New York! Wow, what an amazing week you have shown us! We arrived on Monday morning, and then shuttled to out hostel where we met up with Gems. We dumped all of our gear and then walked to the Train station for our first taste of Times Square! We unluckily got off at the station directly across the road from the NFL store, which was also unlukily having a huge sale.. Of course, Cam dragged us in and we wandered around for what felt like forever while Cam decided what NFL cap he would like. The final decision was none, and instead we walked out with a duffel bag for me! Good trade I thought :)
Next stop was Times Square which is so absolutely amazing! I don't even know how to describe it, and even the photos don't do it justice. After the obligatory photo taking, we headed to M n M world, and then Hersheys. M n M world has three stories full of chocolate, in every colour so you could literally have a rainbow of M n Ms. After ressiting the urge to buy a number of stupid branded products, but spending about $12USD on chocolate, we looked at Hershey's. Not as amazing, but they gave us free taste testers (yum!).
Next we wandered through a number of gift shops and touristy stuff, before finding one of the most amazing shops in the world, four stories of girls clothing at like $20 for a dress or $5 for a bikini top, and $30 for an awesome pair of shoes. After this we met Jackson, as he had a couple of free hours, and he took Cam and I up to the top of the Rockefeller Centre, which is one of the tallest buildings in New York. It was absolutely crazy. As you got into the lift, the ceiling lit up and you could see the lift shaft as we were climbing. It was so nauseating! We climbed so incredibly high so quickly. The view from the top was awesome though. Looking out one side was pretty much the entirety of New York City, Chrysler Building, Empire State building (girls this is where Chuck waits for Blair to propose but she never turns up), and the new World Trade Centre building. As a little stroke of luck, the day that we went up there was the day that the WTC building became the tallest building in NY, so that was pretty cool!! The other side of the building gave amazing views of Central Park. This was one of my favourite parts of New York, and an awesome way to start our adventures into NY. After this Jackson had to leave for a rehearsal, and so we met up with Gems again and organized to meet Jackson the next morning. The rest of our first evening in NY was spent wandering through Toys R Us, which is a huge toy store that has a ferris wheel inside. They had all kinds of awesome toys, so we all acted like little kids again! Somewhere here Cam decided that he needed to go back to the NFL store
Early the next morning we met Jackson and missioned it out to his flat with all of our bags on the Metro. This took at least an hour, and after one of the best cups of tea I have ever had, we all headed back into Manhattan. Our first stop upon arriving in Manhattan was Grand Central Station (girls, this is where Serena arrives on the first episode of GG). Grand Central Station is amazing, it is a very classical style architecture, and was truly beautiful. One of the coolest things about Grand Central is the Whispering Wall. In the middle of the busiest Train Station in New York, you can stand on opposite sides of the room, facing the wall, and talk (in a normal voice) to the person on the other side of the room. Its such a crazy thing, it sounds just like the person is next to you, even though the station is really noisy.
After this we introduced Gems to a Double Down (I had been craving one since we left Pano!) and then went shopping at H and M (just a heads up, not a good idea to shop for clothes when you have just eaten such fatty, gross food haha). There were cops absolutely everywhere as we walked around, lines of about 15-20 cars driving through the city, and we later found out that there had been a huge Occupy protest at Union Square that day. Would have been a pretty cool thing to see but unfortunately we didn't make it there. We needed to buy a sleeping bag, and so feeling maybe a tad over confident about our ability to navigate the train system, we found a Target store in the middle of nowhere in Brooklyn, and then caught the train out there. Surprisingly, this was a complete success but by the time we got out there at back, there wasn't much time for anything else.
Day three was Jackson's first day off class, so he had organized that we catch the ferry over to Staten Island, have some lunch, and then head back. The ferry drives straight past the Statue of Liberty, so gave us a chance to get some photos of. The place we went for lunch was really, cool, if not a little bit weird. I have forgotten the name of it, but the tables all had paper on them, and a cup of crayons to draw pictures as you eat. The weird part about this café was that it had a timer that was counting down until the (apparent) end of the world.. A little bit disconcerting that's for sure!! We explored Staten Island for a little bit, (which incidentally is apparently made out of rubbish. All rubbish used to get dumped out at sea and then there was so much they just covered it with concrete and called it Staten Island. Not sure how legit that is!!) and caught the ferry back to Manhattan. Somewhere in here I managed to call home which is always really nice to hear from family!
