My Favourite Place In The Whole World...
Trip Start Jul 30, 2010
8Trip End Sep 06, 2010
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Where I stayed
We checked into our hotel, which is a very compact little place with only around 12 rooms, BUT … the rooms themselves were HUGE for New York standards. Every room shares a kitchen and bathroom with 1 other room but we never found it a problem as it seemed like nobody was ever at the hotel anyway, everyone was out exploring! We were on level 3 and noise was never an issue, even with my bed right beside the street-facing window. We had 2 beds in our room and more space than I have in my own bedroom for all of our luggage. The kitchen was well equipped, though there was no cutlery (we just took some from McDonalds) and the bathroom was always clean and was definitely big enough for us. Breakfast is included in the price and while it is a very basic breakfast (cereal, bagels and sometimes cake or museli) it was still enough to get us started every day. There are only about 5 tables though so try and go early to get a seat!! There is also a coin operated internet station in the breakfast room (about $2 for 20 minutes).
So after we checked in, I dumped my stuff on my bed and wanted to head out as I was eager to see Times Square. As we made our way there, we were distracted by all the shops along the way. The huge Macy’s is only about 10 minutes walk away, then just up from that I found a huge Victoria’s Secret store, as well as tonnes of other shops to go in
We walked around the area for about 3 hours as there are so many shops and just things to see in general. We didin’t even go into many stores that night but we did take notes on what we wanted to go back for. Planet Hollywood, Hershey’s, M&Ms World, Sephora, Forever 21 and Toys R Us just to name a few. We made a stop at the huge Walgreens store there (it’s about 4 levels) where we picked up heaps of bits and pieces, snacks and other things we needed. Pop Tarts were on special for like $2 a box so got some to bring home and while I was paying for them the cashier mentioned that Pop Tarts World had just opened somewhere close by. Hmm… another thing to add to my list! We headed back to our hotel at about 10pm, already with heaps of stuff to fit into our suitcases.
Our New York "to do" list was massive, with everything from seeing Central Park, walking down Wall Street, visiting Ground Zero and shopping 5th Avenue
Our tour started at their office, just behind Times Square. We decided to walk, about 45 minutes, to get there as we see so much on the way. Our tour guide met us and escorted us about 2 blocks away to our awaiting open-top bus. We nabbed great seats in the middle, next to the stairway so we would have an un-obstructed view out both sides of the bus. I really think it was the best seat in the house! I cannot speak highly enough of our guide. He was so funny (he was taking photos too!) and a little bit weird but in a good way. He really did not stop talking for the whole 8/9 hours and he gave us a lot of extra info that we would never have known otherwise.
We headed off past Central Park and all of the residences of the rich and famous like Donald Trump and Beyonce & Jay Z toward upper Manhattan and into the Bronx. We passed ‘Grays Papaya’ that can be seen on "How I Met Your Mother" and lots of other points of interest including the Museum of National History (you’ll know it from the movie ‘Night At The Museum’) and the place where John Lennon was shot.
We passed loads of gorgeous buildings and churches etc
We passed the Flatiron building, home of Forbes magazine and lots of other spots of interest before arriving in Little Italy where our lunch was to be served. We had already had time to peruse the menu on the bus so we would know what to order. The options were: Chicken Parmigiana, Chicken Franchaise (lemon butter sauce), Steak, Penne Pomodoro, Rigatoni alla Vodka, Spaghetti Arabiatta or Caesar salad. I chose the chicken franchaise that was absolutely yummy. (see photo). Served with vegetables and potatoes it was a great, filling lunch and it was served to us about 10 minutes after we ordered! Now THAT is service. We had about 15 minutes to spare after lunch so quickly had a look in the souvenir shops next door before re-boarding the bus ready to head down to lower Manhattan.
We then drove through Soho, past where SVU is filmed (the courthouse) and into the financial district and past Wall Street. We were then told we were making a stop at the Financial centre to view Ground Zero. We were so happy as we weren’t aware the tour included a stop there. It was completely fascinating and moving but I will talk more about Ground Zero later on in this entry (we spent several hours at the site a couple of days later)
We passed the ferry stop (with a masssssssive line) and drove around the edge of Manhattan before arriving at the pier where our boat tour would take us out to see the Statue of Liberty. It was fantastic because the boat was quite empty so we could move around the open deck to get photos easily. I was actually quite surprised with how small the Statue was. For some reason I was expecting it to be huge! I guess it’s just because of how they portray it in comparison to the city skyline whenever I’ve seen pictures on posters or on souvenir goods. We got great shots of the Statue, also of the New York skyline and our guide even took a funny shot of us "holding" the Statue of Liberty. On arrival back at the pier, we re-boarded our bus and headed back toward Times Square through Chinatown.
