New York City – I Lust You!

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GumGum ain’t he cute?

Arriving into NYC on Halloween night, it was approximately 730 at night by the time I reached the hostel I had booked for my first few days.  One would’ve thought I was rearing to flex my explory feelers especially when my shuttle driver continuously raved about the Halloween parade that occurs annually in the Village.  It sounded like a blast but not enough for my tired self to be tempted.  I was running on two hours sleep in the last 48 hours (having had the flight from hell) and all I really wanted to do was sleep, my sole intention to get to my hostel and do exactly that.

Children were trick or treating along the street, it was chilly, but thankfully check in was quick and easy until I got to my room and made a horrendous discovery.  My room was a four bed women only room, with bunk beds in which I was completely prepared for.  What I was not prepared for however, was being allocated a top bunk.  Awkward because I have curves that others don’t and every time I climbed in or out of bed, the world literally shook violently.  There was also my deathly fear that I was going to either fall off or break my leg while doing so.

A request to have a bottom bunk could not be accommodated either.  Apparently it was a little too difficult for the check in desk to swap beds therefore my chunky butt was doomed to the top bunk for the entirety of my stay.  Note, I say this in a complainy pants way but I was only there to sleep at night so my gripe is merely a teeny tiny one.

The hostel was excellent in all honesty and I recommend it as a place to stay, so if anyone is interested, it is the HI Hostel – 891 Amsterdam Avenue, NY.  It is secure, warm, a good location but a little far from downtown.  However it is close to a subway station one block west on 103rd street, kept very clean, and my room included a free breakfast every day of my stay (not all of them do just be aware).

Unfortunately residing in a hostel and sharing with three other women meant rest was minimal even with an eye mask and ear plugs.  As it were on my first night while New York partied for Halloween, I showered, staggered to my bunk and fell asleep waking up, every hour or so each time a guest returned to the room.

The next day I planned to visit Central Park because it was close to the hostel, two blocks east having researched my trip thoroughly.  Little did I realise I’d be walking the entire length of it, as well as hitting the American Museum of Natural history, followed by Times Square then finishing off with a bout of shopping in my favourite US department store Macy’s.

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Central Park

Central Park is a wondrously lush park in the middle of a big city quite literally a breath of fresh air.  The American Museum of Natural History where I got my pic of GumGum (see above) was about halfway along my route along Central park and was well worth the $22 USD price tag for the hours of entertaining exhibits.

Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History

After a few hours of wandering through the exhibits, I had coffee and a late lunch to rejuvenate my energy, then proceeded onto Times Square.  This was as gauche as all the pictures you see.  Busy, and construction all around but it was sooo cool-el just being there in the thick of it.

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Times Square – One of my better pics sorry I am seriously not a good picture taker

Then my beloved Macys, a womans shopping Manna where I completely lost all frugal awareness and spent $400AUD just like that.

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At Macys on ground level

The following day, the priority was to see a very old majestic lady, you guessed it the Statue of Liberty.  Through my  research of NYC, I knew that the Staten Island ferry could be caught for free.  While it does not stop at Liberty Island, it does give a good view of the Statue of liberty as it crosses to Staten Island.  With hundreds of other like minded souls I caught a 25 minute ferry across to the island, took a billion photos, disembarked then turned right back around and caught the ferry back to Manhattan.

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It was then time to see a production on broadway – Kinky Boots.  If you have seen the movie it is very good and entertaining.  The broadway production however far surpassed it and I had an absolute ball watching it. This show is the best I’ve seen so far, not negating the other productions but this was fabulous.  It has great songs, great costumes, fantastic actors and is matched with an equally excellent story.  It’s a must see and well worth the moolah and if you only ever see one musical in your lifetime this should be it!

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After watching Kinky Boots and cheering my throat hoarse, I wandered up to the Rockefeller Centre, eyeballed  the ice skating rink, took a few photos before catching a subway to Harlem.  My plan was to have me some soul food from Sylvias restaurant on Malcom X Boulevard.

