Wow what a first few days!
New York - 4th - 8th May 2010
Day one Well we certainly picked a good day to fly to New York. The volcanic ash cloud decided to make another appearance this morning, the Times Square bomber had his court case scheduled for later that day in New York and whilst we were in the air an accomplice was caught on a flight about to depart from no other than JFK Airport to Dubai - the exact one we were flying into! That may explain why they seemed to be particularly tetchy about the fact that we were going to be in the country for 2.5 months, but only had 4 nights accommodation booked (that and the fact that I have both Egyptian and an even more recent UAE stamp in my passport). We were both interrogated but I was pulled into an interrogation room and interviewed by another 2 very moody US customs officials.
We finally got to our hostel which is a 5 minute walk from Central Park on West 95th Street (do I sound like a New Yorker yet?), and both nearly died laughing when we realised we were going to be spending our time here in New York in bunk beds!
We stayed up as late as we could to get over the jet lag even though we were knackered and decided to go to McDonalds to grab some dinner as its close by. Oh my Christ (Selena's new saying) the portions are massive! I can't believe how different their menus are to home.They do third pounder burgers, fountain size drinks, super size meals, sweet tea, southern fried chicken, burgers in wraps and take forever and day to serve you. Selena had a triple thick milk shake (thankfully she didn't go for the fountain size) and could still only drink a half of it.
New York sightseeing
We had such a good time in New York and the weather was scorching! We were told by one of Selena's friends to try and not walk around wide eyed and open mouthed, as it was 'so uncool' and we admit that we both completely failed. It's just stunning, jaw dropping and there's one amazing sight after another, after another.
We went to Central Park, 5th Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Flatiron building, China town, Little Italy, Ground Zero, Macy's, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Bloomingdales (and got our little brown bags) and to the Museum of Natural History and even saw a show in the Planetarium!I am now feeling extremely cultured and have amazingly not picked up a dodgy American accent!
Central Park is just huge and actually the whole of New York has a strangely familiar feeling to it due to the amount of films and TV programmes shot here. We were walking around in Central Park and were trying to figure out which way to go based on scenes from SATC - it worked too which was even weirder.
Rockefeller Center (yes they spell it the English way not American!) was awesome. We went up to the 69th floor which is 850ft above sea level and the views across Manhattan were stunning.
I absolutely loved Times Square. It's a bit likePiccadilly Circus at home, just much bigger. It's padestrianised in the middle so you can just sit there and absorb the view, out of the hustle and bustle. It's also home to the most outrageous police hut, with a flashing pink and blue neon sign with weird little police golf buggies - so funny!They have M&M world (aka Jai's in heaven) and they had every colour and flavoured M&M you could ever think of. I got some peanut butter ones which were gorgeous.We also saw our first celebrity here - Mario off of Saved by the Bell (ok not quite A list, but a celebrity nether-the-less).
We collected the most expensive train ticket either of us have ever brought - a $750 rail pass from Pennsylvania Station and also had a look around Madison Square Garden which is located directly above it. We also made sure we got a pic of the next fight which is against Amir Khan!
Flatiron building, this is a really famous landmark in New York shaped strangely as it may seem like an old fashioned flatiron. It's so pretty and I've wanted to see this building for years, so can't quite believe that I finally have my own pics of it!
Subway aka the ultimate challenge, I've done this list in order of the sights we saw, and I'm still on the sights from the first day. We had walked from our hostel to the Flatiron building which is over 100 blocks / 13 miles / half a blimin Marathon!Seriously if we put on weight in America I don't know what will do it! Lol So, we finally decided to use the subway to Little Italy to go for dinner, and I don't think that even if I spent the rest of my life trying that I would ever be able to figure out the New York Subway. They don't just have one train that goes to set places from each platform, but they can have up to 3 trains some 'express' and some 'local' (how you're meant to figure this out we still don't know). Sometimes a certain number or letter train will run local and other times fast. It's basically bit of a lottery. Which is why our sightseeing plans had to be flexible as we were constantly thrown out of the subway at various points all over the city. Each subway cart also seems to have its own resident busker. The first was a blind man, who was screaming the words to Jackson 5, I'll be there, whilst managing to somehow balance whilst walking through the subway cart with his stick in one hand and a cup in the other.
China town and Little Italy - so we finally made it off the subway - not quite where we wanted, but close enough, and we walked through China Town to get to Little Italy. I think the best way of describing China Town is it's like a Chinese version of Lewisham. We finally found Little Italy which is basically a couple of streets of Italian restaurants and cafes with lots of street dining and people shouting in Italian for that 'authentic' feel. We chose a little restaurant and sat outside, ordered and then realised when the starters came that we had probably over ordered due to the size of the dishes. The meal was gorgeous, the bill was horrendous, but we had a really good time JUntil of course when we had to get back on the subway to go home.
Ground Zero - After the usual arguments with New York's subway system, rather than going to pier 83 we ended up on our way to Battery Island, so decided to do the tour of the World Trade Center site and the museum. The tour was really moving as each one is run by 2 volunteers whose lives were affected by September 11th attacks in some way. There were 2 women running our tour and one had lost her husband and one her son, both in the North tower. The museum was also really moving as they had written accounts, voice recordings of the emergency services and artefacts recovered from the site including part of one of the aeroplanes and a fireman's jacket which had literally been ripped in half.
Empire State Building - We went to the Empire state building at night, as we had already been up the Rockefeller center and seen the skyline during the day. What we probably should have done was wait until after we had been up there before we started on the frozen Apple Martinis!Needless to say, it is a stunning building, with gorgeous views and we didn't really care about how cold it was up there that night because of how much blood we had pumping through our alcohol streams ;)
Statue of Liberty - we got to Battery island early and got our free tickets to go inside the pedestal. Apparantly they only re-opened the crown last year due to the terrorist threat, and the waiting list is currently up until August. So we got the ferry across, had a mooch around, got our pictures taken, went in the museum and then climbed up the steps to the top of the pedestal / base of the statue. It was amazing to see such an iconic landmark, but we were both surprised just how small it was.
Ellis Island - this is the immigration center where all immigrants were processed before being allowed to continue their journeys.
Shopping in NY - Yes we know we are back packing, but seriously who could come to New York and not buy a "little brown bag" from Bloomingdales? ;) We also got a pair of the Easy Tone 'sneakers' to help burn off all the extra calories.
So that's it from New York, New York.We're now on a 9 hour train journey making our way to Niagara Falls - where it is apparently snowing! F*ck!