Getting to New York involved getting a 12 hour Greyhound bus from Toronto and crossing the Canada/America border. We’d heard a lot of things about the Greyhound buses before travelling, some good and some bad but everyone on our bus seemed pretty normal apart from one middle aged guy who was a bit odd – he was wearing a huge black “flashers” mac that seemed to be bulging with items including a book sticking out of one pocket and he went to the toilet so many times throughout the whole journey that I literally lost count. During the second half of the journey he changed out of the mac and into a leather jacket with matching leather gloves that he appeared to keep on at all times! It was very strange and made us not want to use the on board toilet even more… we managed to go without using it (there were a couple of rest stops along the way) thank god because the smell coming from it even half way down the bus was making us gag! The border crossing was a bit of a hassle, we had got our ESTA visa’s before leaving England which cost us money only to find out from the customs officer that the ESTA’s are only valid when you land in America by plane, not for a land border crossing so we had to fill out all of our information again on a form and pay $6 each when really they could have just scanned our passports grrrr… but never mind! We also had to give our finger prints at the border which was quite funny, you had to keep your fingers together but Jonny spread his out and the customs officer called him chicken foot! The 12 hour journey we had been dreading actually went quite quickly, the seats were quite comfy and there was lots of leg room too. We passed the time listening to our ipods, talking, and watching the film 21 Jump Street (great recommendation Ben Cook!) and several episodes of the Inbetweeners on the lap top. It started to get dark and we looked out of the window in anticipation of the views of the city and we weren’t disappointed! It was so surreal seeing Manhattan all lit up and we couldn’t quite believe we were in New York City! When we arrived at Port Authority Bus Terminal we got a yellow cab to our hostel on East 34th Street.
This time around our hostel is nice and clean yay! We have a basic private twin room which somehow had worked out cheaper than a big dorm and we soon discovered why – it’s teeny tiny! As soon as you step in the door the bunk is right in front of you and there’s hardly any room to move around, especially once we had dumped our bags and unpacked a few things! On the plus side we do have an air conditioning unit and a TV in the room. We checked out the bathrooms which look good and most importantly clean but I soon realised that whilst there were 4 mens rooms on our floor (all with toilets and 2 with showers) there was only one ladies room with a toilet and shower! A little bit odd but not complaining after the last hostel! Unfortunately there is no kitchen or laundry room in this hostel which means spending more money on eating out, but we always knew that New York was going to be our most expensive stop.
On Friday we got ready and headed out for breakfast to a little café we found and had egg and bacon bagels. We walked past the Empire State Building and then walked up 5th Avenue past the New York Public Library and up to Times Square where we got very excited about seeing the Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant and had a browse in the gift shop. Then we went round the corner to the Rockefeller Center and went up to the observation deck known as “The Top of The Rock” where the views of the city were amazing. I think most people just go up the Empire State Building but then of course they don’t get to see the Empire State Building in the views and it’s really the most prominent feature of the Manhattan sky line so that’s why we decided to do the top of the rock instead (and it was also a little bit cheaper, it would have been too expensive to do both!). After that we carried on walking up 5th Avenue and went in to Tiffany’s (but quite obviously didn’t buy anything!) and then a little bit further up was the F.A.O Schwarz toy store so we went in there and ran around like little kids looking at everything – the floor piano from the movie BIG was in there too which was really cool! The store was on the corner of Central Park so we walked in to the park and enjoyed the scenery in the sunshine and walked all the way through to the Dakota Building where John Lennon lived (and Yoko Ono still lives). It was really sad seeing the place where John had been shot and killed and there were so many people there taking pictures like us and we had no doubt that this was probably the case every single day as there were two guards by the gates and lots of signs saying to keep the drive clear and vehicles will be fined for slowing down and idling their engines on the road going past the building. The floor surrounded by the black railings is the whole floor that John owned and Yoko still lives in. The two windows on the end facing the park were the white room with the white piano and apparently every night at 11.15pm Yoko or someone else lights a candle at the window. We went back in to the park to see the Imagine mosaic on the ground and sat down on a bench next to it for a while watching people come and go. After that we headed to the Museum of Natural History which was up the road and went in there for a couple of hours – it was a bit confusing inside, we kept getting lost trying to figure out what section we were in and where we were and there seemed to be a gift shop around every bloody corner! By the time we came out we were exhausted, our feet were hurting and we were getting hungry as we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. We couldn’t quite figure out the Subway from where we were and didn’t want to pay for a cab so we carried on walking… we ended up having dinner at Applebees just off Times Square which was yummy and I also had a big white peach sangria cocktail and Jonny had a beer and a Jack Daniels and coke! It was a long walk back to the hostel and we figured out that we had walked just over 90 blocks today!
On Saturday we dropped off some laundry at a nearby Laundromat to pick up later and got a McDonalds breakfast before going down to the Subway determined to figure it out this time! We had to ask the guy selling tickets for some advice and he was quite helpful. So we got the Subway from 33rd Street and we were going to Bowling Green but then we realised that the stop before that was Wall St so we decided to get off there instead. We took some pictures of the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Hall National Memorial before heading down to the Bowling Green Bull which was completely surrounded by tourists so we couldn’t get a clear shot of it but we did manage to squeeze our way through and get some pictures of it with various Chinese tourists standing next to it! Then we caught the Staten Island Ferry and took pictures as we went right past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Once we got to Staten Island we realised we didn’t know anything about it or any good places to go so we just sat on a bench outside enjoying the views of Manhattan and Brooklyn for half an hour before catching another Ferry back! Then we walked up towards Brooklyn Bridge and took some pictures – we had been planning to walk across it but we were pretty tired and our feet were still aching from the day before so we decided to just sit in the sun for a bit instead! Then we headed back to Wall St and caught the subway back to 33rd St, picked up our laundry and went back to the hostel for a bit. Later on we headed out to Sparks Steak House to get a New York steak that we had been really looking forward to. It was too posh inside to be taking pictures of our steaks but they were amazing! Jonny had his medium-rare and I had mine medium – we both had them with bordelaise sauce and sautéed onions and a glass of Merlot. They were really juicy and delicious and we really enjoyed the meal which is good as it cost us a bloody fortune! That was our one big treat meal in America, it’s going to be fast food and hostel kitchen cooking from now on! We saw the Chrysler building all lit up on the way back, it took some effort to get good photos of it though!
