New York, New York
Trip Start Jan 19, 2006
28Trip End Nov 24, 2006
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So, I'm finally getting around to our New York extravaganza! Sorry it took so long... Wowsers. Those of you who know me well, know that I've pretty much wanted to go to New York City since I first saw Miss Hannigan talking about the Chrysler Building... (ie - since I was a kid). So, finally I was within 'cooee' of the place, so we planned to go in July. Me, being the little organiser, has been organising since March looking for bargains etc... I had a stroke of genius and posted an ad on craigslist (a fabulous online classifieds site craigslist.org) about a house swap. Our apartment is in a very popular spot in Vancouver, so although it's small - we're in a pretty good position to be attractive to people coming to the city. So, I had a few responses, but the one that stuck out - was a family from Brooklyn who were doing 11 days in BC, and were interested in doing a swap. We were quite nervous about it, but after several months of emailing, swapping life stories, photos, etc decided to go with it (figuring if they stole everything in our apartment - we'd be about $1000 out of pocket
We got a much better deal. They had a fabulous large brownstone 6-room apartment in a very cool, hip area of Brooklyn, only 3 subway stops away from Manhattan. We were 20 steps from a whole street full of Zagat rated restaurants. But... I'm getting ahead of myself....
I'm going to go through our trip in fine detail (for those that are interested) - it will be long, and I have to warn you... it will probably be hilarious.
So, Paul had been working at Lululemon (Marika I forgot to tell you!!) for 10 days when he asked for 10 days off. They weren't happy about it - but luckily gave him the time off. He would've had to stay at a friend's house if they didn't give him time off, as we'd organised the house swap... and it would be a bit tight in our apartment with 5 people!!
So, in order to maximize NYC time. We took the red eye flight, which meant we arrived in NY at JFK airport at 6am NY time (but 3 am Vancouver time), so we were pretty exhausted - oh, and Paul had the flu - nice timing
Thu 20th morning we arrived at JFK, ready to be put through the ringer in US customs, particularly JFK, particularly NY etc... and it was an absolute breeze!! We were through in a matter of minutes - none of the rubbish we went through going to Vegas. So, JFK being the furthest airport out of the city - we weren't prepared to get a cab ($48ish USD + tip standard fee) (I was saving my money for as many Broadway shows as possible) so we somehow figured out how to navigate the air train/subway system (thanks to Vicky and all her tips re: subway passes and maps etc) and saw there was a stop in Brooklyn called 'Carroll St' - which is the street we were staying on. So, we jumped on the "A" train and enjoyed our first NYC subway experience. It was everything I imagined. Grotty and fabulous! And boy was it HOT down there! There were all sorts of bums that get a fare to go through the gates, and then spend the entire day begging from train to train. Nasty chicks saying they have 3 chicks and am 3 months pregnant and need money etc etc... It was a bit yukky... Or then the person who just walked from carriage to carriage shaking the tin full of change... Anyhoo... back in Brooklyn.. we got off at Carroll St, and surfaced - not really knowing where to go... we didn't have a Brooklyn map at this point - so we looked around and managed to spot a sign that said Carroll St. We headed for that and I got out the piece of paper with the number on it. I said "We're looking for 241" and Paul said - THIS IS IT! It was quite hilarious, given that Carroll St is about 50 blocks long - and we just managed to stumble across the very place without a map or a clue where we were going!!! It was all meant to be. So we stumbled up to our roomy apartment. You could probably fit about 3 of our apartments in there! In my completely uneducated opinion I would think it would sell for around the ˝ million dollar mark - it's a super trendy neighborhood - v close to Manhattan..
So, we promptly laid down for a quick nap before we hit the pavement...
6 hours later we woke up dazed and confused!!!!!!!! Hilarious. We got ready to go, and jumped on the subway into Times Square. A good place to start right? It is everything it seems to be and more. It's very busy. Kinda like New Years Eve everywhere, but people aren't nasty or pushy like the reputation they have. Times Square is particularly nasty busy, but I don't think a single New Yorker is within 100 metres. It's all just people selling theatre tickets, bass passes, rip off handbags or begging. It absolutely STINKS too!! It was particularly humid and had been raining (like Darwin) on and off, so it was a nice cross between rubbish and urine, which when baked in the sun really becomes quite rancid indeed. However, the lights and energy in that square is AWESOME.
