THE city

Trip Start May 18, 2013
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Trip End Jul 13, 2013


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Monday, July 1, 2013

Tuesday 2nd July – New York

It has been a long time since we posted and such a lot has happened! In an effort to keep things succinct we have listed things in dot point form, mostly for our benefit since blogging takes a surprising amount of effort and energy!

The best thing in New York was bumping into Jane And Ben Phillips on the subway. What are the chances!!!?

A big shout out goes to Kellie for her insider tips. I feel like you have curated our NYC adventure, thanks for being so generous with your experiences! Xxx

One thing that we realised quite quickly is that you really need to plan your days in New York. In other places, we would put time aside to just wander around the town and see what we can see. New York is just way too big to do that. All the sights, the things to see are so spaced out too. There is a lot of residential and 'living' kind of shops in the city – convenience stores, Laundromats, small restaurants etc. Interesting to see the way the city works and lives, but not really interesting shops to explore or sights to see. So if you didn’t plan your day you could end up walking round these kind of blocks all day! The blocks are SO big. Something that looks just a few blocks away on a map can take over half an hour to walk there.

You really need to use the Subway to get anywhere, which is very good and criss-crosses the whole city. You can get from any point to any other point in the city by just changing trains once. The good thing about New Yorkers is they know how to use the subway too. Most people in the city do not own a car and use the subway for all transport, so they are very quick at getting on and off trains! The trains are up to 10 cars long, the cars are short and have 4 doors each side, so some trains have 40 doors for people to get in and out of. One fascinating thing we saw is a moving platform edge. Nearly all platforms are on straights with only about 1-2" gap, but the few on curves have moving platforms. The train pulls into the platform, the platform edge hydraulically (I think) pushes up to the train before the train doors open, and retracts before the train moves off again. Quite ingenious! It is quite clear just how much the Sydney city underground was influenced by the New York subway. The look and feel, signalling with intermediate train stops makes you feel like you are at home.

Overall, the city feels like it has had 30 years of deferred maintenance. Everything is covered in grime and dirt, the sideways are very uneven and have a tapestry of chewing gum, the roads are all old and patched. All steelwork in the city is rusting and leaving rust stains. The subway track is still wooden sleepers, short rails and the ride can be a bit rough, although many of the carriages seem fairly modern. Subway stations are dirty, broken tiles and water leaks from the ceiling when it rails. Rubbish from shops and homes is just bagged and thrown onto the sidewalk for collection. Not to be critical, it just is ‘New York’ – a real, gritty, working city.

Interestingly, Hurricane Sandy, which hit NYC on October 29th 2012 flooding street, subways and shops, caused so much damage that its affects are still felt today. The Statue of Liberty and the Space Shuttle Enterprise was only reopened on the 4th July after extensive repairs and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is still closed to visitors.

Eleanor loves New York, she thinks she could live here. Andrew not so much. It’s been very hot here so does dampen the enjoyment somewhat.

Tuesday 2nd July
Business of the day was to orientate ourselves to the city and get a bit of an overview. With that in mind we took the full Circle line cruise – a 3 hour boat cruise around the entire island of Manhattan. This had been recommended by multiple people and it did not disappoint. Although the day was quite grey and the scenery not as spectacular as it might have been, the tour gave us an appreciation for the scale of New York City (NYC). A little daunting I must say – how were we going to experience it all in just 10 days? Spectacular sights included Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, all 12 bridges spanning the rivers that connect Manhattan Island with the rest of the state and the impressive NYC skyline. The guide was very knowledgeable and obviously had a great love for his city.
It was raining when we got off the boat and the admission price of the Intrepid museum (air and space museum on an air craft carrier) was a little steep so we retreated to a nearby café. Served by a funny Afghanistani man, it was a happy first experience of New Yorkers – tell it like it is, but with warmth and passion. Trying to decide what to do next, we had our phones out before our meal came. The waiter scolded Andrew… "Beautiful lady, you must give her all your attention, not the phone, put that away!” And when he asked how long we had been married we replied “5 years”. His reply, “Wrong answer, you say 5 years…but seems like yesterday we are still so in love!” Well, yes siree, we’ll know the right answer next time.

