Posted by: robinson2000 | August 12, 2011

Taking a Bite out the Big Apple

8th – 11th August

My final bus journey took me up the east coast, past Philadelphia, through Baltimore and into the Big Apple, New York City. It took a mere 4 hours and cost only $17 with the added bonus of having Wi-Fi on the bus. I was dropped off under the shadow of the Empire State Building and took New York’s ancient metro to 103rd Street where my hostel was located. On my previous visits to NYC, I had stayed much further south in Downtown or Midtown, so it was a new experience to be staying on the fringes of Harlem, with a host of interesting and some downright scary looking characters wandering about. The girl at reception assured me that the area was perfectly safe and that the metro was only a block away, before adding “that means you won’t need to run very far if you get chased” and chuckling to herself. Feeling the need for some food and a wonder, I threw on my lucky travelling cap and headed back on the metro to Midtown. My first stop was to an Irish bar on 33rd St, next to the Empire State Building, called Foley’s, to watch some baseball and relax. From Foley’s it’s only a short walk to 5th Avenue where you can see the Trump Building, Columbus Circle, the Rockefeller Centre and the Plaza Hotel. One of my favourite pastimes in NYC is to simply walk the streets, looking up at the tall buildings and listening to the various accents that you hear. New York’s diverse population runs the gamut from wealthy celebrities to poor homeless people and is illuminated in different neighbourhoods around the city. In Manhattan alone you have an area nicknamed “Little Italy” for the Italian enclave, you have a huge Chinese community in Chinatown, in the Lower East Side is a Jewish community, Harlem is the centre for African-American cultures and in East Harlem is a large Hispanic neighbourhood. As it was a warm evening, I ended up walking all the way up Broadway and found a free open-air concert at the Lincoln Centre where they were celebrating African & Caribbean music.

New York possesses an abundance of great attractions and landmarks, most of which require you to stand in line for a long time or as New Yorker’s say, “standing on line”. I’d seen most of the landmarks on a previous visit so ended up cherry-picking a handful of things to see. The following day I headed out without much of a plan and spent an excellent day by first riding the famous Staten Island Ferry, then shopping on Pier 17, which is where the Peking (link) is docked. West of Pier 17 is Wall Street where I saw the Federal Reserve Building and Federal Hall that was the location of George Washington’s inauguration. North of Wall St is the World Trade Centre site that hasn’t changed much since the last time I visited. In the evening I met up with a friend who lives only 3 blocks from the bright lights of Times Square. We had an excellent Chinese meal before heading to the rooftop of her apartment block to see the New York skyline at night.

During my last two days in New York I visited the aircraft-carrier, USS Intrepid, which has become the Sea, Air & Space Museum. It houses various exhibitions including a British Airways Concorde and a nuclear submarine but my main reason of visiting was that it has been featured in the films National Treasure and I Am Legend. One of New York’s hidden gems is the recently completed High Line, which is a raised walkway/park that runs from the Meat Packing District on 12th, up to 30th Street. It was formerly the elevated railroad that used to run directly to factories in Manhattan, transporting manufactured goods without disturbing traffic on the streets. Since the growth of trucking, the railroad became disused in the 1960’s and until only recently was up for demolition until a group of locals advocated for the Line’s preservation. The High Line is flooded with visitors as your taken away from the traffic without having to stop every block for the lights, plus at the sides of the walkway are flower beds and a couple of cafes to grab a drink.

Apart from doing a lot of walking, I didn’t get up to much else in New York except for meeting up with an old friend for a lunch and dinner, which she very generously paid. On my final evening I saw the famous pinstriped Yankees demolish the LA Angels 9-3 in their new stadium, up in the Bronx. It was a nice way to end the trip and spent with a group of New York girls who amazingly knew even less about baseball than me. It took an age to get back to the hostel as the metro was overrun with screaming Yankee fans. I eventually arrived just after midnight and caught a few hours’ sleep before getting up at 4am for my flight home.     

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