New York Day One
This was a really good flight. Our Air Berlin flight was 8 hours from Berlin to New York but it didn’t feel that long. Comfy seats, good food and decent movies to watch, did a lot to help the situation. I was surprised that even without sleeping the time on this flight seemed to go quite fast. We arrived in NY and we were pumped and rushed off the plane keen to get our NY trip started… then we saw the customs line. Customs at JFK Airport took about an hour and 10 minutes to get through, the worst of the waiting was knowing we were pushed for time if we wanted to make it to the Broadway show we had pre-booked and paid for with no refund.
After eventually making it through customs, the race was on. We kind of felt like we were on a leg of the amazing race! The time was ticking and we still had to make a 30 minute cab ride from the airport to our hotel, check-in, pick up a room key, dump our bags and then get to Broadway for our 7pm show. Showering or changing clothes was not going to happen, we just had to power through! Somehow (and i’m still not entirely sure how we managed it) we got to the theatre with 5 minutes to spare. However getting there on time was a lot more stressful than either of us had anticipated.
Located right in the middle of the action, we were about 200m away from the centre of Times Square. The Row hotel has a modern look something we really noticed after travelling Europe for a month where all of the hotels (except Berlin) were older looking. Our room was on the 15th floor meaning we had a good view of the streets below and it was by far the most comfortable bed and pillows we’ve had on the trip. It was amazing to switch on a TV and hear people speaking English, something we hadn’t experienced for a few weeks.
The only complaint about this room was the possessed heater that would spew out random burst of boiling hot air for 10 minutes turning the room into a sauna, then freezing cold air for the next 10 turning it into a glacier. Despite the controls saying the machine was off, this continued to happen on a loop for the first night of our stay, along with the machine occasionally letting out a death rattle that would startle us awake in the middle of the night. Things got better however when I located the outlet at the side of the heater and managed to unplug the whole thing from the wall. After this we just left the heater unplugged for our entire stay.
I was impressed to see that the check in area downstairs had rows of 27inch iMacs all lined up that could be used by hotel guests for free. This made accessing my emails and printing tickets and vouchers for our New York tours nice and easy. They also had a pretty decent bar area with beanbags and lounges over looking the busy streets of Manhattan, though we only managed to sneak in one drink in this area during our stay, why stay in the hotel when you have New York to explore?
After racing from airport to our hotel then navigating our way to Broadway on foot, we made the show with roughly 4 minutes to spare. This was just enough time to get a beer and glass of champagne. No sooner had we sat down the show was starting.
I am now 100% classy and sophisticated as I have seen a Broadway show. Jess was extremely excited to see the New York version of ‘Wicked’ having already seen the production in Perth and loving it. She is a big Wizard of Oz fan so couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the performance again, despite there being a variety of shows we could have chosen from. I must admit I was just as excited to be there, as this was going to be my first time seeing a play and I guess if your ever going to go to the theatre then Broadway in New York City isn’t a bad place to do it.
Wicked was an amazing show. The set, costumes and story line were great. The performers were all outstanding, in particular the girl who played Elphaba the Wicked Witch was very talented and had a really strong singing voice. At the intermission Jess mentioned that while she really liked all of the New York performances, she kind of preferred the actress who played Glinda The Good Witch in the Perth version of the show. The New York Glinda was a great singer but Jess felt the girl who played the character in Perth had been funnier in the role.
We had hoped to take in another Broadway show while we were in NY but we just didn’t have the time to do it, there were far too many other things to see and do in our short trip. Maybe next time we visit we can squeeze in a few more performances.
When in New York
We walked out of the theatre and were greeted with gale force, icy cold winds pushing us down the street. Jess wasn’t wearing a beanie and thought one of her ears was going to freeze off as we made our way to the hotel. As we were walking, we passed a pizza shop on the corner before our hotel. Having not had dinner (and its now 10pm) it was an easy decision. We grabbed a few slices of take-away pizza. Each slice was massive and about the equivalent of 1/2 a large sized pizza in Australia. I went traditional pepperoni pizza (when in New York) and Jess went a veggie option. Verdict on the pizza? Damn good! Will hopefully grab another slice before we head home.
New York Day Two
I woke up about 7:30am and turned the TV on. The reporters on all of the news channels were saying that today was one of the coldest mornings in New York this winter and to stay inside if possible. I checked my phone’s weather app and it said that it was -12 degrees outside but with the wind gusts it feels more like a temperature of -22 (the NY wind just goes right through you despite the layers of clothing.) This is not what you want to hear on your first morning in a new city with a big day of sightseeing planned. Jess groaned and pulled the covers back over her head. We are both getting a bit fed up with having to wear so many layers of clothing. Just showering and getting dressed in the morning is exhausting!
Before any real planning for the day ahead could be completed we both needed coffee. So Starbucks was the first stop. Not knowing where one was we tested the theory of ‘one on every corner’ and sure enough after turning left from our hotel and walking for about 150meters we found what we were looking for. Ahhh Starbucks.
Jess was extremely excited to find that the U.S Starbucks are trying this new fancy type of coffee called a flat white… The whole eurotrip Jess had struggled to find a cup of coffee she could drink, I had admitted defeat early on the trip and just had espresso as there was no way I was going to try and explain a long Mac topped up in each country. Jess hadn’t had a coffee for nearly 2 weeks at this stage so a sign advertising flat white was a site for sore eyes, I think if the line at the counter had been long she would have started knocking people out of the way! So we both sampled this new fancy coffee known as a ‘flat white’ and finally Jess was home.
With coffee in our system and the brain back to a working capacity we made a plan to tackle the train system.
Staten Island – Statue of Liberty
We decided early on when planning for New York that we would take the Staten Island Ferry and do a ‘float-by’ of the Statue of Liberty rather than a 3-4 hour stop at Liberty Island and a tour into the giant green woman’s head. This was mainly due to having limited time (feels strange to say that when we are in NY for 7 days but I think you could be there for 6 weeks and still not see everything)
To get to the ferry dock we had to take the subway for the first time. Before embarking on our trip we were both worried that taking trains would be difficult, particularly in New York as there are so many different subway lines. However after having successfully navigating Europe’s trains, especially Paris where all the stops are in French, we we’re confident by this point in the trip that using the subway in New York wouldn’t be too difficult.