Next up to explore was Wall Street which is actually quite eerie. It is in the really old part of Manhattan and so all the streets are really really narrow. It felt bizarre to walk down! We saw the building where the New York Stock exchange was, Federal Hall (where George Washington took his oath as being the first President of America. This also had heaps of history stuff through it), and Trinity Church which was so beautiful. It was Gothic Architecture, which, along with Classical, is my favourite architectural style. We sat in the church for about 15 minutes before Jackson had to head off, and so Cam and I did a little more shopping, made our way to Brooklyn to get changed, and then WENT TO A NEW YORK YANKEES GAME! We paid $1 each per ticket (plus about $10 in booking fees of course haha). I really hadn't given much thought to going, and we almost didn't book the tickets, so it was one of those things we really had no expectations of, but were completely blown away by how awesome it was. We had seats right up in the top tier but the way the stadiums are constructed that really makes no difference to whether or not you can see so our seats were actually pretty awesome. We spent a little bit chatting to the guy sitting in front of us about the rules etc, and then just chilled and watched the game.
Day four was the Metropolitan Museum. This is great example of why it is handy to talk to someone who knows what they are talking about before you go somewhere! Tickets are advertised at being $25 per person, but technically that's just a donation and you can just donate $1 if you want, so Cam and I got in for $1 which I thought was pretty awesome. The building itself was amazing. This really cool Classical Architecture with huge columns and steps. First thing we saw was Classical and Greek history, my absolute fortay. We spent a really really long time in this section, before realizing that we were running out of time a little bit. We skimmed over the other sections, and were surprised to find that they had a New Zealand section with Maori carvings etc! As you were walking through you also would randomly come across these re-created hotel rooms from the 1800's it was quite incredible. In some cases they were the actual rooms that they had picked up and moved into place at the museum. Another favourite exhibition that we saw was the Medieval exhibition, and attached to that was the weapons. Some pretty cool history there. We saw King Henry the 8th's suit of armour which was hilarious cause he was kinda overweight haha.
At about this point the museum closed and so we had to leave, and instead headed into Central Park for a look. I would describe it as Pukekura Park on Steroids. It's absolutely huge! And so gorgeous. We meandered around, and found the water reservoir, at which point we sat down on a couple of park benches and I had a nap :s haha. I thought it was kinda romantic.. I'm not sure that Cam agreed!! As we were leaving Central Park, we walked right into the Guggenheim Museum, which was awesome as it was something I really wanted to see but had kinda forgotten about, so I was pretty stoked with that. On our way home Cam made us stop at White Castle (which is apparently the food from Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle) where he ate about five burgers in the space of as many minutes.
This brings us to day five: Cam and I managed to literally stumple upon (hehe) another amazing church. This one was called St Pauls and was a block away from the Twin Towers however had miraculously not been damaged in the slightest. There wasn't even any damage to windows or anything. As they were so close to Ground Zero, the church became the place for all volunteers to go for food, a sleep or just an ear to talk to. As time progressed, the church also started offering things like massages to help the volunteers. As word spread about what the church was doing, people from all over the world sent messages of hope and love to the church, where they were displayed all over the fence outside and the walls inside. All of the messages have been kept, and some of them were on display inside the church. The fence was also often used as a really sad way of showing loss. When the rescuers and recovery workers started work, they would have to change out of their 'civvies', and they would leave their boots hanging on the fence outside the church. Often at the end of the day there were boots left hanging on the fence, and they represented the workers who had not survived the day. They also had a video about the church's role in the recovery effort, and Cam and I spent about an hour and a half wandering through and looking at everything including this video. It was a strange place to be; on the one hand it was incredibly sad to look at all of the destruction and death that happened around the church, but on the other hand what the church stood for and the sense of community and camaraderie that you could feel within the church was really heartwarming and inspiring. It goes to show that even in the most horrible situations, humans come together and do awesome things for each other. It was one of the coolest parts of NY for me, and we just randomly found it which was pretty cool!
By the time that me and Cam finally pulled ourselves out of the church the day was pretty much gone and so we met Jackson at his flat, before he took us out to a BROADWAY SHOW! He got us tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar, and it was so absolutely incredible. Without a doubt the best show I have ever seen! (and this is saying something after seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show!!). I am still singing songs from it! Very very cool! I don't think anything can quite compare to a Broadway show.
After the show we tried to go into the bar that 'How I met your mother' based its own bar off, however Jackson had no ID and so we weren't allowed in and instead decided to wander through Times Square at night and then head back to Brooklyn for the night. Times Square was pretty amazing at night, I actually don't think you can say you have been to Times Square unless you go at night. The entire place lights up like a Christmas tree, its definitely something special and some thing that the photos don't really do justice!
