A Travellerspoint blog

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Day One

Arrival in New York

Getting to New York City was fairly epic and tiring. We had to leave Mainz in Germany on the 4.30 am train to Frankfurt Airport. This meant getting up at 2.30 am after just three hours sleep. From Frankfurt we flew on British Airways to London, then changed to American Airlines to JFK Airport, New York. After all the bad publicity airlines have been having in the USA, I must say the American Airlines flight there was excellent. We managed to get just two seats together, were given a plentiful supply of beer and white wine, the service was friendly, the food was good, the entertainment system worked and I even managed to get some sleep.

Arriving anywhere in the USA is always painful. Immigration takes forever. We queued for more than two hours to get allowed into the country. Then we took the air train into Jamaica, Queens. It took us a while to figure out that tickets are purchased on arrival there rather than at departure from the airport. While queuing to buy our subway tickets onwards from Jamaica, we witnessed two fights. I had read that New York was much safer nowadays, but this was not a very reassuring start. However, having said that, this was the only unpleasantness we witnessed all holiday, so I think it was just an unfortunate first impression. Our newly purchased subway tickets did not work and this was to be a bone of contention throughout our stay. New York really needs to upgrade its subway machines; they are hopeless. They tell you: you are swiping your card too slow, then too fast, then that your card is invalid. Often they take your money without letting you in. Then you have to deal with the stressed out person in the ticket booth whose blood pressure is sky high because they have to deal with complaints all day. These unfortunate people can only communicate by screaming at you as they are permanently totally pissed off with life.

Anyway, we finally made it onto the subway and stood in a crowded carriage all the way to Court Square/23 Street. I managed to fall over twice - tiredness or all that white wine, I don't know which. When we got to our stop and exited the subway, I was delighted to see our hotel, the LIC Hotel in Long Island City, Queens, the instant we stepped outside. We have seldom been in a hotel so easy to find. This was lucky as we were exhausted and it was pouring down with rain. Check in was quick and easy and we soon had our nice, clean, comfortable room. The hotel has a film star theme to its rooms, I guess. This room had a picture of Audrey Hepburn; our later room had Marilyn Monroe.

Our Room.

Our Room.

We did not have a great deal of energy on this day, plus the weather was bad, but we did take a wander around the hotel and go out and have some dinner. The LIC Hotel turned out to be a good choice for us. It is only one stop away from Manhattan on the subway, but it is cheaper and quieter than staying in Manhattan. There was not much in the surrounding area, but there was a supermarket right next to the subway stop and a few good restaurants near the hotel. Another big plus since we were on the road for more than six weeks was the hotel had washing machines.

We started our explorations of the hotel by going up on the roof. There are seats and tables on the roof and on our last night we came up and had a drink here. There is a view towards Manhattan and in particular a very good view of the Queensboro Bridge. I have always wanted to see the Queensboro Bridge for the simple reason that my favourite children's book (I am a primary school teacher) is E. B. White's 'Charlotte's Web'. At one point in the book Charlotte the spider likens the Queensboro Bridge to a human built web and in fact it really does look like one.

The Queensboro Bridge.

The Queensboro Bridge.

Rainy day in Queens.

Rainy day in Queens.

For dinner we walked down to the banks of the East River where we found the Anable Sailing Basin and Grill. This is a little open air East European restaurant with excellent views across to Manhattan. We ate here twice during our stay. The first time on a rainy day when it was nearly empty and the second time on a sunny evening when it was very, very full.

Looking towards Manhattan on a rainy day.

Looking towards Manhattan on a rainy day.

The Anable Sailing Basin and Grill.

The Anable Sailing Basin and Grill.

After dinner we had an early night to recover from the long journey and lack of sleep on the previous night.

