Last known location: London, England
15
Jul
1

New York, New York

G: On Sunday morning we checked out of our Washington hotel and made out way to the rather lovely Union Station to catch our train to New York.  Fortunately we’d booked the train when we’d arrived in Vegas – the US train booking system is almost as complicated as at home, which means the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket.  I noticed a guy in our line who had the same ticket as us but had paid $150; quite a lot more than our $50.  The AMTRAK train was very comfortable and had enormous seats with loads of legroom – quite the treat for Dan!  Around 2.5 hours later, after passing through a lot of industrial looking scenery, we arrived at Penn Station, New York City.  It felt pretty weird knowing that this was the last stop on our amazing trip, but I think New York was a cool place to end our journey.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t on our side – it was raining really hard – so we decided to get a cab to our hotel.  As we drove through the streets, gazing up at the skyscrapers, we tried to take it all in.  I’d been to NYC 3 or 4 times previously but it was a first for Dan so there was lots of exploring to be done.  Once we’d checked into our hotel, The Salisbury on 57th and 6th, we freshened up a bit and headed out to discover the neighbourhood.  Maybe it was the rain, but New York certainly has a smell to it; our hotel was a couple of blocks south of Central Park so perhaps the horse and carriages trotting around contributed a little bit!  Because of the rain we decided not to go into the park and instead found cover in a great little Japanese restaurant where we had some dinner before going back to the hotel to crash.

The next day was 4th July – Independence Day in the States.  The big thing in New York to celebrate the day is the fireworks display on the Hudson River and we were planning to make our way there later that evening.  In the meantime we jumped on the subway to Greenwich Village and walked around Washington Square and the lovely boutique shops and restaurants in the area.  At around midday we stopped off at the White Horse pub – Dylan Thomas’ old haunt.  Whilst there we managed to watch the famous Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest on TV.  This was particularly unpleasant viewing – apparently the trick is to dip the bun in water to moisten it up and then shove it down your throat without really chewing.  Suffice to say it didn’t look very appetising – see for yourself in the video below.  The guy who won, for the 5th year in a row, actually managed to eat 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes!

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After that special treat we walked along one of the city’s newest outdoor spaces, The High Line.  It’s a city park built on the old railway line 3 storeys above ground level.  Because it was a public holiday the narrow park was pretty busy but it was very pleasant to walk the 20 or so blocks, stopping occasionally to find some shade from the oppressive heat!  Once we’d walked the length of the park we stopped for a quick drink at the outdoor bar underneath the railway line and then made our way up towards Times Square.  It was Dan’s first time in the neon zoo, and we stopped for a few minutes to take in the craziness and grab a slice of pizza.

Next up was a quick stop at the Top of The Rock – the observation deck on the 67th floor of the Rockefeller Centre.  The views were impressive, as expected, and we spent a while up there figuring out which building was which.  Once again, though, the heat got the better of us and we escaped the sun deck for the air-conditioned haven of another Japanese restaurant and a cold beer.

The fireworks were calling, so we walked west towards the Hudson, stopping for a couple of drinks in the trendy Meatpacking district and dinner at a lovely little Italian.  We eventually made it to the river (well, about 2 blocks away thanks to the crowds!) and hung around for an hour or so before the fireworks finally began.  Apparently 3 million people turned out to watch the show, and it was certainly very crowded, but the atmosphere was really fun and the fireworks were amazing!  All 40,000 fireworks were set off from 6 barges, all of which were synchronised, so we were definitely wowed!  It took an age to get away from the crowds once the show was over, but we managed to find a little Cuban bar to have a drink in so we walked back to the hotel through relatively quiet streets.

On the Tuesday morning we walked 10 blocks south to the Diamond District, New York’s equivalent to Hatton Garden.  We were hoping to find a “real” engagement ring to go home with.  Having no clue what to look for Dan did some very thorough(ish) research and we went with a bit more of a clue on cut, clarity, colour and carat.  Our first stop was Harry Winston, jeweller to the stars, and we were lucky enough to actually be let in by the two burly security guards.  It was a very posh shop, and at one point I had over $100,000 worth of diamonds on my finger.  Very exciting, but perhaps not the most realistic option!  We then went to about 3 other shops before eventually choosing THE ring – it’s gorgeous!