I had purchased a cheap and nasty video camera on ebay - given the devastation of my last fabulous camera in the Rocky Mountains - I didn't see the point in paying a fortune when you could just break it one moment of poor handling... So, I put my SD card in the vid camera and set out on my way in Times Square. Anyhoo... I'm not sure whether it was the first or second hour that we were in Manhattan, the 'bleep' thing seized - which apparently took my SD card down with it - and here we were... in the big apple, with no digital camera (not even a nickel for the subway). A decision needed to be made, and I agreed to sacrifice one of my planned Broadway shows, in favour of a new digital camera. So, we bought a new camera and SD card, which we actually got a reasonable deal - he even felt sorry for me and gave me a neck strap - so I couldn't drop this one
So, Friday 21st morning we hit the road early and joined our bus tour at Times Square (almost as cool during the day - equally as busy) We basically did a whole downtown loop and then hopped off once we'd got our bearings. We saw Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Bldg, Empire State, Grand Central Station, Central Park, Madison Square Gardens, The original Macy's - the owner of which went down with the Titanic, NYU, Times Sq (including Toys R Us with the huge Ferris Wheel inside), Ground Zero, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Flatiron Bldg, Wall St etc... This place was such a running movie quote!! It's amazing how it just feels so familiar... Everything is just so recognisable.
We found it very interesting that businesses leave trash out on the footpath overnight for collection (like in Asia) so it gets pretty stinky - but there are no back alleys to store rubbish as it is so tightly packed. I guess that's the done thing in the big city.
In fact we were beginning to like Brooklyn better than Manhattan - from a living perspective... You get a lot more room out there (still no yard tho), and Manhattan is just a constant fight
Today we started again in Times Square. It is one of the easier spots to get to, and we knew where to get on the bus tour etc... so an easy option. So, we hopped back on our bus tour (interestingly enough, every time you hop on and off, they ask you to tip a couple of bucks - an incredible rip off!) and headed down to Greenwich Village, which we were told is a cool spot to hang for brunch on a Sat morning. So we got there pretty early to maximize hang out time, and the whole place was dead! What we didn't realize was that brunch meant 'brunch' not breakfast!
So, we were a few hours to early for the crowds and potential star spotting. Anyhoo, we ate and wandered around and then it began to rain (ala Darwin) and we had to run into the first place we came across. It just happened to be a pub (it was still around 10am) so we stumbled into this bar to wait out the rain - where Paulo decided it would be a great idea to start drinking hard liquor in the morning
So once Paulo was satisfactorily liquored up - we headed out in search of the brunch atmosphere - which we found!! We even found these fabulous street markets, which actually had some really unique and well-made stuff. Most markets these days tend to have the same Bali shoes and cheap and nasty jewellery, but these were really cool well made jewellery items. So, we caught up with our tour bus after wandering around the Village and cruised around to SoHo. We spent the afternoon looking at shops and soaking up the very busy and exciting atmosphere. It's basically just a huge shopping / arts / café type area where the grungy and beautiful people meet. I picked up a rental brochure, and an average 1 bedder will set you back about $3,500 USD per month
Saturday afternoon we did an uptown tour - which was all included in our original bus tour tickets, so we went all up the upper west side, saw The Dakota bldg where John Lennon lived (and Yoko Ono still lives) - apparently the psycho of a woman she is, had a replica of the gun that Lennon was killed with - in gold I think - which sits in her apartment. She's a nutcase. Ummm, we saw Central Park, Grants Tomb, all the way up to Harlem, saw the Apollo Theatre and then down the east side, and saw the museum strip and heard about all the celebs that live there and the crazy amounts these apartments sell for.
Sat night we went to a fabulous Italian Restaurant above the studios of Late Night with David Letterman (which films at 4.30pm haha) and had the best pizza of all time. We still dream about it! Yuuummmmmmmm
We were going to go to a Gospel Choir, but were running too late, so we went to Soho (again) - did a bit of shopping (Paul was the only that bought anything...
We made our way to the Rockefeller Centre for the filming of the Today show. Where all the idiot soccer moms push and shove to get on TV and show their very meaningful signs that say "Hi Mom" and "Happy Birthday Grandma" etc..