Posted by irenevt 03:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Two

Down Town New York and Brooklyn

I found planning our trip to New York a nightmare. Part of the reason for that was simply that there is too much to do there and it is not easy to narrow down what you want to see. The other reason was my husband insisted on going round by big bus for two days. His reasoning was that we had enjoyed the big bus in Cape Town and it would probably be good in New York, too. I was completely against it and wanted to explore New York purely by public transport. Anyway, to cut a long story short, he won and we booked the big bus, or more accurately New York City Sightseeing bus for two days. Included in the price was a downtown tour, an uptown tour, a Brooklyn tour, a Bronx tour, a hop on hop off boat trip, a night tour and entry to two museums. We did not manage to do all of this. We managed the downtown, the uptown, the night tour, the Bronx and the boat trip.

We started day two by going to the City Sightseeing office to change our voucher to a ticket. The first thing I noticed when I stepped out of the subway in Manhattan was how tall everything was.

Tall buildings, Manhattan.

Tall buildings, Manhattan.

We got our city sightseeing tickets and boarded the down town tour. I had read somewhere, don't ask me where, that individual New York sights are so famous they sometimes come as a disappointment, but that the city as a whole has an energy and vibe that is quite captivating. I think there is a lot of truth in this view. Our first sight on the big bus was Times Square - tall buildings, neon signs, adverts. To me it was no different from standing in the middle of Causeway Bay, Hong Kong ( I live in Hong Kong). I know you can't see a sight properly just passing through on a bus, but we came back here later the same day on foot and I felt just the same. It was nothing special.

Times Square by day.

Times Square by day.

Times Square by night.

Times Square by night.

Peter in Times Square.

Peter in Times Square.

We passed a couple of famous sights I'll refer back to later when we visited them individually - the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building.The next sight was - the Flat Iron Building. I liked this. I had originally intended to get off here and walk to Union Square, but I changed my mind. We had largely just got on and decided to stay on for a little longer. We fully intended to go back here on foot later on, but did not have time. The Flat Iron building is twenty-two stories high and shaped like a triangle. It was completed in 1902.

The Flat Iron Building.

The Flat Iron Building.

The Flat Iron viewed from the night tour.

The Flat Iron viewed from the night tour.

A bit further on we whizzed passed Union Square another place we meant to visit but did not get round to. I believe it is famous for protests and lively with stalls and buskers, but will never know for sure.

Union Square.

Union Square.

We had no fixed plan re where to get off on this tour but, for some reason, spontaneously decided to get off at City Hall and City Hall Park. This was also a sight I really liked. New York City Hall is the seat of New York City government and the oldest city hall in the United States. It is an impressive building and the park next to it with its lovely fountain is worth seeing, too.

New York City Hall.

New York City Hall.

New York City Hall Park.

New York City Hall Park.

From City Hall Park we set out to walk to the 9/11 Memorial. On the way we passed St Paul's Chapel. In its graveyard we came across the Bell of Hope. The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel. It was installed here in September 2002. It is rung every year on September 11th and in sympathy with the victim's of terrorist atrocities worldwide.

The Bell of Hope.

The Bell of Hope.

I found the 9/11 memorials a very moving sight. I'm sure we all remember that on September 11th, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. Over 3,000 people were killed during these attacks. The 9/11 Memorial consists of two pools which occupy the foundations of the destroyed buildings. The name of every victim of the massacre is inscribed on the memorial. A rose is placed on each victim's name on their birthday. This is a heart-breaking sight, but it is well worth seeing. Later on when we did the night tour, our tour guide told us his own personal memories about 9/11. His family knew his sister was in that area and were terrified she had been killed, but although she had been nearby, she came home to them crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on a bicycle she had found on the street. She arrived in a state of shock and covered with dust. Our guide said many New Yorkers will not come near this place, the memories are still too raw.

The 9/11 Memorial.

The 9/11 Memorial.

The 9/11 Memorial.

The 9/11 Memorial.

Another building of note here is the 1,776-foot One World Trade Centre which occupies the site of the former 6 World Trade Centre Building. It is the tallest building in the USA and the sixth tallest building in the world.