We caught the downtown subway to the end of the line at the South Ferry Station and then jumped onto the free ferry that travels across to Staten Island every 30 minutes. You get a great view of the Manhattan skyline from the ferry and obviously the Statue of Liberty as well. The photos of the Statue don’t do it justice, we were a lot closer than the photos make it look. Also due to it being winter, we were unable to open the windows on the boat so most of the photos have a bit of a greyish tinge to them.
The French must have really liked the U.S to give them a big statue as a present. The statue, was designed by a French sculptor and given as a gift to the United States from the people of France. The statue is a robed female figure representing the Roman goddess of freedom and is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence. The statue was made to be a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.
I thought the Statue of Liberty was impressive and definitely one of the highlights of New York. Jess however felt it was too small (standing at 93 meters) and kept commenting that she had visions of it being a lot bigger, I think the size of the Eiffel tower (at 301 meters) had a lot to answer for in this instance but she wouldn’t budge, she was not happy about its height.
Once at Staten Island we hopped off the ferry and then immediately hopped on the return ferry going back to New York. Again this took us past the statue and gave us a good view of the city skyline and Brooklyn Bridge. Next time we are in New York we might consider doing the proper tour of the Statue but for now we were happy to tick it off the list, having seen it from a short distance away.
We decided to go for a walk through Times Square area and while I was looking at the map to navigate us around Jess asked me if I wanted to go into a store called Lids. It had wall to wall, to wall, to wall displays of caps. I was in heaven! Personally I think Jess only asked me if I wanted to check it out as it was still -8 outside and she was frozen. After about 45mins and 6 caps later Jess may have been regretting her decision. I approached the counter with 5 caps in my hands but the staff member said you can get a 6th for half price, I’m not an idiot so I happily went to choose a 6th cap, while the guy apologised to Jess for cluing me in to this deal that was now going to take up additional time. In my defense the caps aren’t all for me, some are presents.
Lunch time and what better place than Shake Shack to grab a bite to eat – burgers, hotdogs, fries and milkshakes! Doesn’t really get more American than that. We quickly realised as we approached the restaurant that Shake Shack is a popular place, the line to order extended out the door, we were questioning our decision and if we wanted to wait it out but the line moved surprisingly quick so we toughed it out for a few minutes. I ordered a New York style hot dog and Jess got a mushroom burger. This definitely filled the void and Jess maintains it is one of the best burgers she has eaten and will be trying to replicate the recipe when we get home. I imagine we will be getting back to the Shack again before we leave, considering there is one directly across the road from our hotel.
New York Photos
Like we had done in Paris, we booked a photographer take photos of the two of us at various site in New York. However this time our guide wasn’t a professional photographer, the experience was more of a walking tour with the added extra that the guy running it would take shots at various locations. We met Marc just off Broadway, a short walk from our hotel and headed off on foot (and subway) to some of New York’s most iconic landmarks (Times Square, Central Park, Upper East side, Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn area in general) This was the perfect way to spend our first full day in New York, Marc is a New Yorker born and bred so had lots of insider tips for us, showing us how to navigate and helped us out by recommending a train pass that would save us money and time at stations.
While taking photos Marc also provided us with commentary about New York’s history and the different areas of Manhattan. He knew a lot of facts about each area we visited as well as the best spots for food, drink etc. After learning we were Aussies he pointed out Miranda Kerr’s house on the Upper East Side and knowing Jess was interested in art pointed out which trains we would take to visit the galleries. Marc and I also had a good chat about baseball while on the Subway, I think he was impressed an Aussie knew anything about baseball, let alone be able to discuss specific players and the history of teams with him!
Madison Square Garden
I had really been looking forward to visiting Madison Square Garden for the entire trip, not because I wanted to see the Knicks specifically (they suck at the moment by the way!) but it was our first NBA game and we were at one of the most famous and historic stadiums in the U.S …The other well known ‘G’, Madison Square Garden.
The night however didn’t get off to the best of starts, keen to grab a beer before heading to our seats, both Jess and I were asked for ID. We were a bit surprised because I don’t think either of us have been ID checked in Australia for about 5 years. We got our drivers licences out (not thinking for one second that this wouldn’t be enough proof) we were shocked to learn that the guy behind the counter would only accept our passports. I then tried to talk to him explaining that we are Aussies and well over the drinking age of 21. This didn’t work. I think Europe had lulled both of us into a false sense of security about not needing our IDs on us at all times. We weren’t carded in Europe once and often saw kids drinking wine in restaurants…America however we having none of it! I must admit I find the process of using your passport for identification weird, what’s to stop someone making their own dodgey Australian passport and showing it to the server? I am pretty sure they wouldn’t know how to verify an authentic Australian passport anyway. But there was no changing the guy’s mind so we just grabbed some softies and headed to our seats.
We found our seats with about 30minutes until tip off so it was great to relax and watch the teams go through their warmups. We had chosen our seats well, we were on a good angle and fairly close to the action. I was impressed to see Harden sinking multiple shots from half court with ease during warm up. The Knicks really didn’t stand a chance!
Knowing that the Knicks were without their 2 best players and had only won a handfull of games this season we didn’t expect it to be a close game, however I was still excited to see Harden and Howard play (Houston) as I knew they were going to dominate the Knicks players, which they did. Harden actually plays a lot like Jarryd Hayne by making the game look so easy and dancing around the opposition.
Despite the fact the Knicks were beaten convincingly it was still an incredible experience to be at the G. I even nearly caught a tee for the shirt guns being shot during a break in the game. This however was foiled by Jess shepherding me. She claims she was ‘unaware’ she had gotten in the way but it was too good a block for me to believe that. Having to move around her cost me, I had my left hand out ready for the catch but then a guy from the other side of the isles hands reached just a bit further than mine and snatched it away. Nice block Jess – She now owes me a Knicks tee!
New York Day Three
Let it snow! We woke up this morning to the streets of NY blanketed in snow. We had a great view of the snow falling from our hotel window and decided to stay in our room until it stopped. While we waited we used the time to work out our plan of attack for the day and enjoy the warmth of our room before braving the cold.
