Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to the Big Apple

So I'm back in the Big Apple for the last leg of my journey state-side, this time without the stomach bug and the freezing weather!
Instead I'm getting over a cold and it's humid as hell - NYC doesn't seem to agree with me!

Anyway, if you read the last New York post you'll know that Mum and I basically tried to cram as much of this city into 4 days as we could. That means that I've already done a lot of the touristy stuff and could take it a bit easier this time.

Also, the place I'm staying has a washing machine! (Everyone's like "oooh, a washing machine, how exciting" but you come to value them traveling so much. My current fantasy consists of arriving in Italy... because I'll be able to unpack my stuff)

Day 1 was a pretty relaxed affair. I had a laid back morning then tripped into the city (I'm staying in Brooklyn) to visit the New York Public Library. Awesomely I got off at Grand Central Station so I got to have a peek inside.


It really is a very pretty station.

I wandered out of Grand Central and around the corner to the library. It took me a while to find the books!

 The library lions, Patience and Fortitude (Fortitude pictured below I believe) are New York icons. These weren't always their names, they were given them by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia as the qualities that he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression of the '30s and they stuck. Before that they were Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, or Lady Astor and Lord Lenox - named for the library's founders.

 The inside of the building is quite magnificent and there are a number of rooms that seem to be dedicated just to showing off their architecture, which is why it took me so long to find the books.

 Can you see the sky painted on the ceiling behind the window.
 Finally - books!

 Once I'd had my fill of looking around I headed around the back to Bryant park to do some reading of my own. I've been having the trouble with American libraries that they have no comfortable, squishy armchairs to read in!

 There was even a carousel!
 After that I made my way 30 blocks south to meet up with some couchsurfers for a drink and some 10c chicken wings. I passed by this church which has hung up ribbons. The yellows ones have name tags and they are for the American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, every blue is a prayer for the thousands of Iraqis and Afghans injured and killed and every green is a prayer for peace.

I also passed through Washington Park. Children were cooling off in the fountain.

 I arrived at the Red Lion - a Welsh pub where the couchsurfers were. The wings were delicious and after we'd had our fill we popped over to Wicked Willy's for some karaoke.

The next day I had a late start and eventually made my way to the Met via Central Park. Despite having rained the night before it was a bright, sunny day and everyone was out.

Even though you can't see any of the people in these photos.

Including this guy, with his whip.

The Met performed as usual, these were some of my favourites though I've never managed to do the whole museum thoroughly.

Sneaky snack - also, you can't really go to NYC and not have pizza
Then it was downtown to meet Ryan, a guy from the couchsurfing event the night before who is doing an internship in the City and had organised an evening out.

It started raining again and he was late so our evening began with a mad dash through stormy New York streets to the South Steert Seaport to get a ferry to check out the Statue of Liberty. The rain had eased off so we got to stand outside to make the most of it.

Double rainbow!

She really isn't that big!

The city from a distance

Brooklyn Bridge

After that it was off to feed our hungry bellies at a Thai place - it was delicious and we stayed far too late chatting. I also managed to destroy the soap dispenser in the bathroom and get most of it on myself. I still have no idea how this happened.

We finished off the night with a trip to Times Square, as touristy as that is. Ryan told me something that someone had told him - don't take a girl out in NYC, you have to compete with the city and you won't win. He said this right around when I trailed off for the fourth time while looking up at all the lights... whoops.

The Freedom Tower (testament to 9/11) all lit up in patriotic colours for the 4th of July

It was just after midnight at this point, and thus the fourth of July

Times Square is pretty much just a massive amount of advertising that blends together to seem like "lots of pretty lights" as opposed to advertising. It is also very crowded and bustling which kind of gives a New York feel - possibly why it's so popular with tourists.
 The sun dawned the next day on the fourth of July, though luckily I was still asleep at that point. Some of you may not know (including some Americans if the internet is to be believed) that the fourth of July is the day that the USA celebrates its independence from Britain. It's not really a political holiday in the sense of Waitangi day though, from what I can tell mainly people go to a park, have a BBQ, get a bit drunk in the sun and play frisbee, all while wearing red, white and blue in a nod to Uncle Sam.

As a tourist I have no problem with that as I think I'd find it hard to get any more depth from the holiday anyway. So, in true American tradition I met up with the couchsurfing group yet again - this time for a 200 strong BBQ in Prospect Park.

Of course there were red solo cups.

 I attempted to get into the 'Murican spirit.
 Then this guy came along and completely showed me up!

 Happily he gave me some tips - I don't think I quite have it down though!

 Getting closer maybe...
 There was the Brooklyn magician who put a beer bottle through my stomach (I still don't know how) and gave me his heart!
 Just a wee bit of food (this is table one of three)
 Obviously a lot of BBQ

 There was some volleyball going on
 And then there was everything red, white and blue...

This is actually our chef being interviewed by a Japanese TV station (so they said)

 I left my heart in someone's boot
 Then we all headed to midtown to find a good spot for the fireworks.
This was a pretty arch near the park

And a pretty fountain
 We found a decent spot a bit up from the fireworks, so did a bunch of other people!

 Some of these were news helicopters, some weren't. I'm not sure what they were doing.

Our group.

Pretty sunset over the Hudson

 Finally it started to get darker
 And darker
 And darker
 Then it was time for the fireworks!

To be completely honest, I was quite underwhelmed by the fireworks. I've seen some I preferred in NZ and our population is half that of this city. They went on for a long time but nothing particularly exciting happened. Oh well, it was still good fun.
Smoke lit up by the Trump Towers post-explosions
After the fireworks we headed to Brooklyn to grab a drink with one of the guys who was turning 21 that night! Either an awesome birthday or a terrible one. I bailed early and went to sleep.

The next day I did housekeeping in the morning then headed to JFK for my flight to London.
Not a bed send off from the US of A!

P.S: half of this was written while I was in NYC and the other half was written a month later, so please forgive any random present/past tense changes.