New York: The Final Chapter

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July 22nd 2013
Published: July 22nd 2013
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With time and money running low it was time to search for that elusive cheap flight home. Putting our research brains into top gear we trawled the web, checking multiple routes and countless airlines. After 22months of travel and 23 countries, long distance convoluted journeys were a routine occurrence for us and we found ourselves wondering if there might be time to fit in one more country on the way home….

Which is how we found ourselves boarding a flight from Bogota to Fort Lauderdale, where we would connect for…

New York!

So “the land of the free and the home of the brave” would be the last stop on our world tour, it was hard to believe that after almost 2 years this way of life which we had become so accustomed to would be over, but before we really had to think about that “The Big Apple” beckoned.

What an amazing city New York is. Even though I had never visited before, I had built up an impression in my mind based on myriad TV shows and movies based in this famous city. In real life the city surpassed all my expectations and imaginations, wowing Lewi and I with every iconic building, tiny deli or amazing street performer.

By means of a bittersweet set of circumstances we found ourselves staying in a fabulous downtown Manhattan hotel. To be staying just a couple of blocks from Wall Street where the American flags fluttered over the stock exchange and the diamond chandeliers twinkled at Tiffany’s was just amazing. We were within walking distance of the famous Brooklyn Bridge, and all the unique boroughs Little Italy, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, East village, Midtown, Nolita, Soho, and Tribeca…we didn’t know where to start!

So, as is best when exploring any city, we set off on foot. Joining the throngs of people pounding the sidewalk, we crossed the heaving lanes of yellow cabs and honking cars when the green man said walk, negotiating the city by following our eyes, ears and stomachs. It was an espresso and matcha cheesecake in a Japanese bakery in Tribeca to start, a jazz quintet set up outside Sotherbys auction house to follow, art galleries and a chat with graffiti artist ‘No-body’ in Soho after that, and noodle soup in Chinatown for lunch. In one morning I had already fallen in love with this city.

Perhaps it was the heat wave that hung over New York or maybe it was just a good day, but everyone seemed so happy and relaxed. The hectic pace of city-life seemed to slow fractionally. There was time to take in all the sights at leisure and all the New-Yorkers we met were so keen to make sure we were enjoying their city, giving us tips on where to go for lunch, where we could find a cool bar for the evening and how we could easily get a job in the film industry. This last tip came a few days into our stay when we were meandering along Fifth Avenue, window shopping, only to come across a road block. Curiosity drew us to the blockade and to the man standing at the end with a headset and clipboard. Further down the road outside the Lancaster Hotel a limo was parked and a host of cameras focused on its doors. The door flew open suddenly and out strode Sasha Baron-Cohen with a goat tucked under his arm! They are filming a scene for ‘The Dictator’ explained clipboard man. We got to chatting and he tried to convince us that it was really easy to get a job working within the film industry and that we should move to New York and get work! The beauty of this place encapsulated in this man’s assured sense of ‘why not…this is New York’! was something to savour.

Every day we woke to bright blue skies and the excitement of spending another day in New York City. We must’ve walked a marathon over the course of our 5 days stay, intrigued by each new corner or district. From the gentle stroll around Central park watching horse and carts and kids playing baseball, to the hike across Brooklyn Bridge where we meandered around the organic cafes, and record shops of Brooklyn Heights. To the ferry ride across to Staten Island where we joined all the other tourists in snapping photo after photo of first the statue of Liberty and then the stunning Manhattan skyline on the horizon…And of course the crazy mass of advertising billboards gone wild that is Times Square, so colourful and in-your-face you can’t help but be caught up in the excitement.

