East coast...

Trip Start Dec 30, 2006
Trip End Jul 27, 2007

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, February 19, 2007

In New York I stayed at the Hosteling International - New York facility, a very large building that can accommodate almost 600 people at a time...which means that some of the rooms, the cheapest rooms, hold up to twelve people at once. 

But, at only $25 a night this is one of the cheapest places to stay in the city.  It's also where I learned, in a very large dorm, that I am not the loudest snorer around.  That title goes to the guy beside me who almost blew the windows out with his powerful snoozing.  I'm pretty sure he made eleven life-long friends during his stay.

One of my many roommates during my five days in New York was Allen, from the UK (unfortunately I can't recall what town exactly he was from - I think a small town just north of Manchester) who was just starting a round the world trip.  We both got in around the same time and he was set to go west towards San Francisco, Arizona, LA and then onwards to Fiji and other places.  Since we both arrived at the same time we decided to head out together for the first couple days. 

Monday we headed to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, which we figured would take an hour or two at most to see.  We ended up spending most of the day down there. 

Statue was much bigger than I thought it would be but unfortunately Monday in New York was cold...very cold.  So we tried to stay outside as little as possible.  Heat was inside and luckily Liberty Island has a couple very large heated areas...called souvenir stands, which we hung around between going outside when the winds calmed down.  For the mix-a-lot fans, baby got back.  That statue is impressive in size and girth. 

The most interesting part of the day was actually at Ellis Island, which surprised me considering that, as far as I know, I have no relatives who ever came through and Allen didn't even know what Ellis Island was - just that it was included in the $11.50 ticket we bought.  The main hall was impressive...hard to imagine it packed with a couple thousand people trying to get processed for immigration.  We went on a great tour with a park ranger but the facility has a lot of great archive materials from when it was in operation telling the story of the American immigrant and the struggles they faced settling into an America that was, even in the early 1900s, very protectionist with its immigration policy...and still is today, although that part was left unshown.

Eventually we got back to the hostel and after a great nap (really, who doesn't like a good nap?) found a deli/restaurant across the street.  I had the impression going in that New York was going to be very expensive.  I had a (large) grilled chicken sandwich, fries & two Heineken beers for $11.50.  I mean...come on!  That is a deal, especially with alcohol included.  Overall, I found New York to be very reasonable for prices...as long as you stayed away from Times Square to eat and sleep it's not bad.  Allen had a $1 hot dog from a vendor downtown, which you can't get that cheap in Vancouver or Calgary.

Next day we headed down to mid-town to check out the usual sights...Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central (it is as big as it seems on TV/Movies) and eventually we would up at the United Nations for a tour of the facility.  I ended up going back, on another day, to the Rockefeller Center to do a tour of the complex & the NBC studio tour...NBC studio tour was a rip...not worth the money.  The Rockefeller Center tour was very good though...I did not realize how big that complex was and how many buildings where part of that re-development during the depression.  It is a total of 19 buildings covering 22 acres and all of it is connected underground by hallways and tunnels.  Built between 1929 and 1940. 

United Nations was a great tour...had to go through security...armed guards, metal detectors, etc...but found out later that the security council was having a closed door meeting while we where there regarding recent activities in Somalia so the security was understandable.  The General Assembly hall is impressive.  Overall, the buildings are in pretty serious dis-repair though.  I guess that is a good sign that they are spending more money on other projects overseas instead of spit-shining their headquarters in New York.  However, you have to wonder what the world leaders think of the major water-damaged carpets and stained walls on the hallways leading to the general assembly and other facilities within the complex.

Eventually we found ourselves in central park as the weather had improved greatly.  But, still lots of snow on the ground and not a lot of people out and about.  Snow also covered a lot of the grass and majority of the park so it was hard to get a true "central park" experience, per se.  A lot of comparisons are made between central park & stanley park but I fail to see the similarities.  Central Park is very 'urbanized' and has very little in terms of what could be called a natural forest...whereas anyone who knows Stanley Park knows that a large part of that park is the many trails and huge natural forest within it. 

Allen took off on Wednesday but I had tickets that day to see Letterman - unfortunately I found out the guest was John Travolta that night and a Broadway play I hadnīt heard of...Thursday was going to be Billy Bob Thorton, Barenaked Ladies & one of the girls from NBCs "The Office" ah well...I didn't know that when I had the choice of Wednesday or Thursday.  Went down a little early to have lunch at the 'infamous' Hello Deli, which is very very small.  Was surprised to see Rupert at the cash register but he was a little pre-occupied when I got there as it appeared his wife was having a lengthy one-sided argument with him.

Just sat down to eat the Hello Deli Club sandwich and Robb walked in with his sister...Robb used to work at Famous Players in Calgary and we had to do a double take.  crazy.  Turns out they also had tickets for that nights show.  Got a picture with Robb and Rupert but my pic didnīt turn out so only can post the Robb & Rupert pic.  Letterman was very interesting even though the guest wasnīt someone I'm a big fan of.  They herded us in, kept us in a small room just outside the theater for 20 minutes or so trying to pump us up, threatened us that if we weren't looking too enthusiastic we would get stuck in the balcony and eventually let us in. 

I got very lucky with third row center seats - very close and if they had done an audience participation bit that night I would likely have been on TV.  Taping went very fast and soon it was over. 

I had got a lead on discount tickets to Avenue Q, a new Broadway play that all of us wanted to see so we headed to Times Square to try and get some but, lo and behold no seats to be had at a discount...just full priced seats and none of us was interested in $100 or more for seats to a show.  So instead we found a comedy club nearby and finished the night there.

New York was good - not nearly as expensive as some people say it is, so long as you watch where you are and try to stick to local areas for food...although, granted, I saved a lot of money by staying in a hostel vs. hotel as most hotels I looked at where very expensive anywhere central in NYC.  Subway not nearly as efficient as in Tokyo and in fact it seemed a lot busier...I think partly due to a seemingly higher number of subway lines and faster frequency I noticed in Tokyo vs. New York...In Tokyo, I never had to wait more than five minutes for a train no matter what time of day...often much quicker than that, whereas in New York I often waited more than five minutes, up to ten during non-peak periods which causes more congestion on those trains creating a very 'fun' sardine effect.
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