I hit the Century 21 Department Store. This was the commencement of my shopping. Its tough work in there as the crowds are continuous and there is no giving way. You just grab what you can and try to get to a register. It’s a great experience though and the bargains are more than worth the effort. I’ll probably go back again before I leave as I am sure I could need some more stuff.
From the shopping workout I headed to the 9/11 Preview Museum to see what they will be doing with the site at Ground Zero. It looks good what they are going to do with the freedom tower and reflecting pools and hopefully it goes ahead with no problems.
That night I went to my first show in NY called Fuerza Bruta. It could best be described as Ballet on acid with a rave element included. Everything was above your head so no seats were available. There were swimming pools coming down from the ceiling with the actors bouncing onto them, giving one the feeling they could break at any moment, with actors also trashing various sets smashing foam and confetti blocks over the audiences heads. it was a pretty insane show but really cool. I would recommend it to anyone that’s for sure.
After the show I headed out for few drinks with Dave (Irish guy from the Hostel) and it was a long night of drinking. Given we started reasonably early, we were not expecting to be still be sitting there past 3am still knocking off pints. Oh well, this is what we do when travelling. What a great night though!!
After a very late sleep in, well my standards anyway, the following day was a very slow one indeed. Hanging out with Dave, we rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth to view the Statue of Liberty. Hey, its free and we didn’t have to work hard so its positives all round. I then gave him a bit of tour through the Financial District, Ground Zero and more shopping in Century 21. Didnt spend as much this time, thankfully. Shopping with a hangover isn’t a great idea at the best of times. One of the other places we visited was the Vietnam Veterans Plaza which was very well done and paid great tribute to those who lost their lives in that conflict. A very early night was had by me as I had a huge headache hitting me later on that afternoon and was suffering pretty badly.
After a great nights sleep, which was well and truly needed, I had to figure how the hell I was going to get all this shopping home. I swear the guys in the hostel room thought I had lost the plot as there was crap everywhere. Eventually managing to sort it out into what I should keep with me and what should go home, I headed down to the post office with almost 14lbs (over 6kgs) of clothes and other crap to send home. The thing about post offices here, is that you have to queue to buy the envelope, then pack everything away from the counter, wait for the next client to finish their enquiry, before heading back to the counter to actually post the stuff. All up this adventure cost me about 2 hours in time, plus almost $100 in shipping!! Ended up buying lunch at one of the Seinfeld Soup Nazi Franchises and having the best, well only time I have tried it, mulligatawny soup. It really hits the spot and his soup is by far and away the best soup one could eat.
Finally achieving some sort of success I went back to the hostel for a bit of rest. By this stage in my trip am so tired and worn out that doing nothing seems like a great option. That night I had a ticket to see the Ice Hockey at Madison Square Garden (NY Rangers v Columbus Blue Jackets). Did I feel up to it? Not really, but trundled along anyway. It was worth the effort though as saw 11 goals scored (NY won 7-4) and 2 fights plus numerous hard hits against the wall. The atmosphere was amazing as always at the Ice Hockey. When the fights started the crowd really got into it and goal celebrations for the fans are just so much fun. Love the fights though. The 2 players eye each other off, then throw their gloves and stick on the ice, then just go at each other with the refs watching. they don’t interfere, until the players have tired themselves out or fallen on the ice. The other players don’t even bother watching or join in. They use the time to rest, get a drink, etc. I could never see the AFL being this organised when it comes to fights.
After another long sleep, yeah I am becoming a master of it, I headed out in the Chelsea direction to visit the Jonathan LeVine Gallery for a friend. Unfortunately the gallery had closed but still found out some interesting stuff about one of the artists. What this time allowed me to do was go up to the Highline which had only been an attraction since June 2009. It’s basically an old unused above ground railway line (30ft off the ground) which has now been turned into a park stretching quite a few blocks, with views along the Hudson River as well viewing points towards the city you wouldn’t expect to see. One such viewing point is sitting watching the traffic leave you as you sit above the road looking through a glass window. It was all pretty cool and even has sunbathing beds if you are keen.
