Saturday, 4 April 2015

North America Part 2: Insert cliche big apple title here

God, my bus was too early. Or was it too late? Either way, a bus to New York at 2am in the morning is a useful, if not entirely fun experience. However, it meant that I had the full day in New York, so I can't complain. After a not very restful doze on the bus, and after navigating the underground and streets of New York, I arrived at my destination: The Jane Hotel. Checking in, I was greeted by a grand old-fashioned hotel reception and by staff dressed like bell-hops. Then, I headed up to my room and entered my room, a small room that's designed to look like an old-fashioned train sleeper car. And when I say small, I mean tiny. I could actually reach out and touch both sides of the room. However, I knew it was going to be small and I absolutely loved it anyway

After a shower and a change of clothes, I headed off into the wild of New York and travelled down to pay a quick visit to the lady of liberty, The Statue of Liberty. Instead of paying for a fancy tour, I took the advice of several people and jumped onto the free Staten Island Ferry for a trip that floats right past her.

After I returned, I grabbed a quick breakfast of toast from a nearby breakfast van (that's a new experience for me, buying toast from a van). I continued on my whirlwind tour of Manhattan and headed to Broadway and Times Square to enjoy the flashing lights. However, I actually ended up arriving from the subway at the Flat-Iron building (or whatever it's called) which is a spectacularly thin building, where I even found Staples handing out free coffee and chocolate. I eventually headed off to Broadway and enjoyed wandering around the area, with flashing lights and show billboards.

After I had had my fill of the glitz and glamour, I headed of the serene and sanctuary of Central Park, which is absolutely massive. I mean huge. I spent over two hours there, just wandering around and enjoy the sights but I only ended up doing half of it. During this time, I:
  • saw multiple horse-drawn carriages roaming the park
  • visited a boating lake
  • climbed a fake castle
  • ate a rather delicious hotdog smothered in onions
  • wandered through multiple trails
I won't bore you with the details but instead, I will show you lots of pretty pictures!

Next up was a sight that not many people would do, but as a fan of Daredevil, I couldn't not. Yes, I took the detour to Hells Kitchen for a bit of geeky sightseeing. Not going to lie, I didn't exactly stay very long but it was nice to see it! I then stopped for a quick beer, before heading to two better known sights: the Empire State Building and Central Station, where I ended up having a quick wander around (I didn't go up the building but I did enjoy seeing just how tall it was).

Now then, it was about this time that my knee (which you may remember from last week was hurting) began making my whirlwind tour of New York close to unbearable. As it was nearing the evening, I made the decision to head back to the hotel to rest up a bit before dinner. I then made the silly decision to walk from the Empire State Building, all the way to my hotel in the Meatpacking district.

Not. A. Smart. Idea

For those who have been, and probably most people in general, New York is absolutely massive and surprise surprise, so was the distance to my hotel. Whoops. After dragging my now aching knee back most of the way, I ended up at the only decent point of this error: the highline. For those who don't know, the highline is an old, disused raised railway that has been turned into a rather nice park, which is a pleasure walk along as you get to see the coast and all the old buildings. So, although I was in pain at this point, I at least got to enjoy the walkway.

After I arrived at the hotel and after I rested for a bit, I went out for a slice of pizza in a small eatery nearby, which was absolutely delicious! And as I downed my slice and sipped on a beer, my first day of New York came to a close.

My second day started off much like the first: with a hunt for breakfast. And just like last time, it was delayed as I headed straight to the Top of the Rock, i.e. the viewing point on the top of the Rockefeller Centre. After being the first up the elevator, I found myself standing significantly higher than I had been and overlooking the city. Whilst I will be the first to admit that it was slightly underwhelming after a while, it is still fairly amazing to see the city and central park extending towards the horizon.

After a fairly controlled plummet back to the ground flour, via the lift, I headed off to Times Square in search of breakfast and eventually settled for a sweet croissant with a coffee, sitting in the middle of the square.  After my meal, I headed to one of the most famous art museums in the world: Museum of Modern Art (or MoMA for short). Now, I've spoken about the fact I don't really enjoy modern art but I thought to myself, I will give it one more chance at the most renowned institutes in the world for it. And I have to say, I still don't particularly enjoy it. However, I'm pleased that I tried it and I did enjoy seeing some of Picasso and Dali's work. I also really liked just sitting in the statue garden for a while again. If you like modern art, then the MoMA is very much for you.

After my second foray in the American art world, I started to head back to my hotel but before that, I will share with you the thing that surprised me the most about New York. Despite being a big city, and a hectic city at that, the city had lots of nooks and crannies for you to sit and unwind or enjoy a coffee and minute of peace in. It was a really nice touch to see what were once dark alleys transformed into relaxing havens.

Now back to my adventures and I am now near my hotel when, with a rumbling stomach, I popped into a New York deli for a 'sub' and what a sub it was! Dear god, it was unbelievably delicious and stuffed with goodies. Basically, and just like Subway, you order your sandwich from the counter but unlike Subway, you can actually watch them carve the ham fresh off the joint and cut the different cheeses from their block. And it was stuffed, and it was delicious. Pictures below:

After demolishing that massive mound of meat and cheese, I arrived and met my old friend: Cara and what a brilliant reunion it was! Having known Cara for years, and having met her once in the UK, it was amazing to see her again and catch up after so long. After chatting for a bit at the hotel, we then decided to wander around a bit and see some of New York whilst chatting. Now, it is worth noting that during this walk, Cara had decided to buy me a huge amount of American sweets (or candy). And I mean a huge was a massive bag of sugary goodness, and it will most likely last me for the next few years (though I have tried everything). Thank you very much Cara, for these sweet treats!

After wandering and chatting for a while (and buying some new trainers for my aforementioned knee), we arrived at the 9/11 memorial which, to me at least, is a fitting and beautiful tribute to an incident that not only claimed thousands of lives but also changed the faces of all our countries.

After spending some time at the memorial, we began to slowly make our way back to the hotel, this time via the Wall Street Bull, where she treated me to a slice of delicious pizza which we ate in a nearby park. Nothing like sharing a slice or two with an old friend. Sadly, and as Cara had an exam the next day, it was time to say goodbye until the next time. Thank you very much for taking the time to come and see me Cara: it was great to see you again!

After a wander, I checked out some local supermarkets and picked up a pack of Dogfish Head beers which is a brilliant beer, recommended to me by Michael, which I then polished off whilst packing. And yes, they are amazing.

My third and final morning in New York was fairly quiet but extremely pleasant. After a final wander along the riverside, I headed back to the Chelsea Market where I had a breakfast of country biscuits and jam with a coffee, whilst sitting watching people go by.  A great breakfast.

After that, it was time to head off to the airport where, for lunch, I tried my first ever burrito which was another mouth watering treat. Let me put it this way: you know what you're eating was good when an hour later, and whilst being served in a shop, the shop assistant tells you that your food looked amazing as she passed by and saw it.

And with that (and perhaps after a small tub of Ben and Jerries), I flew to Canada for the next stage of my journey. Here, I was then met by Matt, who was dressed like...

Well, let's just leave that for next week, shall we?

Pick of the Week

The Flash - It's another superhero show!  And it's pretty good!  Try to keep up with the red blur, as he begins to explore his new powers.  However, what is particularly interesting is that it has dropped a huge amount of hints and easter eggs into the series already, about what's to come!  Additionally, it's an interesting glimpse into the future of DC, with the addition of superhero powers into the tv world.

Music of the Week

This week it's a fairly new song for me but one that caught my attention straight away.  It's from Slipknot's new album: XIX.

See you all next week!