08 November 2009

New York - Day 2 and 3

Fri Oct 30: Our feet are SO sore from all the walking and stair-climbing! But, eventually, we crawled out of bed, took the ferry across to Manhattan, ate a hot dog at Nathan's ...

Nathan's Hot Dogs - supposedly the best - but nothing special imo

... and then started the first loop of a Grey Line city sightseeing tour. There are ticket hustler for these tours on every street corner around Times Square.

Ticket Hustlers - they spot a tourist half a mile away!

You can see a lot better from the top of the double-decker bus, but the wind really blows, and it blew cold today! The first part of the loop (going south) started at Times Square, through the Fashion District, around Madison Square Garden (Sting was performing that day) ...

Madison Square Garden

... by the old Post Office ...

Typical traffic around the old Post Office building - with mail carrier's motto inscribed above the columns ("Neither rain, nor snow ...")

... in that area you also have a good view of the ubiquitous water towers on top of many buildings ...

... then we passed by the Empire State Building ...

... the Flatiron building, then along Broadway through SoHo (= South of Houston street (pronounced "House-ton", not like the city in Texas! - there is also NoHo!), past the WTC site:

Ground Zero - 8 years after the fact ... the Empire State Building was built in only 13.5 months!

... and to Battery Park. There we foolishly took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Big mistake! You buy your ticket ($12), then you stand in line - security is just like in an airport – before boarding the ferry. The trip takes maybe 10 minutes, then you are hustled from the ferry ("Step it up, now!") - the waters were a bit rough, many people were apparently hesitating too long to step onto the moving ramp.

You can walk around the statue, which looks a bit more squat from close up:

Statue of Liberty, up close and personal

We did not climb the inside, and access to the crown was closed that day, anyway. The worst part, however, was waiting for the return ferry - it must have been 30 minutes of standing, crowded together like sardines, - standing and waiting, and waiting, because they apparently want to cram the return ferry as full as possible. People throw coins into the crossbeams of the pier waiting area, hoping to return, I guess. We won't be returning - it's too much like a Disneyland ride: You pay and then wait in interminable lines. Besides, the view from the Staten Island Ferry is quite good (see earlier photo) - just zoom in a bit if you want a closer-up. So my recommendation is that you skip the trip to the Statue of Liberty island, and simply take the (free!) Staten Island ferry back and forth and photograph it from there. Saves you not only money, but also a lot of time! And it's a LOT more comfortable.

After (finally!) returning to Battery Park, we completed the downtown sight-seeing loop by going back up north. This part of the trip was a lot more interesting, because of the East Village area, and it covered a lot more points of interest. The second part of it went along South Street, Chinatown and little Italy (nice views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, across which we walked yesterday, then through East Village where you can see shops and restaurants catering to almost any ethnicity - then along towards the United Nations building, turning left towards the Rockefeller Center with its flags and the ice-skating rink.

Ice-skating rink at the Rockefeller Center

Then along Central Park (seeing some very posh hotels and buildings along the way), and back to Times Square. Even though it was a lot colder and windier than earlier in the day, I still enjoyed this leg of the sight-seeing tour more than the first one.

Back in Times Square we went to the Hershey's and M&M shops out of curiosity ... imagine! ... three-story shops dedicated solely to a particular type of candy (and candy-paraphernalia!).

Statue of Liberty - M&M style

Sat Oct 31: By coincidence, a colleague of mine and his wife were spending this weekend in NY as well, so we met them for breakfast. Then we took the subway and walked to The Highline, an abandoned elevated train track, which has been converted, rather nicely and stylishly into a garden. See here. You can easily walk the whole length of it. On leaving the park, we saw this parking lot:

Must be for long-term parking only ...

Afterwards we meandered a bit through Chelsea and the meatpacking district (now home to some swanky shops and restaurants) and caught a subway back to Times Square, which, even at this time, was beginning to look more and more like a zoo – the Halloween Parade was taking place that night, and you could see people in costumes everywhere. After saying Goodbye to my coworker, we finished our tour of the uptown area, which took us along Central Park into Harlem, and back along the East Side of Central Park. But this time the bus was stifling - there was no double-decker available at the time and apparently the air conditioning did not work in the bus, so we hopped off after two stops at Central Park and walked around it for a while (do not buy any pretzels there! Ours was so dried out, that we threw it away after one bite.)

We got off the bus close to the memorial for John Lennon:


Central Park is a wonderful contrast to the bustling street life:

In Central Park and throughout NY they were preparing for the NY marathon, taking place the next day, so there were a lot more people around than usual at this time of year (I think). Many runners were staying at our hotel, because the race starts in Staten Island and then winds its way through all five boroughs of New York.

We caught the bus tour again where we hopped off, and this time we were in luck – it was a double decker, and the tour guide was the most knowledgeable of all. Whew! Our feet were still terribly sore. At least we could sleep one hour longer tonight, because the time changed back to regular time!

Continued ...

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