Thursday, 9 February 2012 3:34 AM Thursday 26/01/12
The days was meant to start with taking our first train ride down to the pier to get on the river cruise, we made the journey to the pier to discover that I had picked the wrong pier, the one we needed was miles away, oh well we had brunch instead. We changed plans and walked to Battery Park where we caught the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour. The ferry took us on to Liberty island after circumnavigating it and getting a wonderful view of her, the two downsides - you couldn't go into her as she was closed for renovations and that involved a bloody great yellow crane beside her, it was a challenge to get photos without the crane. The tour involved an audio recording, and gave some very interesting information. Although she is made of copper, it is only the thickness of 2 two cent coins, and she is suspended on an iron frame, and her torch is no longer the original.
After having a good look around we then jumped on the next ferry to Ellis Island. This island has a large number of buildings all restored and maintained historically as this is where they processed 12 million immigrants into the country in the early part of the last century. Apparently 1 in 4 Americans can trace there ancestry to these immigrants and 1 in 6 New Yorkers can trace their heritage to the immigrants. There are 1.6 million people living in New York and of these there are 170 different languages, Australia really has no idea what multiculturalism is yet. When you go to any crowded venue and can hear everyone around you speaking a different language, none of them the same, then you know you are a multicultural country.
We spent some time walking around the history of The Island then back on the ferry to Battery Park. Next we jumped on the bus to do the tour of Brooklyn, we had an Irish guide and unfortunately he wasn't a very good guide, but certainly a character. My favorite part of this tour was the 'Brownstones' which Brooklyn is famous for, so beautiful and now extremely expensive housing.
Some interesting facts about NY
* although they have a population of 1.6 million, there are at least 5 million in the city every weekday , tourists and workers.
* central park has been totally cleaned up and is now safe, with mothers and baby's strolling through it
* the Mayor of NY (a woman) brought in a new law, if you are convicted of a crime and you live in public housing you immediately lose your right to public housing, regardless of whether you have family etc, they are evicted also. This might seem harsh but as a result, Harlem has become a safe place.
* crime has been reduced by 40 % overall and by 79% in Harlem.
* they a really serious about terrorism, everywhere you go they a reminding you to be vigilant and report any suspicious behavior, I imagine it is going to take them a long time to get over 9/11.
Anyway, back to our story, we got back from that tour and made our way back to our room, quick freshen up and we decided to catch the ferry to Stratton Island, this time we managed a direct train trip (we were getting better at the subway),however something really thrilling happened. The guy opposite me who had been sitting playing a game on his iPhone asked something of the guy next to him and I got a look at his face, and i realized it was Phillip Hoffman, a movie star of lots and lots of movies. I pointed him out to Marty who was sitting next to him, but he was making no move, so I sat between the 2 of them and we had a chat to him for a short time, friendly enough and happy to chat to us. We reached the ferry stop and walked onto the enormous ferry, which took about 15 mins to cross the water, Marty suggested we have dinner over there, which I agreed was a good idea. Only we had no idea where to have dinner, so on arrival we found a 'livery service' no idea what that is but they were keen to help and suggested a restaurant and provided a driver for a reasonable price, except when we got on the road he really had no idea where the restaurant was. But some random had jumped in the car and helped him sort out where we needed to go; he dropped the random off at his place then took us to what he thought was the right place, we were just keen to get out of the car, not that we felt unsafe but we had been in the car for about 30 mins and didn't think the island was that big. We checked out the first restaurant and it was too expensive so made our way down the street and found a Greek restaurant, looked good so we thought we would give it a go.
We ordered just one meal each but as per the American way were given a salad and plate of pita bread to start with, tried not to eat too much of this, but when they brought the meal out it was enormous, we both could only eat a small portion of it but it was very very good. In the meantime we got chatting to the family at the table beside us, a young Greek family, who Marty reckoned he looked like with a movie star or a gangster, the dad had a good laugh at that cause he said he quite often got asked if he was a gangster, and even though he claimed he wasn't he said he knew a few :)
We got a photo then on the recommendation of the young waiter we went in search of the local train station to find our way home. Found the station and to cut a long story short we made our way home without meeting anymore movie stars but it was quite late (for us).
Because we had a late night yesterday and the weather forecast was for heavy rain we slept in this morning and had no significant plans. We had a slow start and decided to do some shopping, back on the subway and found ourselves at Century21 which had a sale on. Bought what we needed, which was mainly a new jacket for Marty, the white one he got in Sa Fran wasn't warm enough and he felt very conspicuous as no one wore anything but black or grey. The weather was getting worse, so headed back to our room. Except we zigged when we should have zagged and ended up about 10 blocks from our hotel, no worries we can walk that, until I recognized a bus that Marty had pointed out landed near our hotel, so we jumped on that and got home in no time.
We had planned on doing a river cruise but the weather was just not suitable, so decided we needed to do some washing instead. Packed it all up then jumped on a bus to the local laundromat.
The unfortunate thing about the subway is that you don't get to see anything, but it is really the only way to travel around NY as the traffic is horrendous, even on weekends. We had tickets booked for the World Trade Centre this morning, so back on the subway, keeping our eyes peeled for any celebrities.
The security for the WTC is as stringent as the airport, we had to remove everything, coats, hats, scarves, belts and have them x-rayed. But it was worth it, the 2 pools are each on the footprints of the original buildings, and they have the names of all the victims carved into the edges, it was quite moving to be there and imagine the chaos on that day. They are in the process of building a museum on the site and around it are the 2 new WTC buildings, each has no 9, 11 or 13th floors, the offices start at floor 20, mind you I wouldn't want to be working in either of them.
