I must admit that I was a little hapy to be leaving a bleak and windy San Fran that morning. Ready for the long haul to New York its going to be about 5 hours flight and arriving around 5pm. Well that’s what the prediction was until we hit bad weather and circled around the airport for an hour. The pilot announced over the loud speaker that we were being diverted to another airport and would have to wait there for another hour before getting on our way again into JFK. No sooner did he announce that delightful message, not more than 1 minute later he announced that no, we wouldn’t need to be diverted and that we would be about land shortly. Very happy people cheered after that announcement.
The “arriving” part of all my flights have been really good, with no dramas with bags or the transfers to the hotels. Could be due to the fact that I’m always most excited when I land in a new city wondering what adventures will be ahead of me this time round. The mini bus is full and I seem to get the front seat most of the time (being a party of 1) so that’s good for me. Might I add that it’s not just the NY cab drivers that are crazy here, it’s the airport shuttle drivers too!! Thinking we were going a little fast I looked over to the drivers dashboard and saw that we were going 70 miles down 7th Ave NYC. For a comparison, it would be like driving down Ruthven Street in Toowoomba doing 110km/hr. Thankfully my hotel was not too far down on 7th Ave from Central Park (where the 70m/hr ride began), and I hear a “ooooohhh” coming from a pair sitting behind me, when we pull up to what appears to be my very swanky hotel “Manhattan on Times Square”. So deep down I’m a little chuffed to be staying here.
Back to the warmth of what Summer should be, once I check in and drop by bags off in my room I’m off again roaming a new set of streets and avenues along with what seems to be 1,000 other people thinking of doing the same thing! I’m buzzing so much on the inside, so excited to be here finally. It doesn’t take long to notice the advertising LCD screens of Time Square, with the glitter New Years Even ball placed above the highest screen. For dinner I have my very first hot dog fully loaded with mustard, ketchup and crunchy onions with pickle relish. Delicious!!
The next day I’m off the the ticket box to redeem my vouchers for the hop on/off bus tours and entry passes to all the tourist sights. It’s going to be a busy 5 days. First of all it’s the “Downtown Loop” which take almost 2 hours to do the whole loop. It was just what I needed to get my bearings. The main attractions on this loop was Time Square, Madison Square Garden, the Bakery out of Sex and the City, Katzis Deli (from When Harry Met Sally), Ground Zero 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park (Statten Island Ferry, Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty), Brooklyn Bridge, China town, Soho, Little Itally, United Nations, Rockafeller Plaza and Central Park. Either we had a bus full of people with the driest of humours or the tour guide was the only one who thought he was funny.
After this loop was over it was onto another bus to do the “Uptown Loop”. At this point it’s good to add that these buses are open top up stairs and freezer boxes downstairs. So we’re on our way past Central Park, Lincoln Memorial, all the Museums, Washington Heights, Harlem and back round to the Zoo and more museums. Half way through Harlem the heavens decided to open up and the top of the bus went from happy snapping tourists to white covered hooded foreign gangsters with our tour bus supplied plastic ponchos. There were not many photos taken from that part of the tour onwards. With my trusty little pocket umbrella in my camera case I was set to keep on exploring once we got off the bus.
It was a Sunday and pretty much all day I’ve been thinking about this Yankee’s and Red Sox game that was going to be played later that night. This game was on my list of things to do right from the start. I even went into the club house store ready to get all the gear to support my adopted cities team. Turns out that I wasn’t that brave enough to get my sh*t together and get to the stadium and to the game. Which in hindsight turned out to be a ok decision not to go. Instead I spent some more time around the city and had the most amazing time for dinner at a little place called “Ellen’s Startlight Diner”. This place was fantastic, the most electric atmosphere where the waiters take turns in belting out a show tune for the customers. It turns out that this diner has been doing this for decades and that the staff who work there are using it as a stepping stone to get into the broadway musicals that are playing. In the last year they have lost 14 of their wait staff to the musicals with some of them taking lead roles in some. These people just oozed talent, I didn’t want to leave, so I had to stay and have an authentic diner dessert too! Oh and the Yankees game went on for over 3 hours so in the end I’m glad that I didn’t go.
