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New York - September 2004
I landed in Newark after a great flight on the upper deck of my Virgin Atlantic plane - these premium economy cabins are marvellous! After the usual lengthy procedure getting past the poker faced immigration officer I headed off to find the train link into the city. Following a twenty minute journey during which several people talked to me and made me feel welcome, I arrived in the 24 hour city centre. By now it was dark and I needed to find the way to my hotel opposite Madison Square Gardens. I approached a chap who was directing workers and tourists to taxi lines and asked for directions. "Why sure ma'am, take a left at the end of the block, cross the street and it is up there on your right. You have a good day now." I duly located the huge building, checked in and headed for a shower (this was large enough to wash a family of ten in one go) then bed to prepare for a full three days of sightseeing.
Up early and refreshed the following morning, I ate breakfast (toasted English muffins with jelly (I speak American like a local!), orange juice and some sort of pastry) then headed out in the sunshine to explore this loud and wonderful place. First stop was the Empire State Building where I travelled to the top for the amazing sights from the outdoor viewing platform. I got talking to an English chap whilst waiting in line to buy tickets and he told me about his past occupation as a tennis coach. We bumped into each other later on at the top and compared the view to that of the London skyline.
Time for a quick stop at Starbucks for a brownie and juice then onwards to find the city tour bus. I thoroughly recommend these type of tours in every city, particularly if you only have a short time to visit. You get an overview of what there is to see and can hop off and on to visit places of interest. The buses operated on three different routes which intersected at various places and during the course of Friday I covered all of them. In true hop off and on fashion I disembarked to walk through Times Square (admired the Naked Cowboy playing his guitar - he wasn't totally in the buff, he had pants and a hat on), ate some lunch in Central Park, tried out the subway, went to the Natural History Museum, walked some more, did some shopping and before I knew it, it was getting dark again! I headed back on the subway to my hotel and watched some bizarre television programmes crammed with commercials every few minutes.
Saturday morning dawned and I was out early again to make full use of the day. As I left my floor, film crews were setting up......not for my five minutes of fame, but for an episode of the NCIS series. My first adventure today was boarding the ferry to Staten Island. The journey gave a superb view of the New York skyline and an appreciation of how tall the skyscrapers really are. I was amazed how close the buildings were to each other but I guess with such a limited area for construction then they need to be packed in like dominoes. The ferry went past the Statue of Liberty - she was perched on her plinth with her arm held aloft (that really doesn't look very comfortable) and was a lot smaller than I had expected. I didn't get to visit her crown viewing area as the island was closed to visitors so this will have to be done on my next trip. Once back from the voyage, I boarded the bus again and headed to the site where the World Trade Center had stood. Ground Zero, as it was known, was little more than a concreted area with the early stages of rebuilding starting to take place. As I stood on the viewing walkway with other tourists, it was eerily quiet as we all had our own thoughts about the day the towers fell. What amazed me was the relatively small area these buildings had stood in and the amount of people who had been in them on that fateful day. A reflective experience indeed and one I will not forget. Afterwards I needed to walk and explore some more so made my way through the streets, stopped at a few shops then used the subway again. I rounded off the day by having another trip up the Empire State Building at night to see the city lit up - well worth the effort and about two hundred other people had had the same idea!
My final day, Sunday, was no less restful than the previous two. Now then, I have a thing about taking photos of nuns around the world so located the local Catholic cathedral and arrived in time for Mass to nun-spot and snap them. Well.........I sat through a two hour Mass, paid into both the collections that were handed around but didn't see a single nun. What a let down! In need of consoling I took myself to the aquarium and had a chat with the sharks and stingrays. The weather was still glorious so, never one to miss a beach opportunity, off I went to Coney Island, walked along the boardwalk (whilst humming Under The Boardwalk to myself) then walked back over Brooklyn Bridge. The traffic was actually moving slower than I was across the whole length of the bridge. It seemed like the entire population of NYC was out for the afternoon. Back to the hotel to pack in readiness for my flight to Buffalo the following day.
In summary, I absolutely LOVED New York from start to finish. The city really is a 24 hour concern, the people were so welcoming and genuinely meant it when they wished me a good or nice day. Three days was nowhere near long enough to see everything but I made a pretty good stab at it. I travelled on the subway day and night and felt safer than on the London underground. If you are in a hurry then there is little point in hailing a taxi (other than to have the experience of a yellow NYC taxi ride) - it is quicker to walk or use the subway. There is something for everyone in this wonderful city and I will return one day to finish the items on my list!