Monday, 3 April 2017

Week 50.2 - New York

I’m a nervous flyer, something that has not improved at all on this trip, so nervous in fact that my hands break out in cold sweats. So you can imagine the sheer panic I felt when the air hostess started running up the plane, smelling the air during take off, asking passengers if they smelt it too. Smelt what, you might ask…well yeah, I asked that too, whilst sitting there almost wetting my pants! The plane continued to climb and the captain made an announcement for everyone to remain in their seats, including the cabin crew, and upward we continued and the turbulence continued for ages, I’m not even exaggerating it was like an hour. We were then informed that the burning smell and panic was due to flying through burnt air caused by lightening striking seconds before our take off, to which Kyle said, “Don’t worry planes get hit by lightening all the time”. Cheers pal! We eventually landed after 98 minutes of the worst turbulence i’ve encountered ever, even the air hostesses had to remain seated for most of the flight, apparently there was strong westerly winds affecting all flights, that or the pilot was a shit driver.

I’ve always been a fan of New York, even before I came for the first time 12 years ago. The musicals, bright lights, street entertainment and skyscrapers attracted me, even from the pages of magazines or from the scenes of my then favourite TV show Friends. Heading to New York this time I was both crazy excited and a little sad, I couldn’t wait to explore but I wasn’t quite ready to arrive at our final destination. It may have been this excitement that made us get on the wrong subway train, bound for Queens instead of Manhattan, neither of us realised until we’d gone for about 20minutes. This meant that it felt like forever until we arrived at our hotel, The Watson, a newly renovated (and I use that word lightly), Holiday Inn. The Watson may be one of the more upmarket and pricy hotels that we’ve stayed in, but in my opinion it still has a ways to go to reach the $145 per night price tag…but it’s not the hotel we’ve come for. 

We have found ourselves in a great location though, less than 10 minutes from Times Square. So as soon as check in was complete I practically dragged Kyle down Broadway and straight into the crowds of tourist. Just as I remembered Times Square is bright, in your face and full of blatant advertising, the theatres are all trying to entice you in, there’s street artists fighting for attention, bus companies trying to sell you the best priced tickets and people, people everywhere. Smaller than I remembered but still as good, we walked around in the cold taking in the sights before heading into a real American diner, complete with leather booths, small tables and laminated menus to enjoy burgers and mac ’n’ cheese.

It didn’t rain on our first full day in NYC, it poured…buckets! So bad, streets flooded and the traffic jams doubled in size. This didn’t stop me dragging Kyle to the Times Square ticket office to see what offers they had on for the evening though. The lowest quote we got was for Chicago, at $95 a piece we passed for the time being…I mean it’s the end of our trip and we’ve still got to eat. On the way back to the hotel we went by the August Wilson theatre, home to one of Broadways newest musicals, Groundhog Day, which coincidently was written and composed by one of our favourite comedians, Tim Minchin. As the theatre was open we popped in to see if they had any last minute deals, even though we had been told at the box that they’d cost $110 per piece. Well screw you cheeky ticket touts, we got tickets for $38.50 each! Which just goes to show that it’s well worth going straight to the source.

So as the evening approached we got ready to go back out into the horrific waterfall defending upon New York for Kyle’s first ever musical theatre performance, and my first time in a theatre wearing waterproof trousers and walking boots (these days i’ll take warmth and comfort over fashion). The August Wilson theatre is small in comparison to those that host the likes of The Lion King and Wicked, but with only 1222 capacity it makes for a more intimate setting and means no seat, is a bad seat. As we settled down and the orchestra began to play I felt the instant rush of excitement, along with a slight concern for how Kyle was going to deal with all the musical numbers, (Past experiences with Glee have taught me that he doesn’t quite enjoy it when people spontaneously burst into song). Luckily, Groundhog Day is modern, on trend and sentimental. Based on the film of the same name, you are taken on a journey through Phil Connors’ continual time loop and his ever changing experiences. Yes, there’s songs but their funny and quick witted, melodious and sang by people with pretty amazing voices. Tim Minchins unique style shines through in each number, and when combined with the crazy affects and new stage ideas Groundhog Day made for a real great musical, one even Kyle enjoyed…he was even amazed by the way they did certain things, like the scene with the car chase when, (don’t worry I won’t ruin it for you).