We then did a tour of Radio City Music Hall.. which was RAD!! We got Top of the Rock & back stage RCMH tour all for $25. Baargain. Got to see backstage, the hydraulics for the 4 elevators, told all about he history and restoration of the venue, we even got to meet a Rockette! (a highlight of NY trip for me) The coolest ever! They rehearse 6 days a week 7-10 hours a day! Far out. Most of the girls started dancing when they were 3, and they have to be within the 5 foot 8 and 5 10 to be accepted! Otherwise, I'm sure I'd be in!! It's such a great venue tho. It's all designed to look like a sunset, even with the curtain, the fabric of the seats and all the arches. The guy that designed it was offered a suite to live for free, with this awesome library area and board meeting area... we went through - all original furniture etc... The Venue is now mostly a concert venue (Ben Lee is playing there in October) and they also do a lot of movie premier's there (like what Annie and Daddy Warbux went to see) but the Rockettes still do their Christmas show there.... :o) Next time...
Then we had lunch and headed down to the Seaport to go on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty
We then headed to Wall St and saw the Stock Exchange, which was a really good looking building. There were HEAPS of cops around the exchange.. we wondered if something was going on... (we have noticed a huge police presence on the streets in general tho). Then ground zero. It was difficult to get a real feel for the size/depth of the hole, as you are on street level - but the timeline was really well done. They basically have a play-by-play display of what was going on as soon as the first plane took off and then when they declared a state of emergency. I'll attach the vid that I made of it if I can...
So, that night we went to the top of the Rockefeller Center. It is 70 stories high, and hasn't been open to the public for several years - I think the Empire State Bldg / Twin Towers was getting all the business, so they closed it to the public, but it has recently re-opened. So, we decided to do the Top of the Rock as the lines are far shorter, and in your view, you get to see the Empire State - so we went there at night, and it was a stunning view. Most of my pics didn't work out - I basically had to delete the whole roll of film I used :o( Boo. Was pretty amazing being that high..
We had an easy day and did some food shopping etc, then a spot of shopping around 5th Avenue. We tried again for the Wicked lottery, and there were much much less people there - so we thought we were in for a good chance.... But alas... no tickets today. :o(
We checked out Tiffany's (I think all the really good big diamonds are upstairs - via elevator... although they had some nice stuff, no prices... and then went to Trump Tower - and checked out the big water feature inside and a few of the stores. There was a Niketown, but we didn't go in.
Wednesday 26 was allocated to shopping the upper east side... (ie 5th Ave, Park Ave, Madison, Lexington etc...) It was my turn. We went straight to the Gershwin Theatre again and lined up yet again for lottery tickets for the Broadway show "Wicked"... This was our 3rd time.. which I hear is a charm... Anyhoo there was loads more people lining up today than both the other times, so we didn't have a hope... . but my name was the second to be drawn! The rest of it is a bit of a daze! I went into shock/autopilot!!
Anyways. $25 per ticket incl tax got us front row (can you believe it?) seats at the matinee performance (original ticket price is $112USD per ticket and is booked out until September). A lady offered me $200 for them when I went to pick them up! (V tempting - could buy half a pair of Manolo Blahniks), but decided against the idea
So.. the show. the show... What a sensational show. It was one of those "Oh my god, I'm in New York... in the front row... watching a Broadway show... a REAL Broadway show" moments... so what did I do? .... well, I cried. I pretty much cried the entire way through the show. I laughed - man, it was funny. By the end, I was a blubbering mess!! (anyone would think I'd dropped my digital camera) It was such a great show! Will never think of Wizard of Oz the same way again!! (It was the story of Glinda the Good Witch of the North and the 'wicked' witch of the west and how they were friends in school - before Dorothy was on the scene). The girl that played GUlinda was fabulous (they both were) she was soooo perky. Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west) was also fabulous... Wow, what a show. It was full of jokes, tying in Dorothy, the scarecrow, tinman and the lion... I will never think of the Wizard of Oz in the same way again....(see, I mean it coz I've said it twice) I highly highly recommend it. I think the cast thought there was something wrong with me.. I was SOBBING by the end of it.. I couldn't stop! When they came out to bow... there I was... in the front row still bawwwling my eyes out! Once I composed myself (I was still going all the way out of the theatre) I asked Paulo what he thought - and he said "It was GREAT, all of the breaking into song didn't even annoy me". Money well spent!! He should work for the NY Times!! So, I think it would be fair to say that was a highlight of our trip!
