Just in case you haven’t heard, I went to America for a holiday a little while ago. You might have forgotten. It’s ok, I forgive you. To remind you of your insane jealousy for my special trip, I thought I’d write some little posts for you, city by city about my trip around America. My first stop: NEW YORK CITY!
I must say, to all you New York lovers, it was a let down. See, I had never been overseas before, and New York City as my first stop was probably not the best idea. It was crowded, dirty and noisy. The food was also the worst I experienced in the USA.
We flew directly to Los Angeles from Brisbane and had a lot of trouble sleeping on the plane. You know that dozing type of sleep that you have where you aren’t really sleeping? Yes, I had that, even though I took 3/4 of a sleeping tablet. I must say, despite my absolute fear of flying, the flight over was amazingly smooth. Almost zero turbulence. Plus the TV screens in the economy seats were amazing and I watched lots of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and some movies. We left Brisbane at 10:30am, and arrived in LA at about 6:00am (yes, we’d traveled back in time).
We cleared customs very quickly and had a three hour wait until our flight to NYC. Let me tell you, Terminal 4 in LAX is not the nicest place to first experience all that America has to offer. The shops were terrible and security was terrifying. They make you take your shoes off and scan your passport and boarding pass with the scrutiny of an FBI agent! I went into a newsagent once through security and thought I might pick up a magazine or two. Ummm, more like 5. Magazines, like everything else in America are unbelievably cheap. As in, Marie Claire? $4.00. All the tabloids? $3.00. I went berserk, slightly forgetting the fact that the Americans ADD tax to everything.
We got on our flight to NYC and the sheer fatigue set in. We had to keep waking each other up because we were nodding off, and wanted to get our body clocks onto NYC time. We were arriving at 6:00pm, and we had to stay awake to fall asleep at bedtime to minimise jetlag.
Finally, we arrived in NYC at JFK airport. It was so surreal. The walk to baggage claim was so long, it went for kilometres. It was the biggest airport I’ve ever seen. We had decided to save money and catch public transport into Manhattan instead of shelling out $50.00 for a cab. That involved catching an airport train/shuttle thing to the nearest subway station to catch the E line into Manhattan. We got to the E line, got our tickets, annnnd then I got stuck trying to get through the turnstiles. It was so embarrassing and I was jetlagged and shell shocked, so the natural solution was to scream at Mr W “OMGGGG I’M STUCK GET ME OUT GET ME OUTTTT”. Yeah. That went well.
We got confused on the subway ride about our stop even though I knew we were supposed to get off at the Port Authority. A friendly man pointed out to us that stop 42 (on the “next stop” display screens) was the Port Authority and we should get off there. So we did. It probably wasn’t the best way to be seeing NYC for the first time. Exiting the Port Authority we were greeted with travellers and people hanging out at the Irish pub there. Then we headed in the wrong direction down West 41st street. It was cold and I was a bit scared of all the people so I yelled at Mr W. Good times.
We then started walking in the right direction towards our hotel, which was the Metro Apartment Hotel. This is in mid-town Manhattan, aka the touristy area. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction going on in the Lincoln Tunnel and thereby near our hotel, so it was a bit of a navigational challenge. It isn’t a very nice area, and there are lots of homeless people, which is confronting. We arrived at the hotel and couldn’t enter the lobby, and instead had to go in through a side entrance which was not very nice. Originally, we were supposed to be sharing a one bedroom apartment with Mr W’s brother, who had met us in NYC, but we were put in separate rooms. Our rooms were on the 5th floor and ours was directly facing a construction site across the street. Mr W’s brother’s backed onto an overpass from the Port Authority. It was a little noisy as construction doesn’t stop at 5.00pm in NYC. However, it was clean, and very spacious and we had a kitchenette which we thought we might use, but we didn’t. If I could go back, I probably would have taken the deal the travel agent offered us for $200.00 more – a Hilton hotel in SoHo.
We went straight to Times Square, which is where I had an immediate freak out. THE PEOPLE. SO MANY PEOPLE! I couldn’t believe it and not in a good way. Mr W calmed me down and we went and had something to eat. We were so tired by this stage, we went back to our hotel and straight to bed.
Statue of Liberty
On our first day in NYC, we tried to go to the Statue of Liberty. We hadn’t thought of the fact that every major tourist attraction in NYC has airport style security. So the wait to get on the ferry that takes you to the Statue (which was also closed for renovations, so you could only walk around the island) was TWO HOURS. We gave up and headed over to the Staten Island Ferry, which is free and passes right by the statute. Unless you get to the ferry that takes you to the Statue early (like 8.00am), I would strongly recommend just catching the Staten Island Ferry and going past the Statue and taking photos from there.
World Trade Centre Memorial
The World Trade Centre Memorial was crazy with security, and also, it was a long walk to get in. You’re supposed to pre-book your tickets online and you’re given an entry time, but we just went to the visitors centre and they gave us an entry time upon making a donation. It was quite an emotional place. The museum is still being constructed at the memorial site, but it should be finished by September 2012.