Good Enough to Eat
Craving pancakes we decided to hit up Google and Trip Advisor to find a good location. There were numerous options in New York, as you would imagine, but we decided on Good Enough to Eat due to its big selection and good reviews.
A short train ride uptown and a walk through quiet residential streets and we were there. On our way through the residential area seeing cars and front doors and the steps of the houses covered in thick snow, we couldn’t help but note how much we stood out today as ‘non-New Yorkers’. To us walking through the snow covered streets was a great experience but to the people who were shovelling the front pathways to their houses and had lived it many times over, this snow fall was a major inconvenience and not anywhere near as much fun.
Breakfast was huge! I ordered the lumberjack (2 pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs) and Jess had the traditional 3 pancakes with strawberry butter and maple syrup. We both couldn’t finish our meals even though they were amazing, just as good as the pancakes in Amsterdam. Strawberry Butter could possibly be the greatest thing ever!
Empire State Building
Initially we had planned to do the Empire State building yesterday but we weren’t able to fit it in, luckily our express passes were valid for 2 years so we could use them whenever was convenient during our trip.
We breezed past everyone in line and headed straight to the top, however on your way to the observation deck you have to make your way through the museum on a lower level. Given we were short on time we didn’t spend too much time in the museum, instead deciding to walk straight through and head for the observation deck. Once we stepped outside we were nearly blown off the tower, we both tried to take photos/videos from the windy side of the tower but it was impossible to keep the camera still. I am just happy that I didn’t drop my phone when I had put my hands between the cages to get better photos and video. To say the view was stunning/amazing/awesome doesn’t do it justice. You realise just how big and impressive New York is. It was also a great way to be able to see everywhere we had already been and this is when it really sinks in again just how big New York is because when you are on the train for 5-10 mins getting to places it is deceptive how spread out everything actually is. We continued to make our way around the observation deck taking lots of photos of the cityscape. When we got to the opposite side we realised the building was acting as a wind barrier and we had been freezing our butts off on the other side when we could have been here! We came across two pigeons who were resting on the side of the observation platform (it seems we make pigeon friends where ever we go in the world) they sat patiently while we took photos of them, seemingly too cold to move or fly away (see photos in gallery below).
The express pass definitely paid for itself as when we had finished and walked past the line that was still waiting to go up, the guys that were initially in front of us when going through security were still waiting in the line to get to the observation deck and were being told they still had an hour to wait. So if heading to NY ensure you grab an express pass for the Empire!
9/11 Ground Zero
Our 9/11 Ground Zero Tour began at 1:50 so we hurried down the Empire State and quickly made it to St Paul’s Chapel, the meeting point for our Ground Zero tour.
St Paul’s Chapel has become well known since 9/11 as it is still standing and amazingly unharmed (not even a broken window) by the attacks on the Twin Towers. This church also provided rest and refuge for recovery workers working at the World Trade Centre site.
Our tour guide began by giving us an extensive background on himself, explaining his work history and how he came to be a guide. Most of the group were a bit perplexed as to why he was telling us this information but it became clear as he explained where he worked in the months leading up to 9/11. He explained that it was only by chance that he was not in Tower 2 on September 11, instead he was in another building only 1 block away in a meeting. He went on to explain in detail his eye witness experience of the day and his thoughts as the events unfolded. He explained how everyone was reacting to the chaos, his reactions and emotions and the look on people’s faces around him once they had evacuated the area only to look back and see there were no towers. It was obvious that he was still very emotional and like all other survivors it will no doubt be with them for the rest of their lives.
Jess and I knew that both the towers had fallen and there was damage to surrounding area but our guide explained just how much destruction to the surrounding areas had occurred. The impact of the towers falling destroyed buildings for blocks and fire trucks were pushed entire city blocks away due to the sheer force of debris and winds. It was explained that it took approximately 8 months for this part of New York City to be cleaned up and restored to some sort of order. Our guide described how seeing the aftermath and clean up continuing for months after the attack was hard emotionally and during this time many people laid flowers at the church and wrote messages to those who had lost their lives or the rescue workers who they wanted to thank (the church was as close as people were permitted, if they weren’t a part of the clean up team) Our tour group walked through the chapel to see some of the notes for lost loved one and the badges/ patches from uniforms of firefighters and police officers from around the world who had come to pay their respects to those who helped with recovery efforts. It was interesting to note that only a small portion of these notes remain as the sheer volume left meant the church had to continually clear them away to make room in the weeks and months following the terror attacks.
Braving the freezing New York temperatures we left the church and walked to the memorial site. By the time we arrived at the 9/11 memorial it was minus 12 degrees with strong icy winds. We were both incredibly frozen and our tour guide was handing out chemical hand warmers to the group as people were shivering so hard. Being at the site was eerie and I instantly thought back to where I was when I first learned about the attack. I think everyone in the group did. It’s quite amazing that even though I have terrible memory I remember exactly where I was when I saw it on tv. I was watching Rove Live, waiting for his interview with Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart to come on when they cut to the breaking news update and I remember seeing the footage of a plane crashing into Tower 1.
It was a very sobering experience to be standing at ground zero were these iconic buildings had once stood. The memorial is two very large square pools that have been placed exactly where the Twin Towers stood. The structure has a smaller square in the centre to symbolise the elevator shaft. Pools of water sit in-between the two squares and running water continuously cycles as a fountain down the outer square. To walk around the outside of the memorial and see the names of the people who lost their lives was a solemn experience. There are nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks and they have been placed not in alphabetical order but instead the names of those who died together have been memorialised next to each other.
After a reheating and recharge in the hotel room we headed out for dinner. We had booked a table at the Haven Rooftop restaurant/bar, which was a short 5 minute walk across Time Square from our hotel. On arrival we checked our coats and made our way to the lift that takes you to the enclosed rooftop restaurant and bar. However Jess was stopped and asked for ID, I went to get my ID out aswell thinking he was going to ask me next but the security guy said ‘you are ok sir.’ Jess was quite happy to be considered under 21 and found it quite hilarious that the guy had assumed I most definitely was not under 21! I must have looked like her older creepy boyfriend I guess?
This was our first proper sit down dinner in New York and it was great to finally relax with a nice dinner (not takeaway) and couple of drinks.