Times Square – a horrible, dirty jumble of tourists and hawkers. We HAD to go there, just once, for the experience, but I can see why locals avoid it at all costs.

Union station – beautiful architecture. Makes Sydney Central look like a tin shed.

Metropolitan Museum of Art (The MET) – The suggested admission fee is $25 each. Hmm….it being 4:15pm and the museum closing at 5:15pm we felt that the hour was not worth that so we paid less than the suggested. They. Were. Not. Impressed. Oh well, that’s going to happen unless they enforce the fee. Spectactular museum. Wish we had more time there and sort have made me feel bad that we didn’t pay full price.
Dean and deluca – an upscale deli that I first heard about in ‘Felicity’ (any other fans out there?). Beautiful looking food in the upper east side location, you can almost convince yourself you could afford the $3000 a week rent it costs to live there.
Japanese for dinner – Andrews’s second experience of Japanese this trip – another winner!

Wednesday 3rd July

Hot and sticky weather ahead!
Coffee from 9th street cafe - best coffee we’ve had since leaving home!
9/11 memorial – you need to obtain tickets for a time slot before heading to the memorial. The most moving part was our visit to the St Pauls Chapel of Trinity Church. This is one of the oldest churches in Manhattan and located right next to the World Trade Centre Site. It provided support and comfort to grieving friends and family in the days immediately after 9/11 and provided a sanctuary to the volunteers working in the rescue and subsequent clean-up effort. Highly moving tributes and heartbreaking pleas for information from the days after 9/11.
Wall Street district – lots of people, mainly business people and tourists, great atmosphere. We really just walked through on our way to…
Battery park – right down the southern tip of Manhattan Island, it is where the ferries for Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Staten Island leave from. Great views out over the harbour as we ate our sandwiches.

Grey skies yielded to torrential rain so we put our plans to visit the High Line on hold momentarily while we visited a café recommended by Kel – Haven’s Kitchen. As promised, a beautiful setting to wait out the storm.

Emerging from the café the skies were once again sunny (and the air soooo sticky) High line so we headed towards our original destination, The High Line. This is a reclaimed and repurposed New York Central elevated freight railway line that once served the bustling meat packing district of the lower west side. The line is now landscaped, with views over the city on one side and Hudson River on the other. It also houses several cafes and refreshment stands – our favourite was “peoples pops”, homemade, gourmet fruit popsicles. Yum! The highline was spectacular! If only the monorail was a little wider so we could have something like that back home!
Top of the Rock (Rockerfeller centre) observation decks on Levels 68, 69 and 70 – the storm clouds regathered and brought with them a little lightening. We chose to go to the Rockerfeller centre instead of the Empire state building. It is not quite as tall but we had heard that the view was just as good and the queues shorter! Unfortunately we missed the bolt that hit the lightening rod on the top of the building but we got to see the clouds dissipate, a rainbow over the city, the sun come out and then slowly set. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves but it was a spectacular experience. That well known photo of construction workers having lunch on a steel beam hundreds of feet above New York is taken during the construction of the Rockerfeller centre.

Thursday 4th July

Again, a very hot and sticky day.
Central Park – we walked through the whole park, souith to north. It was quite busy, being Independence day. We had bought some picnic supplies from Wholefoods before we headed out. We ate it overlooking the Lake, watching the row boats and soaking up the atmosphere. My favourite thing was the change in demographic as we walked further north – the southern part of the park was more upper class white couples and small families, north of Jacqueline Onasis reservoir there was more life and energy from the people, more African Americans enjoying lively BBQs and music.
Tired from the long day in the hot sun we attempted to get some New York-esque chinese in box take away but when we couldn’t geet that we settled for take away Turkish in our air conditioned bedroom.

