Harlem Spoonbread

Trip Start Aug 01, 2003
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Trip End Sep 20, 2004


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Wednesday, August 13, 2003

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Friday 8th August

The Greyhound was a bit traumatic at first, no seats, cramped and smelly. We had to do that embarrassing walk down the centre aisle looking for seats. We had to squeeze into the last vacant ones next to the people no-one else wanted to sit next to: mainly supersized Americans.
Over the border, at 3am in the morning we had to stop for American customs. We queued in the darkness for an hour and a half, possibly due to the passengers of middle eastern extraction on the bus. The officials were obviously suspicious of them but couldn't find any reason to stop them entering the country, paranoia.

Back, cramped on the bus, we resigned ourselves to little chance of sleep. Then at Buffalo when the coach emptied and we won the race for the oversized back seat resulting in a good snoozefest all the way into NYC.
The first sighting of the Manhattan skyline was a breath-taking moment. The sheer density and beauty of the skycrapers is unsurpassed anywhere else in the world. The bus disappeared into a tunnel on one-side of the river and when it re-surfaced we were right in the midst of it all; yellow cabs, hordes of pedestrians, cops on bicycles.

The Greyhound terminates at the crazy Port Authority Building, where we took our first ride on the sweltering subway of New York. All the characters are here, balding Puerto Ricans shouting at their wives, home boyz and girlz attempting casual cool, sad, backpacker muppets carrying all their bags up to 106th street.
Due to the bad press the upper west side gets, we expected to be mugged at knifepoint when exited the tube station time but people were uninterested in us and we got to our hostel safe and sound. After settling in to our cell - metal bunk with plastic mattress, bare floor and walls, we went to Time square to marvel at the crowded streets, giant illuminated cup noodle and other adverts. Too much stimulation.


Saturday 9th August

Hung out in Washington Square Park. There was a street market selling falafel and pina colada. Three guys called Tic, Tac and presumably Toe entertained people with acrobatic stunts and humorous banter. Our guidebook gave us two free tips, watching basketball at 'THE CAGE' and the Staten Island Ferry, which takes you right past the statue of liberty and gives great views of lower Manhattan.
Jane drooled over all the designer dresses on 5th and Maddison Avenues.

She had visions of glamorous sex in the city but had to settle for backpacker chic. Everyone was skating and jogging through central park as we headed for home via the grocery store for essential corona beers and tropical mix.

Sunday 10th August

Stale bagels and coffee came 'free' with our hostel room. A local tour guide 'Ed' took us and an Israeli girl, 'Avda', on a walking tour of Harlem. The area is being rejuvenated but still has a definite edge. It reminded us of home. To really get into the spirit of things we stopped for lunch at 'Spoonbread' soulfood cafe, at 110th street. Smothered chicken, candied yams and fried catfish... nice. Ended the morning at a gospel church in Harlem for some real Alleluiah, praise the Lord, Amen holding hands and swaying. We really got into it.
More skyscrapers and American patriotism at the Rockerfeller Centre, 'God bless America'.

Monday 11th August

The bagels don't get any fresher. Trip to the Bronx zoo. Took the wrong subway and ended up with an improptu walking tour of the Bronx, a real bum clencher. Say no more, it was heads down, look tough and walk quickly. The Bronx Zoo was great, particularly the Gorillas and other primates.
Later in the evening my cousin Ritchie turned up from his summer camp in Maryland looking like a native New Yorker in his well worn white vest (ala Bruce Willis in Die Hard). He demonstrated a disregard of traffic signals and we had to move quick to keep up with him.

Tuesday 12th August

Walked through Chinatown then on to the Brooklyn bridge, which has gorgeous views and a boardwalk. It was sunny for the first time and after a beer in Chinatown we sunbathed in Central Park. The Yanks played baseball, frizbee and a danced in a strange no contact martial art performance.
Went for a drink on the upper West side. Beer blonde and Bud Ok but we all wished we hadnt touched the 'amber' a dark beer that has given us all dizziness and dodgy stomachs.

Wednesday 13th August

Sore heads all around, came down to New York City Library and we are just going to get some provisions for our naturalist sorry naturist bus tour.We loved the New York attitude and could have stayed here for ages, we didnt get a chance to visit any of the museums or galleries which was a shame.
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