Friday, October 5, 2012

Taking a bite out of the big apple

Just a couple of taxis...
New York, New York. The big apple. Our first stop in the US was everything we expected it to be. The home of Broadway turned it all on. It was noisy 24/7: sirens and traffic and people. It was bright: the lights on Broadway were so bright they turned night into day. It smelled: on most corners there was a food van, selling everything from hot dogs, giant pretzels and donuts to full-on hot meals like kebabs, lamb and rice, and hamburgers. Other smells filtered through but were more than outweighed by the constant smell of food, and taxis swarmed the road like locusts.
The lights on Broadway

Our room was smack in the middle (location again important), only about three blocks from Broadway and walking distance to the Empire State Building, Central Park and major museums etc. It was actually really cheap and pretty good since we were lucky enough to get upgraded to a 2 star when our 1.5 star closed down before we got there. Benefit of internet booking and prepay: Expedia found us a new better place and gave us some money back, kudos. Sleeping was difficult what with the lights and noise all night, but the rest made up for it.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was our first stop. We found out that the dodgy looking ticket sellers in the street were legitimate and for the extra couple of dollars gave you fast track through the line (which snaked around the room menacingly) with personal escort to security and from there fast track to the elevator. For an extra $10 we also got a ticket for a two hour ferry trip around half the island and back, but more on that later. The Empire may not be the tallest any more but the art deco architecture is cool and the location is fairly central giving you 360 degree views around all Manhattan to see just how big a city it is.

We decided that while in Broadway we had to see a play, it's just the done thing and if possible one of each, musical and non musical. Now, in New York if you are a cheapskate you can get discount tickets if you are willing to risk tickets available on the day and willing to take any seat you get. In the middle of Broadway from 3pm they have ticket sales for everything that has seats available, for up to 50% discount. The lines look long but they go down fast as they have lots of sellers. We got tickets to a new play starring Paul Rudd called 'Grace', a black comedy about an evangelical priest trying to start an evangelical themed hotel chain. With top notch acting, it was more serious than funny but kept up a cracking pace start to finish. It had really cool time going backwards sequences that were amazingly done. Who'd have thought anyone that acted in 'The 40 Year Old Virgin' could actually act :-)

Central Park
The little lady
The next day we visited Central Park. The place was huge. We never got to the end of it, it was just too big. It included the zoo, 4D theatre, two big lakes, fountains, restaurants etc. We left there in time to catch our cruise around Manhattan. We took the late arvo cruise so that we could watch the sun go down while on the river. For our $10 we got a one and a half hour cruise with really good commentary, pointing out where the plane landed on the Hudson, the buildings that were replacing the twin towers and stuff like that. The Statue of Liberty, that gift from the French (only the top part, the US had to make the base), was bigger than I expected and an impressive site to boats first coming into the harbour.
On the cruise
We also went to see the musical 'The Phantom of the Opera', Broadway's longest running show ever. It has been running on Broadway since 1988 and celebrated its 10,000th show in February, and the theatre was still full! It was brilliantly done and was only marginally spoilt by the couple in front of me that seemed more interested in each other than the show. Seriously, go get a room.

All in all an exciting, busy, loud, bright and thoroughly enjoyable time in New York. I also loved the streets' organisation, like a lego board of numbered blocks (eg 38 East St), almost impossible to get lost. We left our brief introduction to the US (we're coming back later) and boarded a train to Canada.

The Guggenheim
The Rock!
Rockefeller Center

Apple lemmings day,
new iPhone released