Bel and Phil's Adventures

Our adventures through Europe, America and Asia

Posts from the ‘New York, USA’ category

New York, New York

Tuesday 7thAugust 2018

We planned to get on the hop on / hop off bus today. We googled the welcome centre and headed down there – near the World Trade Centre. We got there and realised that Google was wrong! We were completely at the wrong end of town. We ended up getting some McDonalds for breakfast (it was 10:30am) after searching all around Westfields for some restaurants – that we couldn’t find. We assessed what our options were and decided to take advantage of the fact that we were at Century 21, which Marc and Carol had told us was a fabulous discounted designer store. I am concerned that we might not be able to find what I would like to get the boys (and we discovered that we can each bring 2 bags on our flight to Honolulu tomorrow and then home to Sydney). We took it as destiny.

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This shop was amazing. We loved it! We found lots of things for the boys. Phil got some shorts too and we bought another duffle bag so we could take it with us. Obviously we couldn’t get all of this on the shuttle bus, so Phil booked us an Uber to stop off at ‘home’ and then continue on uptown to the official welcome centre. We got a great driver and he was lovely. We enjoyed chatting to him as he drove around New York. We got to the welcome centre and got our ticket.

We decided to go on the downtown loop. It was fabulous and we got to see sections of Manhattan that we hadn’t seen yet. We went past the Greenwich Village, SoHo, Canal Street, Chinatown, the civic area and Tribecca. Sadly, we didn’t get to explore these areas too much – this time (there are some definite areas we want to see next time). We got off at the Circle K cruises as we had the option to go on a cruise out to the Statue of Liberty. Our last opportunity to see her before we leave, so we jumped on the boat (which was very happily air conditioned) and out we went.

It was really nice to be on the Hudson River and seeing Manhattan and New Jersey from the water. It was gorgeous. It was also much cooler on the water, which was a welcome relief from being in the top of a hop on / hop off bus – that didn’t have air conditioning! It was lovely. Phil was hungry so he got a hot dog and pretzel. I had one bite of the hot dog and it was so nice, I ate it all. I was obviously much hungrier than I thought I was. He bought himself another one. What a great husband. The cruise went for an hour, which we really enjoyed. We hopped back on another hop on/ hop off bus and headed up to Times Square.

We decided to have dinner at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co in Times Square. Our last dinner in New York. This was a fabulous choice. Phil had three different kinds of shrimps (prawns) while I had fried chicken. We had a summer drink – non alcoholic – Prosecco is super expensive here. It was lemonade and watermelon and so refreshing. It was gorgeous.

As we were enjoying dinner and all of the movie memorabilia from Forrest Gump, the weather seemed to be deteriorating. Phil checked the weather and there was a storm warning in place for New York City. We decided to try to get a cab or Uber out of the city back ‘home’ even though it was only 7pm. We needed to pack and have an early night as we need to get a cab around 5:00 am. Our flight to Honolulu leaves at 8:15 am.

We’ve really enjoyed New York, although we have been on the go the whole time. We definitely want to come back to this city. I love all the excitement, the purpose, the architecture and the hidden gems all over the place. That’s even before we mention Broadway and the shopping – oh the shopping – but not on 5thAvenue.

We got ‘home’ before the heavens opened, and enjoyed a massive lightning show on the way.  We had a chance to talk to Marc and let him know what was happening and then packed all the bag. We sorted our bags and had an early night.

Off to Honolulu tomorrow. Final stop on our Grand Adventure!

New York, New York

Monday 6thAugust 2018

We had a slightly later start today and headed back into the city. Today we caught the subway on our own up towards the Empire State Building. We couldn’t find anywhere to eat and decided to have ‘lunch’ (breakfast in reality) at the Heartland Brewery.  Phil decided he wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building (well the 86thfloor anyway).Our New York City Pass included the Empire State Building, so up we went. The line was so long. We’ve come to the conclusion that most tourist attractions in August have long lines. We waited (well we had no choice really) and got up to the 80thfloor where they had an exhibition about how the building was built. Phil was fascinated. This whole building was built in just 13 months in 1931. An incredible feat at the time and still amazing by today’s standards. We travelled up to the 86thfloor and stepped out to see New York in front of us. This was an open air area (with a lot of fences) but no glass to take photos through – yes! It was a little hazy due to the heat (again!). Summer in New York – just like our hot summer days in Sydney. This was fabulous. We had a look at the view and took some photos. It took us FAR longer to line up than the time that we spent at the top.

