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Published: February 9th 2007
New York City
As seen from the Empire State Building!
Welcome to my final blog in this series and to that place they like to call ‘The Big Apple’. Now, I don’t really like apples but hopefully this place will change my opinion of them somehow...
Having had a one night whistle stop tour of Hollywood I was up early the next day for my connecting flight to New York. Taking approximately the same time it takes from London to New York I flew across the width of America and landed at JFK airport at around 6.00pm NY time. It was already dark and I had arrived slightly late due to delays. Oh well.
Having eventually collected my baggage from the conveyer belt I headed to the other terminal to meet a girl who had been waiting there for hours. The next decision that had to be made was how to get to the hotel in Upper West Manhattan. Our mission to find a taxi ended with a guy offering us a limousine share for a slightly cheaper rate. We accepted. Slightly weird but good all the same I guess. This must be the done thing here in New York!
About 40 minutes later and we arrive at
the hotel. It’s Christmas time with New Years Eve looming. Hotel prices are therefore pretty high but we managed to find a reasonably priced one and it actually turned out to be pretty nice. We delivered our baggages to the room, had a late Christmas celebration, and then headed to the American diner next door. It was a typical diner like the ones you see in America films - waiters with a distinct NY accent and old school décor. Might as well have a broiled burger? And what the hell is broiled I wondered? Another weird thing - they ask you how you want it cooked - you can have a rare beef burger if you wish. I went for medium/well done to be on the safe side. I’m always up for a bit of blood in a steak but I wasn’t so sure about a burger.
Anyway, the burger arrived and it was definitely a very tasty burger. Not Ferg standards but pretty damn tasty all the same. I washed it down with some cool soda, (Coca Cola). Oh yeah and broiled turns out to mean grilled just in case you are wondering. Anyway I think that’s enough
burger talk for now. What did we do next? Not much - we were pretty exhausted so headed back, taking some time to sample some American TV before heading to bed. It felt a bit weird - I hadn’t watched TV for ages.
Good Morning and welcome to Manhattan - New York City. Our hotel was situated on Broadway at 96th street. In terms of a map of Manhattan, it’s near the top left corner of Central Park. A short walk out of the hotel and we arrive at Dunkin Donuts. Perfect! A jelly donut or two later and we find ourselves at the 96th street subway station. We decide to take the ‘red one’ right the way downtown to the ferry ports at the Southern end of Manhattan. It didn’t take long at all and once we were there it didn’t take us long to spot the statue of liberty in the distance. Nice!
By New York’s winter standards it was pretty warm but having just come from Fiji I was pretty damn cold. Luckily I had my thermals, jacket, hat and gloves for warmth. The day was slightly gloomy but there was a touch of orange
mistiness in the sky. Me likes the orange mistiness! The place was bustling with people with the queue for liberty tickets being a mile long. It would have taken all day just to queue up so we decided to go for a ferry trip around the harbour and Manhattan Island. The free Staten Island ferry was an option but we didn’t really want to go to Staten Island and it didn’t seem to go very near her loveliness - Miss Liberty, so we paid $15 dollars and took an hour’s cruise on a water going vessel known as a boat.
Was it worth it? Yes it was indeed folks. Stood on the top deck we toured the harbour sailing under the Brooklyn bridge, and out towards the islands with some great views of the statue of Liberty - a gift to the USA from the French Frogs back in 1886. I was pretty impressed by this commanding statue that many immigrants would have seen when arriving to New York by ship for the first time.
We sailed down one side of Manhattan absorbing the exciting and striking skyline with our eager eyes. There were some great views to
be seen and it was definitely a pleasurable and worthwhile trip if not slightly cold on the old face. Know what I mean, like?
By the time that we had returned it was approaching lunch time and our bellies were rumbling! We had plans to go and see a Broadway show so headed down South street at the Eastern side of Manhattan to find one of the discount ticket offices. We headed off on foot past a number of recognisable street names - Wall Street being one of them, and past some cool sculptures and other constructions. And then, with my amazing sense of direction and map reading skills we arrived. There was a reasonably long line of humans but nothing like the one that would have existed at Times Square.
There were loads of shows to choose from but not many that we knew the name of. We decided to go for ‘The Producers’ by Mel Brookes. I had only heard good things about this and thought that it would probably be better than one about hairdressers! We headed out to get some dollars from the hole in the wall and purchased our tickets. Nice work, Job
Done. Next stop - Foodsville! Time to give our belly’s the satisfaction they deserve!
