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2007-08-01 - 2:58 p.m.

Okay then, it's time to start writing about my time in New York...

Friday 20th July

I was up at about 6.15am, and at the airport before 8am, giving me plenty of time before my flight left. It was definitely one of the better long haul flights I've been on (including the LA to New York leg)- I had a window seat up towards the back, with only one seat next to me (as it's where the plane starts to taper), and it was about the only empty seat on the flight. So I had the best of both worlds. It enabled me to attempt lying down across the two seats, which did work resaonably well but was a little cramped (3 seats would havebeen better) and I started to get paranoid about getting DVT or something. But I slept more than I had on a flight over to the US before. I kickstarted the flight with 4 Simpsons episodes, then had dinner, and by the time I tried watching a movie I found myself falling asleep without even trying. Landed in LA at about 7am, did the customs thing, picked up my suitcase as you have to do in LA even if you are continuing on to another distination, and then dropped it off again, went through the security check, and all told I think it was no more than 2 hours before the plane left again. It actually felt like I'd already grown accustomed to the time difference, seeing as I'd slept a bit, and now I was heading to New York in the morning, just as I'd been heading out of Sydney in the morning. I slept a good amount on that flight as well, even though I was happy to stay awake and look out the window as we were flying across the continent in the middle of the day.

From JFK airport it wasn't difficult to get to the a subway station using the airport shuttle train, and the subway ride to Manhattan was less than an hour. $7 for a fairly easy trip instead of $25 for a shuttle bus or $50 odd for a taxi. The only thing that was really annoying me on the first day was that the pull up handle thing on my suitcase broke (in the closed position) sometime between taking it from my room to the loungeroom and taking it down to the car. It made the walk from the subway station (I got off at 59th Street instead of transferring to 66th street- most New Yorkers tend to transfer rather than walking a couple of blocks, probably because the trains are so frequent. The weather was warm as expected (the rest of the week it was hot), and I got to the apartments where we were staying at about 8pm New York time. I was trying to organise it so that we didn't have to change rooms on the Saturday (Jo orignally booked from Saturday night and then we added another night) but as it turned out it was fortunate we did have to- our new room was way better, in the same building as reception instead of 2 doors down, and on the 2nd floor instead of the 6th (handy when the lift was out of service for a day). Oh and in the original room the air conditioning was in the living room (or whatever you want to call it) while there was nothing in the bedroom, so it was hot and stuffy with the door closed. But for the first night it was fine.

Jo's brother Pete had been staying with her in Berkely for a week or two beforehand and was coming over to New York for 2 nights. He flew in on the Friday night, while Jo flew in on the Saturday morning as she had to work on Friday. Pete got to the apartments at about 11pm, and I waited for him rather than sleeping (I probably could have gone either way but I didn't feel like I *needed* sleep), and we went up to a Mexican place on Columbus Ave which did good guacamole made in a mortar and pestle at your table, decent cocktails and from memory decent mains as well. It was probably close to 1am New York time when I finally went to sleep.

Saturday 21st July

I was awake by 6am, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I knew Jo's plane would have landed but I also knew it would be 2 or 3 hours until she got to the apartment. So I was keen to get back to sleep, I just couldn't. Jo probably got there about 9am and we did all the room moving stuff, which as I said was fortunate seeing as how our new room was better (and altogether more practical). Jo hadn't managed to get much sleep on her overnight flight, so we slept the rest of the morning, and then sometime mid-afternoon we decided to get some lunch. Pete managed to sleep most of the day, so we brought him back some lunch. I was still basking in the warmth of summer, and we had a couple of beers and a bite to eat (which involved an incident where a pigeon shat on our table and we didn't eat anymore of what had- they didn't charge us so we got another light snack) outside at a pub.

Saturday evening we went to see Les Miserables at the Broadhurt Theatre (which is on West 44th St but officially considered "On Broadway"). It was good- perhaps there weren't enough comic relief moments for our liking, but we wanted to see a "proper" musical, rather than say "Monty Python's Spamalot"- one of the classics. We went to a big Italian Restaurant afterwards which Jo had been to last time she was in New York, and ordered way to much food, before heading home once again at about 1am.