We headed down the lifts and decided to walk up 5thAvenue. We stopped and got some souvenirs along the way. Phil wanted to see Trump Tower and Central Park. We took some photos and did some window shopping (especially the more uptown we went). We checked out the Rockefeller Centre, which was gorgeous, and the NBC broadcasting area across the street. I wasn’t feeling so great so we found some water and sat down in the shade for a spell. After that, we kept heading up 5thAvenue. We found Trump Tower and people campaigning for him to be re-elected as president in 2020. We kept walking and found the Plaza Hotel. Phil wondered how much it was to stay there – way more than we can afford.

Central Park – wow! It’s so big, so green and so beautiful. We were approached about a pedicab ride and when the guy explaining it to us told us how much it was for an hour ($225 USD) we politely declined and explained it was a lot more than we wanted to spend. He ended up chasing us across the road and offered it to us for $100 USD (including getting dropped back to Times Square). We decided to accept his offer (we were exhausted and this was the only way we were going to get to see different points of Central Park. Our driver was Becks (named after Beckham). He took us to see the monument of Balko commemorating the sled dogs who got medicine back for the fledgling community. He pointed out the different areas of the park, including the sailing lake (featured in Stuart Little). Becks also pointed out the different locations that have been used in various movies.

We then went to the Bethesda fountain (also known as the Angel of the Water) in the middle. We got out here to take some photos of this area. It is so beautiful. An oasis of cool green roads, pathways and areas right in the middle of the city. We went around to the John Lennon tribute area. This section is called Strawberry Fields, with the Imagine tribute. It was just beautiful. Becks pointed out different buildings and sites all around Central Park. He then took us into the New York traffic! Crazy! He dropped us off near Times Square. We caught the subway back to Delancey Street. We found our way back ‘home’.

We got back around 6pm, had time to relax, get changed and headed out again. We are off to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway!!! I had never seen it before and it is one of Phil’s favourite musicals. We got an Uber back to midtown. We had originally planned to have dinner beforehand, but we ended up chatting to Marc and Carol and relaxing longer than we had initially thought. We decided to grab something snacky at the theatre and have dinner after the show – after all we are in the city that never sleeps. We were a little early at the theatre (so we could get our snacks). We found our way to our seats and got organised.

This show was just beautiful. A classic love story with amazing music, acting and singing. It was fabulous. We headed towards some of the restaurants that were recommended by Carol and Marc. We found them, but on Monday nights they close at 11pm. (It was 11:05pm) So much for the city that never sleeps. We headed back to Broadway and found some restaurants that were open. We found a little Italian restaurant. It was open and had customers. We were so hungry, so we thought we’d give it a go. It was ok. I had a lasagne and Phil had a pepperoni pizza. Phil enjoyed his pizza and my lasagne was ok. We ended up sharing a chocolate mousse cake – now that was amazing. We jumped in an Uber back ‘home’.

 

A little sleep in tomorrow – if possible.

New York, New York

Sunday 5thAugust 2018

We were up and out reasonably early. First stop was the Statue of Liberty. It was so hot already. We got an Uber straight down to Battery Park and found the line for tickets. We thought that it was a pretty long line for the ticket sales. It moved pretty quickly though. We got our tickets and headed for the next line – the security checkpoint. That took much longer. After lining up for so long, we got through and onto the boat. We couldn’t believe it when we were going past the Statue of Liberty and seeing it ‘in the flesh’ so to speak.