Fried catfish, mac and cheese and collared greens with unlimited cornbread with a rum cooler to accompany my meal.  Delicious?  Most definitely but out of this world, not quite.  It tasted of home of all things.  The collard greens could’ve come from a good old fashioned Maori boil-up and the catfish while yum, was not as good as a home fried fish but tasty enough to enjoy and leave a large tip.

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Sylvias Restaurant – Harlem

The third day was my last full day in NYC before heading south to Washington DC and I had much to do.  I caught a subway intending to get off in Brooklyn and walk back across to Manhattan via the Brooklyn bridge.  Whilst on the subway however, I changed my mind and got off at Wall Street just because….its Wall Street, it’s famous isn’t it?

It proved to be underwhelming to be honest, but I found the bull who was surrounded by tourists taking pics.  Note my clever attempt to take a pic without the person standing next to it though you can see half of her body.  Then making a few confusing turns I found my way to the Brooklyn bridge and walked across to Brooklyn.  The bridge had great views of Manhattan and Brooklyn but took a fair while as I stopped to take pictures every few minutes.

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The Bull – A ton of tourists made it impossible to get a picture on it’s own

Eventually reaching the riverfront, my intention was to rest my weary self and get a coffee, but for some darn reason I could not find a coffee shop anywhere, so I  gave up, sitting down in a random park.  Brooklyn was very quaint and picturesque the total opposite of what I had in my head for some reason so it was a pleasant surprise in that respect.

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Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn the riverfront

When I found the energy, I decided an ice-cream was well deserved and caught a subway back across to the Lower East side of Manhattan.  My one focus to indulge in a Salted Pimp Caramel IceCream from Big Gay Ice-Cream in the East Village.  Scrumptious? Yes.  Would I do it again? Yes.  Was it worth the money?  Not quite, but still tasty enough for me to finish off every morsel and tick off my NYC list (having read about this in a few blogs).  Unfortunately by the time I realised I had not taken a picture it was already gone.

The next day was a simple affair, eating my free breakfast before checking out of the hostel and catching the subway to Penn (short for Pennsylvania) station where I had a 920am train to Washington DC.

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Penn Station a spectacle in itself

Penn Station is humongous, and it’s also the location of Madison Square Gardens.  It has one oddity however!  When you catch the train (Amtrak or New Jersey) the platform is allocated only 10-15 minutes before departure, something that seems silly.  As you can imagine it’s a mad scramble when the platform is allocated and everyone is wanting onboard at the very same time.

Surprisingly while chaotic I managed to get a comfortable seat with plenty of time to spare and it proved to be a very efficient boarding process.  There were also soldiers patrolling the station armed with weapons though I never managed to get a pic.

Fast forward 10 days and I returned to New York from Canada planning to hit all the places on my list I had not managed previously.  This time I had booked a hotel on 32nd Street, close to all the action called La Quinta Inn & Suites (very satisfying stay also).

When flying back into La Guardia my intention was to catch another shuttle back to Manhattan, but I found my way to where the M60 bus departed.  The M60 took me along the border of Astoria, Queens right to 125th street in Harlem where I then transferred onto the number 6 subway downtown to 34th street and walked to my hotel from there.

My hotel wass in Koreatown and I dumped my bag off, before I went to Macy’s again for one final shop.  Due to my impressive shopping spree I had a $20 voucher to spend and darn gone it I was going to spend it.  Macy’s was decked out this time in Christmas decorations, there were DJs on about 3 different levels, thousands of people and a sale.  Once again I found myself in shopping manna!

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World Trade Centre one of the memorials

The following day (Monday 14 November) my list included, the World Trade Centre and the City Highline.  Walking from 32nd street to the World Trade Centre memorials on Greenwich Street (approximately 40 blocks) the walk was long but pleasantly delightful.

