A little slice of the BIG Apple

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Flag of United States  , New York
Friday, September 26, 2008

2008-09-25 New York Rocks

To get to the big city we opted to take the cheapest means of transport which turned out to be the train. A ticket from Montreal to New York Penn Station with Amtrac was almost half the price of the Greyhound and a quarter the price of a flight. The bus which was our first option takes almost 24 hours as apposed to only 12 hours by train in much greater comfort.

Before we could enter the USA we had to get through the border crossing and we¡¯d heard that the US immigration were often difficult to get through and often people were turned away for small discrepancies. So even though we had the required visa and documentation this would only get us as far as the immigration at the border but no guarantee that you would be granted permission to enter. It was a little stressful leading up to this because we might have overlooked something that might result in us being turned away, heaven forbid. Fortunately for us the process ran quite smoothly and with in a few minutes we were granted access and given a three month stay. Next stop New York baby!!

In a song with the same name, New York is best descried by U2 in the following lyrics, ¡°Irish, Italians, Jews and Hispanics, religious nuts and political fanatics in the stew, happily not like me and you¡±, a true melting pot of different cultures, religions and races. During our six day stay in the city that apparently never sleeps we called home a little hostel in Washington Heights which is somewhere close to Harlem and the Bronx.

The impression we always got from watching movies was that Harlem was a crime and drug infested neighbourhood so we were a little sceptical when we found out where we¡¯d be staying. But then again we were from Johannesburg which is not the world¡¯s safest city either¡¦. Our hostel was a small three story building that obviously used to be an apartment block with an apartment on each floor. Each floor only had three rooms, a shared bathroom, one private bedroom and an open plan area with a kitchenette and six bunk beds where the living area used to be, bad news for anyone trying to sleep when breakfast was being cooked up.

With five full days we though we would have plenty of time in New York but we quickly realised that we had underestimated how much there was to do here. We spent our first day trying to orientate ourselves with a little walk around the mid town area. Thanks to the grid system and efficient subway network in the city it was easy to get around and we quickly had our bearings. By this time we also discover that Harlem and the surroundings were not half as bad as we¡¯d expected and were actually quite lively after dark.

Over the next five days we managed to see a live comedy act at New York¡¯s oldest comedy club, Dangerfields, which had us in stitches for almost two hours. We got to visit the theatre twice after buying last minute discount tickets (TKTS) and saw a hilarious play called Boeing Boeing which had a host of famous actors in the cast (cant remember their names though) as well as a humorous version of Alfred Hitchcock¡¯s 39 Steps which contained a cast of four who portrayed almost 30 different characters in a side splitting performance.

We never got to the top on the Empire State building but did make it to the top of the Rock (Rockefeller building) for an awesome sunset and views over central park. The one sight I¡¯m sure everyone agrees you must not miss when in NY is the famous Statue of Liberty. To get to Liberty Island you can take a number of ferries but as you can imagine this popular attraction comes with some enormous queues and costs about $20, so we opted for the free ferry ride to Staten Island which sails right past the Statue of Liberty and also gives great view if Manhattan from the water, and all this for free!
We felt that since you can¡¯t get into the big ladies head and it might be a little disappointing to just stand at its base for $20 odd, that we¡¯d rather take the free cruise past her. And at the end of the day the best views of the Statue were from the water anyway.

A visit to New York would not be complete with a visit to the eye popping; neon lined Time Square, a walk through the Broadway theatre district, a window shopping walk on 5th Avenue and a visit to China Town, Little Italy and of course Wall street and the financial district which was a hive of activity amid the current US economic crisis.

The other major event that took place during our visit to New York was Inge-Marie¡¯s 29th birthday! We¡¯d planned to spend her birthday in New York as apposed to being on the road from Canada but we didn¡¯t realise that we¡¯d arrive with two suitcases filled with dirty washing. So sadly the day started with a trip to the laundry with us wearing odd selections from the bottom of our bags, we clearly didn¡¯t look of feel very hip in this trendy city but what can you do. To make up for this we went on a mini shopping spree and a great dinner at a lovely Thai restaurant in Harlem. We wrapped up a great evening with a few drinks at one of the local bars where they had a New York brewed beer promotion.

It¡¯s not hard to understand why so many people wear the trademark I ¢¾ NY t-shirts, it¡¯s a city that has so much to offer and has a unique dynamic of mixed cultures from every walk of life, great parks, wonderful architecture and basically a city that never sleeps.
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