A day on the tourist trail took us to some of New Yorks most famous sites including Radio City Music Hall, watching the ice skaters at Rockefeller Centre, walking down 5th Avenue and to one of the most beautiful churches we’ve seen, St.Patricks Cathedral. Opened in 1879 using money contributed by locals and immigrants, St.Patricks Cathedral was created to affirm the ascendance of religious freedom and tolerance. The cathedral itself is huge, with ornate wooden doors, brightly coloured stained glass windows, marble statues and pillars with golden beams and wooden benches. Everyone is welcome at the cathedral and the homeless even take refuge inside to keep warm in the winter months, including one friendly chap we saw today. Of course we lit another candle for Nana whilst inside, and made our donations for the maintenance of the church, she’d be proud of that.

Grand Central Terminal is the setting for many a romantic movie and number one on Kyles tourist trail. In what remains the busiest train station in the country tourists flock to stand on the marble stair cases, gazing at the cherubs on the green ceiling or watching the people rush by and we were no different, getting caught up with the crowds before walking over to the Public Library. Another building decked out with marble (New York must be worth a bob or two), the Public Library is like a set from Harry Potter with domed doorways, rows of books and huge windows it’s a beautiful place to walk around, but I really feel for the people trying to study in there.

We went in, but not up, the Empire State building before heading back through Times Square, after a quick trip to Macy’s, to Central Park. The most visited urban park in America, Central Park is a hive of activity from local dog walkers, to tourists, vendors and street acts, there is always something going on in the park. We walked under the famous bridge in Home Alone, before heading to the river and taking in a performance from a local singing group, followed by an acrobatics show and a hot dog. I could of spent all day dog watching but after 4 hours out in the cold I was starting to lose all feeling in my toes. And I mean it was really cold, so cold in fact that all the snow that had been recently shovelled was still sat in a neat, white pile. 

A quick train ride took us down to the 9/11 Memorial. A tribute now marks the World Trade Centre site in the shape of two “pools” with the names of every person who died inscribed in bronze on the plaques around the pools. Many people visit the site to pay their respects to the people who lost their lives and the Memorial Plaza offers a peaceful place to do so.

Walking around the path and along the Hudson River to the Statue of Liberty took us to the worlds largest queue for the ferry out for a better view. The sun was shining so this meant that every man and his dog had now come out to take the trip. The boats dock every 20 minutes, leaving a 3 hour wait at the back of the line, combining this with the fact that people were packed on like sardines we decided to give it a miss, and just viewed the statue from the shore. From ground level to the tip of the torch the Statue of Liberty stands at 305 feet, but from where we standing it certainly felt taller. We were both left wishing that we had booked the trip onto the National Park for a trip to the crown, but you need to do this at least 2 months in advance…there’s always next time I suppose.

Walking the complete path took us to the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge, which of course Kyle wanted to walk over. These plans changed a little before we were half way across, it was crazy busy! There were people in the bike lines, bikes in the people lanes, people walking backwards, vain people stopping for constant selfies and someone attempting to film a music video…I was not feeling it, pushing my way through the crowds, especially when everyone was sweaty as they’d dressed for winter and it was surprisingly warm. Instead, we thought it would be a good idea to walk back to Times Square. Stopping at Union Square broke the walk up a little bit, here we watched a protest against fur, walked through the street market and ate an ice cream with all the other tourists, I know an ice cream, it was actually warm enough for an ice cream. Anyway, 2 hours and 20 shops later we made it to Times Square, no we didn’t buy anything but we had a good look. 

Ellen’s Stardust Diner was one of my fondest New York memories, and it turned out that Sunday is a good day to beat the queues, as we were seated within 5 minutes. Ellen’s is a 50’s themed diner, offering live music from the waitstaff who sing all the latest broadway numbers with a few golden oldies and pop songs thrown in too. The purpose of the singing staff is for them to get picked up by talent scouts and cast in the latest Broadway shows, something which does happen often as they’ve lost 20 staff to the stage so far this year. Kyle hated it! I think it was too much “show” for him, with the guys and girls climbing between the tables and belting out songs from Frozen, it was all too much….I don’t think it was as good as I remembered it either, but definitely worth the experience, just don't order a main meal there.

So we’ve just had our last walk around this city I’m still in love with (it’s yet to win Kyle over). We took in the sites along the Highline Park path, an old railway line converted into a park, headed back up to Times Square, and watched people fall over on the ice at Rockefeller centre. Neither of us are quite ready to end our adventures, a brief trip home to say hello would do us nicely, but who knows what the future will bring. But for now friends, family and England we’ll see ya’ll tomorrow. 

Love Carrie xxx

p.s I suspect a sentimental post will follow.