Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Being in one BIG Apple (New York)

February 2012

This week I got to visit a city I’ve wanted to visit since I first watched King Kong. New York. The Big Apple. New Yoik as the locals say (or so I wish they would say as that’s how I’ve always imagined them to say it like that!). My mum and sister had flown over for Bryony’s half term week as a birthday present to her. And because Mum couldn’t cope not seeing me till July otherwise. Not that she told anyone that. Oh wait…
I arrived at JFK airport on the Tuesday evening after a long day in class (unusually for me with a paper hand in and midterm in the morning), with the day made even longer by a supposed half hour wait for Mum and Bryony being extended to a two hour wait due to delays. Wasn’t a real drama, apart from being asked every 30 seconds if I wanted a taxi (my answers getting more and more curt!), and I just found a corner, sat down on my bag and read my incredibly boring book for a class. Such a good student!

With the Sis

Bright lights & tall buildings

Mum and Bryony eventually arrived looking fairly tired and pissed off with the whole ordeal (apparently they had to sit next to a load of hawking Kuwaitis. Read that as you will), so I didn’t wind them up about keeping me waiting (well a little bit…). Thankfully we were met at JFK (very nice corners by the way if you’re ever waiting there. Just make sure your bags a soft case because otherwise the bum starts to hurt) by a driver and ride who took us to the apartment we were staying in. 

In the back of a yellow cab
Where are we again?
Anyways, with Mum and Bryony being jetlagged, the first night involved wandering down Broadway to Time Square looking amazed at the tall buildings and flashing lights. And me looking disgusted at the number of English accents I could hear. We ate in a place called Ellen’s Stardust where a lot of Broadway actors and singers work when they aren’t in a show. It was packed out (being Valentine’s Day) but we managed to get a seat in there nevertheless after a little wait, (tourist-y bit alert!) the place was stereotypically diner-ish with shiny tables and paper cloths etc and food to match. The food itself was pretty good (at least what I had was seeing as I was staaaarving by that point!) and the entertainment consisting of the waiters and waitresses taking turns to sing rather well known songs (including a worryingly good rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” by one guy. Scarily good I tell you!). One thing I will say is the place is freezing inside. Take a jacket you can wear at the table without looking like a muppet (which I didn’t, and therefore ended up looking like a muppet. What’s new I guess!) I then had to explain the concept to American tipping and how tax isn’t added onto prices until the end to Mum. Bless Mum, the conversation was waaaay more complicated than it should have been – I was thinking it was the jetlag but I guess it just takes more than a few days to get used to the American way of doing things (not passing judgement on that here…)!

Out and about in the Big Apple

Most days had an early start, in accordance with Mums strict schedule planned for the days, in order to maximise the time we had there (or so she said. At times I wasn’t so sure!). Being in NYC was pretty cool. It felt great to be back in a city environment with the hustle and bustle and noises. A world away from Chapel Hill! However the noise was phenomenal- honking, shouting yelling revving of engines. Driving in London is considered tough, but I reckon its nothing compared to NY! And the height of the place is staggering. If you’ve never been then most building are at least 20 floors high, many are many many more than that. The notion of the concrete jungle was well and truly appreciated by me wandering around the city! Although it was great to have a decent public transport system for once – miles away from the non-Sunday running bus service of Chapel Hill! It was hilarious riding the Subway too. Some VERY interesting characters on it, including a incredibly camp guy wearing Ugg boots and more jewellery than was probably healthy, banging on about how he didn’t like some person for some random reason but was still going for lunch with him the next day. I mean please don’t tell the whole carriage your incredibly bitchy social problems! It was interesting that we were advised not to ride the Subway, yet I thought it was no different to ridding the tube in London, but with far more interesting people – the real New York! I think Mum found it a little overwhelming as she constantly had no idea where we were (we went round one block where the Chrysler building is located numerous times due to her not being convinced that was where it was. Until we had to ask a random guy, only for me to shout incredibly loud in triumph when he pointed to the building Bryony and I had been trying to convince Mum was the damn Chrysler building) and - being Mum - would point things out to my and Bryony, only for a Cab to pull up beside us thinking she had hailed it. Awkward doesn’t even cover it after the third time…