From there I headed down to Pier 54 on the Hudson. The only reason for that is that no one was else was there and to get a place where one can be by themselves in a city of 20 million is quite a surreal feel. Once at the end, you could gain a sense of where that pilot who landed his plane safely in the Hudson did his deed so incredibly as well as gaining some views of Jersey City (NJ) and Downtown Manhattan, including a very small looking Statue of Liberty. Was such a peaceful place to be in and gave time for one to reflect on their journey to date.
Lunch today I had at an old style American Diner. It was almost like walking onto the set of Happy Days or the cafe in Seinfeld. Got to sit in my own booth and had a reasonable meal. I never really expected quality but I didn’t expect to have stomach problems either like I had for the rest of the day. From now on Pumpkin Mash is off the menu!!
During the night, I just wandered around the Times Square area and Rockefeller Centre taking night scenery photos. It’s the sort of places I have been many times, but they are also the sort of places you should also revisit too. I did get to see some things and people I didn’t expect. Firstly the Swarovski Crystal Star that will be on top of the Xmas Tree at Rockefeller. (The tree wasnt ready at this stage. Was still being trimmed, etc). Secondly, I bumped into Elmo and Hello Kitty in Times Square. Personally I couldn’t give a toss about Hello Kitty and decided not to waste a photo on it. Thirdly, I finally saw the Naked Cowboy in Times Square. Seriously the guy cannot sing at all, nor play the guitar, but the ladies love him. I guess after 6 visits I had to sight him eventually.
The next day was last one in the city area before heading out to Long Island. In the morning I headed out to Brooklyn to see a ‘Who shot rock & roll’ photography exhibition. I could only dream of being as good as photographer of people as these guys. the photos were amazing and so full of feeling and emotion. My personal favourite was the emotion showed by Kurt Cobain after one of his concerts. From there I headed to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for a quick wander, seeing the Japanese Garden, Shakespeare’s Garden and the Brooklyn Celebrity Pathway. Weather wasnt to kind as it had that persistent drizzle but a pleasant morning/early afternoon was had.
In the afternoon, I had to meet Matt at Penn Station to catch the train out to Long Island to stay with him and Jaimee. I thought I had mastered the subway system pretty well but Penn Station is completely different kettle of fish. With it also being the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the crowds were somewhat insane. How Matt found me was amazing in itself. I was so expecting to be stranded at the station!!
Jaimee and Matt’s house in Long Island was really nice and very warm. So was their company. Provided Jaimee with some minor assistance with the Thanksgiving dinner preparation, well I went to the shops with her and held the basket whilst she found the items she needed!! I never realised that cooking a turkey involved so much preparation.
The next day was Thanksgiving and watched the parade on TV. There was no way I was going to attend that after enduring the crowds at the Halloween Parade in 2007 and the Yankees Victory Parade 3 weeks ago. It reminded me a lot of the Adelaide Xmas Paegant but with big balloons and a lot more people. Jaimee’s parents (Carole and Bill) came for the dinner in which Carole helped her with the remainder of the cooking as the rest of us watched american football on TV. The meal itself was awesome. I was so full afterwards and was thankful that they would allow me to join them in such a family celebration.
The following day was a pretty lazy one, did some minor shopping with Jaimee and later with Matt. I did resist the urge to buy more clothes. Crowds at the shops were pretty big as the friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. You got to get in early if you want those $5 fridges!! And no, I didn’t even think about it!! That night was last one in NY and we just played Wii games and got much butt kicked on a regular basis, followed by pizza and few drinks.
Leaving NY is always a sad thing for me, especially my awesome friend Jaimee, her husband Matt and her family as they are always so good to me. I wish I could stay but the journey must continue.
Next stop San Antonio.