The area around South Street Sea Port is rather appealing, and reminded me somewhat of Covent Garden, except it had some big sailing ships with views of the harbour. Oh yeah and there were no jugglers or magicians to be seen anywhere. I guess it was nothing like Covent Garden after all - probably just a passing thought from somewhere inside my hungry brain. We found a pizza serving restaurant and sat down to enjoy our meal with some refreshing alcoholic beverages. The pizza was a bit of a weird one and could be described as a pizza pie. The toppings were tasty gorgeous but I wasn’t so sure about the pastry style base! Oh well - they get points for being different.
By now the days light was starting to subside. We headed back to the ferry port area on foot and took the subway to Midtown and the famous Times Square; Skyscrapers, Yellow Taxis, Bright Lights and Giant Video Display Screens, Themed Restaurants, Big Red Tour Buses, Tourist Shops, Theatres Galore, and lots and lots of people. It’s a pretty exciting place,
bustling, big, bright and colourful in every way - A gigantic hypnotic display of colour and light. Having explored this crazy playground for the eyes we headed off on a mission to find St. James Theatre. Once we knew the location we could then head to another diner for some lemon meringue desserts before finally heading back to the Theatre to queue up. Queuing is definitely not one of my favourite activities in life but sometimes it just has to be done!
After some time standing still in the cold we entered the Theatre. Not the best seats in the house but certainly not the worst. A bit of extra leg space wouldn’t have gone a miss though! The place soon filled up to the brim and it was time for the show to begin. The curtains went back and the opening scene and song commenced. It was a great show - a Broadway show about a Broadway show. The producers who aim to produce the worst show ever come up with one that turns out to be a huge success. It was a weird and wonderful conglomeration of Nazi’s, Gay’s, Stereotypical Germans in their Leiderhosen’s, and some pretty
Planet Hollywood - Times Square
If you look closly you may spot Cat Deeley in the background.
funny songs, scenes and sets. I enjoyed it thoroughly thank you please. Very Good. Bravo. See ya later. Over and Out. Goodbye…
Hello my name is Forest… Forest Gump. Well actually it’s not but sometimes I think it is. What an amazing film and what an amazing themed restaurant there is here in Times Square. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation. Amazing!
The whole experience is brilliant. We arrived after midnight to discover that the place had a waiting list. I guess it is the season to be jolly and the season when loads of peeps are hungry for shrimps! Instead of asking for your name they ask for your favourite food - Pizza of course. As you sit in the waiting room which is distinctly ‘Forest’ and distinctly ‘Greenbow Alabama’, with bottles of Dr Pepper on the shelf, and lots of Bubba Gump Imagery, you have the pleasure of watching the film which is played on loop on a flat screen TV.
Then the girl calls out “Pizza”. It’s time to head upstairs to the restaurant area. There are costumes from the film, plenty of Bubba Gump signs and pictures, and generally lots of cool stuff from
the film everywhere. Through the large glass windowed wall there are some impressive views of Times Square. We sat down at the table that is graphitised with quotes from the film and browsed the menu that is made from “Ping Pong” bat. I bet you can’t guess what’s on the menu! Shrimp. Lots of Shrimp. Shrimp Salad, Shrimp and Potato… You just gotta love the shrimp!
The overly friendly waitress arrived to offer her advice and tested us with some Forest Gump trivia. We got the initial ones right but they got a lot harder. I went for the Cajun Shrimp and Laura went for a crab and shrimp thingy. It was very tasty. I love Bubba Gump shrimp Co. It’s amazing. It’s somewhat perfect shall we say? Yes, lets.
It was then time to head back to base. We hopped on the Subway for the trip back. The subway seems relatively safe - even at 1.00am in the morning. I think you just have to get used the fact that the vast majority of people look dodgy and like they are about to mug or kill someone. There are some interesting home boys though who provide a
little song or a rap in the exchange for some quarters. There was even this random guy trying to sell M&M’s. I’m not that keen on M&M’s though so decided not to invest on this occasion.
Ello Peeps… Welcome to tomorrow. It’s the last day in 2006, often referred to by calendar and date experts as “New Years Eve”. Perhaps I should reflect on the year that has gone by. Naaaaah - can’t be bothered.
It’s time for some more sightseeing. First stop - that well big building they call the Empire State Building. Having bought our tickets online we were expecting to be able to go straight to the front. On arrival we discovered a massively massive queue and were told we had to queue up to go through security, estimated waiting time 3 hours just to get to the front door. We decided to do the obvious thing and push in. We walked straight in through the front door past the queue and into the gift shop, pretended to look at some souvenirs then exited straight into the stream of people heading inwards. Perfect! Even with our pushing in abilities, it was a good 45 minutes
before we got up top but it was worth it. Since the destruction of the twin towers by those crazy mad-ed’s, the Empire State Building is now the tallest in Manhattan, and clearly dominates the sky. We opted to go for the little electronic thingy that gives you information about the views you are observing. Our electronic guide was Tony the Taxi driver, one of the many immigrants that make up New York’s population. The views from the top were awe inspiring, with clear views of Manhattan and its surroundings in all directions. Top views, and some good commentary from the man himself - Tony. Nice! Thanks Tony!