Another thing recommended to us was to catch the subway to Brooklyn and then walk over the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. It was worth it. Initially when coming out of the subway, we were a little confused, but a really lovely couple asked us if we needed help, then asked us where we were from “Australia“, we said, “OH WOW AUS-TRAAAA-YLA” was the response. Anyway, this was so worth it. Even though my feet were horrendously sore.
We also went to see a Broadway show. Broadway theatres are speckled all around Times Square. Hence why it is the theatre district. We went to one called Memphis, which won a Tony award. It was FREAKING AMAZING. We were too tired to line up for half price tickets, so we just paid full price ($100.00 a ticket), but it was worth every cent. It was so good, I was exhausted, but I was standing up and clapping through it. Amazing.
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is the observatory above the Rockefeller Centre. Mr W and I had just had a huge fight, as I had gone off to go shopping on 5th Avenue and he was supposed to be doing an NBC tour. He rang me while I was in the Gap and said the tour had been cancelled. I was starting to feel sick by this stage (American food is awful, just saying), and got grumpy at him. Then I ran to the bathroom and made good friends with the toilets in the Gap. Good times. We calmed down and made it to Rockefeller Centre, where we were given an entry time. We then went and had Ben & Jerry’s while we waited. Up we went soon after. It was amazing. We went late afternoon and it was beautiful. I loved it.
Empire State Building
This was one of my worst NYC experiences. We went at night and the line was huge. We had a New York Pass (pre-paid, discounted card for NYC tourist passes) and that didn’t give us express entry like it did in most other places. We had to wait TWO HOURS to get to the top. In that two hours, there was a security breach and I shit myself, thinking that a plane was coming for the building. Turns out, some idiot had accidentally pressed the emergency button in the lifts. The top of the Empire State Building was absolutely FREEZING. I was outside for about 2 minutes. We also went up to the 102nd floor, which was all covered in and was probably worth the extra $15.00. However, if I had to choose between the two, I would go to the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building.
SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown
One afternoon, we went to SoHo, mainly so I could go to the Kardashian shop, Dash. I went there, and Mr W and his brother went off elsewhere. SoHo is GREAT. I only went down one street really, and wish I had more time there. I then met up with them and we walked through Mott Street in Chinatown. It was absolutely disgusting and I wish I could undo my memory of it. They had raw seafood out on the street for sale. It stank so badly, ewwww it was disgusting. We quickly took off to Little Italy. It was AMAZING. We had my first decent meal since leaving Australia at a little Italian restaurant (There are many to choose from).
Sadly, we only made it to the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art. I so badly wish we had made it to the Met, which Mr W’s brother ended up going to after we left – apparently, absolutely amazing. The Guggenheim was ok, but there was lots of modern art, which was basically coloured iron which was in all different shapes. Mr W’s brother got stuck in a stairwell as the three of us tried to race each other out, and ended up on the roof. That was pretty hilarious. We lasted about 10 minutes at the Museum of Modern Art – the three of us hated it and thought it deathly boring.
Amazing. I loved it. Didn’t make it to the zoo, because we didn’t have time, but it was beautiful.
New York Public Library
I loved it. It is beautiful and the gift store has some great stuff. I just walked around staring at all the pretty books. I also made friends with Patience and Fortitude, the lions that guard the front of it.
Made an appearance in Bryant Park which I happened to see on Twitter when eating breakfast one morning. Plans were changed and I waited there for her for an hour. She was there for about 5 minutes and the press were like lions. Still, I SAW A KARDASHIAN!
One thing we didn’t do in NYC was plan places to eat, other than Blue Smoke (an American ribs restaurant), which Mr W really wanted to go to. This was a huge mistake. We had a lot of trouble finding food to eat when we were hungry (I refused to eat street cart food, the diner food made me sick enough), especially when we were in the financial district (where the boats are to the Statue of Liberty and where the WTC site is). We thought we would find great food on every corner in NYC and this was not the case. The coffee was terrible. It was terrible most places in America, but NYC was particularly bad. Starbucks was the only drinkable coffee I could find. We had planned food for most other cities, which was good. We should have planned NYC food better.
We caught the subway everywhere. Looking at the maps of Manhattan, we thought that everything would be so close in terms of walking distance but it wasn’t. With traffic, pedestrian traffic and you know, all those buildings, it was quicker to catch the subway. We mastered it pretty quickly and we were fine.
I have to say, New York was my least favourite stop in America. The food was awful and the city was crowded and dirty. Many of my expectations were too high because New York is a city shoved down our throat in popular culture, so I expected it to be completely magic. However, cities that I didn’t know much about (like Chicago and New Orleans) were wonderful, because I had no expectations. I will definitely go back there though, there is a lot we didn’t get to, and I want to give it a second chance.
What about you? Have you been to NYC? Did you like it or were your expectations too high? Is it the best city in the world?
Whippersnapper has written 37 posts.