On Sunday we stopped off at a diner near our hostel and got a “weekend brunch” which consisted of a glass of orange juice, tea/coffee, a fruit salad, and for me an omelette with some sort of potato thing on the side and two slices of toast and for Jonny some huge slices of French toast with two eggs and sausages. Needless to say it was a struggle to finish it all but we knew it would keep us going! We headed to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to catch a bus to the Metlife Stadium where we had tickets for the New York Giants vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game. It only took about 10-15mins to get there and it was quite a sight that greeted us! There were hundreds of vehicles in the huge stadium car park but out the back of most of them people were barbequing food and sitting on camping chairs and under gazebo’s! It was crazy and the further in we walked the more elaborate it all became - there were people who had long buffet tables full of food and massive coolers full of beers, people who had come in massive RV’s and had TV’s fixed to the side of them, people playing this game where you have to throw mini bean bags through a hole, people throwing footballs around, and there was even a small stage set up with a band! We wandered around looking at everybody and everything in amazement as we’d never expected to see something like this, it looked like a local fair or something except that everybody was wearing blue Giants t-shirts! We soon discovered that this activity is called a tailgate party and is very common at sporting event stadiums in America. We thought it was brilliant! We had got there really early so we spent about an hour walking around taking it all in before heading in to the stadium and finding our seats – we were in area 103, row 16, seats 5 & 6. We sat down and watched the stadium slowly fill up around us. We were sitting directly in the sun and it was a hot day – we’d put sun cream on in the morning but forgot to bring it with us to top up, luckily we were ok but I got a bit burnt on my chest where my shoulder bag must have rubbed off some of my sun cream . There were some guys sitting in front of us and a man next to Jonny who were obviously all season ticket holders as they all seemed to kind of know each other. The atmosphere was just buzzing and we took plenty of photos and videos (I can't upload the videos on my blog at the moment but they are on facebook so check them out there - I promise it's worth it!) to try and capture it. I had no idea what was going on in the game and I really couldn’t figure it out so I just had to go by everyone’s reactions and the score boards! The Giants started well but soon the Buccaneers got way ahead in points and all the Giants fans started getting annoyed and angry and disappointed! By half time the score was 13 – 27 to the Buccaneers and morale was low amongst the Giants fans! Things didn’t pick up until the last quarter when the Giants suddenly made a comeback and caught up to a tie and then took the lead – it was brilliant to see the fans going wild and the guys in front of us got so excited they were jumping around and high-fiving everyone including us! Unfortunately we had to leave before the game finished to make sure that we didn’t miss our bus back – they were only running for half an hour after the game was finishing and we weren’t sure where we had to go to catch it and we didn’t want to get caught up in all the crowds leaving at the same time. As we were walking to the bus (we had to ask someone where to go to get it!) we heard two massive cheers from inside the stadium and I think the game finished just as we got on to the bus – The Giants won 41 – 34! We were pretty exhausted when we got back to the hostel (we’d spent a total of 5 hours at the stadium, and most of it in the sun!) and I now have the most ridiculous tan lines on my legs – I was wearing shorts so the tops of my thighs were in the blazing sun whilst my shins were shaded by the seat in front of me, this is not a good look! We went out a bit later to get some nachos at a nearby Mexican restaurant and I got a strawberry daiquiri and Jonny had a couple of beers.
On Monday, our last day in New York, we had a pretty lazy morning catching up with things on the laptop and by the time we headed out it was lunch time so we picked up some food on the walk up to 59th & 5th which is where the meeting point is for the Sex and the City Hotspots Tour we had booked and also on the corner of Central Park where we had been the other day. Originally we wanted to do the tour in the morning as we had reserved passes for Ground Zero at 4pm but unfortunately the morning tour was sold out so the only other option was 3pm. The passes for Ground Zero were free so there is no financial loss and it’s a shame we didn’t get to see it but Jonny said he wasn’t too bothered and I figured it would be quite depressing in comparison to the SATC tour so call us shallow, but we did that instead! If we’d been a bit more organised we might have been able to get places on the morning tour or we could have at least walked over to Ground Zero without passes when we were in the financial district on Saturday but never mind, you can’t do it all! I enjoyed the tour (not too sure if Jonny did or not though!) but I did think it was very over-priced for what you get and you do need to be a hard-core fan to care enough about the spots that you see – but I am a big fan so that’s good! I didn’t really take many photos as it’s more about watching the clip from the show and seeing the location out of the window at the same time – I reckoned photos would just look a bit boring plus a lot of the locations now look different to how they were in the show! The tour finished at around 6.30pm and we walked back to the hostel and printed off our Greyhound tickets for the next day (only a 4 ½ hour journey this time!) and then made a start on packing our bags and uploaded lots of photos on to facebook for you all to see!
Next stop – Washington DC!