New York, New York

Trip Start May 02, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of United States  , New York
Saturday, May 13, 2006

Well, after quite an episode at San Francisco airport that involved and extra hour wait for a new plane after our first 30 year old 767's door wouldn't close, we finally took off on a 25 year old 767 that we dubbed the 'Pooh Express' due to the funky smell that was present the entire flight. A hand crafted stink shield would've come in handy or one of those masks old Michael Jackson wears, and on that I might go for the glittered glove as well. My advice, never ever fly American airlines. They are absolute garbage.

Anyway, we arrived into NY safely the next morning and navigated our way into the city via the Sky Train and subsequent Metro. It was the first time either of us has ever had to catch public transport from JFK to Manhattan (give me a lincoln town car anyday) and we felt we handled it admirably given we had 15-20kg packs on our back during the peak hour.

So we get to our boutique hotel (The Larchmont) which according to the website 'provides graceful European style (read - shared bathroom facilities) and full service in a big way at astonishingly low prices'. This service included the two laziest bell boys to ever grace the world and a mexican kitchen lady who slopped food on the plate with the best of them and then demanded a tip. All the cutlery and crockery was of the plastic and paper type so she didn't even have to do the dishes. I had a daily evil eye competition with her and would put on a fake stutter when asking for 'extra pa pa pa pa pastries on se se se se seperate plates puh puh puh puh please'.

Oh well, other than that the place was fine so if you're ever looking for a cheap place right in Greenwich Village and don't mind no service and shared bathroom facilites give it a go as the location takes some beating at the price. Say hi to the kitchen lady for me.

Just so you know both Kat and I have been to NY before on several occasions so we tried to steer clear of the major tourist attractions that we've both been to before (Empire State, Central Park etc) and tried to concentrate on a couple of different sites that either one or both of us haven't seen before so if you're expecting a breakdown of major sites then you may be disappointed.

Shortly after checking into the hotel we were fairly tired so took ourselves to see Mission Impossible 3 which was absolutely McShit. If you've not seen it don't bother, just another Tom Cruise-athon. Long gone are the days of Taps, The Outsiders, Risky Business and I'll even throw in Top Gun. Now that's when he was at the top of his game and actually would act out a character not just bank on his celebrity to put cash in his pocket. Tom, you've lost that loving feeling!

Putting MI-3 behind us the next day we caught the A train up into Harlem to do a walk around a burrough neither of have visited before. If I said it wasn't a touch daunting I'd be lying. It seemed on every corner there was a group of hoods waiting to mug us as they all seemed to be on two way phones but in reality they were probably just making sure we weren't cops more than anything else. Harlem is going through a slow gentrification which is probably a shame as the area has such a vibrant ethic history that will be lost if the yuppies from downtown start moving in and driving up prices. There was a new development at the top of Central Park (the first street bordering Harlem)where the cheapest apartments were US$1.6 million which is a fair chunk of change, but as we were conctinually told it is the most expenisve city on earth.

The walk took us around to some of the more interesting parts of Harlem without taking us into the depths of the burrough. Everywhere you looked there was something that you would've seen in many movies before, from The Warriors to any number of Spike Lee movies. Brownstones with brothers sitting on stoops with their gettho blasters, old black guys sitting around on every corner playing dominoes or chess, women screaming at their children at the top of their voices something about slapping them into next week.

Certainly there are some sights that you all must see when you're next in Manhattan, the first of which was 'the largest cathederal on earth' (see, everything's bigger in America). St John the Divine is massive (and they're still trying to finish it!) and is difficult to put into perspective with either words or pictures so I won't try. It was partially burnt down in 2001 and still has an impressive amount to see inside including the highest stained glass windows we've seen and we've seen a fair few in our time. I'll move on now as it's actually boring me so I can only imagine how much it's boring you.

From there we continued our walk around the 'hood' and onto the self proclaimed world famous Apollo Theatre which kick started such acts as Aretha Franklin, The Jackson 5, Little Richard and many more (I can't remember in other words). To be honest I had no idea the place existed but some off you might and will probably get a kick out of the photos. We also visited the only Mosque in Harlem which was slightly less inspiring than the 'worlds biggest catherderal'. But given we're soon to be travelling exclusively in the middle east it was good to get our first mosque on the scoreboard.

Not much else of interest in Harlem unfortunately. I was hoping to see a crack deal, get a game of dice in, be offered a 40 ounce, or just be harrased but alas Harlem just seems to be a cliched and run down burrough awaiting it's turn to be gentrified.

The one thing I have never done when in Manhattan was The Metropolitan Museum or simply 'The Met', Kat has done it in the past but kindly escorted me on the tour. Good wife. Wow, what a massive place, so much to see and we really had so little time. Before I go through a couple of the highlights here's a tip for the poorly backpacker, the prices at the ticket offices are only suggested prices. Save your money on the entrance (i.e pay nothing) and blow it on the outrageously expensive audio tour. With a museum jam packed this full (as full as Joan Kirner's sock in fact) an audio tour is a must.

Anyway, the highlights were of course the Egyptian exhibits and art. The Met and the British Museum seem to have quite a large booty from 'arrangements' they both made with various Egyptian governments over the years. It's well known that the British Museum has the Rosetta stone which the Egyptian government has been trying unsuccessfuly for decades to get back and not to be outdone The Met has it's own fully intact temple, the Temple of Dendur. All paths in the museum pretty much lead you to the temple.

As you can see from the photos the room in which the temple is housed is beautiful. You can sit in there and gaze out the window into Central Park past an authentic Egyptian Temple (as opposed to fakes you can buy on Kuta beach). We may as well just put our packs on and walk around the museum for ten months. Aside from the Egyptian art The Met covers art, sculpture etc from all over the world and of course from America itself. From Africa, Oceania, the Americas, Asia, Islamic, Ancient Greece, Medieval and American the scope is quite simply amazing. We felt guilty when we left after only 4 hours but the place is simply enormous. Like I said, skip paying for admission and go for the audio tour, well worth it.

Our final day in NY was spent racing around to get some touristy shots from mid to downtown. We payed our respect at Ground Zero which is slowly but surely being brought back to life. They have recently selected 'Reflecting Absence' as the memorial design to be built on the WTC site.

Included in the downtown tour was Trinity Church and the amazing graveyard, Wall Street (NYSE). We then jumped on the Subway uptown and got some quick snaps of Madison Square Garden, Empire State Building and one of the more interesting looking hotels in Manhattan, The Gershwin. Nik G and I stayed here back in '96 and it seems to be as popular now as it was back then. Certainly worth investigating if you're looking for accommodation in NY.

From there it was unfortunately time for us to jump back on the Metro out to Jamaica to pick up the Sky Train for our BA flight to London town and into the welcoming arms of Mr Tim Tam Tommy Ma and Mint Slice Mel Osbourne.

More from there.


Nath and Kat.
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