Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Visit All 50 States of America: New York

It all started at Heathrow. There we were, minding our own business, waiting to board the plane, when I clocked a familiar face.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Mr M asked. "That bloke looks really like Alan Carr"

"Mmm, I think it is Alan Carr!" I said - cue Alan Carr "Ooh, looking at the bitches getting ready" (referring to the air crew)

"Yep, definitely Alan Carr" we both said.

We boarded the plane and promptly tried to get comfy in a very small Premium Economy, when the Air Stewardess came over and asked to see my ticket, then asked to see Mr M's.

"Yes, I thought so, if you would like to follow me to First Class, you've both been upgraded"

My chin hit the floor.

So we followed her through to our own little cabin/bed and had a glass of champagne promptly placed in my hand. I then got shown how to work all the gadgets around my bed (Mr M has flown first class many times on business trips) and then for the next seven hours, got served as much food and drink as I could manage (I've found a great cure for turbulence fear - just drink more alcohol!)

I was in heaven - it was a fantastic start to the holiday!

We arrived in JFK and my god what an awful airport! Passport control is the standard as in any American airport, but the immigration was a free for all, no queuing system, people were pushing in left, right and centre - not good! We eventually found where to catch the airport bus from and grabbed a round trip ticket. Beware, this may be the cheapest option to get to your destination but the bus picks up from every terminal, so it was nearly an hour before we actually left JFK.

We eventually got to our Hotel and checked in The Grand Hyatt on Park Avenue The foyer was very luxurious but was a little disappointed that the room wasn't as good. Two doors down was The Grand Central Station, so we managed to drag our tired asses over there and have a bite to eat. Grand Central is a beautiful building and is well worth a visit, but the food is very 'junk' inspired - look out for the main concourse - it's been featured in many films including The Fisher King.

New Years Eve was spent dodging snow and queuing for the Empire State Building Visiting the tourist hot spots after 9/11 is a whole different ball game. Be prepared for very long queues, as to visit any of the main places, you have to go through airport security, unless you are willing to pay double to 'fast track'. I think it's worth visiting this landmark at least once in your lifetime, the views from the 86th Observatory are stunning on a clear day. We paid an extra $15 each to view from the 102nd floor. By the time we'd got there, the weather had changed and it had started to snow, bringing down a cloud of mist, making it near impossible to see anything (even on a clear day, I wouldn't suggest it, as you don't get too see anything more than you would lower down).

A little later in the day we had a beautiful meal here It gives the impression of an American diner from outside, but if you walk through the cafe at the front, you come to a restaurant that is reminiscent of old New York, wooden tables with low lighting etc. The rest of the night, I've already covered in my Times Square post, so I won't bore you with a repeat post.

New Years day, we met up with this guy:-

George Dillman IV, a native American, who was once married to one of my friends. Seeing New York, from an American's point of view is completely different. We went to the Rockefeller Centre and watched the ice skating and George got accosted by a Plymouth Argyle fan, who insisted on stripping off down to his football shirt, so he could have his photograph taken with him (George was wearing a Plymouth Argyle hat). We went to Times Square and saw the aftermath of the night before. We walked through Central Park and saw the bridge used in the Highlander film. We went to look at the Guggenheim museum both outside and in (this is free if you don't want to view the exhibits - the architecture in this building is well worth a view) and finally ended up back in Times Square, where we sampled 'proper' American pizza

Exhausted from walking so far on New Years Eve, we slept in the next day and eventually dragged ourselves over to Battery Park to catch the ferry to the Statue Of Liberty and Ellis Island Please, please, whatever you do, if you want to go and view these, then purchase your ticket prior to your trip. We queued for approx 3 hours in a snow blizzard and at one point, could barely make out the Statue in the distance, the weather was so bad. You firstly have to queue to purchase a ticket, then join the queue to board the ferry. Prior to boarding, you also have to go through airport security. So purchasing a ticket prior, at least cuts out most of that.

We stopped at Liberty island first and had a wander around the lady, then caught the ferry over to Ellis Island. Ellis Island is the place where all the immigrants had to visit prior to settling in NYC. I couldn't get to grips with it. I know the government had to have some sort of record of who was settling in their country, but it reminded me too much of a concentration camp. The cramped conditions they had to live in and the tests they had to go through, before even knowing if they were allowed to settle in the country, was unbelievable. I'd seen enough and walked outside to view this:-

Sunset over the Statue of Liberty is something I will remember for the rest of my life and as we caught the ferry back to Battery Park, all the lights were switched on in Lower Manhattan, to end a truly wonderful experience. By the way if you are a skinflint and don't want to spend the $12 to go over, you can always catch the Staten Island ferry, which is free and goes past both the Statue and Ellis Island, but doesn't stop there.
Our last day was spent at Ground Zero - there's not much to see there, it is after all just a building site, but it does give you some idea of what a big site the buildings stood on and a chance to pay your respects. I also spent a very quick (but not quick enough for Mr M!) time in Century 21 I've wanted to go to this shop for so long and was a little disappointed when I set foot in it. It's a cross between TK Maxx and a jumble sale. Don't bother with the bag department it's nasty! The shoe department was a tad better and I got a bargain pair of Timberland boots. I'd love to tell you what the clothes department was like, but at that point, Mr M threw in the towel and we escaped back to Park Avenue, saying a final goodbye to the Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, that had guided us home, for so many nights, before catching the airport shuttle back to JFK and then onto Heathrow.
Love you New York and hopefully it won't be too long before I'm back again, preferably in warmer weather!


Willytheprince said...

Yes, welcome to my pain in the you know what home. There's a bit of love hate to being here.

Now that you got the tourist "must sees" out of the way, next time you come I'll guide you in the right direction.

As for Sbarro's pizza-I'm sorry you had to experience that. Pershing Sq. is a great place.

Anonymous said...

Great blog and good to have the insiders view J.

Phil Lowe said...

Frenchyphil apologies fro being anon. Not sure what happened there. Where is the turning handle on this computer?

Janette Jones said...

Heather - I liked Sbarro's pizza - but then I only had a cheese one, so you can't go wrong with those! Next trip we have, I will definitely call on you as our guide!

Frenchy Phil - what are you like? Glad you like the blog - will see you later!

Michelle said...

Sounds like a brilliant time! And upgraded to first, fantastic!

Janette Jones said...

Michelle - it was a fantastic holiday, one I won't forget for a long time!

oliechavez said...

If you make it to all 50 states please join my club. Good luck.

Janette Jones said...

If I don't manage to see them all before I'm 40, then I will definitely see them all at some point in my life, so will join your club at some point!