The One World Trade Centre.

The One World Trade Centre.

From this area we walked down to the Hudson River. There are wonderful views towards New Jersey from here. There is also a lovely statue and flower filled park along the waterfront.

Looking towards New Jersey.

Looking towards New Jersey.

The Hudson River Park.

The Hudson River Park.

From the Hudson River Park we boarded our hop on hop off boat trip. This was well worth the money. We both loved it. Best sights were a view of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island - where immigrants to New York were once processed - and for me best of all, the Statue of Liberty which I have always wanted to see.

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge.

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge.

The Manhattan Skyline.

The Manhattan Skyline.

The Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty.

Liberty Island.

Liberty Island.

Ellis Island.

Ellis Island.

Pier 59, where the Titanic should have docked.

Pier 59, where the Titanic should have docked.

After our very enjoyable boat tour, we tried to rejoin the big bus. Not as easy as it sounds - huge queues, few buses, fight to get on, after around 45 minute wait, could only get a seat downstairs, two people upstairs hit on the head by tree branches and had to be taken to hospital. We were NOT IMPRESSED.

I was very, very glad to get off the downtown tour having only managed to hop off once. Did not dare get off again as it was so difficult to get back on. We switched to the night tour. I was now in a pretty bad mood, but must admit the night tour cheered me up. Our guide was informative and funny there were some lovely views. The only downside is my camera does not take great night time shots so my photos do not do it justice.

Passing by the Empire State Building.

Passing by the Empire State Building.

Penn Station.

Penn Station.

The Met Life Tower.

The Met Life Tower.

View from the Manhattan Bridge.

View from the Manhattan Bridge.

Darkness descends over Manhattan.

Darkness descends over Manhattan.

The Empire State Building by night.

The Empire State Building by night.

Posted by irenevt 08:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Three

Uptown Manhattan and the Bronx.

Next day we decided to do the uptown tour on the big bus. This was not as crowded as the down town tour and we had no problems getting on and off so it was a good day.

We began by visiting the Dakota Building. This prestigious building has had many famous residents. One of them was John Lennon and he was assassinated just outside this building in 1980. Other famous people who have lived here include Lauren Bacall, Roberta Flack, Leonard Bernstein, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, Lillian Gish, Boris Karloff, Robert Ryan and Rudolf Nureyev.

The Dakota.

The Dakota.

From the Dakota we wandered into Central Park where we were very underwhelmed by the memorial to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields. I really did not find it worth visiting.

Memorial to John Lennon.

Memorial to John Lennon.

We then walked to the lake in Central Park which was a bit more impressive.

Lake in Central Park.

Lake in Central Park.

After a whistle stop look at this area of Central Park, we got back on the big bus and headed to the rather odd Cathedral Church of St John the Divine. This is a beautiful building, well worth seeing. There is an unusual fountain outside it, too. It is called the peace fountain and features the Archangel Michael battling the devil, while surrounded by nine peaceful-looking giraffes.

Cathedral Church of St John the Divine.

Cathedral Church of St John the Divine.

Inside the church.

Inside the church.

The Fountain of Peace.

The Fountain of Peace.

Humorous signs outside the church.

Humorous signs outside the church.

Next up we went to Grant's Tomb. This is the final resting place of General Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the USA. It was completed in 1897. Opposite the tomb there is a huge church called Riverside Church.

Grant's Tomb.

Grant's Tomb.

Riverside Church.

Riverside Church.

From Grant's Tomb we boarded the bus which would take us on the Bronx Tour. This is a strange tour as most of it goes through Harlem which is covered on the uptown tour already. After going round Harlem, the bus crosses the Harlem river and goes to the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. There are plenty of other sights in the Bronx, but they are quite far, so maybe that's why the tour does not include them.

The Harlem River.

The Harlem River.