To celebrate our engagement (again) we went for a picnic lunch in central park and spent the afternoon lazing on the grass and munching sushi and red velvet cupcakes.  It was a beautiful day in New York and a great way to spend the afternoon.  We went for an early evening drink at the Boathouse and sat by the lake watching the turtles and boaters paddle about.  A perfect day!

D: The next morning we were back on the subway, and heading over the East River to Brooklyn. We ended up on the wrong train however, and had to take a fairly major detour before we got there. We eventually made it, and after a brief wander we made our way to the famous Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across the central walkway with plenty of other tourists, we took in the spectacular views across the water to Manhattan’s financial district.

On making it to the other side we were soon into the huge Chinatown district, one of the largest in the world, where we stopped for a delicious Dim Sum lunch. Just north of Chinatown is Little Italy, once home to thousands of immigrants freshly arrived from Europe, and whilst it still has a very Italian feel, it’s now being slowly overrun by the ever-expanding Chinatown and is home to lots of Italian restaurants spread over a few blocks.

In the afternoon we walked off our lunch by trekking down to the Southern tip of Manhattan, where we took in the views out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the small Battery Park. We did consider making the trip out to the islands, but the queues were so horrendous that we decided to give it a miss! After a quick walk through the financial district in the stifling heat we decided it was time for an air-conditioned break. We started at Century 21, where you can buy designer fashion at Primark prices – obviously Gem’s choice not mine, and after 5 minutes I left her to it, camping out in an Irish pub around the corner with a cold beer and baseball on TV! After a quick look at the old World Trade Centre site, which is rapidly being rebuilt, we headed back to the hotel for a break!

The next day we were back on the sightseeing trail and thought we’d explore Harlem, once known for it’s crime and deprivation, but now undergoing a bit of a renaissance.  Here we came to realise what can happen if turn up somewhere with no plan whatsoever – after an hour or so of fairly aimless wandering we gave up and moved onto the other reason we’d come to this part of town. On arriving in the States weeks earlier I’d booked tickets for us to see the New York Yankees play the Tampa Bay Rays at the recently rebuilt Yankee Stadium.

We were pretty early, so we went to a bar next to the stadium which gradually got busier and busier as the game approached. There was plenty of excitement among the fans as local favourite Derek Jeter was approaching the apparently significant milestone of 3,000 hits in Major League Baseball, just 3 shy at time. We made our way inside the huge stadium and found our seats – Dutch and Canadian tourists on each side! The game itself wasn’t the most entertaining by all accounts and the Yankees got a bit of a battering, losing 5-1, so the home supporters weren’t too impressed! Jeter only got 1 closer to 3,000 too, so they didn’t even have that to celebrate! It was great to experience the atmosphere, but baseball isn’t the most lively of sports and despite my attempts to like it I don’t think I’ll be hunting down any baseball games when we get home!

The following day was our last full day in New York, and we thought we couldn’t leave without taking in a Broadway show. We headed back to Times Square and joined the queue at the last minute ticket booth, which was long to say the least! After an hour or so standing in line we finally got tickets for Jersey Boys, which Gem had been keen to see for ages. We just managed to get tickets and make it back to the hotel before a torrential downpour began! This continued for a couple of hours, and finally we had to brave heading out again if we wanted any dinner! We had a very tasty French meal just off Broadway before moving on to the theatre for the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which was pretty entertaining, with plenty of catchy tunes which Gem was singing for the rest of the trip!

The next morning it was time to pack up our rucksacks for the last time and get ready for the flight home, after 278 days and 20 countries. We’d had an amazing time, but before we knew it we were back in London and getting back to the real world!



1 Comment:
  1. Rose 11 Oct, 2011

    Well done! You’ve finally finished it and arrived home safely after a fantastic 9 months of travelling. Welcome home!

    Lots of love,

    Mum x x x

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