Our final stop on the tour was at the Top Of The Rock observation deck at the Rockerfella Centre. Our guide took us to the lobby and said goodbye to us while staff organized our tickets. We didn’t wait too long before we made our way up to the top for the incredible view of the city.
I can’t recommend this tour highly enough. I booked it through Viator.com and it cost about $100 at the time (the Aussie dollar was around 90 US cents). That price included the restaurant lunch, a boat cruise and entry to Top Of The Rock. I think we may have just been lucky to have such a fantastic guide, but the tour (regardless of the guide) was fantastic. It gave us a good idea of where everything was, what we needed to see and where things happen in the incredible city that is New York. If you want to find it, the name is "New York City Full-Day Guided Coach Tour Including Lunch" (formerly called The Comprehensive Tour)
As we were already in the area, we had another wander through Times Square before heading back to our hotel for some well-deserved sleep. We grabbed Subway for dinner as it was only $5 for footlongs and also a 6-pack of donuts from Dunkin Donuts for $4. This became a regular occurance for our nightly dinner as it was so fast, cheap and easy!
The next day we got up early and headed back to Times Square again to Planet Hollywood to pick up our "New York Pass" cards. We use these types of cards whenever we can as you pay a set amount and can go to as many attractions as you can squeeze into the amount of days you’ve purchased. We had a 3 day card, combined with a 3 day hop-on, hop-off bus ticket. Since we were in Times Square with our passes in hand we made our way to NBC studios (at the Rockerfella centre) for the studio tour. We had to wait for about 30 minutes for the tour but there was a huge gift shop so it wasn’t a problem. We saw the sets of Saturday Night Live, Sports shows and the news desks as well as the hallways lined with photos and dressing rooms. There was also an opportunity at the end for 2 people to do a news and weather reading. It was a great tour. We had planned to visit MoMa which was right next door but the line to get in there was CRAZY so we skipped it and headed just around the block to Radio City hall for another "behind the scenes" tour
It was then time for us to get in a little retail therapy with a stop at M&M's world and Hershey's world in Times Square. We found that M&M's world was really overpriced for everything, but Hershey's world was really reasonable. I don't know why that is. Anyway, we picked up the CUTEST Statue of Liberty teddy bear with a bag of kisses attached for about $13 and some other chocolates and bits and pieces. It was then onto the hop-on, hop-off bus for a trip up to the Museum of Natural History. The animals area was really neat and also the dinosaurs, but it was so busy that we couldn't really enjoy it. I did however have my photo taken with the "talking head" from the Night At The Museum movie, so that was pretty cool. We left the museum and headed back to Times Square to visit Madame Tussauds. I love Madame Tussauds and this one was really good. The Miley Cyrus and Johnny Depp were freakishly real infact I was just waiting for the Johnny one to blink it looked so real! I 'met' Oprah, Elle McPherson, Brad & Angelina, Tyra Banks, Kim Kardashian, The Osbournes, Johnny, Miley and Jennifer Lopez - and that was just in the first room!!!! Usher, PDiddy, Obama, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Robert Pattinson, Elvis, Mick Jagger, Elton John, The Beatles, Bono, The Spice Girls, NSync, Britney and even The Hulk were all there just waiting for me to take photos with them. Nice.
We left Madame Tussauds and headed to Toys R Us where they have the cutest range of New York themed soft toys ever
The second day of card use was started off with a "behind the scenes" tour of Madison Square Garden. It was really cool, as we got to into a VIP suite to see what it’s like from the rich and famous’ point of view. We also went courtside and met a cheerleader (who was gorgeous) before checking out the locker rooms and massive basketballers shoes before our tour ended. We stayed in the area and did some shopping at a store called ‘Conway’. If you see it, definitely go in! The clothes are sooooo cheap and there’s heaps of other goodies in the basement like food, gifts, makeup, toys etc
It was then onto the hop-on, hop-off bus to take us down to the Financial district to visit the 9/11 memorial.
The 9/11 memorial is one of the best things I have ever done, anywhere. As much as I love shopping and theme parks and everything else, this was one thing that I will never, ever forget. We also visited the progress museum (not sure of the offical name) that was kind of like a miniature free version of the actual memorial located next to Ground Zero.
At the main memorial, we chose the entry and walking tour option which I think was $15. There are some incredible displays in the museum, such as a peice of plane wreckage - the window, though distorted in shape, still in tact. A fragment of glass, about the size of a playing card, it was one of the largest peices recovered from the entire building. Firefighters' jackets and helmets, a menu, elevator plaques and cutlery recovered from the site and loads of other things recovered from the rubble. The most emotional parts though were the walls covered in photos of those who lost their lives, the "missing" posters and a constant-running video about the events of the day.