But as is often the way, the parts of New York that I enjoyed best weren’t to be found in a guidebook or marked on a tourist map. They were places that we stumbled across or that people had mentioned to us…

Like the Skyline gardens. A beautiful late afternoon walk along this converted rail-line raised above the buzz of traffic, where herb gardens and wildflowers had been planted was the perfect way to finish a long walk around Manhattan. As we passed photographers, artists and dozing citizens we glanced skyward and spotted an amazing rooftop bar on the towering skyscraper before us, and knew that that was where we had to watch the sunset. It took our best smiles and a bit of luck but we were shown through to the private elevator for ‘The Standard’ Hotel’s rooftop terrace. The elevator doors pinged open to reveal a luxury lounge complete with Jacuzzi, filled with New York’s ‘beautiful people’. I worried momentarily that my travellers wardrobe had left me slightly underdressed, but after we continued up the last flight of stairs to the glass-sided astroturf ‘garden’ and I had a bright pink cocktail in my hand I was no longer concerned! This was an incredible place… 360 degree views of New York dipped in the reds and pinks of dusk, The Empire State building to our left and the Hudson River glistening behind us. We stayed until the stars came out sipping crisp ice cold white wine, a taste we hadn’t enjoyed since New Zealand, and man was it good!

Another great spot was the Seaport shopping area…a bustling converted dockyard building where a rather dull mall filled the inside but if you ventured beyond the food court a balcony filled with deckchairs could be found where you could lounge, sleep, read or just watch the busy life of the harbour where its yellow water taxis darted to and fro under the bridges of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was the perfect place to put our feet up after the numerous city blocks we’d walked.

Another recommendation we had was to see a play rather than a show on Broadway. What better play to see than the longest running play in Broadway…The Perfect Crime. It was a captivating performance of a classic who-dunnit plot, made even more impressive when we read that the lead actress had been doing this show every night for 24 years and had only ever missed 2 performances! What a feat of acting prowess, and stamina. She gave a sterling performance and the plot was so absorbing that at the sound of gunshot so unexpected I jumped out of my skin spilling the complimentary glass of red wine all over myself! Whoops.

We had had such a wonderful time here and enjoyed the NYC, from the tourist sights to the simple cafes and on both sides of the infamous Bridge, so when Lewi read that Toot and the Maytals were playing the Brooklyn Bowl on our final evening in ‘The Big Apple’ there was no question that we would go. Venue and Reggae legend didn’t disappoint. Bowling alleys ran off to one side, a stage filled the rest of the building and the eager crowd danced the night away sipping cool Brooklyn Brewery beers and bouncing to the beats.

With the sounds of ‘Take me home’ playing over in our heads we boarded the Iceland Express plane bound for Reykjavik and on to London Heathrow, hoping for a smoother run through than our arrival into the States had been. Thankfully this time there was no 2 hour delay at customs, no missing the connecting flight, and definitely no sleeping over at the airport, there was just a swift and organised transit in Iceland and before we knew it Toot had done just what his lyrics promised… We were home!

What a welcoming party greeted us too!! An enormous banner and the smiling tear-streaked faces of our loved ones surrounded us as soon as we stepped through the arrivals gate. We were encircled by love and with so many stories to tell the conversation flowed as easily as the wine at the Hilton's lounge café!!

Our around the world trip had come to an end. 24 Countries (some smaller than others) in 22 months and so many tales to tell. From language sharades to carnival parades to toilet escapades, we had learnt a lot from travel, we’d grown. It had opened our horizons and allowed us time to recognise our individual skills. That is part of what makes Hannah and I so compatible. Han can do the detail and I can do the deal.

We had gone away thinking that 2 years of travelling would allow us time to work out what we wanted to do. We never did work that out as what we wanted to do was what we were doing. Just one month after returning to England we had secured jobs as Tour Leaders in Taiwan…the adventures continue!

Additional photos below
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22nd July 2013

This adventure is coming to a close.
Appreciate what you have done and dream of the future travels. NYC seems the perfect last stop. An amazing city, indeed! Music fills the air, people rushing here and there....the energy... the vibe, it can't be explained. Can't wait to read about your adventures in Taiwan.
29th July 2013

Take Me Home......
WOW! Nothing else to say! No, truly a brilliant description of your last country, NCY definitely being a country in its own right. Your evocative description took me right there, I could taste the cool white wine, see the multihued sunsets, smell the coffee and hear the green man saying walk. Also a great summation of your joint and several skills, now even more finely chiselled.Welcome the future!

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