We did not get off the bus in Harlem, but with us going through it on the Bronx Tour, then on the uptown tour, then on our way to Boston by Megabus, then on our way back from Boston, I do feel I have been there even if it was only ever passing through on transport.

Mural, Harlem

Mural, Harlem

Harlem is situated at the northern end of Manhattan Island and is mainly an African-American area. It takes its name from the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem is famous for its gospel choirs and is filled with many, many churches. It is also famous as the centre of the Harlem Renaissance. This is the name given to a variety of African-American-led movements in music, literature, dance and art, which took place in the early twentieth century.

One of Harlem's many famous churches.

One of Harlem's many famous churches.

One of Harlem's most famous sights is the Apollo Theatre. This first opened in 1934 and helped introduce the world to artists such as The Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown.

The Apollo Theatre.

The Apollo Theatre.

Another building of note is the Hotel Theresa. In the early twentieth century most New York hotels only accepted white guests. In 1937 the Hotel Theresa was bought by Love B. Woods, an African American businessman. He ended the Theresa's racial segregation policy and the hotel began attracting famous African American artists who came to perform in New York.

Hotel Theresa.

Hotel Theresa.

We also passed by the statue of Adam Clayton Powell Junior, a Baptist pastor, civil rights activist and New York congressman who represented Harlem.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Other sights in Harlem include the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque and the Malcolm Shabazz Market. Both called after Malcolm X. The market specializes in African goods.

The Malcolm Shabazz Mosque.

The Malcolm Shabazz Mosque.

The Malcolm Shabazz Market.

The Malcolm Shabazz Market.

Finally we crossed the Harlem River into the Bronx and headed to the Yankee Stadium. This stadium was completed in 2009 and is home to the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball fame.

The Yankee Stadium.

The Yankee Stadium.

After the Bronx Tour, it was back on the up town tour through Harlem again and then down the east side of Central Park. This involved passing very many museums. The most interesting architecturally speaking was the Guggenheim with its odd spiral design.

The Guggenheim Museum.

The Guggenheim Museum.

We decided to get off the big bus about half way down Central Park, walk through the park and eventually make our way to the Rockefeller Centre. In the park there was an open air summer concert going on, lots of people were lining up to get in; lots more were listening from the grass nearby.

Relaxing in Central Park.

Relaxing in Central Park.

We walked down passed the Literary Mall with its statues of famous writers such as Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, William Shakespeare; stopped to watch a lady artist perform a gymnastic routine and had a look at the carousel.

Robert Burns.

Robert Burns.

Gymnastic Routine.

Gymnastic Routine.

The Carousel.

The Carousel.

After we left Central Park, we came across the love statue. I saw a hope statue, too, but we were just whizzing past that on a bus.

Love Statue.

Love Statue.

Next we passed Radio City New York, part of the Rockerfeller Centre complex. This excited my husband as he likes many of the shows broadcast from here.

Radio City, New York.

Radio City, New York.

The Rockerfeller Centre itself is a huge complex consisting of 19 high rise commercial buildings. One of the buildings has an observation deck called Top of the Rock. I liked the Rockerfeller Centre's Art Deco style murals. It also has a statue of Prometheus bringing fire to mankind, a statue of Atlas holding up the world, the statue lined Channel Gardens and when we were there 'Seated Ballerina' by Jeff Koons.

The Rockerfeller Centre Art Work.

The Rockerfeller Centre Art Work.

The Rockerfeller Centre Art Work.

The Rockerfeller Centre Art Work.

Prometheus and Seated Ballerina.

Prometheus and Seated Ballerina.

The Channel Gardens.

The Channel Gardens.

Atlas, Rockerfeller Centre.

Atlas, Rockerfeller Centre.

Across the road from the Rockerfeller Centre stands Saint Patrick's Cathedral, the beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral of New York. This looks strange from the outside being surrounded by towering skyscrapers, but it is lovely inside.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

Saint Patrick's Cathedral.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral.