Back on ground level it was time to visit Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. What can I say - its one massive hole in the ground - a massive empty space in the middle of tightly packed sky scrapers. Completely surrounded by fences the ground is a conglomeration of destruction, concrete, steel, and a few cranes and other construction vehicles. There’s some interesting imagery on display and a memorial to the peeps that perished. It was hard to imagine the two massive towers here - pretty mad. There are already plans
for the building to replace the twin towers with some futuristic design plans on display! We walked around this place they call ‘ground zero’ amongst the many other onlookers. There was then just enough time for a sandwich fuel stop before our next mission of the day!
And so, it was time to take our favourite metro and visit that big green centrally position park that is often referred to by the characters from ‘Friends’ as 'Central Park'. Rectangle in shape and 9 square Kilometres in size, Central Park takes up a very large proportion of Manhattan. We started off by heading to the Southern end near 59th Street Station. The day light was already starting to disappear like a Paul Daniels magic trick, and as we entered the park the surrounding buildings were already starting to light up the sky. There’s some interesting things in the southern end of the park from the many leafless trees, to the squirrels, to the grass area’s and park lands, to the big rocks that are perfect for climbing, to the small pond where Kevin met that scary bird woman in Home Alone 2, and to the outdoor ice skating rink. Around
and through the park are many path ways and even small road areas with many a horse and cart passing by. Having explored some of the park on foot we decided to take a horse and cart ride. It was slightly expensive but worth it for the 20 minute trip around the park and nearby streets in this magical winter Christmas setting. Good stuff!
Now, we had never been completely sure what to do for New Years Eve. If we wanted to get any where near Times Square to see the famous ball drop we would have had to get our spaces around mid day, wait there all day until midnight without using the toilet and without any alcohol. Another option was to go to a club, but that would have cost us over £100 dollars. Eventually, having been back for a meal and after heading back to the hotel to consume and stock up on Fijian Rum we decided to head to the Central Park area. Having visited a bar and having visited Yoko Ono’s strawberry fields, the memorial to John Lennon, we headed into Central Park. There were lots of runners here in fancy dress, ready to
Images on the fence.
run around the park at midnight. There was also some form of entertainment for the runners but nothing overly ambitious so we headed across the park in the direction of Times Square now pretty intoxicated.
Lots of people here in the streets - in fact there were people everywhere crammed in to every available road space. We ended up somewhere between Times Square and Central Park looking at a big screen in the streets. Now pretty annihilated on rum we just joined in with the steady stream of people traffic and found a place to stand amongst the atmospheric gathering of merry party people. There was a wide range of people here squashed together waiting for the clock to strike 12. There were people that thought they were rappers, people that looked like paedophiles and killers, a wide range of ethnics, families, tourists, kids, homeless folk, more people that thought they were rappers, crazies, mentals, taxi drivers, homeboys... You get the picture! Lots of peeps!
When midnight came there were fireworks over Central Park, some cheering, drinking and somewhere in Times Square a ball dropped. Actually I can’t remember much of it but I guess that’s a good
thing. At some stage we walked all the way back to 96th street. I say ‘all the way’ but it probably wasn’t that far.
The next day we attempted to go shopping, but as you can probably imagine weren’t feeling that spectacular. We visited a few stores including the famous Bloomingdales as I was hoping to see Rachel from Friends but unfortunately I think it was her day off. We also went to ‘FAO Shwartz Toy Shop’ to see the massive collection of giant animals and the big Piano on the floor that Tom Hanks played about on in the film - ‘Big’! Good stuff. The weather was pretty grim and I felt pretty rough from the night before so decided to end the shopping session early and retire back to base.
Later we met up with Hannah and Daz who were also in ‘the city’ and headed out to Little Italy for a meal. Some cool Christmas lights and plenty of nice restaurants to choose from here. Proper good scran as well! Our next stop was The Hard Rock Cafe for a few beverages before heading home. Like it!
