As most of you know, we have made it back safely to sunny England but we'd thought we'd post our last blog on our final week in New York to complete our travel adventure.
We were up at 4:30am on Sat 8th to pack up the last of our bits and be ready for the shuttle bus that was going to take us to the airport.At the airport it seemed that you couldn't book in any earlier than two hours before the flight (we'll we couldn't anyway!), so we stood at the front of the line for an hour, tired, bored and unable to do anything!Eventually someone turned up so we booked in, went through the very strict security checks and finally got something to eat.The flight itself was fine… until we neared JFK airport and a message came over that due to bad weather in New York we had to circle for a bit while they fitted us in a landing spot.An hour and half later we finally landed and our in flight route plotter looked like a child had scribbled all over it after 90 mins of circling!
After landing and collecting our bags we caught the Airtrain and Subway to Upper Manhattan where our hostel was for our last week on the road.They failed to let us know exactly how far this was and another hour and a half later we finally arrived after sharing a train carriage with some very 'gangster' looking people.By this point we were very hungry so headed out to the supermarket and cooked up a feast.The hostel, Highbridge House, was nice, small and clean although they added an amazing 25% in 'taxes' to our bill which annoyed us!
The following morning we had a major lay in which was much needed.Around lunch time we ventured out and decided to check out Central Park.We got off the subway at 59th St which was at the South West corner of the park and zig-zagged our way through.We seemed to walk for ages, and on looking at the park map realised we had only seen a small section.It was then that we realised just how big the park was!It was an amazing park with families out everywhere with their kids and walking the dog. It was very cold though, and all the trees were, as French guy said in our hostel, 'nude'.We could both tell though that it would be a lovely place in the summer and very busy!On our walk we noticed that the Metropolitan Museum was located on the parks edge near where we were so we thought we'd pop in to be nosey.It seemed to be huge, although we only got to see small section of an Egyptian display before the museum seemed to be closing.On walking out we found out that the clocks had gone forward the night we arrived and we were an hour out.With that we headed back into the park and continued zig-zagging our way taking in the scenery.We eventually made it to the north end of the park after a long walk and soon found out that it was around 2.5 miles long and a mile wide - huge considering it was in the centre of New York City.
Monday we caught the tube to downtown Manhattan and visited the Twin Towers Site.When we first arrived I must admit that we didn't really feel anything as the whole area is a live construction site.One thing that we couldn't believe was how big the area was, so much so that it was hard to imagine just how big the towers must have been.We had been tipped off by someone we'd met in Las Vegas to cross over the road and visit St Paul's Chapel which we did.Here we found out that this had served as the base for the fire fighters and volunteers in the aftermath of the attack.The chapel was used as somewhere the helpers could rest, eat, talk and recuperate before crossing back over the road and starting another shift.The chapel's surrounding gates were also used for the touching scenes we all saw where the families of the missing hung up pictures, info and contact information in the hope of finding their loved ones.It was very touching walking around reading the information, seeing the various displays set out and realising how well everyone pulled together during that difficult time.From here we then went to the Twin Towers Visitors Centre which gave a back ground to the towers and the people who worked there.It then ran through the events and gave accounts of various people who had escaped the building and others who had known people who had died.It was very moving reading answer phone messages left by those in the aeroplanes and buildings before they crashed and collapsed.It also displayed remains of things they'd found.We were both very glad that we had gone as it was very informative and very moving, although I still couldn't imagine the scene when we returned to the site.It seemed more like a movie script.After this we didn't really know what to do with ourselves after this sobering experience so we wandered over to the Brooklyn Bridge to have a look around.We walked half way across the bridge and got our first look at the Statue of Liberty in the distance which was cool, but it was very cold there and we guessed that the other half of the bridge would look exactly the same as the first half so we turned around and walked back.We had a brief look around a couple of shops before heading back to the hostel.
Tuesday we headed to Lower Manhattan and planned to go across to Staten Island and then check out the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island.We soon realised though that there wasn't much to do on Staten Island so we decided to only go to Liberty Island instead.After a bit of a queue we finally got on the boat and took the short journey over.It was cool, although very surreal to actually be looking at the statue.It didn't look as big as I thought it would, although after reading the info it seemed that she was much bigger than she looked.The granite base itself is the same height as a 10 storey building and then the statue on top it took it up to around 25 stories high.I was also surprised to read that she was made from copper that is the same thickness as two coins together - I always thought it was made from stone!We were also gutted to read that after Sept 11th you are no longer able to climb up the statue to the crown - the nearest you can get is to the top of the granite base.We took a walk around the island staring up at the statue nearly all the time, but there wasn't anything else to do here so after one circuit we headed back.Back in the city we took a stroll along a small section of Broadway to the city hall looking in a couple of shops on our way.We then decided to head back to the hostel, but only after stopping at Central Park again, this time to visit Strawberry Fields.For those of you that didn't know, this was a section that was dedicated to John Lennon after his murder outside his apartment a stones throw from the park.It was a very peaceful place with only a simple mosaic shrine the middle.After spending a bit of time here we popped over the road and actually saw the place where he was shot which was very surreal as it just looked like any other building entrance.From here it was back to the hostel.