Sunday 22nd July

Jo and I were up sometime between 9am and 10am I think- with the plan to take the Metropolitan North Railway up the Hudson River and be back in the early afternoon. Pete once again slept in, and then did some shopping before meeting us later on. By the time we got ourselves organised we got to Grand Central Station just too late to catch the 11am train, which was okay since we needed to get some breakfast, but it was starting to limit how far we could go and how much time we could spend up there if we wanted to sightsee in Manhattan in the afternoon. I decided I wanted to go to Bear Mountain, which apparently had good views down the Hudson and back to Manhattan, and we were told that we needed to get off at Peekskill and catch a cab. The train ride was enjoyable, with plenty of good photo opportunities along the river, which were not at all affected by the train windows seeing as there was no flash required. It took about an hour to get up there, but when we did we found it was going to be difficult to find a cab (and we really didn't know how far it was to Bear Mountain, and whether it would be easy to get a cab back), so we ended up just sitting around for an hour, had an icecream and caught the train back again. If we had a whole day I'm sure Bear Mountain would have been good, but as it was it was a good trip, and something different from all the walking around Manhattan that I was going to be doing for the rest of the week.

We met up with Pete at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, caught the ferry across at 4.30pm, and caught the next one straight back (going along for the ride and getting good pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline is really the point of it. We then had some time to kill before going to the Empire State, because I wanted to see it at dusk, so we had a couple of beers in the East Village (and Jo showed us where her work was). As it turned out, we left it a bit too late to get to the top of the Empire State at dusk (I was anticipating the lines more or less but we just didn't quite time it right). The view was good and everything, but there weren't a lot of good photos, because night shots are always difficult. I guess also because I'd been up there before, and really liked it, it was hard to match the experience of going there the first time.

We had dinner at about 10pm or so at Ginger's (the Chinese place Cristan, Meaghan and I went to on our first night in New York), which was as good as I'd remembered it, and then went back to our apartment.

Monday 23rd July

Jo had to work, and the weather was miserable, and we'd done plenty on the weekend and I had no real plans so I ended up sleeping all morning and some of the afternoon. There was talk of rain pretty much all week, but this (and our last day) was pretty much all we got. It was heavy rain too, not just a shower or two. Pete had lunch with Jo and her work colleagues (he works at the same company in Australia), and I waited until he got back to the apartment and headed off to the airport before I ventured out. I took the subway up a few stops to the area of Broadway near Colombia University, mainly to got to the diner that provided the external shots for the Seinfeld diner. It was rainy and I wasn't in 100% tourist mode, but I still took a photo that came out really well. I also ate there- a very good Reuben's Sandwich (corned beef, swiss cheese and sauerkraut), and despite the fact that it is now famous, the prices were very reasonable.

That evening I met Jo outside her work and we had drinks down the road with her work colleagues. We had some finger food, and that was essentially our dinner. Jo and I stayed on for another drink after everyone else had left, and then headed home. Sally was supposed to arrive at about 5pm and probably meet up with us, but she had all sorts of issues with her flight, and didn't get to the apartment until about 11pm, so she was there when we got back.

Tuesday 24th July

Not wanting to waste too much of the day after sleeping through a lot of the day before, I got up when Jo left for work and Sally and I compared notes on the things we wanted to do in New York. Unsurprisingly lots of shopping and a "Sex and the City" weren't that high on my list, but we both wanted to check out Coney Island, so we headed there first. The only problem was we were a bit too organised. The place was dead at 11am (or was it only 10am when we got there?) I think it's really a weekend thing to do, even if you're not going on rides and going to see freakshows, you get a better idea of the atmosphere. We bought Hot Dogs from "Nathan's Famous" which were tiny and not that impressive, and bought Corona's only to find out that we weren't supposed to be drinking them on the boardwalk. All the food kiosks on the boardwalk were selling alcohol, but I guess the intention was that you sat and drank it at a roped off table. We had virtually finished them when we found out anyway.