Friday 5th July
While AA had a lovely sleep in Eleanor went for a walk around the surrpunding neighboourhoods - nolita, Noho, soho, china town. I loved the distinct personalities of the suburbs. People are so much more expressive than we are.
Katz deli ice cream for lunch – “I’ll have what she’s having”. Long line that moved relatively quickly. Classic huge pastrami and mustard sandwich but we liked the brisket sandwich better.
Upper west side - Seinfeld diner.
Baseball at night New York Yankees 7:05pm. Took us a while to understand all the rules and was a little boring for some of it but the atmosphere was great. The Yankees trailed the whole time until the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, ball is pitched and hit, fielder fumbles, Yankees win! Yankees win!

Saturday 6th July
Brooklyn smorgasbord – gourmet food market held in East river park in Williamsburg. Ice cream sandwiches – definitely an idea we should bring over here. Tacos and spring rolls. YUM!
Wandered around, exploring Brooklyn a bit but were a bit aimless so we headed to the Brooklyn market at forte green. An eclectic mix of flea market and home crafted stalls. Most of our time was spent hopping from shade patch to shade patch.

Andrew had found a hoppy shop online that we wanted to visit. However when we went to the supposed address we found it didn’t exist! Oh well! An afternoon drink in a pub later and we were ready to head back to hang out with some Australian friends we had teed up to party with. When we reached the agreed place it was all shut up for renovations. I couldn’t manage to contact the Jason so we ended up having dinner on our own. Shame, it would have been fun to hang out with some people from home.

Sunday 7th July
Williamsburg flea - 10 -5pm food and vendors. East river state park. Much the same as the flea we went to at Forte Green the day before, but still enjoyable.
Midtown flea market - hells kitchen. Not as good, in fact, not good at all.

West village for lunch – lovely streets lined with trees, nice café. If I come to New York again I think I would choose to stay in the west village.
Redeemer Presbyterian 5pm downtown – liturgical service, sermon on psalm 51, awesome band
Shopping and Mexican dinner.
Comedy at the Knitting Factory Williamsburg. An excellent tip off from Kellie. $7 for 5 comedians. Great atmosphere, soooooo funny!

Monday 8th July
Red Rooster in Harlem for lunch – modern southern food. Nice restaurant but food unfortunately left a little to be desired. Very salty!

Independent shopping time:

Eleanor went to Macy's – claims to be the largest shop in the world. Nothing special though, just a messy department store with HEAPS of tourists.

Andrews went to a train hobby shop. Resisted the urge to buy some very beautiful but very expensive American locomotive models!

Cake cups in Greenwich village – not cupcakes, but cake cups. A small, portable parfait. Absolutely delicious!
Monday is open mic at Niyourican poets in the Lower East Side, some really excellent rappers and freestylers and a super supportive environment for fledgling performers.

Tuesday 9th July
Walk over Brooklyn bridge – spectacular views as we walked over the impressive structure. Having watched a documentary on the construction of the bridge it was special to visit.
Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass) – a boutique. cobblestoned area right next to the river.
Brooklyn bridge park
Brooklyn heights promenade built over the top of the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) – magnificent views of the Manhattan Skyline.
Parkslope (suburb of Brooklyn) – beautiful, immaculately maintained brownstones. Lots of boutique toy shops in the main streets and African American nannies with white children.
Quick nap in Prospect Park (hence the name ‘Parkslope) it was time to head down to Coney Island. There was a surprising number of people on the beach down there. Walking along the boardwalk was lovely now that it had cooled down just a little. Andrew was too scared to ride any of the amusements but we had fun watching them.

Wednesday 9th July

Last full day of our trip and time for some independent exploring

Eleanor revisited some of the major sites we enjoyed or missed the first time – Guggenheim, central park, 5th Avenue, shopping, flat iron building.

Andrew visited the New York Transit Museum in brooklyn.

Phew! Thats all folks!
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