The venue was lively and quite funky with a Moroccan theme that had been created just for the winter season. The live DJ played old 90’s tunes and there were lots of areas near the bar with comfy pillows and beanbag lounges to sit on. Dinner was great and very filling but once we had finished eating we decided to move over to the bar/lounge area for a few more drinks. Jess had to compete for my attention in this area however as there was a big screen TV playing a basketball game. Got to love the US – sport, sport, sport, sport!
At 11:00pm it was now time to call it a night as we had to be up at 500am to catch our train to Washington for our day trip.
New York Day Four
Washington Day trip
It was an early start to the day. Waking up at 500am we quickly got dressed and made our way to the subway to ensure we got to Penn station by 600am. Our train to Washington departed at 630am and we were quite paranoid we were going to be sleep deprived and miss it. Luckily staying at Row NYC it was easy to navigate even when half asleep, as the hotel is on a main subway line that took us directly to Penn Station.
The train ride into Washington was a great way to relax, given how hectic our New York trip had been so far. The trip took approximately 3 hours taking us through Philadelphia and Baltimore, which got me thinking… how easy would it be to come back to New York and see Baseball games in Philadelphia and Baltimore! The US trains definitely had one up over the Europe trains with free WIFI for the whole trip, which allowed us to catch up with what is happening back home as well as contact Bozo to let him know how the New York trip has been so far and make notes for this blog!
By the time we had arrived at Union Station it was just before 10am giving us approximately 4 hours in Washington. At the station we grabbed our selves a quick coffee and breakfast and went over our planned walking route to see the sites of Washington. Once we had established our bearings we headed off on foot in the direction of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.
After the hustle and bustle of New York our walk out of Union Station towards the monument was very….very…quiet. We couldn’t believe our eyes! I had to take a video (see below) of what I was seeing… there was literally no one in Washington! The video shows one car driving by at 10am in the morning on a main street. Jess and I found ourselves in awe, we had forgotten what it was like to be in a quiet, non-crowded area.
After about 5 minutes of walking Jess instantly announced that she loved Washington. The Washington skies were blue without a cloud to be seen, it was an absolutely stunning day (minus the fact it was still freezing cold) and because the streets were basically deserted it felt really calm. We hadn’t even seen any sights yet and I think Jess was ready to camp out for a few weeks.
As we walked along Constitution Avenue we passed many buildings that we would have loved to explore but unfortunately we were working with limited time. We passed the Smithsonian and The National Gallery of Art and as we kept walking discovered that in between these two buildings is a Sculpture Garden. Jess noticed a Joan Miro sculpture next to an ice skating rink and then quickly identified more sculptures a bit further on that she was keen to see. We didn’t have a lot of time to detour from our planned walking route but as Jess was already missing out on exploring the art gallery we made time for a quick walk through the sculpture park. Jess pointed out Claes Oldenburg’s typewriter, Louise Bourgeois Spider sculpture and Barry Flanagan’s Thinker on a Rock. She was disappointed not to be able to spend more time looking at the artworks but if we were going to make it to all of the sights within 4 hours we had to keep moving! One final distraction before I finally managed to get her out of the park was this little squirrel (see photo below) he was happily helping himself to some food from the rubbish bin, picking and choosing only fresh looking food and discarding anything not up to his standards. He let Jess walk right up to him and snap some photos, not really concerned that she was so close. After Jess got her animal fix for the day we continued our walk to the monument.
When we first turned the corner heading towards the monument we both thought that it didn’t seem very big. However the closer we got the more we realised the huge scale. Built to commemorate George Washington and completed in 1888, the monument is made of marble, granite, and bluestone. The Monument is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 169m tall. The Europeans like their obelisk’s and so do the Americans, maybe Perth should get onto building one of these structures, we are lagging behind in the obelisk monuments!
Walking towards the monument, I nearly went head over biscuit by slipping on the iced pavement – Jess thought it was quite funny to watch though was a bit concerned I might have an injury and she was carrying me back to the train station. Interestingly (and this was certainly due to our winter visit) there was almost nobody around and lots of empty space surrounding the monument, in the form of a big grassed areas. The open park space had running pathways around the perimeter that seemed well utilised (yep people jogging in the freezing cold) but the grassed areas were completely empty. Coming in Spring/Summer this place would have a totally different feel.
Reaching the base of the Washington Monument (incase you hadn’t realised you were in America) there are flags arranged in a circle surrounding the monument. The flags help to give you a real sense of the monuments size as they look tiny in comparison to the obelisk. As we walked around the monument taking photos we both noticed the view from Monument to Abe isn’t as impressive as we had imagined it would be. Its quite a long distance between the two and because the space around the monument is so empty in winter the view is a bit barren.
All we could think of as we were walked along the Reflecting Pool were quotes from the movie Forrest Gump. We began repeating Forrest! and Jenny! on a loop. It would have been an awesome opportunity to reenact the scene from the movie if the reflecting pool hadn’t been frozen over. Some people were actually walking across the pool on-top of the sheets of ice that had formed, we weren’t quite game enough knowing our luck it would break and we would be frozen for the rest of the Washington trip! A small part of me was secretly wishing the ice would break though as tourists were standing on top of it posing for photos. I had the camera ready but they all came out of it unscathed.
The Reflecting Pool was built in 1923 and is approximately 618m long and 51m wide. The size of the pool and how it directs your eye between the two monuments is quite amazing. It was a relaxing walk with hardly any people around and the sun shining which warmed the freezing temperatures slightly. And it has to be said ‘the pool really does reflect’ its surroundings. Even leaning slightly over the side (in certain areas that weren’t completely iced over) you could see your reflection and the two monuments in the background.
It all makes sense now! Once you reach the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and you look back towards the Washington Monument the view is amazing. Don’t believe me? Google Reflecting Pool Washington and you will see most of the photos are taken looking back at the Washington Monument and not from the monument towards the Lincoln Memorial. The view from this vantage point is amazing and for once on the trip I actually think our photos capture just how stunning it is (see photos in the gallery below)
The Lincoln Memorial is a national monument built to honor the 16th President of the United States and you can’t help but be impressed once you walk up the stairs and into the area that houses the statue of Lincoln. Abe definitely has the best view in Washington! The statue itself is a masterpiece with its large scale and detail. I was surprised to realise that neither Jess or I knew who had created the artwork…. For those playing at home the architect of the memorial building was Henry Bacon (not related to Kevin) and sculptor was Daniel Chester French.