So we walked to the end of the pier, then decided to check out the aquarium, which turned out to be pretty lame and absolutely full of kids on summer camp. It's not that I've outgrown such thing- I still enjoy the zoo, and the marine life in Vanuatu was fantastic, even when it was in a controlled environment like where we fed giant turtles, sharks and fish, but I think compared to the Sydney Aquarium (which I haven't been to in decades either) the New York one pales. We caught the subway back into Manhattan, and went to the Rockefeller Centre, where you can now go to the "Top of the Rock", and see a fantastic view of New York. I think "Top of the Rock" is a better viewing experience than the Empire State for a number of reasons. Firstly you actually get to see the Empire State Building, which is a much more iconic and interesting building than the Rockefeller Centre to look at (I couldn't have told you which building the Rockefeller Centre was when I was looking from the Empire State). Secondly there's no cage around it. When you first get up there it's glassed off, but with little gaps that you can stick your camera and your hand through. Then on the next level there's nothing in your way at all (bar a wall that's half your height). The second tier is not as wide, so if you were to try to jump or anything, you'd only land on the level you just came from, if you get the picture. And thirdly the queues are a fraction of those at the Empire State. And we went up there on a gorgeous day in the middle of summer so I don't think they really get any worse. Altogether highly recommended.

We had late lunch in Bryant Park (on 42nd Street a few blocks East of Times Square), and then went back to the apartment and waited for Jo to come back from work.

Jo and I hadn't made plans for the night, since Sally was only here 3 nights and we had already made plans for one of them. Sally had heard about a place up on 72nd St which did enormous cocktails (allegedly the person recommnding it said he'd had 3 and couldn't walk out of there). It turned out to be called "Dallas BBQ"- and is either a chain or a small franchise that has 2 or 3 in NYC. As the name suggests, the food was very meaty- ribs were the specialty, but the cocktails- well, Sally's friend wasn't kidding. They were all of the frozen variety, but while a frozen margarita in Sydney is weak as piss, these were as potent as any "a la carte" cocktail. Sally and I had Long Island Iced Teas and Jo had an Apple Martini. Each came with a bonus shot (I think they were $1 extra but if they had asked first I'm sure we would have said yes). And after 2 (well, my second one was an Apple Martini because I wasn't going to be able to cope with another Long Island Iced Tea) we were pretty sloshed. I was falling asleep at the table, but seemed to get a second wind later in the night. We had every intention of going home, seeing as Jo was working the next morning, but it was her idea to stop into another pub on the way home. By now I was more awake, but none of us were any more sober. By the second pub (my suggestion this time) it was Sally who was sleeping on the bar (and I have photographic evidence). That sort of thing is not frowned upon in the States nearly as much as it is here. I can't think of anywhere in Sydney that would have let us in at 2.30am on a Tuesday/ Wednesday morning when we'd been clearly drinking elsewhere. There was one other guy in the second pub, as well as the bartender, and much fun was had by all. I'm not sure why I'm lifting my shirt up in one of the photos.

So we got back to the apartment at about 4am and Jo pretty much passed out straight away, and didn't wake up again until after 9am, when she should have already been at work.

Sally was up at a reasonable hour, doing some shopping before going on her "Sex and the City" tour, but I slept the morning away again. And when I did finally get out of bed I wasn't feeling the best. In the end I spent the afternoon walking around Central Park, which was good, and my seediness went away pretty quickly. I found some cool places that I didn't explore in 2004, and then I walked down 5th Avenue (Museum Mile) from the North to the South of the Park (on the East Edge). Once again I met Jo outside her work, and then we headed down to the Bowery Ballroom where we were going to see They Might Be Giants. We had dinner at a restaurant/wine bar nearby called "Public" which was really good- I had a pan seared foie gras (which as far as I could tell was a whole goose liver, not any sort of pate, but it was good) and then a snail and ox-tail ravioli for main.

After dinner we met up with Sally and headed inside for the show. The support band were a concept band of Americans singing French tunes from the twenties and thirties (think Edif Piaf- in fact their final song was one of hers, but not "the" one of hers if you know what I mean). It was quirky and Jo and I both enjoyed it (Jo was even thinking of buying their album but forgot in the end).

As for the They Might Be Giants- well if I do the whole gig review including setlist here it's going to make this entry ridiculously long, so I might take that cue and make this the end of part one.


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