Wednesday we headed to Union Square but on our arrival here we soon realised that there wasn't much to see here, so after a quick walk around we set off to Madison Square Park.This was very small, and again there wasn't much to see so we continued again, this time ending up at the Empire State Building.Our plan had always been to go up the Empire State Building to take in the views of the city.However we'd been tipped off by a number of people we'd met on our travels that it was better to go up the Rockefeller Tower instead as the views were better and it was cheaper.With that we set off to find the Rockefeller but must have taken a wrong turn and ended up outside the Madison Square Garden Stadium which is located in the middle of the city.We continued on and then stumbled on Times Square.I think the fact it was still light took a lot of the initial 'wow' factor off of seeing it for the first time but it was still impressive and put Piccadilly Circus to shame.From here we finally made it to the Rockefeller Tower and went to 'The Top of the Rock'.Here we found out that the famous photo of the construction workers eating their lunch on one of the steel beams high up above the city was actually taken during the construction of the Rockefeller and not the Empire State Building.At the top the views were good, although it was absolutely bloody freezing!!!Because of this we didn't last long.The plan at the start of the day had been to see Times Square at night but because sunrise was still quite a way off, and we were hungry so we decided to head back for dinner and see it another day.
Thursday was our last day 'sight seeing', and I think after 6 months on the road we were well and truly 'travelled out'.Even though we were up early we didn't actually leave the hostel till afternoon-ish.We headed to West Village, or as its better know by tourists as Greenwich Village.When we arrived we found out there wasn't really much to do here.It was pleasant enough but just consisted of 'boutique' shops selling clothes at ridiculous prices.We walked around although we didn't really venture into the shops.We did find an awesome pizza shop and had a massive slice of pizza for lunch.After getting bored we caught the subway to a shop called Century 21 which is best described as a cheap designer jumble sale shop.Prices were very cheap but there was too much packed into the shop and everyone was fighting to get it.We both got fed up and left and caught the tube to Times Square to have dinner at 'Bubber Gump Shrimp', a restaurant created from the Forrest Gump film!!!We went there for the pure novelty and to be fair the food was good and there was loads of it!By the time we'd finished it was getting dark so we got to see Time Square in its full bright and over the top glory!!!We were also amazed to see that pretty much 3 in every 4 cars is actually a yellow taxi cab honking its horn!
Friday was our last proper full day in New York, and on our 6 month trip.I'd promised to Helen that we'd go shopping, and she held me to it.Problem was I had no money and was feeling rough from a cold I'd picked up and wasn't really in the mood.None the less we set out and went on a mammoth 4hr shopping trip.In fairness we didn't buy much but after 4hrs I'd well and truly had enough.Helen however was like a woman possessed and wanted to keep going.I managed to convince her to go home although it did see me in the bad books!!!Back at the hostel we cooked our last hostel meal and packed everything away ready for our flight home the following day.
Saturday the alarm went off at 4:30am and we woke up for our final day of travelling.We caught the subway back down to the airport.Unfortunately it was a slow train and it seemed to take forever to get there.Once we were there we went through the strict security controls and at 9:45am we were airborne.We landed a little late, and there was almost time for one last drama - Helen's backpack was one of the last off the carousel and she was getting very worried but it turned up and we were met by our families - Mum's happy to see us, Dad's worried about the parking meter!
Overall we've had a fantastic time, although we can't believe that it's been 6 months already!I think its fair to say that our favourite place has been the South Island of New Zealand, but there have been numerous memorable moments everywhere we've been.I think the ones that have really stuck with us though have been when we've stayed with friends and family, Helens Aunt & Uncle in Thailand, Steve & Liz's Parents in Oz and my Aunt and Dennis's in America so we'd like to say thank you again for everything you did for us!!!
We've now moved back into our flat after a week of home comforts and our mum's cooking and looking forward to our next trip - when we've finally paid off this one!
So till next time
Gavin and Helen