Tuesday, 5 July 2011

New York on the 4th July

It was raining in NY and the temperature had dropped to a more comfortable level. I have been reading all of the tourist info and realised I had missed the Ladder 10 Engine 10 Firehouse. These were the first responders on 9/11. It talked of a huge brass plaque that is a memorial to the men that lost their lives from this unit.  So off I went like an old hand, underground mastered but street map still required. It was not difficult to find, the brass plaque is huge and the fire station is right across the street from Ground Zero.

It was raining steadily (thanks Kathmandu for a great travel umbrella) so I took refuge in a McD’s for a coffee and to use the Internet. Only in NY do they provide entertainment in McD’s …a guy on a grand piano. I visit Orchard Road shopping district and it looks very alternative and that is putting it mildly. There are some awfully strange people around in NY and it is best to stay clear of them. Sometimes you find them in the cafes, pacing or sitting in a corner staring at the wall, or sitting in a corner staring at the wall and talking to themselves. Some of the sights will be unforgettable. It feels a little weird but not unsafe but I decide my 5 min visit is enough and I get out of there. I took the tube up to Penn Station around W 32th street to have a look at Madison Square Gardens.
Somehow I expected gardens of some sort …duh….it’s a huge stadium and it looks like its undergoing an extension at present. Baseball is played here, and everywhere it would seem…there is so much on TV. I am looking forward to my baseball experience I have booked in San Francisco. I think it is the San Fran Giants playing the NY Mets. Currently NY Yankees are in a round with NY Mets and its one game each….there is much on the “news” about this.

I still have a few must do things on my list and I plan my time as much as I can.  I walk up 5th Ave…window shopping. Is a street an attraction? Only when it’s one of the most famous ones! All the big names are there, Armani, Elizabeth Arden, Dior, Calvin Klein Gap, and Gucci. Pucci ( is that the male version?), Rolex, Saks etc, etc. The most notable was Hollister who have  a live feed of Huntington Beach , California , showing on an enormous screen on the whole of their window frontage.

Some of the buildings I have been advised to see at night…because of the lights…I walk past Radio City Music Hall (a 1932, 6000 seat art deco movie palace) Trump Tower and onto St Patricks Cathedral.This is another Gothic style church smack in the middle of huge skyscrapers and modern glass fronted buildings, but the 330ft spires still dwarf a few buildings nearby. 

The Rockefeller Centre stands in all its glory with many people out and about enjoying the surroundings. I am not sure if it’s always decked out with so many US flags or whether it’s in preparation for tomorrows celebrations. It’s a wonderful sight with the evening lights.  On my walk back to Grand Central I see the Chrysler building lit up and realise that I have completed most of the major buildings to be seen in one night.

It’s cloudy for 4th July but it is expected to clear for the fireworks tonight. I talk to the concierge about “Empire State Building V’s Rockefeller Centre” given the holiday weekend and the long queues for Empire I opted for a flexible anytime ticket for Rockefeller- who knows if I will get there today.

One thing I wanted to do was to hire a bike and ride through Central Park. I wasn’t the only one with that idea. As I enter the park from 59th street outside the ornate and very grand Grand Plaza Hotel there are horses and buggies for hire everywhere, likewise with bike rentals. Despite it being a holiday weekend and lots of people about it doesn’t detract from the beauty of it. It is huge and with wide open spaces and plenty to see. The bike rental provides a map and the no go areas (walking only) are clearly marked.
The Central Park Carousel has been in operation in the park since 1871 and there are plenty lining up for the ride. I can see on the boundary road the NY version of the Guggenheim Museum housed in another spectacular building. The park also has a huge outdoor swimming pool and as it’s another brilliant day it is full of bodies enjoying cooling off. 

Strawberry fields, the tear shaped garden that is a memorial to John Lennon is easy to find…just follow the crowds and in the middle of this “quiet zone’ is the famous Imagine mosaic. The Dakota building is just adjacent on the corner of 72nd Street and a guy from a bike rental points out John’s apartment.

I fail to see the “Easy Route” marked on the map and am introduced to The Great Hill! On a stinking hot day it was hard work but I didn’t have to stop like many did along the way.   It’s a 10 km ride to do the whole loop and with stops at the sights along the way. I take 2 hours although it would be a lovely way to spend a whole day if you had the time. I take a video as a cycle along to capture some of the feeling of cycling in Central Park and as proof that I did pass some people!

I ask the girl at the rental place where I can get a nice salad and she directs me to the Columbus Circle shopping Centre and the Whole Foods shop. The line was so long for the checkout it wound around the shop. The food must be great but I will never know as I gave up on that…time to important.

Today has been weirdo day and I have come across several, two of which stick out. A woman in Starbucks at the next table was packing away her coffee in a takeout bag and she turned and started talking behind her hand held up to her mouth like she was giving a running commentary….staring at me. Every time I looked up she put her hand up and talked some more. She then shifted to the next table and did the same thing. It was like I was under surveillance .Time to move on. The other was a big black guy in the street who was in front of me talking to himself. As I got closer I could hear him berating the guy (and his girlfriend) coming toward him talking about him being a black……..xxxx. As he wasn’t black I thought something was odd and as I got closer his profanities got louder and clearly the couple did not know him…..I crossed the road!
My Metro card is good for subway and buses so I jump on one going downtown …just for the experience and get off not far from Rockefeller. Now is as good a time as any so to the Top of the Rock I go.  It was a clear day and it was great to get a 360 degree view of NY including the Empire State building. The concierge rates the Rock as better than the Empire all things considered but mostly because of the long queues.  You can see all the main buildings and bridges from here (850 feet above street level) and out to the Hudson but my favourite view was of Central Park.

I wandered back down 5th Avenue and am taken yet again (last seen and pondered over in Paris) by the Desigual store with their motto – Not the Same- and purchase my New York 5th Avenue accessory! with my motto- if you like something- buy it, you might never see it again ringing in my ears.

Back at the hotel for a rest (read nana nap) and refreshed after a shower I walk the several blocks down 30th Avenue towards the Hudson. I take up my place with the crowds of people and find myself next to some NZders so chat to them before Macy’s display starts. The NYPD are there in force , along with dogs and other police complete with what looked like machine guns to me…let’s put it this way they wouldn’t fit on the hip! The display was awesome and I capture some on video to cement the memory. It just went on forever with fireworks on 6 barges on the river, a spectacular sight. There are plenty of people everywhere on the walk home and the NYPD ever present….felt safe but after weirdo day it was good to be back at the hotel.

On the way I see the Empire State Building lit up in red, blue and white.

Last day tomorrow and time to see what I haven’t seen!

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