This was another moment (and we had quite a few on this trip) when you just stand back and take it all in before even getting the camera out. I think this easily would be one of the most iconic landmarks in all of the US. We could only imagine how crowded this area would be during peak season, and were happy to be experiencing it in the middle of Winter when we were able to take our time and really get a sense for the memorial.
While we were at the memorial there was a guy wearing a suit, which I initially thought ‘he must be freezing and a bit crazy!’ He was standing towards the top of the steps waiting and we soon realised that he was going to propose. Jess remarked “why would you propose at the Lincoln Memorial?” using my sharp detective skills I could see that the guy had the stock standard military hair cut and concluded that it was likely that he was in the army. Jess was happy with this explanation as it made more sense to her now. I am sure the guy was relieved to know that he now had Jess’s approval to proceed with his proposal.
After a few photos of Abe and some selfies with him it was time to move on, however we decided to wait for a bit to see if we could catch the proposal. After about 15 minutes at the top of the steps we decided we better takeoff given we only had a couple hours left and we still had to swing by the White House. That bride to be is not punctual!
As we were about halfway back down the Reflection Pool we heard a big cheer! We had missed the proposal by about 5 minutes. I have tried to find an article/video/photo of the proposal on the net but so far haven’t had much luck, guess it is common place in Washington to propose in public in front of Abe so nobody feels the need to document it on social media.
Korean War Veterans Memorial
We stumbled across Korean War Veterans Memorial while on our way to the White House. We walked on the opposite side of the Reflecting Pool on our way back which was lucky as we would have completely missed this display. The memorial commemorates those who served in the Korean War and is yet another great sculptural piece. It effectively captures the soldiers emotions through the facial expressions of each character.
Washington just has so much to see we definitely needed more than 4 hours to take everything in! There were more sculptures and memorial sites further along but we just didn’t have the time to see them all.
On our way back to the train station, we of course, had to visit the grounds of the White House. While walking to the White House I tweeted Obama to let him know we were coming, he must have been in a meeting as he didn’t tweet back so we settled for the view from the gates instead.
Initially I thought the White House was much closer to the street – well that’s what the movies make it seem like, but I soon realised we were looking at the backyard and not the front of the White House (if Obama had gotten back to me sooner we wouldn’t have been in this mess.) We still peered through the gates to take a few photos, not having enough time to go all the way around the block for a front view. Can’t say I was overly impressed with the White House, though I am sure it would be completely different if we toured the inside. Maybe next time we are in DC we will venture inside.
We grabbed a very quick bite to eat at a diner that was on our route back to the train station.
After our burger lunch was scoffed down the race was on to make sure we got back to the train station on time. We have never powered walked so fast (Jess still full of a cold was struggling to breathe towards the end) and as it turns out we made it to our train exactly 2 minutes before the doors closed and we departed. We have made a habit of doing this throughout our trip! Nothing like a bit of stress and an adrenaline rush to fire you up!
Well we had managed to jam a lot into 4 hours and power walked half of Washington, it was great to relax in first class on the train. The extra leg room was appreciated during our nap time, we had certainly earned it.
Catching Up with Goldie
Months before we were due to arrive in New York I had been in contact with Goldie to keep him up to date with our plans and to get his recommendations. I think between Goldie and AJ we had an exceptionally long list of New York things to see and do! (More than we were ever going to be able to get through in 7 days)
We had arrived back in New York around 6:00pm and had 2.5 hours until our Comedy Cellar show at 8:30pm. Initially we had planned to have our first catch up with Goldie the following night but considering that we were heading downtown towards Goldie it made sense to catch up for a quick bite… and 2 or 3 maybe 4 drinks in a very short space of time.
We met up at a bar but the place was packed due to the NFL finals game being shown on their screens so Goldie directed us to a local burger joint instead. This was definitely a quieter place to catch up and the first question that came from all of our mouths almost as soon as we sat down was … how long has it been? Turns out it has been almost 5 years since Goldie wore the green and gold at UWA, but it was if nothing had changed.
We caught Goldie up on our holiday adventures, life back home, plans for the rest of the New York trip and made plans for what we were all going to get up to Sunday and Monday night when we caught up again.
After a few beers (wines for Jess) we were liquored up and ready for some laughs at the comedy cellar, a short walk from where we had eaten.
Highly recommended by New York honorary local AJ we booked tickets to the Comedy Cellar well in advance. The night didn’t disappoint.
We arrived at Comedy Cellar and were escorted to our seats towards the lefthand side of the stage and were informed that there is to be no talking during the acts and that all cell phones must be turned off. If you are caught using your cell phone you will be asked to leave. I thought that this was quite weird for a comedy gig to not allow cell phones, but given how intimate the venue is, someone being on their phone or talking loud could easily distract the comedians. Once seated our waitress came over to take our drink orders and the show started straight away (we had cut it fine for time yet again!) There were 5 acts plus the host who came on in between sets to keep the crowd warmed up.
All of the comedians had different styles and materials which made for an entertaining night. Also it is important to note when you book you have no idea which comedians will be performing, its a bit of a lucky dip situation, which makes it even more interesting as you could have a young up and coming comedian or a seasoned veteran coming out to trial some new material.
There were definitely a lot of laughs from all the comedians and many jokes that probably can’t be repeated in writing but one thing they all had in common was they engaged the audience. Judah Friedlander (from 30 Rock) was one of the stand out comedians for us and during his set he asked the question to the crowd “who is from faraway”, initially someone yelled out Denmark in which he replied no one cares about Denmark! Given I was a few more beers down at this stage I then yelled out “Australia!”. Everyone turned to look at where the call came from, I guess the Aussie accent stands out when you are in the middle of New York. Judah seemed quite happy that there was someone from Australia, he went on to talk about how Australia is the lucky America as we hadn’t stuffed up everything… (yet). He then asked where exactly in Australia we were from, Jess and I both replied “Perth”. He then went on to take the piss out of us and all Aussies saying why can’t Aussies pronounce their own cities properly making fun of the way we said Perth (not pronouncing the R) and then went on to mention Melbourne and how we all stuff that up aswell.