After this it was home and dinner on the East River again.

The East River looking towards Manhattan.

The East River looking towards Manhattan.

Posted by irenevt 21:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Four

Getting round on public transport.

We decided to return to downtown Manhattan and see some of the sights we had just whizzed past on the big bus; plus take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry.

We started with the ferry. The Staten Island ferry is free and it goes quite close to the statue of liberty, Ellis Island and Governor's Island, so we decided to give it a try. The ride takes around half an hour and you end up in Saint George's, Staten Island. I'd have liked to look around Staten Island itself, but we decided it wasn't a priority and we did not have enough time, so we just had a very fleeting look at St George's.

At the Staten Island ferry Pier.

At the Staten Island ferry Pier.

A Staten Island Ferry.

A Staten Island Ferry.

Peter on the ferry.

Peter on the ferry.

Fleeting look at St George's.

Fleeting look at St George's.

View of Manhattan on return journey.

View of Manhattan on return journey.

After riding the ferry we wandered towards Battery Park. On the way there we passed a shrine to the first American saint - Elizabeth Anne Seton. She helped care for the poor and run charities to help the needy.

Shrine to the first American saint.

Shrine to the first American saint.

Battery Park is a pleasant place for a stroll located right on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. It is also where some cruises to the Statue of Liberty depart from. This park has several statues including one called The Immigrants by Luis Sanguino, and the East Coast Memorial, commemorating those who lost their lives in World War II. Battery Park also had a large dancing fountain which was proving a great source of fun for several overheated children and Castle Clinton, originally a defensive structure, but now where you buy tickets to go to Liberty Island. We returned to this park later on in the day too and enjoyed craft beers in its open air cafe. There were large numbers of friendly squirrels in this park.

On the waterfront, Battery Park.

On the waterfront, Battery Park.

The Immigrants.

The Immigrants.

Castle Clinton.

Castle Clinton.

Castle Clinton.

Castle Clinton.

Craft beers in the park.

Craft beers in the park.

Let me in, Let me in.

Let me in, Let me in.

After Battery Park we walked to Bowling Green Park with its famous Charging Bull Statue and Fearless Girl Statue. My husband loved these and found it hilarious that they were so covered by crazed tourists posing for selfies that you could not even see them. I thought they were awful, especially the crowd covered bull. I ended up just taking pictures of anyone posing with it as it was easier than trying to pose yourself. For the bull people pose either with its giant head, or down the other end with its giant testicles.

People pose with this end.

People pose with this end.

And this end.

And this end.

All the while Fearless Girl faces him down.

All the while Fearless Girl faces him down.

Next up we headed off towards Wall Street, bumping into Donald Trump on the way. Now he did make me laugh.

Look who's on Wall Street.

Look who's on Wall Street.

Wall Street has several famous buildings including Federal Hall and the New York Stock Exchange. Federal Hall, or a least an earlier version of the current building, was where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the USA.

Federal Hall.

Federal Hall.

The New York Stock Exchange.

The New York Stock Exchange.

After Wall Street we walked along to South Street Sea Port. This area played a significant role in New York's maritime history. It is now a historically preserved area with old restored buildings, old sailing ships and a maritime museum. This area also has great views of Brooklyn and of the Brooklyn Bridge.

South Street Sea Port.

South Street Sea Port.

Looking towards Brooklyn.

Looking towards Brooklyn.

Historical buildings, South Street Sea Port.

Historical buildings, South Street Sea Port.

Peter near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Peter near the Brooklyn Bridge.

Peter and I at the Brooklyn Bridge.

Peter and I at the Brooklyn Bridge.

After looking around the seaport, and especially enjoying the excellent views of the Brooklyn Bridge from it, we went back to Battery Park for a drink then took transport to visit the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and New York Public Library. I wanted to go to the library to see the original Winnie the Pooh bear and all the other soft toys belonging to A.A Milne's son, Christopher Robin. Unfortunately we timed it wrong and the library was shut. Bryant Park next to the library was hosting a large outdoor concert.