We got off the boat on the island to see her close up. Neither of us were feeling great, partially due to the weather and partially due to fighting off bugs. I had started to take some antibiotics as my throat infection from Dublin was not improving at all. We had something to eat and Phil tried some American Lemonade – made from lemons – not Sprite or 7UP (as our lemonade is called here). It was super refreshing (and very cold) and really helped to get us going again. The sun was pelting down and it was so hot. We took some photos (naturally) and walked around the island. We didn’t get tickets to the crown as we weren’t sure in advance when we would be going there and it wasn’t something that interested Phil and I. A word of warning though, if you do want to go up to the crown, you should book online, well in advance, especially in July and August.

We lined up and got on the next boat to Ellis Island and back to Battery Park. We didn’t feel up to stopping at Ellis Island that houses the immigration museum due to the heat and wanting to get something to eat before starting the photo tour. As we got off the boat there were some street entertainers. They were amazing and got the crowd involved. Unfortunately, we couldn’t watch them for long as we had to go. We were meeting the photographer opposite Grand Central Station at a café, so went there for lunch. It was perfect. It was airconditioned – which was a definite today. We had a beautiful lunch here and met our photographer, Frank here too.

After lunch and getting to know a little about Frank, we headed out to start our photo safari. We had organised this through New York Photo Safaris (if you want to check out their website, click on the link). Our first stop was Grand Central Station. Frank set us some challenges and away we went. He helped us in terms of composition and low light photography (as we didn’t use the tripods in the station). We experimented with people moving through the frame. Phil was way more successful in this experiment than I was. Frank then showed us the whispering wall. If you face a corner and whisper upwards, then you can hear it from the opposite diagonal corner. It was very cool.

We headed back out onto the streets of Midtown New York. We experimented with taking photos of different buildings and other details that caught our eye as we walked. Our next stop was the New York Public Library. I was reliving the moments in Day After Tomorrow – one of my favourite movies. Frank set us another challenge here – to take photos that included the lions – don’t stress – they are stone lions. We accepted the challenge. We also got some water, the heat wasn’t as bad here as at the Statue of Liberty – due to the shade from the buildings, but it was still hot. There were people selling cold drinks of water out of their eskies – entrepreneurship at its best.

Next, we headed to Bryant Park. This was just behind the library and was a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. There were lots of people relaxing (in the shade) and some crazy people playing / relaxing in the sun. I guess when your winters are as cold as New York has, you appreciate the sunshine more. Once more we had a challenge to complete in terms of photographing the carousel depicting movement. Phil was, once again better at this challenge. He understands the technical aspects of the camera better than I do. We had another challenge to complete here, which was portraits of people, which is something that I tend to do better than Phil.

As we were leaving we got chatting to some lovely local people who lived and worked in the city. We then headed to Times Square. This is crazy and we loved it! Massive billboards, advertising everywhere, neon lights all around, hundreds of yellow cabs, people out enjoying this crazy environment and beautiful day. I didn’t know what to take photos of first! Frank helped though by suggesting ways to improve on my original photographs. It was fabulous. I experimented with some panning of yellow taxi’s. I’m happy with the results that I got, although I need to experiment more with this, ready for our next trip away.

Our next adventure on our safari was to brave the subway! Frank was very kind, helping us to get our ticket and taking us on the train. It was similar to the underground trains in Sydney and the tube in London – but on a completely different level. There are heaps of trains and different levels of platforms in each station depending upon which train you want. When we got off at Brooklyn, High St, we experimented with taking photos of the trains and the station signs.

We walked downhill to get our first glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Wow! The sun was just setting and it was so surreal to actually be here when we had dreamed about it for so long. We stayed here for a while so we could get the sunset colours and then the evening lights. Frank was very helpful in terms of settings on the camera.

Frank then showed us another spot where we could get photos of the Empire State Building through the arches of the Manhattan Bridge. This required some patience as we had to take the photos on the side of the road and so any cars coming along were in the shot.