After the set Judah came up to quickly high five each of us before walking out of the venue, which was also a nice touch. We would definitely recommend to anyone going to New York to make sure you book a session at the Comedy Cellar, was a great night and an experience you wont forget. Thanks again for the heads up AJ…turns out NY local Goldie still hasn’t taken his Mrs despite being told many times that she wants to go. Get onto it Goldie its a fun night!
New York Day Five
Feeling a little rough from night before (some more than others – Jess) we had a late start, quite possibly the only time on holiday that we stayed in our hotel room until after 10am. On today’s list though was Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Centre and hitting the town with Goldie so still plenty to see and do!
Top of the Rock
They say it’s the best view in NY, better than from the Empire State Building, we thought how is that possible as the Empire State Building is the tallest building? But they weren’t wrong, while the Empire State Building is taller (Top of the Rock only 260m) it seems to take something away from the view because you are so high up. Top of the Rock gives you more of a sense of New York’s sky scrappers. Not to mention you are actually able to see the Empire State Building as part of the Manhattan skyline. The thick walls of glass surrounding the viewing platform was quite welcome to block the winds. We were lucky that we had managed to pick a fairly clear New York day and could see for miles. It is hard to describe the panoramic views from Top of the Rock – it is simply amazing especially coming from Perth where we have a handful of ‘sky scrappers’. At both Top of the Rock and Empire you realise how big and spread out New York really is. No wonder they call it the concrete jungle.
We had heard that the view on a clear night is spectacular as well, next time in New York, will have to head up at sunset and stay to see the city lights at night time.
Another one of New York’s iconic areas, the Rockefeller Centre. This area was completed in 1939 and at the time was one of the the largest private building project ever undertaken. After having walked around the perimeter and watching people skate on the ice rink in the centre, I saw the Jimmy Fallon sign on the side of the NBC building. I can’t believe I didn’t try to book Jimmy Fallon tickets! I was kicking myself. Though no doubt it would have been near on impossible to get tickets, still would have loved to see his show live in NY.
The Rockefeller Centre is a hub of activity with the NBC studios, Radio City Music Hall, ice skating rink, high end shopping and the Lego store which we had to go in and check out the displays. There were so many things I could have bought in there, I was eying off the Empire State Building lego set, I thought that would have looked good on my office desk but decided against it, thinking of the little suitcase room I had left.
This is another place where we needed more time to really take everything in and to also browse through all the shops. Turns out 7 days in New York is no where near enough!
While we were in the Lego store Jess spotted a guy carrying a Magnolia Bakery bag my response was ‘so what does that mean?’ Supposedly they make great cheesecakes. Magnolia Bakery first opened in NY in 1996 and makes classic American baked goods, Jess can’t remember why she knew about this place but insisted we should try it, thinking she probably saw it in a movie or on a TV show. Once she mentioned Cheesecake I was sold and we made our way to the store that was about 200 meters down the road.
Walking in to Magnolia Baker brought back flashbacks of being in the Laudree store in Paris… what to choose? After 5 minutes of debating we decided on 1 x red velvet cheesecake and 1 x original vanilla. The hardest part though was waiting until we were back at our hotel to try them.
The verdict WOW, WOW, WOW! Why didn’t we by all the cheesecakes! I don’t think we will be able to go back to normal Australian cheese cakes after this. The original vanilla was good however the red velvet cheesecake could be the best thing created ever. Ever.
NY Nightlife Part One
It’s time to hit the town. Jess was still feeling a little rough from last night and decided she would stick to diet coke for the night but I was primed for a beer or two! We caught the subway to meet up with Goldie and while on the train we notice there were quite a few people who weren’t wearing any pants. Interesting. Not sure what is happening. But when we got to our meeting point (which happens to also be the meeting point of the people with no pants) Goldie explains that this is an annual event called the ‘No Pants Subway Ride.’ The idea behind No Pants event is simple: Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. Goldie claims he happened to picked this meeting point by chance, entirely coincidental- I call bull…
Moving away from the bare legs in Foley Square, we head to Radegast Beer Hall in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Ironically I had to go to Brooklyn to visit my first beer hall for the trip, despite having just come from Germany. The Berlin Beer tour took us to local small boutique spots but Berlin aren’t apparently known for the larger, traditional Beer Halls so I was excited to finally be in a beer hall.
The beers flowed and it was great to continue conversations from the night before, getting up to speed about what has happened in everyone’s lives over the last 5 years! As the night wore on we decided to head back to Goldie’s house for a night cap and to catch the end of the Golden Globes (we are so American now!) I can’t remember who won a globe (admittedly Goldie and I weren’t that interested) instead we continued drinking beers and talking while the girls strained to hear the TV.
Once the Globes had finished we ordered an Uber back to the hotel. If you are in NY – I’d recommend Uber as a way to get around later at night (when the traffic clears a little & the subway seems just a little too daunting) It’s so easy, quick and fairly cheap.
New York Day Six
The Guggenheim, is an art museum located in the Upper East Side neighbourhood of Manhattan. To get there from our subway stop Jess and I had to walk through Central Park; however, this was a good thing as we had wanted to explore more of the park area, having barely seen quarter of the park earlier in the week. Central Park was quiet due to it being a cold winters day and the middle of the work week. It was peaceful and scenic covered in white snow. As nice as Central park is in winter, it would be amazing to see this place in spring or summer.
We were impressed with the architecture of the Guggenheim museum from the outside (a white spiral building) and were keen to get inside to warm up and take a look. The Guggenheim holds a collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year. However we were unfortunate to be visiting in early January when renovations were underway, this meant that many of the displays were not accessible and we were not able to walk in the spiral, instead only visiting the gallery rooms off to the side of the spiral. We were advised that the spiral would be closed at the admissions desk; though they still charged us full admission price which upon reflection seems more than a bit unfair as we certainly weren’t getting the full experience. Had we known earlier that renovations were occurring we probably would have left this gallery off the ‘to do’ list and used the time to see other New York sights.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is the largest art gallery in the United States and Jess and I really didn’t leave ourselves enough time to fully appreciate this one. I must admit we had severely under estimated the size of this gallery! We knew it would be big but we didn’t anticipate that it could rival the Louvre in size and floor space. The MET’s permanent collection contains more than two million works, that are divided into seventeen departments. Navigating this place is not easy, even with the map we were given at the reception desk. It is a maze of rooms that all seem to link to a new hallway that winds into a secret room… and now where the hell am I? how long have I been here? Maybe I’ll just stay here because we have run out of bread crumbs to leave a trail.