The next two days I’m going to summarise in into one. I have never walked so much in my life in such a short period of time. First up was the trip over to see the Statue of Liberty. This was my first real taste of being a true tourist and what better way to start but to wait in line (in the hot sun) for 1 hour and 12 minutes before getting through security. I feel like I’m the only non speaking French person in the area at this point in time. They are everywhere!! So it’s onto the cruise boat and over to the island. Let this be how the scene will be set for all the tourist activities and sights that I am about to embark on over the next 2 days. You can tell from a distance that this place is already packed! I had it in my mind very early on that I would hop off the boat, go around to the front of the statue, take my photos, take a minute to experience the moment, then quickly stop in the gift shop (because it’s got air-con and cold water) then hurry back around to the dock to get back on the boat. I was on that island less than 36 minutes, but suited me ok.
It’s already 2pm in the afternoon so I head on up to the 9/11 Memorial which turned out to be perfect timing as the line was only a 15 minute wait to get in. I was a little undecided about whether or not to go in. It’s not really the place that should be a huge tourist area so I took a moment outside the gates for reflection. Once inside it felt like that there was no bustling city going on with it’s business around the site. You couldn’t really hear the traffic apart from the construction crews working on building the new 2 towers. Or maybe it was the fact that you couldn’t really think of anything else that was going on around you, once inside. I jump back on the loop bus and head back up to Rockafeller Plaza but by that time I didn’t have the energy or patience to wait another 45 minutes to be able to go up to the “Top of the Rock”, so this is carried over to tomorrow’s “to do list”.
In my last full day in NYC, there is still about 3 days worth of things that I have to do on my list. If I could have my time again I don’t think I would spend another 1+ hour lining up to go up to the top of the Empire State Building. But it’s one of those “must do” things on everyone’s list right?!? Once again, once I was up there I snapped by camera way around each of the four sides then I was back down through the gift shop and back down to ground level and outta there!!! It was at that point that I came to the concluion that I would waste anymore of my time waiting in lines for things I would not spend more than 30 minutes visiting. Again using my trusty size 9’s I walked back up to Central Park, via Bryant Park (earlier on this morning there was over 100 people doing yoga in this park). Where does the time go!!! It’s mid afternoon and I realise that I have not done any shopping what so ever since I arrived here. I have heard of a few places to go into from friends who have been to the states before. So there was a spot of window shopping done before heading into Central Park.
With my map back in the hotel, I just wander around the park taking it all in. Again I know I’ve said it before, but everything seems so much smaller in real life. I expected this park to go for miles. But I made it through half of it with my newly aquainted fury friends who seem to be following me waiting for some offerings I presume. The boat house – check, Alice in Wonderland statue – check, Strawberry Fields – check, and a few other places along the way – check! But now I have to make haste back to my hotel for what will be my most favourite night and experience to be had in NYC – “Wicked” the musical…. on Broadway!!!!
With ticket in hand and some bratty kids in the lift pressing all the buttons from the 19th floor of the hotel down to the lobby, I finally arrive at the Gershwin Theatre. Hmmm will it be a Glinda or an Elphaba daquari??? And the waitress had to ask if I wanted alcohol in it! With my Glinda Raspberry Vodka daquari I make my way down to my seat and it’s amazing!!! Four rows back from the front and just off to the right of centre stage. With a full orchestra almost at my feet, I am overflowing with excitement! Right from the very first note from the orchestra, to the last note of “Defying Gravity” to end the first session, I am loving every second of this musical. All good things must come to an end but i still turn to the lady sitting next to me and say “again!!!” Sadly, it is over but the number one on my “to do list” was so much better than I expected it to be.
Tomorrow I’m off to Washington DC for a full day of more sights this country has to offer. It’s going to be a long day with a 6am start so it’s good night from me from the best night so far of my trip.