The Chrysler Building.

The Chrysler Building.

Grand Central Station.

Grand Central Station.

Peter in Grand Central Station.

Peter in Grand Central Station.

New York Public Library.

New York Public Library.

Bryant Park.

Bryant Park.

Then it was home and a rather spicy dinner in John Brown Smoke House washed down with happy hour lager at $2 a glass. Now you cannot beat that.

Happy with beer at $2

Happy with beer at $2

Posted by irenevt 00:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day Five

The High Line, Brooklyn and the East River.

This was a day that did not go to plan. We had actually booked a Megabus to Philadelphia and were intending to go there for a day trip.We got to the Megabus waiting area half an hour early to ensure we got on. They don't have a bus station, so we just had to stand in the street. The sun was blazing down. I thought: 'Thank goodness we only need to wait half an hour'. A full hour later we were still waiting. Then a full hour and a half later - still waiting. I went to ask what was going on and was told the bus was stuck in traffic in a tunnel and would be another half an hour, probably more. We gave up. For a day trip it just was not worth it. We would have had no time there even if we did eventually get there, so we dropped Philadelphia and set about seeing more of New York. Sadly we had wasted a lot of time, were already quite sun struck and were desperate for a loo.

We began our unplanned day by visiting the Starlight Diner and having some iced coffee and water to cool down and re-hydrate. I loved this diner, and not just because it had a much appreciated clean toilet. It was also because it looked like every diner you have ever seen on American TV with its booths and friendly wait staff and huge portions of comfort food.

The Starlight Diner.

The Starlight Diner.

The Starlight Diner.

The Starlight Diner.

When we finally felt refreshed we decided to walk the High Line because it was nearby. The high line is a disused elevated rail line that has now been made into a park. Its just under a mile and a half long. It has plants, flowers, works of art, sculptures and view points over Manhattan. It also has some places to eat and drink and toilets near the meatpacking district end. We ate and drank in the very pleasant Terroir restaurant

Flowers cover the abandonned rails.

Flowers cover the abandonned rails.

Strange sculptures on the High Line.

Strange sculptures on the High Line.

Murals by the High Line.

Murals by the High Line.

Peter on the High Line.

Peter on the High Line.

New York across flowers.

New York across flowers.

New York across flowers.

New York across flowers.

New York across flowers.

New York across flowers.

The Terroir where we stopped for snacks.

The Terroir where we stopped for snacks.

This art stall made me laugh.

This art stall made me laugh.

At the end of the High Line we walked through the meatpacking district to the subway then took a train to Brooklyn and walked to Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its lovely views over Lower Manhattan. It was still incredibly hot and we were flagging a bit.

Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Peter on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Peter on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

After we had had a look around the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, we headed down the hill to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. I must say one of the loveliest things about New York was its bridges. I loved the Queensboro Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, the Roosevelt Bridge and the Harlem Bridge. We took so many photos of the Brooklyn Bridge, because we kept ending up there. If we had had more time I would have walked across it, too.

Peter with the Brooklyn Bridge.

Peter with the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

From the Brooklyn Bridge Park we boarded the East River ferry and sailed up the East River to its last stop. It was quite a pleasant trip. When we got off at the last stop, we wandered off to the subway. We passed a lovely Armenian church and then had a lovely view of the Empire State Building. That evening instead of going out for dinner we just visited our local supermarket and ate in our room because we wanted to pack and get ready for our trip to Boston next day. After our experience with Philadelphia we were a bit worried about getting there by Megabus, but after a difficult start it all worked out.

The East River ferry

The East River ferry

Long Island City from the ferry.

Long Island City from the ferry.

The Armenian Church.

The Armenian Church.

A view of the Empire State Building.

A view of the Empire State Building.

Posted by irenevt 05:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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