The MET is located on the eastern edge of Central Park on what is known as Manhattan’s Museum Mile. Literally a couple hundred meters down the road from the Guggenheim. Despite some initial frustration locating some of the displays Jess was eager to see, we managed to cover a lot of ground. I enjoyed the Ancient Egyptian wing that contained relics, mummy sarcophaguses, tombs and hieroglyphics. Jess was keen to see some of the famous American artists such as Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe. Hopper’s oil paintings didn’t disappoint, with Jess even purchasing a book of Hopper’s artworks at the gift shop. Jess was also interested in seeing the Impressionist works but considering we had seen a lot of these style of paintings in Paris and had to keep moving she decided to concede and leave the gallery.
McGees (The Pub that inspired McLarens in How I Met Your Mother)
Time for lunch. We weren’t too hungry at this point in time but we were desperate to sit down! Jess and I had done a lot of walking in both galleries and the trek through central park had been a decent effort so needed to find somewhere to rest and recharge. McGee’s pub had been on our to do list since we began planning NY. It was finding time to squeeze it in that was proving hard; however, this was the perfect opportunity as it wasn’t too far from the MET via taxi.
McGee’s is an Irish neighbourhood pub located in Hell’s Kitchen Midtown. For those of you who are unaware, McGee’s was the inspiration for McLaren’s Pub on the hit TV series How I Met Your Mother. Both Jess and I are fans of the show and were keen to see if the pub resembled McLaren’s. If you are expecting it to be an exact replica you may be a little disappointed; however, you can definitely see the elements and essence of the bar on the show. The bar has the same style and lots of signed HIMYM memorabilia hanging on the walls. We were even interested to learn that many of the season wrap parties for the show had been held at this pub, photographic proof of this hung on the walls, the owner and bar staff with the HIMYM cast.
We had a share plate of nachos (and lucky we did because the serving was huge) and a few drinks. The beer was cold and food was good pub fare in a nice relaxed atmosphere.
Original Soup Man (Inspired the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld)
This street must be the spot to see restaurants from TV. The Original Soup Man is located directly across the road from McGees. For those who don’t know the soup Nazi is referenced in Seinfeld episodes. So we were able to cross two of our “seen it on TV” sites off our list within 100 metres of each other. Originally the plan was to have a small meal at McGees and then grab a soup from the Soup Man, however, the nachos were so massive and we were both too full to manage a soup. It smelled great though!
NY Nightlife Part Two
It was our last night in New York as we fly out tomorrow night so we caught up with Golide one last time. We headed to dinner at Fiat Cafe, which was a nice Italian restaurant, it had been nearly nearly 2 weeks since we had been in Italy so we were actually looking forward to an Italian feed. The food was great and so was the service, can definitely see why this is a favourite for Goldie. As we finished up our meals the conversation turned most importantly to what were we going to get up to on out last night in NY? Goldie was interested to know what we wanted to do so he could suggest some options. We explained that we wanted to see some places outside of the normal, touristy bars. We were keen to go to a hidden or more unique New York bar.
Goldie suggested our first stop be the Back Room. This is a speakeasy ‘prohibition’ style bar. To enter we had to first provide the password for the day, which isn’t really that hidden or secret as they post it on their Facebook page. So it was pretty easy to track down. Once we had given them the password we were then lead down what looked like an abandon alley-way (as seen above) until we reached a large thick metal door. Once we open the door we were welcomed with people swing dancing and a band playing old 1920’s style music. Being big fans of Boardwalk Empire Jess and I were quite impressed with the place. We made our way through the crowd to the bar where we ordered a round of drinks, the beer was served in coffee mugs and Jess’s champagne was served in a tea cup. A novelty but its different.
After a few drinks we were about to move on to the next place when the music stopped and an introduction was made about a new burlesque dancer who was making her debut in the club tonight. As the lady began performing she slowly moved down the stairway and towards the main bar area, which just happened to be the area Goldie and I were standing in. We ended up being front and centre getting the full effects of the show. Jess had suspicions that this wasn’t as coincidental as we both claimed. Goldie was wondering whether we had to get some dollar bills out? But we decided she was doing it for the love of the dance and didn’t require payment.
Next stop was Beauty Essex, which from the outside looks like a dodgy little pawn shop. As you walk into the store a big security guard stands silently at the back against another door. So I figure it either it leads to a bar or something else very dodgy is happening backstage and Goldie has led us astray. Walking through the door you find yourself in a massive bar/restaurant compared to the shop front you just emerged from. The bar area has that real New York feel – exposed brick, dark wood and leather furniture. As this place had a relaxing vibe we ended up staying for quite a few drinks (beers and cocktails for Goldie and I and wine and champagne for the girls.)
As it was nearing the end of our holiday and it was a Monday night and we had to respect that not everyone didn’t have to be at work tomorrow morning.. we called it a night relatively early 1130pm. It was great to be able to catch up with Goldie in New York and have him show us around areas of his city. We told Goldie its his turn to travel for a visit next. Hopefully we will get him back over to Perth before another 5 years lapses. So possibly our next meeting will be in Australia, if not, i guess we will just have to head back to New York.
New York Day Seven
Definitely frustrating that we weren’t in New York for baseball season, but none the less I was as excited to go to Yankee Stadium and step foot in an American baseball stadium. The tour started in the Yankee Stadium Museum where our guide began to cover the history of the Yankees and mention the players featured behind the glass. At the start of his talk the tour guide mentioned to the group ‘you don’t have to listen to me if you prefer you can walk around the museum at your own pace and take photos’, which is exactly what I did. I received a weird look from the whole group and the tour guide, with Jess mentioning to the whole group ‘he knows all this stuff.’ They gave her a bit of a strange look, it must have been weird coming from an Aussie.
