Friday, July 30, 2010

Wrapping up the USA: New York (June 23-July 5) Part 3

As far as nightlife and entertainment goes, New York has so much to offer, but what was actually our favourite was surprisingly the buskers in the subway stations! One in particular absolutely blew us away….An African-American dude on the guitar singing all the Motown classics with some Credence thrown in. He had such a quality voice and we seriously would have paid good money to see him play in a club or bar. It wasn’t just his voice though, but the passion with which he sung/played. We were enjoying it so much that we ended up singing along with him and thankfully were joined by a couple of other enthused bystanders. As it turned out, the train we were catching was not running that night which we discovered after listening to his music for at least half an hour. A few donations and half an hour well spent! Below is a video of the occasion with Tim singing along to ‘People Get Ready’ (appropriate for the location we were in) which we requested he sing. It’s not the best footage as he couldn’t remember the words/key for the whole song, but entertaining nonetheless and you get a good idea of the quality of his voice. Tim actually had to drag me away because I could have stayed there all night and I still wish I did.

video
The Subway Busker

Of course we went to the top of the Empire State Building…well almost. It was US$20 per person to go to the 86th floor and then they slug you another US$15 to go to the 102nd floor! This was definitely a tourism cash cow and we really weren’t that keen on spending US$70 for both of us just to go to the top of a building, as famous as this one is. We joined the herd in the queue and waited for about an hour and a half to get to the 86th floor. The views of the city and the Hudson River were pretty special and we got there just in time to secure our spot for the sunset before the herd became sardines. Once the sun had pretty much gone down, we were done. A good experience with some great photos, but not one to rave about.

View of the sunset from the top of the Empire State Building

Speaking of sardines, we definitely felt like one when we boarded the train to go to the Yankees game at the new stadium in the Bronx. As the train pulled up we thought to ourselves ‘there’s no way we are going to fit on that train’, but the game had already started and we watched as people started forcing their way onto the train. ‘What the heck’…we decided to do the same and escaped being jammed in the train doors by a hair. Hmmm, too bad if anyone had personal space issues! This was beyond anything we’ve ever experienced on the Tube in London, even in peak hour. According to one passenger who we became ‘intimate’ with, the train is always like this for Yankees games, which we figured anyway because noone seemed to be that shocked or phased by it all. We were really excited about going to a game, especially since we’d heard how good the new stadium is. Unfortunately for us though, the Yankees were not playing too flash that night and the Seattle Mariners were just too good for them. We had some die-hard fans sitting behind us who enjoyed voicing their opinion about how bad the Yankees were playing, going as far as saying this was the worst game of the season. Regardless of the quality of the game, it was still pretty cool to soak up the atmosphere and watch as the thousands of Americans sat and ate their over-priced cheesy fries and hotdogs accompanied by a cup of beer. We decided to leave at the end of the 8th innings after the Yankees had not yet scored only to find out later that they scored 2 home runs in the last inning! Typical! Ah well.

At the Yankees

Other activities we did in New York that are worthy of note, but not quite worthy of a paragraph….or maybe I just don’t want to bore you at the very least are:

The Grand Central Terminal & Market: this one was like walking into a movie set, I guess because we recognised it from a whole lot of films, but in particular from ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’. The food market was a feast mostly for the eye because the prices of most items caused us to cringe.

Wall Street & the Financial Museum: These I was initially dreading but decided to go along willingly and joyfully because Tim was so keen on seeing them. In talking to Tim about what he enjoyed the most about the Museum, he said reading about the stories of all the people who wrought the system. I hope he’s not getting any ideas!! Lol! With Tim working in the industry, it was interesting for him (and a little bit for me) to see the financial and economic hub of the world. Tim also got a bit of a kick out of rubbing the testicles of Wall Street’s famous charging bull, the symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity…..whether he thought this would bring him good luck, I have no idea!! Hmmm, I just wrote a paragraph on this one after all!
Having a good rub Tim??

Little Italy: Here we ate some yummy pasta that seemed really authentic, but I guess we won’t really know until we visit Italy in a month or two .

Gospel service @ Times Square Church: the atmosphere created by the 200 piece choir and the extremely extrovert preacher made this a pretty special experience.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET): we visited here on our last full day in NYC and as tired as we were, it was pretty amazing to see the diversity and rarity of the various types of art forms here. Highlights were definitely the work of Picasso and the ancient armour on display. The extensive Egyptian collection complete with ancient mummys, rock carvings and statues was also really impressive.

Serendipity 3 Restaurant: made famous by the movie Serendipity, we savoured the very popular and extremely yummy frozen hot chocolate.

Brooklyn Bridge: On our last morning before leaving for the airport we squeezed in a quick walk across the famous suspension bridge. It was about 35 degrees, but worth it all the same. Architecturally beautiful and incredible to know it was built in 1883.

During our 12 days in New York we walked and walked and walked and then walked some more…..by the end, we were so exhausted but one thing did surprise us. In most cities we have been to, after a few days we are ready to leave and retreat to somewhere peaceful and relaxing, but we didn’t feel like that about here. Despite needing sleep and lots of it, we had fallen in love with the city, its energy and its ability to make you feel like you can be and do everything you’ve ever dreamed. I’m sure if you live here for a while and especially for some, it isn’t all that glamorous, but for us this is definitely what we got from our short time in the Big Apple.

I guess our reluctance to leave was not just about New York, but knowing also that we were leaving the USA. This country treated us with so many incredible experiences, ones that it seems could be difficult to top. This has made us wonder about going back to the UK and preparing for our road trip around Europe. What we have enjoyed the most about the USA has involved the people we have met and who we now call friends. It’s the connections that we’ve made along the way that has made our travel so meaningful. So now we are asking ourselves the question of ‘how will we make these meaningful connections through Europe with a significant language barrier?’. The answer to that we’re not sure of, but what we do have to realise is that although Europe will inevitably be a very different experience, it doesn’t have to be any less meaningful. The language barriers will add to the challenge yes, but we may just find that our connections happen in different ways. We just need to remain open to whatever happens and have no expectations.

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