Right Here Waiting

Love the marbling of the algae around this odd couple

Love the marbling of the algae around this odd couple

‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/ Gang aft agley’. Today I got a sinking feeling of panic on hearing that my flight was delayed by over two hours due to the weather and I wouldn’t be able to make my connection. Getting a little more familiar with these situations, I established that hotels in Los Angeles are packed out due to the Special Olympics at the moment, so my only real option was to venture back out into Newark, New Jersey. The obliging lady at the check-in desk rearranged to the next viable alternative: unfortunately it’s 11 hours longer than my previous flights and with an extra stop-over but nothing I can do about that, so have had to shake off the annoyance. Right now I’m sat in an inordinately expensive, but simultaneously revolting, hotel relatively near to the airport so I can try again tomorrow. Not a favourable thing to happen when you’re supposed to be travelling on a budget, but a relatively small obstacle in comparison to other potential items from the list of ‘things that could go wrong’ (*touch wood*).

The plus side of this situation is that I’ve had plenty of time to relax after the hot energy of New York.

Touching John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, Central Park

Touching John Lennon memorial in Strawberry Fields, Central Park

Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be easier.

Thanks, Alby

Thanks, Alby

Advertisements

Bright Lights, Bigger City

new york night

As our time in New York draws to a close, I thought I’d focus on two of the highlights of our trip: Central Park and the museums. I must admit, the attempted ‘renaissance style’ of many of the ‘old’ buildings did amuse me a little – purely because I’ve been spoilt by living in Europe. The architecture of the museums was still pretty impressive (if you don’t try to compare it!).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on the side of the park, was enormous! We particularly enjoyed the Monet, Manet and Degas collections but, arguably, the most unique installation was the 10 B.C. Egyptian Temple of Dendur – that’s right the entire temple has been installed into the museum! Up on top there’s a summer drinks bar with beautiful views of the skyline over the park, but be warned: it has very limited seating.

IMG_3564

Temple of Dendur

Special exhibition - China through the looking glass.

Special exhibition – China through the looking glass.

That iconic Seurat

That iconic Seurat

View from the roof

View from the roof

We accidentally snuck into the Museum of natural history round the back as couldn’t find the entrance… it certainly rivals the London equivalent. For us, the Blue Whale representation and dinosaur collection were the best parts!

IMG_3549

Butterfly dispay

Butterfly display

Next onto the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). This is definitely one not to be missed – the Andy Warhol collection was particularly impressive but the whole gallery was impeccable.

IMG_3744 IMG_3747 IMG_3756 IMG_3755 IMG_3757

We ran out of time and money for the Guggenheim but at least managed to admire it’s unusual structure as we walked down the east side of the park.

IMG_3860

The park, in general, was draw-dropping – not just because of its immense size but also due to the beautiful variety. We loved the huge rock structures dotted about the place between the trees.

IMG_3857

We loved watching the little turtles poking their noses out from the algae. Spot the two here that have ventured out to enjoy the sun.

We spent ages eagerly watching the little turtles poking their noses out from the algae. Spot the two here that have ventured out to enjoy the sun.

Belvedere 'Castle'

Belvedere ‘Castle’

IMG_3866

We got very excited watching the various baseball games going on throughout the lawns – it always surprises me how different American culture is to English! Speaking of which – only in America would you get a complementary cake with your meal! Brunch here is apparently a huge thing at the weekends so Katherine and I headed to ‘Friends of a Farmer’ in Greenwich Village for omelette and pancakes with free apple corn cake stuff. Having said that, the portions are not as big here as they had been on the west coast – perhaps we’ve just not been going to the right places; in general we’ve found food to be extremely expensive, particularly fruit and veg. I paid $4 for two apples the other day. FOUR dollars.

IMG_3541

Final stop: Empire State building. We went up at night to get a little variety from the ‘Top of the Rock’. The view was suitably incredible but I still maintain that the top of the Rockefeller is better purely because you have the iconic Empire State within the view. It’s just like the Eiffel tower in Paris – you can go up the tower but I think better views of the city can be achieved up the Arc de triumph as the iconic structure dominates the skyline, creating views that truly can’t be mistaken for another large city.

IMG_3793 IMG_3820 IMG_3787 IMG_3782 IMG_3784

And that’s all for now folks. Been kicked out of the Airbnb so just perched in Starbucks waiting to head to the airport for my two day flight to the South Pacific now!

Summer in the City

Washington Park Jazz

People say you shouldn’t visit New York in the summer. At first we thought this was immaterial as the heat seemed perfectly bearable, but over time it seems to have hit us! The worst area is the subway, as waves of very hot air keep you dripping with sweat whilst waiting in the dingy, run-down stations.

New York Subway New York Subway

The best way to sight-see to avoid the heat is on a boat/ferry! We splashed out on a ‘landmark cruise’ as wanted to get the best value out of our ‘explorer pass’ but if you haven’t got a pass or want to use it on other things then the Staten Island ferry is a viable alternative. We looped around the south of Manhattan and got some great views of the iconic, but surprisingly small, Lady Liberty.

Financial district manhatten Statue of Liberty IMG_3657 IMG_3653

To get a few different angles of the city we have been wandering around various districts to try and get a flavour of the variety here: Chelsea art’s district boasted the ‘high line’ park, created from an old rail line; Greenwich village was like stepping into the set of ‘Friends’ or ‘Sex in the City’ with locations from both shows available to track down for keen fans; Chinatown and Little Italy speak for themselves and Harlem was notably….how to put this kindly…’edgier’.

