C - Well here we are in New York, the big apple, the city that never sleeps having a fantastic time. Most of the time you could imagine you were back in London town, Times Sq is really a lot like Leiester Sq, a walk in Central Park could be mistaken for a stroll in Hyde Park and any ride on the subway.. just like the risk of riding on the cirle line. But surely enough something soon reminds me that i'm still in America. Hundreds of yellow taxis, the endless emergency sirens (seemingly controlled by a DJ) and surely enough, a real life dance off in the middle of Virgin Megastore. Brilliant.
After the luxurious hotel suites we have become accustomed to we couldn't help but feel a tad disappointed in the wardrobe we are staying in this week. I'm not exaggerating. Seems that's all our money buys us in this city. New York, New York, so expensive they named it twice. The hostel is a converted flop house, I think that means that it was the next step up from being homeless. You can tell. The 'Homeless Outreach' bus outside the Hostel the other night made us think perhaps it still is. We open our door on to our bed and thats all there is to our room. It is the also the most expensive Hostel we've ever stayed in which is what bugs me. The tiny corridors and rooms are all like this and it's atually quite an interesting building but needless to say we spend all our time out.
So far we have been getting our bearings and strolling around the streets and subways, ticking the sites off of our list. The other day we went to the world trade center site. I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest as I hadn't been there pre 9/11 and therefore wouldn't be shocked at the difference but it was really moving. There was an 'Arts for Hearts'collection of paintings at the train station done by children who lost parents in the attack. It was lots of 'I miss you Daddy' and 'my hero' and quite detailed sad pictures which couldn't help but bring a tear to anybodys eye. There are temporary story boards and timelines around the site and you just can't imagine what it must have been like to be there on that day. You really get the sense that something is missing in that space.
On a lighter note.. we went to a hilarious stand up comedy show at the Improv club where comedians such as Seinfield and Chris Rock started out. We are hopefully going to a show on Broadway in the week too. Today we took a stroll around Central Park, there is a lot of love for John Lennon going around at Strawberry fields (in the park) where there is an 'imagine' stone mural and people throwing money and flowers on it while nearby buskers croon out Beatles songs. Opposite this entrance of the park is the Dakota where he was shot and killed and apparently where Yoko Ono still lives.
To be continued ....
Dom: Yeah pretty weird to see so many people taking pictures of where John Lennon was shot. To be honest I felt like a complete prick posing for a picture there. Being a Sunday and sunny, Central Park was very busy. I may be wrong but it did seem like everyone was looking around hoping to see someone famous. I put on my sunglasses and all of a sudden people are looking at me. I take them off and it stops.
A quick word on our accomodation: I find it amazing that we travel through many countries, some of them so-called third-world countries, but it's in New York, 'capital of the free world', that we pay the most money for the worst accomodation. I don't mind the state of the place, just the amount we pay for it. I sound really moany there but the truth is i really like New York, it's got a great atmosphere. We could easily stay here longer.
Since Sept. 2001 the Empire State Building is once again the tallest building in New York. A title it first gained in 1930 (i think!). It soars a quarter of a mile into the sky. We only got to the observation deck at 320 metres. That was more than high enough to give fantastic views of Manhattan. From the ground the ESB did not look particularly tall, but from way up high it towered over everything else. It was odd looking over to the financial district and imagining that there used to be two monolithic buildings almost twice as tall as anything else there. Every time a plane flew overhead the couple hundred people on the top of this famous building would go quiet. It was all quite eerie.
Interesting fact about the island of Manhattan: since the Dutch East India Company first arrived and established the place as a hub of trade and commerce, the land mass has grown by 30%. This is because all rubbish accumulated on the island was dumped over the edge. Then, when all the buildings were going up, foundations had to be dug. The rubble from the holes was thrown on top of the rubbish creating new land.
While crossing over Brooklyn Bridge we stumbled upon the Mexican immigration protests outside the law courts. Never seen so many policemen. Lots of tv companies as well. We left the area and had lunch in the grandest train station in the world, i would guess, Grand Central. Outside were 100-200 police cars parked up on pavements waiting for the protests to kick off. Then all at once the turned their sirens on and took over the roads. Like a scene out of the Blues Brothers, except they didn't all get smashed up.
The Statue of Liberty was bigger than i thought it would be, smaller than Crystal thought it would be. On her plinth she is 92 metres tall, but the plinth is probably half of that. She was a gift to the USA from France. Interestingly, in early pictures she is silver, though now green because of the copper. The internal frame for the statue was built by Monsieur Eiffel who is famous in France apparently. Liberty Island, on which the statue stands, was originally a military fort to repel the British but ended up welcoming millions of Brits, Irish, and soon after every European country you can think of.
Before the prospective immigrants could set foot on mainland USA they had to go through a screening. For most this was a formality. Of the millions that disembarked on Ellis Island (island next to Liberty Island) only 2% were denied entry to the USA and sent home. Those turned away would soon be dead or were mad and so probably didn't mind a 2-3 more weeks in steerage.
C - Being in New York and all I was really keen to see a show on Broadway but the tickets to any of the good shows were above and beyond a whole days budget. We were queuing up at TKTs in hope of getting half price rubbish seats when we noticed in the small print of one of the shows "Rent" did what they called a daily lottery. They keep their front two rows free and a couple of hours before the show you can turn up, put your name in the hat and hope to be pulled out for $20 seats. So we went one evening full of enthusiasm and guess what ... our names didn't get picked out the hat. Gutted.
But the story gets better, we went back the next day and we were the lucky ones! Hurrah! So there we were with second row seats at one of the biggest shows on broadway for all of twenty quid. The show was great. Quite random but still brilliant. It made my day.
On our last day we parted company as we both wanted to see a different exhibition. Dom went off to the Darwin exhibition and I saw 'Bodies'. There has been a lot of controversy about where the bodies came from with links to Chinese criminals but I found it completely fascinating anyway. The detail is amazing, you have to try to forget that they are all real bodies though! (The odd bit of bum hair reminds you) I learnt a lot though and recommend it to anyone if it comes to a city near you.
We went back to the Improv club on our last night before we catching the night bus out. Saw a few more very funny comedians and that's about it for NY. This has been a long entry! As you can probably tell we have really enjoyed staying here, it seems more 'real' than everywhere else we have been in America but it's time to move on. Another day another country and so on to Canada.