Once rectifying the ID issue, we went on a pub crawl through the 'dive' bars in Brooklyn. A dive bar is pretty much a dodgy dirty bar that you really don't want to go into. We went to three bars, Lone wolf, Blue whale and a third that's name escapes me. The first one really wasn't too bad, loud music but not as bad as Jackson had made them sound. The second was a little more what we expected, pretty dark and dingy but we had one drink and then moved on. The third and final club that we went to was my favourite of the night, it had an awesome dance floor out the back and so we spent a bit of time having a boogie! A number of questionable dance moves came out, including the freestyle. Sadly this then evolved to breaststroke, which in turn evolved into butterfly, complete with the quick hip movement involved in kicking. Not my finest moment that's for sure! Eventually we got tired and headed home past McDonald's, but to our disappointment it was closed, and instead Dunkin Donuts was open. How weird huh, no 24/7 cheeseburger in Brooklyn, but we got ya Donuts covered!! Somewhere in here Jackson received a text from his friend who was back at the bar that we had just been at, and so we decided to mission it back there for one last dance. It was 'cinco de mayo' (fifth of May) which is a celebration in Spain so Jacksons friend, Maggie made us all have a shot of Tequila - not my fave drink haha. At this point the bar closed and kicked us out! I can't remember the last time I stayed at a bar long enough for it to close on me! Anyway, great night out, and home by about 4am.
As I am sure that you can imagine, the next day did not start very early… We had arranged to go to the World Trade Centre memorial in the evening, and so we didn't do much with the day until then. While we were waiting to meet Jackson we found these cool street acrobatic performers and so we watched them for a little bit, and then sat in the City Hall park and watched the fountain for a little bit. After showing Jackson St Paul's Church, we walked through to the memorial museum, had a quick look around, and got our entry tickets for the actual Ground Zero site. The museum wasn't as good as the church but still interesting to look through. To get into the memorial there were a number of security checks and about a fifteen minute long line to wait in, but we eventually made it. The memorial site, just like the church was kind of eerie. It was strange to be standing there looking at the very place where so many people had lost their lives. When I originally looked at the memorial online, I didn't particularly like it, however actually going there completely changed my mind. There are two large pools, each in the footprint of the old buildings, and within the square shape there are tiers of waterfalls, and it makes the space seem really relaxing and meditative. Around the outside of the pool are the names of all of the people who died, grouped by their location (ie South Tower, Pentagon, first responders etc, and lots of people leave flowers etc standing out of the name engraving. One thing I really didn't like was the way some people made it commercial. As we were walking in, there were people trying to sell books about 9/11 privately and make a profit off it which I found pretty bad.
After we had wandered around for a little, we decided to grab an early dinner at the cutest diner in the world with the best waiter I have ever had. After this we went to the most unique party I have ever been to; the Brooklyn museum opened up its doors and had a huge community party, complete with a world class DJ in the parking lot. It was pretty cool. Loz you would have loved it, there was lots of dancing and awesome fashion! Brooklyn was a very cool place.
The next morning was Sunday morning and so we were up early and ready for church! We had decided to head out to Harlem to go to a Gospel Church service. The tourist book that we had read had suggested this particular church as they were very welcoming towards newcomers, so we headed there. When we arrived, however, this was not the case. They were so incredibly rude and yelling at people 'you will NOT get in this church today!'. It was really scary! It turned out that there was a line at least a block long to get into the church so we weren't able to get in anyway. Was worth a try though! Instead we went to IHOP (international House of Pancakes) and had breakfast - yum! The rest of the day was spent wandering through Central Park, we walked past the building where John Lennon was shot, a memorial in Central Park in his honour, and then headed to the Bethesda Fountain, which is where Friends sit in the couch at the start of every episode of Friends. Was pretty cool! We then headed to the High Line, which is an old Railway line in the middle of the city that has been refurbished into a park and walkway, I heard a lot about this when I was at uni and so it was pretty cool to actually make it there. There were some pretty incredible views of the city from here. Jackson had left us by this point, and so we missioned it and crossed two more things off our list: Madison Square Gardens and Empire State Building, before meeting up with Jackson again for some dinner in China Town and then Avengers. At The Avengers we learnt a valuable lesson: America do not specify what seats you get when you buy tickets, so it is literally first in first served. We ended up with seats right under the screen which was a real let down. The movie was still amazing, we just didn't get to enjoy the 3D that we had paid for as we were too close to the screen.
Our final day in New York consisted of a little bit of everything. We went back to the How I met your Mother Bar and had a beer, and then just wandered. We spent a good hour in a book shop looking at books, and then happened to come across the Chrysler Building, and found Cam a pair of shoes so that he could throw the stinky ones out (momentous occasion, trust me!). We then headed back to Jackson's and had some New York Pizza for our final meal.
In our trip to New York we managed to go to: The Bronx, Harlem, Manhatten, Staten Island, Newark and Brooklyn, which I think isn't too bad an effort! We had such a great time and were sad to leave but are excited for the next stage in our journey: TREK!!!!