We farewelled Frank, who was extremely kind and helpful. We had a great time with him and would highly recommend New York Photo Safari Tours. We ended up getting an Uber back to where we are staying as we were both completely wiped out. Today was a big day, but a great day.

Another big day tomorrow.

New York

Saturday 4th August 2018

So, after a good night’s sleep, we headed down to breakfast. This was certainly NOT good! The eggs were like rubber. We packed up and headed to the airport early. Due to the issues yesterday, we had been booked into first class seats today, so got to use the sky priority line at the airport. This was a definite plus!

We went through security again – using the priority line. We had a lovely breakfast at the airport and went to the gate. At this point in time, our flight status is ‘on time’. The plane has arrived from wherever it has been and we are crossing our fingers that our flight to JFK goes on time without a hitch.

We arrived in JFK, got our bags really quickly (thanks for the upgrade to first class Delta) and found a cab. We got to our Air BnB and finally got to meet our wonderful hosts – Carol and Marc. By this stage it was 1:00pm. We chatted for a while, got organised and headed to the 9/11 memorial and World Trade area.

We caught another yellow taxi over there as we wanted to get there as quickly as possible. The cab driver was friendly and dropped us off at the edge of the plaza. We were both pretty hungry by this stage and there was a street vendor right there. Phil had a hot dog and I had a pretzel along with some water and Diet Coke. First lesson learned here was not to buy anything without asking the price first. We were ripped off. However, we did learn not to buy off a vendor that didn’t have the prices listed.

We quickly ate and then headed to the 9/11 Museum and memorial. The memorial (where the towers once stood) with the water cascading down was peaceful and beautiful. Seeing all the names around the outside of these fountains really highlighted how many people lost their lives from that day. We went inside and upgraded to have a guided tour.  Our tour started at 4:30 (it was just after 4:00) so we waited. Our tour guide was quite informative and showed us different highlights of the museum.

One of the artefacts that caught our attention was the piece of steel that was above where one of the planes went into the tower. It was twisted like paper highlighting the impact of the force and the subsequent heat from the fires. After the guided tour, we went into the section that had the timeline of events and more artefacts. Whilst I remember the events of that day clearly, seeing it all again whilst we were brought all of the emotions back.

Reading about the timelines and the responses of emergency workers was amazing. One of the things that I learnt was that the people who went to help on that day are suffering from the emotional toll (and the ones that for whatever reasons weren’t there that should have been there), but many have since contracted cancer, due to the amount of debris in the air (they believe). The people who have since died as a direct result of being there are also remembered within the memorial.

This is a place that you should visit if you are in New York. It is a place of remembrance and reflection. It is a place that guarantees that the innocent people who died that day, won’t be forgotten. We found the Survivor Tree. This Callery Pear tree was discovered as people were cleaning up the debris. It’s bark was burned and it was damaged. It was moved to a local nursery, where it was cared for and nursed back to life. Once it was well, and the memorial was complete it was returned to the memorial as a symbol of resilience, survival and rebirth – The Survivor Tree.

After we finished in the Museum we decided to go up to the One World Observatory. Phil was handed a card that gave us discounted tickets to priority access so we could skip the lines. We did this, due to missing one day of our time in New York, as time was a limited commodity.

We went up to the observation area and were amazed. We were up so high with such a great view of the city. It is massive. It was a great way to end the day, watching the sunset from the observation deck of the One World Tower.

We headed back down, took some more photos of the area and got a taxi back to near where we were staying for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant that Carol and Marc had recommended for our first night in town – Dudley’s. The food was good. We both had schnitzel with creamed corn and steamed vegetables. We walked back to the apartment from there. Marc was arriving at the same time we were there, so we chatted to him for a while. We had a great conversation and it was interesting to hear about life in New York.

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9/11 Memorial at night

New York

Friday 3rd August 2018

We were up and down for breakfast at 7:00am. Our flight to New York was 12:50 pm from Buffalo, New York, however we had to cross the border into the United States of America. We needed to allow enough time in case there were problems. The breakfast at the Marriott was amazing. We had omelettes cooked to order and they were fabulous. Definitely equal to our wonderful breakfasts on the cruise.