When I got to the memorial pools where the World Trade Centre used to be it was beautiful and serene even with the surrounding construction work.  I took my time walking slowly around both memorials and felt tears in my eyes as I saw the many names of the people who died, those in the buildings, the emergency workers who perished in the line of duty and victims in the aeroplanes that were bought down.  Never to be forgotten.

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The small park at the world trade centre

Deciding to satisfy my curiosity on the street food, I then ate an early hotdog lunch from an actual street cart, my first ever, tasty but nothing extraordinary!  I then began my trek to the City Highline in Chelsea.  When I realised I was a couple of blocks from the Hudson river I opted to take this route to the Highline and found myself enjoying a fabulous walk along the Hudson river.  Had I had more time I might’ve hired a bike and rode all along that river because it was fantastic the little bit I did get to see, a clear sunny day looking at New Jersey across the river.

I visited the Chelsea Market which was really cool, where I got a pumpkin tart and muffin from the Sara Beth Bakery, before walking one block up to the City Highline entry on 15th street.

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Along the Hudson River

The Highline is a garden forged out of an old above the ground train station and it’s very pretty and worth visiting!  I ate my muffin while lounging along the highline, before walking the remainder of it and exiting via 31st Street.

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Eco Car exhibit on the Highline

Resting at my hotel briefly, I had just over $70 USD in my purse to burn and thought I may as well go an see what all the hype was about for the Empire State Building (this wasn’t on my list of must do).  If it hadn’t been around the corner I very likely would not have done it and when I got there it was $34USD to get to the 86th floor (this was the most basic pass).  There are other options to go higher for more money.

First stop is the 80th floor which has no outside access, though there are large windows to look out of in a 360 degree view, and it also had picture exhibits on the history of the building.  When you were ready you could then catch another lift to the 86th floor where you could exit outside onto the famed balcony and take pictures to your hearts delight.

Personally I didn’t think it was all that good.  There were a ton of people all vying and jostling for the best spots and I spent maybe 45 minutes there in total before I caught a lift back down.  I left feeling I had paid $34 USD to catch an elevator.  If you feel it’s an absolute must to see, go when it is very slow, maybe later at night (they are open to 2am) because otherwise you might be bored out of your skull.

By the end of it I was stuffed, my cold hadn’t improved and I also had a headache.  I was going to have a couple of cocktails in the hotel bar before bed, but was too exhausted.  Instead I ate my pumpkin tart, laid down and watched The Help on TV before falling asleep for my last night in NYC.

The day of my departure I woke up feeling worse.  I had a fever as well as a headache so I stayed in bed dosed up on over the counter medicine until it was time to check out.  It was also pouring with rain.  There is a New Jersey train from Penn station to Newark Airport where I was flying out of, but because I felt so yuck I did entertain the idea of getting a shuttle.  Until the shuttle desk quoted me $36USD plus tip.  Seriously $36 as opposed to the $13 to catch the train because I didn’t want to get wet walking the three blocks to Penn Station, so not worth it.

I trudged on down slightly resentful and spent an hour at JC Penney on my way to Penn Station.  While waiting for the train, I handed over my metro card to a homeless man touting for money, and caught the New Jersey train to Newark airport.

Overall Observations

New York is freaking awesomely out of this world.  It’s on my return list that’s for sure. There is so much to do without succumbing to the typical touristy attractions and paying top dollar for it.  Other than Kinky Boots the broadway show which was worth every penny, the only excursions I paid for was the Empire State Building and Museum of Natural History the former of which I strongly suggest never to waste money on.  I’m happy that I chose not to purchase the New York City Pass (at it’s cheapest around $200 AUD and cheaper option for viewing multiple attractions) because exploring Manhattan with my own two feet was fantastic however weary it made me.  I had the best time in New York and to be honest when I left it after the first week it took me a little while to get over leaving, before I eventually warmed up to the other cities I got to see.  More often than not I found myself with a cheesy grin on my face as I navigated through the myriad of streets, shops, people and food.  It truly was fantastic and I recommend anyone to visit because it’s worth it.

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