We then went to 5th Ave to explore further, including THE one and only Manolo Blahnik shoe store (with this iddy biddy little sign - in fact it's an iddy biddy little boutique store) and a few other stores
We started off the morning with a trip to Grand Central Station. It's a really impressive building. My pics didn't come out really well, but there's a solar system on the ceiling which reflects the light. And apparently lights up at night. I believe it was accidentally put up backwards... oops. It's a very busy, as it is used as a train/subway station still - but very cool area
As we made our way to Central Park we stopped off at Apple, which boasts a basement 5th Avenue address, and is open 24 hours and has free internet. They have done a fabulous job of turning a usually ordinary address (underground) into a must-see spot in NYC. I'll attach some pics, but it really stands out and draws you in. They have classes for people with Ipods and Ibooks, 24 hour technical support, free internet and use of all of their products. A great store. Now, I want a mac! And it is always packed. We went in a few times, and no matter what time of day/night we were there... it was packed!
We walked across the road from Apple into Central Park and saw the token dog walker with 150 dogs tied together... I'll attach the pic - but someone was patting the dogs, and the various puddles of pee once all the dogs moved was hilarious!! We saw a few things of interest in the park including Strawberry Fields which is the acre or so of the Park right out front of the Dakota Bldg (where they lived) which Yoko donated $1M to re-landscape for John's memory. (I'll attach some pics). Apparently not a day goes by when his little site isn't decorated by a fan. Central Park is absolutely HUGE. 50 odd blocks, so we saw bits of it, but it would take a few days to really see it comprehensively
That night we headed back into our fabulous 'hood, and ate at this average Mexican restaurant with a million dollar view of Manhattan. We sat in the million dollar seats - and paid for it!! ($9USD for a guacamole starter) but had theee best view.
We had heard great things about Seaport area right on the Southern Tip of Lower Manhattan, so we headed over there on Friday morning. It was essentially a large over-touristy shopping mall, attached to a large over-touristy pier, which was essentially... pretty boring. We spent a bit of time there, Paul bought more clothes... (hellewww?? It's all about me!!!) and then headed back to Brooklyn.
We went to that fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant again for dinner, and then went home grabbed my camera gear and tripod and headed down to the Brooklyn Promenade. This is the boardwalk that you see in almost every New York movie, that has the view of downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. So I took some groovy photos from there, and wandered up and down. It was one of my highlights for sure. (I felt like Jennifer Garner in Suddenly 30)
My girlfriend from Adelaide - Sharmini was coming into town with her partner Rod, and we decided we would do the Sex and the City Tour and have a real NYC girlie day! So, we decided to meet in the lobby of her flash hotel in the city. I hightailed it in, and walked in at 8.59 - we planned to meet at 9, and I waited. I knew she was flying in from the Bahamas (if you don't mind) quite late, so hoped that she hadn't slept in - or had a delayed flight... so, I waited and waited, I went to the lobby phone and called - and left a message for her.. nothing. I then realized that I was actually in the wrong Sheraton. There were two on the same block, directly across the road from each other... she was stressing out in the lobby of the other one!!! Stress!!
So, we rushed down to our tour and went on a pretty cheesy / funny tour. Our tour guide was an aspiring singer/actor and her bio in the complimentary book we were given said that in her spare time, she likes to spot 'hot guys' and has an EP coming out in the fall, and I you ask - I'm sure she will sing a few bars.. which she did.... Which was bad. We got to eat a cupcake (from a bakery near where Miranda eats a cupcake from), we went to the shop that sells 'the rabbit', we drank a Cosmopolitan from Steve and Aiden's bar, saw where Bunny suggested the dust ruffle, Miranda's gym, and learned all about how the show paid standard $10 000 fee to shoot in stores etc... and Charlotte's gallery where she worked kept upping the price up to about $37 000 per shoot, so that is the reason why Charlotte quit her job at the gallery!! (to take up pottery). We got to sit on the stoop of Carrie's apartment (in the show) - which I think is right near her actual house
So, we were going out for dinner that night, so us girls had to find the perfect New York City outfit... and that we did!! Black dresses - mine even had netting, and plenty of accessories. I bought these fabulous new shoes (and boy did I have a blister the next day). Sharms spent $50 on bling - like only Sharms could! We were meeting the boys at 6pm at the Sheraton. We got there at 6.45 loaded up with our shopping bags, Paul was waiting at the wrong hotel (which is exactly what I did earlier that day) - and of course none of us had working mobiles - so we couldn't get in touch. Meanwhile, Rod was boozing it up at the Waldorf Astoria hotel (ie The Hilton - where the Hilton ladies live). We were all running incredibly late, and still all had to get ready.