Our next stop was the tenement museum, somewhere on the upper east side, stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and to check directions. Marty was in dire need of a toilet, but unfortunately there is no such thing as a public toilet here, so had to have a drink in a pub so he could use their facilities, the waitress turned out to be a "Penny", her name was Brooke Smith and she was a budding actress, recorded her first part just the last week in a low budget movie, she was really sweet.
Anyway back underground, we were starting to feel like rats we were spending so much time there, we came out at the Brooklyn Bridge stop and looked up, beautiful sunny day and there was Brooklyn Bridge beckoning us, so off we set. It's recommended that once you get to Brooklyn you have a pizza at this special pizza place, we weren't sure where it was exactly but managed to find our way there only to find a really long queue, we weren't that keen to have pizza, so had a drink at a pub just down from it. The barman was a young chap from Ukraine, who had worked on Princess cruises, he gave us some recommendations for our cruise in the Mediterranean, (Princess or Royal Caribbean cruises).
We got on the underground and came back to new York, Brooke had given us directions of how to get where we wanted but a lot of the stations were closed for track work and we were getting more and more frustrated because we couldn't get to the station we needed, it didn't help that the woman in the ticket booth gave us incorrect directions (they do that a lot here, mustn't want to look like they don't know, so tell you anything), but we eventually found our way to the museum only to find that you had to prebook tickets for the tour. We booked tickets for Monday and made our way home. We were both foot sore and a bit weary so spent the afternoon booking accommodation in Iceland.
We decided on a musical today so walked to Times Square to queue for cheap tickets,even though we got there 40 mins before opening the line was already quite long but once opened we had our tickets within 15 mins. We chose the musical Rent, a lot of people had said it was good and it got good reviews, the major shows were really expensive even at reduced prices. While standing in the queue I nearly froze, but also noticed the Times Square museum so went to have a look and warm up, they had the old NYE ball in there as well as a couple of good short films on TS. The new ball sits permanently on a pole in TS.
We had a couple of hours to kill before the show so had a couple of drinks at TGIFs, and had a great chat with the barmaid, a young 19 year old college girl, working her way through college. She explained that they get paid $5/hr, hence why they rely on tips. She also has to tip the busboy and the server out of her own pocket. On a good shift in summer or holidays she can make $300-$400, but when it's quiet she may get almost nothing.
We grabbed a bite to eat from a street van, famous NY hotdogs, cost $3 and are about 1/3 of the size of our hotdogs.
Onto the show, it was a really odd show, had homeless, HIV pos, lesbians, gays and a transgender guy, but my god could they sing, we both found it very emotional, don't know why cause we couldn't follow the storyline.
Next stop, Empire State Building, it was almost dark and beautiful clear weather. We were going to walk to it, but Marty negotiated a tuk tuk ride, so we jumped in and had a lovely ride down broadway in NYs version of a tuk tuk. The guy driving was from Turkey. See what I mean about multicultural. The first part of the tour involved an amazing ride while watching a movie of a sky movie of new york, then we were directed up to the 86th floor. WOW, we were virtually speechless with the view, so clear and bright and colorful. You could stay inside and admire the view but it was much better outside, albeit freezing. When we were leaving the building we were stopped by a group of Asians asking us if it was cold up the top, they turned out to be from the Philippines and when we told them we had been there twice, they wanted to chat, or more to the point they wanted to learn our colloquialisms, like G'day mate and crikey, so we entertained them for a while then walked the 12 blocks back to our room, both tired but we had a wonderful day.
Quiet day today, had a sleep in then went to the Tenement Museum. In 1935, three buildings in the upper east side were condemned and sat empty until they were discovered by a couple of women who wanted to do walking tours through old tenements. They found these buildings which had not been touched in the 50 years since they were abandoned. They had heaps of things left inside and with the help of old official records and stories from the actual people or their descendants that lived in them they were able to recreate the apartments. We did a tour about families that lived in them around the 1900's, and had a garment factory in their apartment that only consisted of 3 rooms, with mother, father, 5 children and a border, as well as 3 girls that worked during the day. Really great tour.
The rest of the day was spent in our cupboard, watching TV, and booking and planning our ongoing adventures.
Had to get some wasting done before leaving for Iceland, so trekked down the road to the laundromat, waited out the washing having breakfast across the road.
We then packed and watched TV for a while till our time was up, stored our luggage then headed to Central Park for a walk. It really is a gorgeous park, I imagine it would look a lot better in summer when it is green. They have cleaned it all up and it is now completely safe to use.
We then found a pub to kill some more time, and of course got chatting to those around us, the owner Michael bought us a round, he said that us Aussies were so good to him when he was in Australia he wanted to pay us back, who were we to say no. We also got some advice from a couple of the bar staff (one red headed Irish guy, and the English waitress about where to go and see in England & Ireland. Then another guy David who was sitting just down from us started chatting, he was an anchor/ journalist for some major network and gave us his card as when he comes to Australia he would like to catch up.
What I thought was going to be a long boring day turned in to quite a nice afternoon. We got our luggage and found our 'Dial 7' car and had another lovely comfortable trip to the airport. When we got on the plane we found we were in the emergency seats, you news want to be in the emergency seats as the seats don't recline. I advised the hostie that we weren't comfortable being in those seats, and she immediately moved us to other seats. We had more leg room on this plane then I think we have ever had in economy, and the movies were free. Highly recommend Icelandair.