So this what a kid in a candy store must feel like, I definitely must have been annoying Jess asking for hundreds of photos and running around from display to display trying to take it all in (although I imagine its a bit like me watching her at an art gallery as she rattles off facts and figures about her favourite artists.) The funny thing is I am not a Yankee fan, however I do respect all that they have achieved and they have had some phenomenal players who are a part of their amazing history. You would be hard pressed to find any team in any sport with as rich a history as the Yankees. Plus this is the closest I have been to a US baseball stadium ever. Imagine what I would be like at an actual game or in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The highlights of the museum was definitely getting a photo with Ruth and Gehrig’s jerseys, you can’t get much better than that! There was also a wall of hundreds of individual baseballs on display. Each ball has been signed by a Yankee player, regardless of if they played one game, one seasons or multiple seasons. I managed to find quite a few of the names i was keen to see and take photos of them, however, I wasn’t able to find Ruth’s as the guide was rushing us onto the next part of the tour.
After the museum we moved on to the Monument Park out in centrefield behind the homerun fence where they have had plaques created for all the Yankee greats (I wonder how long until they make one for Jeter, Mo, Pettite?) It was also impressive to see the view from CF to homeplate and take in Yankee stadium from this angle. It was freezing cold this morning and as I excitedly ran around to each monument, I wondered if Jess was going to freeze solid standing in one place.
It was kind of disappointing that there had recently been a College Football game at Yankee stadium so the infield and outfield had football markings over them, taking away from the experience a little bit as the field wasn’t 100%. Still a great view though, its easy to imagine the stands packed during baseball season.
After taking some photos and videos at Monument Park it was on to the Yankees dugout. I’m not going to lie I could see myself in a Yankees dugout! It was an amazing experience to sit in the dugout, stand on the steps and then walk out (even if only a little way ) onto the field (until I was told by our guide to get off the field) hey you gotta try…
Despite it being -10 degrees at Yankee Stadium it was an incredible experience and it has made me want to come back and experience a game here. Even Jess was impressed with the tour and was fascinated to learn some of the history of baseball and the Yankees in particular. She realised she must have been learning from me over the past 9 years because she knew some of the names of players and why they were well known even before the tour guide explained.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
The Museum of Modern Art is located in Midtown Manhattan. It has been important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. MOMA recently loaned artworks from it’s collection to the West Australian Art Gallery so some of the art we were viewing for the second time; however, there were still many pieces we hadn’t encountered before.
We spent approximately 2 hours walking through the multi-levelled building. We viewed contemporary installation pieces, video displays and light installations but the 20th century Modernists on the upper floors was definitely the area Jess wanted to spend the most time. Seeing famous works from some of her favourite artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Giorgio De Chirico and Henri Matisse. A highlight was definitely the Pop Art works by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein’s comic book style was interesting and Jess explained his use of benday dots to me. We had only seen 1 or 2 of these works when the exhibition visited Perth, there were many more Pop art pieces that weren’t loaned so it was mostly new walking through this section of the display.
As we were there quite late in the day the outdoor sculpture garden was closed but Jess was happy she could still see Picasso’s goat from the window. After taking a photo of the goat and collecting our coats we made our way out of the gallery to do some shopping.
Shopping, Shopping and more Shopping
We had definitely left our run for shopping a little late and weren’t able to make a whole day of it like we had originally thought we would. We had picked up bits and pieces throughout our trip but with limited room in our luggage we had always planned to do most of our shopping at the end of the trip, in New York. On the list of shops to visit Macy’s, Time’s Square’s (M&M’s and Disney stores), Under Armour, H&M, Zara, Lids and more that i have probably forgotten.
First we walked to Time’s Square to check out the Disney store which Jess really wanted to see. Jess loved the store and wanted to buy everything and anything Frozen related, originally Jess had picked out an Olaf (as seen above) however given luggage space it probably would have been a bit too big to get home, so she instead opted for a smaller plush Olaf. While we were in the Disney store at least 5 people asked how much the giant Sven reindeer (pictured above) cost. The staff had to continually explain he wasn’t for sale so everyone just resorted to having photos with him instead. After buying a few baby presents for Erin at the Disney store we headed off to Macy’s. Macy’s was a short subway ride away but I don’t think we knew what we had gotten ourselves into. This place is massive! 9 floors with everything and anything you could think of. Our first stop in Macy’s was to find the luggage department to buy ourselves another bag to take back with us and to fit all the shopping we are about to accumulate.
We then spent the next few hours going up and down Macy’s browsing each level. I managed to buy a Calvin Klein jacket and a few sweaters, so bring on Winter in Perth as I am set. The store was incredibly hot, the central heating had nearly pushed Jess over the edge so we had to have a shopping break at the stores juice bar (where Jess proceeded to strip off layers and layers of clothing – its a completely different extreme in weather to the conditions outdoors in New York!)
After leaving Macy’s the rest of the day was also spent shopping visiting H&M, Zara, Under Armour, M&M’s and Hershey’s. Once we got back to our hotel room and began our final pack I think we were well and truly exhausted and very lucky we didn’t buy anything else as all bags were packed to the brim. I was so glad our baggage allowance was two bags per person.
NY Final Thoughts
What a way to finish our trip! Even though I didn’t see Jay-Z or Beyonce, New York for me was a definite stand-out of our 4 and a 1/2 week trip. Looking back at our time in New York it is hard to imagine how we fit so much in the 7 day period (Broadway, Statue of Liberty, Empire, Top of the Rock, Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, MOMA, The Met, Washington, Comedy Cellar, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge, Guggenheim, Rockefeller Centre, Ground Zero and a whole lot of shopping and catching up with Goldie.) No wonder we are both exhausted and ready to get home to our own beds (and a washing machine! oh how we miss being able to wash clothing in a machine!)
My only advice for people visiting New York would be, spend longer than 7 days if you are able to. There is so much to take in and so much we still didn’t manage to see and do.
This whole Euro/NY trip has been amazing, tiring, challenging, hectic, fun and exciting all at once. We have loved every minute of it and will forever have these memories and experiences. Travel is worth every dollar you spend on it! I think Jess and I can both safely say we have come back more knowledgeable about the world, history and culture than when we left. I think we both have a greater appreciation for other cities but also a deeper appreciation for our own city as well.
Until next time New York… and we will be back! Next stop Perth!