So, we dolled up (NYC style) while the fellas went downstairs to the bar and we caught our first New York City cab down to the Village for dinner. What an experience that cab ride was!! He was a maniac, and he got us there in 2 seconds flat!! Rod managed to insult the Indian driver probably close to 150 times with his over Aussie-ness - but we were all in stitches!! Sharms was sinking into her seat!! (Luckily the driver didn't speak English very well, and his Australian was even worse, so I don't think he caught the jokes) Phew!
So we found a super Thai restaurant and had a great dinner. Then found a bar called Sushi Samba (which is where Samantha from S&TC agrees to meet Richard Wright after she finds him 'cheating' on her) and she walks in - he says to her: "I took the liberty of ordering you a dirty martini", and she says: "Dirty Martini, Dirty Bast**d" and throws it in his face
We then made the fatal mistake of leaving a bar we were already inside and tried to find another bar (preferably cheaper) and then discovered that at that time of night it was impossible to find somewhere without a huge cover charge or a huge line. My feet by this time were sore, so walking wasn't really on the cards! (Who wears new shoes?) So we found a cheesy dive bar nearby and spent the rest of the night playing pool, while Sharms played Mr(s) Music on the Jukebox. We even had a bit of a kick to NY NY when she put that on! Then the bar closed and we had to fight tooth and nail to get a cab!! It's not easy in New York!!
Sunday: I nursed my blisters, and we both nursed our headaches - and had a nice quiet day in Brooklyn wandering around. We had a great brunch (at NY brunch times) at this cute little hole in the wall restaurant that is only open Sat and Sun during the day?? Everything is so much cheaper and higher quality in Brooklyn tho... Then we met Sharms and Rod briefly, before they went off to their Broadway show, and we went to Zanzibar. (Soni) (Billy Joel sings a song about this bar) - of course I had to go there... but it was CLOSED. Very disappointed!! We spent the rest of the day taking photos with my big camera and buying last minute souvenirs etc... and we went back to that yummy pizza restaurant (it's what NYers do best - who am I to argue?).
We spent the morning packing and cleaning and head out to the airport
We were finally booked and set to go, and boarded on time - it was all going well. Then our very honest pilot tells us that there are some loose wires hanging out of the second engine and they had to wait for maintenance to come and check it out... so we waited, wondering why he would even bother stressing us all out with technical stuff... luckily it turned out that it was just a loose lanyard and was replaced to wherever it came from?? And we were only 15 minutes behind schedule. So... then we were waiting to take off and we'd missed our scheduled take off, so we had to join the queue of other planes waiting to take off (which was huge) Then we were getting closer ... and as we were nearly at the front of the massive line, he told us that we had to be re-routed because when we were scheduled to go, the winds were going a certain way, and now the winds are different and we are much heavier than we are meant to be for the new weather pattern, so we either have to be re-routed or sit here on the tarmac until we burn off enough fuel to take off!
New York in a nutshell... you can actually visit if you're on a tight budget. We saved $2000USD from doing a house swap, we ate breakfast at home every day, and took a packed lunch and each bought bottles of water/camelback each day. So if you are organized and don't buy bits and pieces you can get away reasonably cheaply. One of our favourite things to do is to eat out - so we ate out for dinner most nights - but if you're on a shoestring - you can always eat from street vendors - which are reeeaaal cheap. Accommodation/ rent is the deal breaker in NYC.
The only famous person we saw the whole time was Michael Rapaport, he's the red head guy from Boston Public. He was yelling at his kids!
P.S - It's fabulous!! If you're still with me... after 10 A4 pages (depending on font and margins)... you have done extremely well! Thanks for joining us on our trip of a lifetime!!! :o)