Flowers in 'High Line' park.

Flowers in ‘High Line’ park.

Apartment block from Friends.

Apartment block from Friends.

Harlem Street Art

Harlem Street Art

IMG_3581

I love pinkberry! It's a frozen yoghurt brand dotted about the place that we became familiar with in LA so it was nice to find it again!

I love pinkberry! It’s a frozen yoghurt brand dotted about the place that we became familiar with in LA so it was nice to find it again!

Heading down south we went to visit the very moving 9/11 memorial. It is incredibly well done: a series of square waterfalls lead to a middle drop where you can’t see the bottom, creating a ‘void’ where the two towers once stood.

IMG_3701

The old with the new. Over the memorial stands the 'One World Trading Centre' built to replace the twins. It is now the tallest building in the country.

The old with the new. Over the memorial stands the ‘One World Trading Centre’ built to replace the twins. It is now the tallest building in the country.

Brooklyn Bridge was pretty but packed! We didn’t walk the whole way across as were dead on our feet at this point. Below is the view back towards the financial district.

IMG_3732

I got excited by recognising the steps of the Courts of Justice from countless films, but Wall street itself was much like any other financial district. I’m not sure what I was expecting, perhaps for Leonardo DiCaprio to spring out into the street spilling cocaine trails behind him.

IMG_37122

Speaking of celebrities, we came down from a roof top bar south of Central Park to find a small group of paparazzi waiting outside the Directors Guild Theatre and stopped to ask what was going on. Crowds quickly gathered, nobody knowing what was happening at all, and crowd mentality led to us all hanging around for over an hour gossiping, sharing ‘speculations’ and generally swapping stories. The whole experience was actually pretty hilarious – trying to get intel out of the ‘pap’ who wouldn’t budge then asking the drivers in the flashy cars waiting outside… finally Tom Cruise emerged to much excitement and a flurry of flashes and screaming.

We cooled down with a trip to Times Square to see the mayhem at night.

IMG_3604

Empire State of Mind

View from Top of the Rock

Planning a holiday is not always easy. It can be, if you get lucky, but attempting to piece together a fairly ambitious agenda can create complications. I resent travel agents as I find that they simply do a lazier version than what you can do yourself if you screen all of the options on the internet. In addition to this, they tend to charge a fortune purely for the convenience of having somebody else scroll through the options for you. As soon as you attempt to plan anything slightly unusual they draw a blank. Don’t get me wrong, they work fantastically to make a large number of people’s lives ever so slightly easier, but if you’re on a budget of any description or trying something a little off the beaten track then look elsewhere. Anyway, I’ll touch back onto the planning stage a little later. Although the jabs, visas and organising can be stressful, the best feeling is having all of your documents sorted and setting off like a snail with all that you could need packed onto your back.

First stop: Norwegian airways. They have a very unusual new take on long haul flights: pay for everything separately. If you want food, drinks, a blanket or headphones you have to splash out but in return you get a, relatively reasonably priced, direct flight to the states. Fair enough. Certainly better than Ryanair or Flybe! Arrival into JFK New York was not quite so pleasant. After the brain-numbing wait in customs and border protection, I proceeded to get completely blown away by the lack of clarity surrounding the subway system. Without the help of an obliging local I would have seriously struggled: the maps are few and far between in addition to being out of scale and unclear. Around two hours after my flight had landed, 5am UK time, I managed to clamber my way over to Katherine (sister) in the West-side Airbnb flat.

The pond central park

With a jet-lagged early start on our first day we headed out into the big city. They don’t seem to have any equivalent to supermarkets or ‘grocery stores’ and what’s more nobody seems to understand us when we ask about them! Katherine eventually found some cereal – labelled ‘whole foods’/’healthy option’ the second ingredient was sugar. No wonder there’s an obesity epidemic. We were very excited, however, to get our first glimpse of the incredible Central Park: the buildings loom over it around the edges like stilts – all much taller yet much thinner than the skyscrapers we’re used to in the UK.

Saks 5th Avenue

The walk down 5th Avenue was suitably glamorous with the luxury brands dotted down the extensive ‘side-walk’. The wide streets are a novelty: they create a sense of space to counteract the vertical streaks of building so the sun can shine down onto the pavements. It felt like walking around on a film set.  We poked our noses into a couple of the big shops such as Saks 5th Avenue but fairly quickly retreated with $$$ branded into our eyes. Grand central station intensified the feeling that we were stumbling into a film. We packed a lot of sites into the first day: The Chrysler building, United Nations building (relatively dull, I must admit), Times Square, Bryant park and the public library. Struggling with the heat we popped into the delightfully named ‘Café grumpy’ for an iced beverage of some description before heading to a classic deli.

Rockefeller Centre Grand Central Station

Times Square IMG_3288 Bryant Park

Deli sandwich with a ratio of mozzarella to bread of around 1:1!!

Deli sandwich with a ratio of mozzarella to bread of around 1:1!!

The queue at the Museum of Modern art for ‘free Fridays’ looped around the entire block so we instead headed to the ‘top of the rock’ observation deck. We used this as the first of three options on the ‘Explorer pass’ we bought to save us a couple of dollars on entrance fees. The timing was perfect as we soaked up the stunning view in full day light then waited for sunset then through to the magical moment when the lights gradually began to flicker on.

Empire State Building

Central Park view

Central Park view

New York at sunset empire state at night IMG_3484

At this point, fully exhausted, we crawled back via a pizza joint and settled down back at the flat. Busy day!