The next day brought with it some
beautiful blue skies, but was still on the cold side. We headed straight to Central Park where we went ice skating in the outdoor rink. I loved it. It’s a perfect setting for a skate. We had a lunch stop at Hooter’s before heading on to see the big Christmas tree at the Rockefeller centre - again, some Home Alone 2 nostalgia here. A wee bit more shopping and then back to Times Square for the visual delights of the M&M factory. Lots of colour and lots of M&M’s on offer. However, as I don’t like M&M’s I just used this place as ‘visual candy’.
It was then time for Laura to head back to England and for me to make the journey a few blocks up to a hostel where I would spend my remaining days. It was reasonable hostel and to begin with I had a room to myself. Having dropped my stuff off, I headed back towards Midtown for some more exploration and a NY hotdog. Tasty!
There is lots to look at and plenty to explore in New York. To start with there’s the mass of buildings and skyscrapers that light up the night
sky, often complete with an interesting sculpture or random display. Just like in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the sewage and drainage systems all have steam pouring out of them. It’s pretty cool to look at. Some of them are steaming so much that they put these plastic chimneys over them in the middle of the street, channelling the steam into the air. The streets are a mass of colour and activity packed with people and the trademark yellow taxi cabs!
A magical place to be at night is around the Rockefeller Centre - there’s the big Christmas tree that stands dominant over the ice skating rink, the arcade leading up to it that’s full with beautifully sculpted angels that magically light up, and the Rockefeller building itself is lit up with Christmas visuals. The place is bustling with people - nut sellers, skaters, tramps, families, hot dog sellers and tourists. There’s plenty of vibrant colour here and a feeling of energy and magic. Also part of the Rockefeller centre is the Radio City Music Hall - an art deco masterpiece, very easy on my neon loving eyes.
I then decide to explore 5th Avenue. The buildings here are
beautifully decorated with lights and Christmas colour. Some of them have light displays and play music, whilst others are dressed up to look like giant Christmas presents. Pretty neat! Lots of visual delights here. It has to be said there’s some mint buildings in this city! Love it!
Back to the square for me for more colour and light absorption, big screen advertising action and a trip to the Hershey factory and Toys R Us - All pretty colourful with a good range of candy on offer in both. You can’t beat a bag of sweets or two can ya? Love the sugar. It’s perfect when you need that sugar rush your body has been craving!
After my sugar rush I debated where to go for dinner with myself for a few seconds but with Bubba Gump across the road it wasn’t a hard decision. This time I went for the Shrimp Fajita’s washed down with some Dr Pepper. Perfect! Absolutely Perfect! I’ll definitely be back to Bubba Gump some day! Me and that place are just like peas n carrots!
Good Morning Peeps. Dr Popper here! Time to get up and explore the park. Which park
I hear you cry?? Central Park of course! I decided to walk there from the hostel and found myself at the Northern end. It’s a pretty big space with loads of sections to explore. Lots of joggers, a big lake, a smaller lake, some trees, loads of little bridges and plenty of green space. It’s a nice place to be. I walked down the Eastern side near museum mile, past the lake and to the southern end of the park. Very enjoyable indeed! No sign of anyone from Friends or any other famous people though!
Another visit to FAO Shawtz and Bloomies for a toilet stop and it was time to head back to the Rockefeller Centre Building. Up in the glass roofed lift I went and made my way on to the viewing decks. Despite being built in the 1930’s, the whole of this Art Deco building seems pretty modern to me. There are some sensational views of Central Park, The Empire State building and pretty much the whole of Manhattan. Lovely! Amazing in fact!
Next stop - Greenwich Village - One of the few places that has roads that aren’t arranged in the usual ‘criss cross’
formation. Instead there’s a maze of puzzling little streets, strange little shops, graffiti art and the odd basketball court. There’s also the distinctive Washington Square and Arch, populated with the odd homeless person and other random people. I then went on to Soho, popular for its shops and restaurants - a cool place with a good atmosphere going down. Like it!
Having completed a very long walking mission and grabbed some more scran around Times Square I decided to go back up the Rockefeller building for my grand finale, and to see the city views at night. It’s a spectacular and magical city - lots of lights - everywhere! A pretty mint end to my journey!
After only a few hours sleep I had to get up for my early flight. A final conversation with some locals that tried to sell me a plastic bag with shower gel in, and it was time to take the shuttle to the airport.
I will definitely be back to New York - its one amazing city!
And so, 14 countries and 19 flights later and I’m on the plane home. It’s the end of my journey. It’s been pretty
amazing to say the least! I’ve done so much incredible stuff and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Work on Monday…
Shit! This is going to be tough!
Oh well, shit happens! I guess I’ll have to start saving for my next journey. Or perhaps pay off the debts I’ve racked up first.
Oh well I guess it’s time for me to adjourn…
Until next time then…
Over and Out from me….
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