We checked out without incident and the Niagara Airbus representative – Frances met us on time. She was so friendly and lovely. She explained we were crossing the Peace Bridge (the one that you can see from the falls) as the other one had lots of traffic. We crossed from Canada into the USA.

We needed to get stamps into our passport and other bureaucratic stuff done, so had to go into the building. Apparently the ESTA that I had applied for and paid for wasn’t applicable when you crossed the border on the road. So we paid another $6USD each (not a huge expense), got fingerprinted and photographed. We were given a visa waiver and off we went. Thankfully Frances was with us and explained that this was all normal and not to worry.

We were having a lovely conversation as she drove us to Buffalo airport. She dropped us off, we dropped off our bags and found somewhere to sit and have a coffee (American style only unfortunately) and a hot chocolate as we were a few hours early. We made our way to the gate and started catching up on the blog.

Our plane arrived BUT there was a maintenance issue with the plane. A warning light had come up on the plane as they were nearing Buffalo airport and they needed to investigate it for our safety. They were suspecting a 1 – 2 hour delay. That’s cool – we’ll just keep getting our blog up to date. Rethinking our plans for New York – we may just be able to manage dinner tonight. That’s cool. We got in touch with our Air BnB hosts who couldn’t have been more helpful.

So the news worsens as the weather is deteriorating in New York and the airport has a backlog of planes trying to land. The news comes through – that our flight is cancelled due to a maintenance issue!!!!!! We are rebooked on a flight at 10:50 tomorrow morning and are on the standby list for a flight due to leave Buffalo at 3:30pm. It was 3:00 pm by this point. However, that flight had been delayed and had a new departure time of 8:45pm. The weather is getting much worse in New York. We were expecting an update at 5:00 pm. At 4:45pm the crew here informed us that the flight had been cancelled by the FFA. There was nothing we could do. Due to our original flight being cancelled due to maintenance issues we were entitled to a hotel voucher.

I contacted our Air BnB hosts who were so kind and beyond helpful. I can’t wait to actually meet them.

We waited……. and waited….. and waited. Up until this point, I was calm and understood the situation, however the gentleman at the gate was just putting us off and off and off and off. He was serving other people, but we had also waited in the line and had no alternative as we don’t have an American SIM card that would enable us to call another agent in another city. I was starting to get shitty with how long we were waiting to be helped. Delta had provided subs and pizza in the airport as they had flights cancelled to New York and Boston.

He found some rooms for a family in front of us and then kept serving off the line! I asked him what was happening with us as my patience was pretty much gone by this point. He was searching for hotels that had shuttle buses that also had availability. He found us a room at The Sleep Inn here at Buffalo airport. He organised for the shuttle bus to collect us and told us that our luggage would be downstairs and easy to collect!! Well that’s what he told us anyway!

We went downstairs and couldn’t find the bags. We waited for the Delta representative who was SO NOT interested in helping us in any capacity. She said she’d check out the back. We waited…. and waited….. and waited. Then I saw her go back to her office. It was 7pm by this stage and I was starting to lose it big time! I asked her what was happening and she said they weren’t there. I said that we hadn’t left the airport, why weren’t they there. She contacted someone to get them to deal with it.

The shuttle bus drove off – understandably and we still didn’t have our luggage. The luggage was eventually located and she said that they will bring it out. We waited….and waited… and waited. When the people brought out the bags, they couldn’t give them to us, they had to hand them to her, to give to us?????????? You could imagine that I was about to explode!

We got the bus to come back and pick us up. They were lovely people who were so kind. We got to the hotel and realised that they had no room service and nothing in the immediate vicinity to get anything to eat! Just great!

We were exhausted and fell asleep relatively early. Let’s hope all is good tomorrow. At least we are in the state of New York – even if not in the city!

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Delta gates at Buffalo airport where we spent all day waiting for flights and then hotel accomodation.

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