Sorry for the delay in updating our blog, the weekend was a mixture of crazily busy and quite calm. On Saturday we woke up early and went to the Empire State Building to beat the queues, which paid off. We decided to go right to the top, floor 102 as well and the general observation deck at 86. I'm so glad we did because although you can see an awful lot on 86 you cannot appreciate the vastness of Central Park, or indeed Manhattan, due to the nearby skyscrapers and so the view is so much better the higher you go. There were also no fears of vertigo on this building unlike my experiences with the Eiffel Tower, whether this is because it is a solid building or because there are so many other tall buildings nearby I am not sure. The building is very beautiful, as are most buildings in NYC. You can do some serious neck damage just walking round looking up all the time! When you enter the ESB the lobby is covered in marble and this is evident on all the floors you walk on. You have to take two lifts to climb up to 86 and each floor is covered with row upon row of barriers. Visiting this attraction could take all day if you picked the wrong time! Luckily as we were early we didn't have to queue much at all and were back outside on the sidewalk within 90 minutes.
We then walked down to the Flatiron Building which is a very weird triangular building. At the very front you wonder if anyone can possibly stand in such a small space but I imagine the rooms inside are shaped so you don't have this problem. It's an amazing piece of architecture and I could appreciate its beauty.
We then decided we had had enough of sightseeing for one day so we went back to the hostel. Dan went for a run, he ran down to the Western edge of the island and along the Hudson River until he came to the War Ship, not realising this was 40 blocks away. He then ran back but of course got lost on the way! I browsed the web, read and naturally fell asleep!
In the evening we walked through Central Park, and went to a comedy show. I know I keep saying this but this really WAS the highlight of the week so far and I do not understand why I have never been to a comedy club at home! There were four guys as well as the host who just ripped the audience to pieces! I have never laughed so hard at any joke before in my life. Tiger Woods featured quite prominently as did having to work. My favourite guy, Chuck Nice, talked about the different type of psychos you get riding on the subway - the bible basher who throws people in front of trains, the man who smells, and the terrorist. Completely non pc but absolutely hilarious!I asked when we arrived if we could sit near the front so I could lip-read, so it was no surprise that Dan and I got picked on. The host asked us how long we had been married and I answered three months. He said "That sounds like a jail term". Obviously you had to be there!
Afterwards we grabbed some food and walked back to the hostel, taking in Central Park at night (very quiet and peaceful, no asbo hoodies anywhere to be seen).
Yesterday we tried to do everything we hadn't done yet so we walked down to The Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot, and then through Central Park to the Strawberry Fields Gardens, which were opened in his honour. There is a mosaic on the ground which fittingly says "Imagine". The atmosphere in NYC is quite incredible, you can almost feel where something tragic has happened. These gardens were very peaceful and everyone was very mellow. The signs say "no musical instruments" but you will struggle to stop people playing here. One guy had some people singing along to old Beatles classics, another young guy with long hair, who was obviously on some kind of high, looked a bit confused and didn't look as if he knew what instrument he was holding, let alone how to play, so he just sat there in his own little world.
We then went past the Rockefeller Centre and carried on down to Times Square to watch a little football match that was happening, unfortunately, so did everyone else. The first bar we tried was guest list only, the second was a sea of orange. We stayed and watched the first half and then moved somewhere else where the colours were a bit more balanced. I was stood next to a little boy who was desolate when his team lost.
We ended our day on Brooklyn Bridge, having found the only Indian Restaurant in NYC with an English owner from Northampton, and admired the views from the centre of the bridge for a second time, this time at night. The views completely contradict what I said earlier on. At night, in my opinion, the financial district looks more amazing than during the day because most of the buildings still have lights on on several floors and it is naturally lit. The views of Central Manhattan are very different, the Empire State Building is lit in different colours depending on the day (on this occasion it was red) and other buildings such as the Chrysler Building are unnaturally lit and it doesn't look as good. Anyway, it was worth hiking out to the middle of a bridge for a second time. One building kindly told us that at 11pm it was 26 degrees!
For a city that has eight million people in it, it is a bloody small one! We came downstairs to the hostel reception one day to find the guy we shared a booth with when watching the Germany v Spain game, working behind the desk. If that's not freaky enough we bumped into him AGAIN later that day on Brooklyn Bridge. On the same day we saw three lads (also staying at the hostel) between the Staten Island Ferry and Brooklyn Bridge. Finally, last night, we saw one of the comics from the club having dinner in a restaurant in Greenwich, eighty blocks away from the said club! The mind boggles!
And now, we're on our first Peter Pan bus making our way to Washington DC to visit Mr Obama. We bought a Lonely Planet guide for the USA after getting so much out of the NY one, which was lent to us before we left (Thanks Jon!) So far we've learned that we're supposed to tip 15% for good service and 20% for exceptional service (oops!), that the most frugal backpacker will struggle to survive in the States with a budget of 100$ a day (ooops, that'll be why our budget is so massively blown then!) and that a train across Canada will cost 1200$ just for two seats not beds, on a journey that will take four days, and for that amount of money we could hire a car for six weeks!
Back to the drawing board eh?