We waited outside for our guides; a man and a woman and we walked over to One Financial Centre where the guide pointed out everything to us and explained the events of the day. It came as a surprise when he revealed that he was a retired firefighter who (though not on duty) worked on September 11, 2001. He gave us a detailed, 45 minute or so talk about what he did and what he saw and at least half a dozen people were crying, including myself even though I was trying not to. I hung off every word as he spoke of how he helped people from the building past "falling bodies" and how he almost didn't make it. I was absolutely in awe of him. Our female guide then stepped up and said that 9/11 also effected her in a different way. She then went on to tell us the story of how her firefighter husband never made it home and how she had dealt with it. Again, people were literally in tears the entire way through her story. They were both volunteers to the memorial and said that educating people and keeping the memory of the day alive helped them to deal with the situation
As we hadn't finished looking around the memorial before our guided walk started, we returned inside. Downstairs we shared our memories of the day on comment cards and read other peoples.
Looking at the photos from the memorial now still brings tears to my eyes. It was the most moving place and really gave you a sense of how massive this attack really was. As a 17 year old at the time living in Australia, I never understood or really grasped the situation but now I do and every day I wear the rubber wristband I purchased in the memorial after our talks that day. It takes me back there every time and even though it wasn't my country, nor did it effect me directly, it is really something that I now hold very close to my heart.
We walked a little way from Ground Zero to Wall Street where we did the touristy thing, taking photos in front of the stock exchange and of the Wall Street sign before catching the hop-on, hop-off bus back to Times Square. We headed back toward our hotel planning on stopping at the Empire State Building to visit the observation deck. Big mistake.
The Empire State building observation deck is probably actually incredible, but we waited about 20 minutes to get tickets thinking "Thank god that's over" only to go up a few levels and get into a 90 minute line. Are you kidding?? It was about 9:30pm, so we actually thought about leaving as we just couldn't deal with getting home that late. After about 10 minutes of waiting (and literally not moving more than 1 metre) staff said if we didn't want to wait, we could climb 4 storeys of stairs. Even though that wasn't desirable after walking around all day, we did it. By time we actually made it to the top, it was so crowded that we could barely move so I snapped a few photos and about 5 minutes later we came back down. It was VERY dissappointing that such a great attraction was horrible due to lines. If they had a sign in the lobby that said how long the wait was it would have been a lot better as we would have come back another time but once you had your tickets (not knowing there was a 90 minute wait just up ahead) you couldn't go back or you'd forfeit your ticket. They REALLY need to tell people before they go into the ticket line.
Anyway, we did it and took some pics before heading back to our hotel.
The next morning we got up early and walked to Central Park Zoo
From Central Park we walked to the subway and caught a train to lower Manhattan (right near Wall Street). We emerged from the subway, crossed the road and headed down Wall Street toward the Bodies exhibition. On our way we passed through a huge food festival/markets where we picked up awesome "designer" sunnies for $5 a pair, I love NY shirts 5 for $10 and some yummy fresh lemonade for $1. It was then into the Bodies exhibition. I have to say, I didn’t particularly like it and I would have been pretty sour if I had of paid over $25 to get in. There wasn’t really a lot to see, though if you’re into that sort of thing then I guess it would be interesting. I just found it kind of creepy that they were real bodies. Anyway, it was then a quick walk to the pier where the hop-on, hop-off bus stop was. We jumped aboard the Brooklyn loop bus to have a look over that part of town, but we didn’t stop and there wasn’t really anything to see
We headed back to the stop closest to our hotel (about a 10min walk). We stumbled across a $1 a slice pizza joint where we got 2 slices of pizza and a drink for $3. We also found a CVS pharmacy where we got snacks and drinks etc. as well as a good amount of cosmetics as the prices seemed better than I’d seen for a while. We dropped our purchases off at the hotel and walked about 5 minutes to the Museum of Sex. This was a bit of a strange place to be going but hey, it was included on our New York Pass so technically it didn’t cost us anything extra anyway. The gift shop there is great with lots of funny stuff, if you’ve got people that would also find it funny and not be mortified if you gave it to them. haha. The museum itself was mainly pictures and movies, there was however some "real doll" mannequin type sex dolls and bondage outfits, as well as some rather odd statues of animals in the act. I was giggling like a school girl in some of the areas, especially the "touch and feel" area where you can touch the "real dolls" and all of their bits haha. I still laugh thinking about it. We walked around our local streets that evening stocking up on souvenirs (they were cheaper once you got away from Times Square!) and grabbing take away for dinner before heading to bed early for our full day tour the next day.
Today was a full day trip to Washington DC (see separate entry).
Our final day in New York was a day where we had nothing planned, just a day to shop and look around one last time. We started heading toward Times Square (a different way this time) and stumbled across a fabulous store called 99c Jacks
Saying goodbye to New York was sad for me. I had experienced and seen some of the most incredible things in this city and I still felt as if there was so much more to be explored. I really didn't want to leave! New York now sits happily at the top of my favourite places i've been to list and for that reason I know that I’ll definitely be back sooner rather than later, probably more than once.