We were staying in a friend’s REALLY nice apartment which was right on Broadway overlooking Central Park (no seriously!) and had its own army of door open-ers and elevator button push-ers and wish you a  good day-ers (again, seriously!). It was an interesting experience staying in a place like that, and one I wasn’t completely comfortable with. I am perfectly able to push an elevator button myself thanks! The only down side to the apartment was the fact it was a one bedroomed apartment for three of us. Soooo being the male I had to have the sofa. Fantastic… Still, can’t beat the location being a 5min walk from Times Square I suppose! The 4 days spent in New York involved being absolute tourists. Times Square, Empire State Building (at night – VERY cool and highly recommended!), Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street and financial district, the World Trade Centre site, plus lots and lots of walking around the East and West side (and Mum and Bryony shopping more than I could handle…). I also went and saw the UN building myself and wondered around some of the smaller back streets of New York, getting a bit more of a real feel of the place away from the tourist trap areas, whilst Bryony and Mum spent far too much money helping prop up the US economy. I have to say I did succumb to the shopping extortion of NYC by buying a Abercrombie and Fitch top, simply because its one of those things you’ve got to do. And it was a damn nice top!

The view from the Empire State Building

Whilst doing the typical touristy stuff like the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station, we also did a couple of things not so known about in NYC (I’m comparing this to my own knowledge here!) such as a really cool park created on old railroad tracks elevated above street level in the Lower East Side with some really interesting views over the local area. The only problem was it was raining towards the end of the walk which wasn’t fun at all. And I wasn’t feeling to good that morning so didn’t really enjoy it that much… especially when we then had to walk about 150000 blocks (ok, very slight exaggeration) to some cupcake shop that was once in Sex and the City. The cupcakes were amazing, but woopdedoo I didn’t give two monkeys about the place being in Sex and the City. But whatever, it kept Mum happy I guess! That same day we also visited the West Side towards Chinatown and Little Italy where a large immigrant community established itself around the 1860’s and there is what’s known as Tenements, where large numbers of families lived. It was quite cool (again, apart from the weather!) as this place had the look and feel of a stereotypical New York slum type scene from a film which was pretty cool to see in the real.

It's not a real elephant. Clearly.
The last full day involved walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which was really cool (once we had worked out how to get on the dam thing!) and the views offered of Manhattan was really cool. We also ate dinner in Brooklyn Heights which was nice and very different from the mental-ness of Manhattan, even though it was so near to it. It also meant we got to see the sun set over the Hudson River and then see Manhattan lit up and night. So touristy guide bit here – definitely worth walking over Brooklyn Bridge in the afternoon, eat in Brooklyn Heights (some very nice looking restaurants there too!) and then walk back in the dark. And the bridge is devoid of retarded tourists later on the evenings too – perfect!

Brooklyn Bridge

Looking out onto Manhattan Island

The last day was spent wandering around Central Park and trying to work out where film locations were within it (a lot harder than it sounds!), and clearing up the apartment to go home. We were picked up and taken back to JFK again, and upon arrival at JFK, Mum and Bryony realised their flight was delayed by 2 hours (total joy), and as we got their soooo early I tried to get on an earlier flight home, only to find I had missed it by 5mins. So we became those depressed people you see on programmes like ‘Airline’ and ‘Airport’ who’s flights have been delayed, sitting around staring into the middle distance and occasionally getting up to buy food simply for the hell of it.

Pancake breakfast

Central Park

The 5 days spent in New York was a really great experience and was fantastic to see Mum and Bryony. I think that 5 days isn’t really enough time to spend in the city, and to really get a feel for the place away from the tourist areas one has to spend much longer there. I was particularly disappointed to not be able to get to Harlem, but you just can’t do everything in 5 days. Especially with two jetlagged family members!  Never-the-less, whilst I enjoyed being back in a City, and seeing a Northern City, I was glad to be back in the South, with good ‘ol Southern hospitality and friendliness, compared to (how I saw it) the much ruder Northern ‘City folk’. And as I thought that I came to the scary conclusion that I've spent far too much time in a small town in the South now and its starting to affect my outlook on life. What am I gonna be like when I go back home?!

The three of us. With a horse,

1 comment:

  1. YES WOODSY!! Hope your having a good time. When does the limey get back to good ol' blighty??