Closed and Dirty Stations, Beggars, Rubbish, Touts, Over-hyped Sweets, Zero Social Distancing and The Constant Smell of Weed, But We Love New York

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April 15th 2022
Published: April 19th 2022
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Dumbo ViewDumbo ViewDumbo View

Looking back towards the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan.
Despite being exhausted from our late arrival, I was awake very, very early, due to still being five hours ahead on UK time. Furthermore, we like to sleep with the window open for some fresh air, which was a mistake due to New Yorkers' obsession with using their car horns - even in the early hours of the morning.

I decided to get up and head to a place in Brooklyn called Dumbo, which is an area between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. The name is apparently short for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass". It is one of my favourite photography locations for early morning (or evening) pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and the skyline of Lower Manhattan.

Whilst inhibited by the lack of sleep, I needed to get my head around the complicated train system and try and work out the best way to get there. The New York Subway network has lines with letters and numbers all intertwining, then branching off to different destinations and with some express trains that skip a lot of the stations on the way. Not recommended when you are suffering from lack of sleep. Of course, I needed to get a
New York SubwayNew York SubwayNew York Subway

Efficient, all night but complicated and needing a clean.
ticket, but the bored guy in the ticket booth just pointed to the ticket machines. What exactly is your job?

I choose my destination station (there were a couple of options) and my route, but then, unfortunately, the station I choose was closed for maintenance. There were no announcements on the train, so I ended much deeper into Brooklyn than I had planned. I then needed to go back to Manhattan to change to another line and hope that the other station was open.

The New York subway runs all through the night and the trains are still quite frequent. It is quite depressing though with people sleeping in the stations and on the trains, just for somewhere to go for the night. Between the stations and the trains I was asked for money four times. One particular guy just stood there staring at me for a while, before asking me for money. Don't ask me, as our post-Brexit currency is worth a fraction of what it used to and, consequently, we are finding New York unbelievably expensive now. They didn’t really get where I was coming from though.

I don't want to sound like I am
Welcome to BrooklynWelcome to BrooklynWelcome to Brooklyn

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, although I was actually leaving Brooklyn. There was no such welcome to Manhattan.
going all negative on New York as we absolutely love the place (hence all the multiple visits), but the Subway just seemed incredibly dirty and then above ground there was rubbish everywhere.

I enjoyed the views from Dumbo whilst taking a few photos. It was very quiet at that time in the morning and the only sound was the distant hum of four helicopters hovering over Manhattan, for what was almost certainly a much better view than mine. I dread to think how much they would cost when converted back to pounds.

Before heading back, I thought I would walk back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge and get the subway back to the hotel from there. That was very pleasant, with a raised walkway above all the traffic.

The vibe on the subway was completely different now, with a lot more people, all with their Starbucks coffees. I thought that the trains seemed very busy for a Good Friday, but then we discovered that Good Friday is not a bank holiday in America so everyone was going to work as normal.

By now, I was extremely hungry, so I got a pastry swirl from one
Brooklyn BridgeBrooklyn BridgeBrooklyn Bridge

The complicated bridge suspensions.
of the street vendors in Times Square. It was surprisingly nice. I wasn't asked for money in Times Square, but there is an army of people touting the "Hop-on, hop-off" buses. They were well over on the wrong side of the fine-line separating providing a service from just being extremely annoying.

Once we were all ready we got a taxi down to 12th Street as my daughter had heard about a place called the International House Of Pancakes (IHOP). The menu was far wider than the name suggested, but it would have been rude to have gone there and not had pancakes.

The others liked the idea of a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, so it was back to Dumbo again and then across the bridge for the second time that morning. The walkway was a lot busier now, but it certainly appeared that most people were walking across just for the experience like us. There were lots of selfies being taken - including one that we got in the same spot that we had been photographed when we were here ten years ago (see Speedboats, Fighter Jets and a Place Called Dumbo).

We carried on walking down to Wall Street and the World

The options from the vendor in Times Square.
Trade Center, although we had seen the 9/11 Museum and been to the top of the new tower on previous visits (see The History of One Day, But a Very Significant One and A Meal With a View, But at a Price respectively).

The futuristic looking Oculus building is very impressive for what is essentially a train station. We also went to see the Bull, which has become one of the main symbols of Wall Street (a reference to "Bull markets" - noting that there is no corresponding bear), although that was surrounded by people getting selfies.

We got the Subway back up to Grand Central Station and stopped at the Champaign Bar overlooking this other extremely impressive train station, albeit for diet coke and Earl Grey Tea. It was then a short walk back to Times Square for the gauntlet of "hop-on, hop-off" bus touts.

One of the most annoying things about New York is the ever present smell of weed. It has been legalised here now and the smell is literally everywhere, even in some of the more up-market shops. Parked in various places are these dodgy looking vans selling a whole range of weed related products.

We tried to get our heads around the fact that there is a huge,

A chocolate pancake and a strawberry and banana pancake from the International House of Pancakes.
multi-floored shop called M&M World. We definitely gave that a miss, although it would have been nice to go in there and shout "they're only sweets", or should I say "candy".

My wife and daughter went off for some shopping, so my son and I went to Dutch Fred's (where we had booked later for an evening meal) for a couple of beers to fill the time until they were done.

We had booked to go to the Top of The Rock for sunset. We love the Top of The Rock as it has the best views, is in the open air and is usually not that busy (certainly compared to the top of the Empire State Building). On this occasion, we had never known it to be so busy, with crowds of people lining the side facing the Empire State Building and the sunset . It is obviously a popular time to go. Social distancing was not an option (although no one seemed that bothered) and I had to loose a few principles to manoeuvre my way to the front and then hold my ground to get some photographs.

I had an express pass that meant
Wall StreetWall StreetWall Street

The Wall Street skyline.
I could skip the queues (which were immense) and go straight to the top. I felt a bit guilt when I got moved straight to the front of the queue coming back down again.

Finally, we had booked into Bar 54 for some drinks, although, to be honest, by this point we were just way too tired and wanted to get to bed.

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13



Bull markets are honoured a lot more than bear markets obviously.
Grand Central StationGrand Central Station
Grand Central Station

The view from the Earl Grey and Diet Coke bar.
M&M WorldM&M World
M&M World

They are basically just sweets (candy).
Weed VanWeed Van
Weed Van

Please can't you do something about the smell?

A very impressive train station.
Top of The Rock ViewTop of The Rock View
Top of The Rock View

When I was eventually able to get to the front.

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