Tuesday, 22 April 2014

NEW YORK, NEW YORK... and Boston - Mar 2014

The holiday drama started before the plane even closed it’s doors. I had made myself comfortable and had just finished making my movie selection for the flight when the captain announced that the security team who had checked the plane had an oversight and so we had to collect our hand luggage, disembark the flight for it to be checked by another security crew as Virgin Atlantic takes its security extremely seriously.
Times Square

NYPD on horseback
With only three days to pack in _ I was determined to get my monies worth so we hit the ground running. Up and out by 9am on day one. Would never dream of eating a Macdonalds breakfast in UK but when in Rome…or America in this case. Steak, egg and cheese on a biscuit with hash brown and hot chocolate. Forget to ask them to hold the cream – and chocolate sauce!

Our first stop was the Body Worlds exhibition at Discovery Centre Times Square. I had wanted to see this in London but didn’t so was glad I got the chance to. The exhibition is amazing but by the end my brain did feel a little overloaded. Again it made me question how people who really understand the intricate way or bodies work can deny the existence of God!

Better safe than sorry and praise God we arrived safely. I’d purchased a New York pass at the recommendation of my friend, as it’s not the sort of thing I would normally purchase nor recommend. Advantages, it can save you money and encourages you to do things  / see sites you might normally not. Disadvantages, it comes with restrictions, some activities are seasonal and unless you cram it all it, it works out cheaper to pay for just the attractions you really want to see.

From there the next stop was Madam Tussauds. Not an attraction I would have visited without the pass. It proved as underwhelming as I thought and was worse than the one in London (many of the figures in need of updating).

Two great directors conversing
 Our next stop was a guided tour of the Rockefeller Centre, particularly interesting for me as I had very little idea who he was nor the story of the Rockefeller empire. The tour was followed immediately by a visit to Top of the Rock. It was extremely windy up there but work it for the views of Central Park, Empire State Building, Chrysler Building to name a few.

We had intended to do the NBC tour as well but it was closed so we headed for something to eat at the Jackyell and Hyde restaurant. My kind of thing! A mini horror dinner show. Nothing scary, although a visit to the bathroom down the long bookcase ailse has the potential to be. The acting is also not great but it’s some light hearted fun as you dine.

After we had rested our aching feet temporarily, we headed back out. Our destination was the Empire State building but we went via a somewhat interesting exhibition at a museum, on animals mating habits. I had never given any thoughts to a snakes penis before…
Finally around 8pm with my tired legs and aching body (only slept for 3 hours last night) we made it to the Empire State Building. We decided to do the Sky Ride attraction (would definitely NOT recommend this 'attraction' - boring, waste of time and money) first as it says having to go through the airport style security again to do it after the Observatory . There is no doubt that New York by night is breath taking. I battled what seemed like gale force winds to have a look out on the brightly, illuminated city, 1050 feet above street level. (Yes, the girl who doesn't like heights!)

 And then, as I felt my body would give way, I made it back to subway ... and somehow back to Brooklyn.

Day two was a later start than planned so much of the day turned out to be wasted. We did a walk on Wall Street with an impromptu visit to Police Museum. We finally made it to the New York Water Taxi (we missed a couple of the earlier departures). Learned some interesting facts about the Statue of Liberty that I hadn’t on my previous visits to the monument (either that or I had forgotten – it’s been 6 years since I was last in NY) namely after France gifted the statue, new Yorkers didn’t have the funds to erect it . Read here for more of the history.

A bike ride through central park was amazing! I didn’t do the entire circuit as my friend wasn’t a keen rider and opted to turn back. Having not ridden myself in many years (unless you count my weekly spin class) my thighs really felt it but I thoroughly enjoyed it none-the-less.

Day three, back on schedule – shame everyone else wasn’t! Arrived early for bike tour over Brooklyn Bridge only to be told tour guide couldn’t make it in that day so decided to go it alone. Unfortunately (as it was a Saturday morning) the bridge was crowded and walkers strayed into the bike lane constantly which made it a bit of a challenge for a non expert rider like myself but it was fun. I was also grateful that it was a cloudy day and not as sunny as weather man predicted.

Next stop was Atlantic City. Getting there was an experience. Firstly we’d been told that Port Authority Bus Station was a far walk – which in my experience from what New Yorkers had been telling me over the past couple of days, equated to about 20-30 mins. So off we set, only to find it wasn’t a far walk, it was a near impossible walk! So after about an hours walk and the street names hadn’t even turned to numbers yet (bearin in mind when they finally did it would start at 1 and we’d be walking to 42 and the straight across) we gave up and took a bus, followed by a train. But the adventure didn’t stop there. We’sd decided on Atlantic City on a bit of a whim as a free return ticket was included in our NY pass package. Not realizing it was a two and half hour ride.
Atlantic City is a mini Las Vegas. Our eyes lit up as we passed all the retail Outlets. On arrival we were given a $25 credit note. I tried to cash it and run – thinking only of the outlets, but it had to be played on the slot machines. Having never played one before (except the penny ones at Blackpool) I had no real idea of what to do. I inserted my card and started randomly pressing buttons. Thankfully a kindly manager came to the rescue and explained what to do. I was excited by the fact I could order free drinks by the press of a buttons so took advantage of that. All in all, after 15 minutes I had made $5.30 from the $25. I see how these things are set up to entice and trap victims. Not me. I took the money and ran – all the way to the Guess outlet store. One suitcase, one hand back, one necklaces and a couple of gifts later, it was time to get the return bus. Where had the time gone!

The main reason for this trip was to see my favourite aunty and it was great spending time with her. Aunty Vera is 89 years old and still as lucid and feisty as ever. Coversing with her was one hilarity and the other. If I live that long, I want all my wits about me still, as she has!

Finally decided to venture into Times Square with dad one evening. He was taken in by the bright lights of the huge billboards and the crowds. His last visit to NY was in the 80’s. After over eating at Bubba Shrimp (literally til I had to walk doubled over – forgive me Lord) I walked out to find it snowing. Thankfully only a light dusting.

A week in New York is more than enough (for me anyway) so we set off for Boston – the home of great shopping as far as I’m concerned (as fashion is tax free!). And boy did I shop. My aunts know me well and when they collected us for a shopping trip I warned them I’d either shop til I dropped or my money ran out. Both came almost together. I was down to my last $2.11 (I had wisely left a small stash on cash back at the house). Lots of clothes all in the sale – and when Americans say sales it’s not the 10 – 20% off we Brits get excited about. I’m talking at least 70% off in most cases. My best buy? A Simple Human dish-rack I had my eye on in John Lewis for £70 since last summer…. I picked up for the equivalent of £35 in the Macy’s sale. Pleased with that – but it sure bumped up the weight!

But Boston wasn’t all about shopping. It was great catching up with relatives and we spent a wonderful day at my aunty’s church’s cultural day. Food from various Caribbean islands and then a show in the evening.
Barbados display

Dad asleep during the blizzard

The 8am bus ride back to NY was interesting. Should have taken 4 hours but due to the snow – yes snow – it took 6. It was all clear when we left Boston, and bright and sunny once we arrived in NY but in-between, we literally drove through a snow blizzard.

                                                                      Plane ride home was less eventful than the one out. My bags were over weight but after smiling nicely at the check in lady and saying "the shopping was so good, what's a girl to do?" I was let off!

Gospel being spread in NY

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