Olga's had to go work near New York for a few weeks and I took the opportunity to book a week of holidays at very short notice to go and visit. A lot of friends had told me New York was great, so I thought now's a good chance to add it to the list of my travels. And since it's quite close to Washington DC I couldn't pass up the opportunity to briefly visit morning too!
Following is a short account of what I got up to while in and around New York.
Day 1Friday 6th August 2004
Pretty much just a long travel day, so not much to say except that American Airlines was a lot better than I had been led to believe by Scott. Service (in cattle class) was pretty much on par with most other airlines I've flown with, which is to say pretty good. The plane was a nice modern Boing 777, highly recommended! Leg room was outstanding and the cabin had a nice big airy feel to it. I also managed to get a seat with laptop power - the primary reason for booking with AA!
During the flight I chatted with my neighbour a bit (Nina, originally from Russia but living in the US with her husband for the past 6 years) and watched the third CD of my Battlestar Galactica boxed set. All up it was an alright flight, long enough to relax, but short enough not to be a problem.
Getting from John F. Kennedy airport to Newark (where Olga was going to pick me up) proved a bit more hassle - the bus service included a changeover at Port Authority (downtown Manhattan), and for some reason the traffic was atrocious - even by New York standards according to a local I chatted to. I did finally make it around 17:00 or so. Lucky I had my Palm loaded up with Terry Pratchett's excellent Bromeliad trilogy..
Olga and I spent a fairly quiet evening having dinner at the local mall - apparently one of New Jersey's largest - before retiring early, ready for a big weekend.
Day 2Saturday 7th August 2004
We went to the mall fairly early as I was in desperate need of some new clothes - mostly shorts. The shops hadn't openend yet, but I discovered that they had a Cinnabon outlet which was already open! Food of the Dragons! Hurrah! And all that.. so we settled down with a nice warm Cinnabon and a cup of coffee while we waited for the shops to open.
Not much to say about the shopping except that I probably bought way too much. Prices (compared to England) are ridiculously cheap. Or maybe it's just the other way around. Suffice to say I walked out with practically a new wardrobe.
For the afternoon we jumped into the car and drove south to the beach. We didn't get much lost getting to >, but we then spent quite a bit of time in the back-country trying to circle back around to get to a light house.
The Navesink Lighthouse, when we finally got there, was quite interesting. The site is one of the oldest on America's east coast, although the current lighthouse is not the original one. Interestingly enough Marconi performed his first radio experiments here as well!
After running around the lighthouse we were both pretty peckish, so we went to a little seafront place with a verandah and got a seafood platter with lobster and all and a nice beer. Great way to wrap up the day!
In the evening we drove further south, as one of Olga's colleagues had told her about a nice beach along there. We did finally find the area but apparently the nice bit was the fact that there was a boardwalk and beachfront cafes and whatnot - so not so much nice from a swimming point of view! Also practically impossible to find a parking spot aroound there, so we kept going.
Day 3Sunday 8th August 2004
Today we drove down to Atlantic City, as Olga was really wanting to see the glitz and glamour of the beachfront casinos. The drive itself went quite uneventful, and a couple of hours later we pulled in to Atlantic City. First stop was shopping again - we needed swimsuits - second stop the beach.
We spent a couple of hours sunbathing, went for a bit of a swim, and wrapped up with a set of strawberry daiquiries right on the beach. The weather was pretty good with some clouds but also loads of sunshine - I even ended up with a bit of a sunburn, darn the english white skin!
After swimming we set off in search of lunch. This ended up taking quite a lot longer than we originally thought as the first place we went into was a bit of a dump. Olga had heard that the buffets in the actual casinos are quite good so we eventually found one of those. A tad pricey, but the surroundings were very nice and the food was great! They had to roll us out on wheelbarrows..
The remainder of the evening we spent wandering along the boardwalk between the casinos and the beach, taking in the scenery and relaxing. I very nearly bought a sword too!
Day 4Monday 9th August 2004
After a bit of a sleep-in I headed off to Manhattan. It took quite a while, but public transport got me from the hotel to Penn Station without a problem. First stop was the tourist counter, although I ended up just grabbing a couple of maps as the line was too long and I didn't feel like wasitng all day there. I also discovered that most of the local attractions are exorbitantly priced! So instead of taking advantage of guided bus tours and suchlike I wandered off on my own, beating the pavement the old fashioned way.
I decided to make Central Park my lunchstop, so more or less headed north from Penn Station, on the way taking in Times Square (not really a square). One of the things which struck me was how unfriendly the city seemed - practically nowhere for a pedestrian to sit and relax, at least, not obviously so. There also seemed a lack of pubs - although maybe that's my years in London rubbing off!
I didn't explore far into Central Park, leaving it for another day. My priority was to get up high somewhere! So I headed back south to the Empire State building, currently the highest building in Manhattan. On the way I dropped in to St. Patrick's Cathedral, built in the mid 1800's, and the largest catholic cathedral in the U.S.A.. It was funny to hear American touristss marvel at the age and architecture (in comparison, Salisbury Cathedral which is quite a bit bigger was built in the early 1200's, and was the second version of a cathedral in the area). But I digress. St. Patrick's cathedral in Manhattan is quite impressive, even though it's dwarfed on all sides by high rise buildings. I spent about half an hour enjoying the relative peace and quiet from the bustling streets outside before moving on.
My next stop was the Chrysler Building, although since it's just offices with no access for the general public I didn't spend a lot of time there. So I quickly moved on to the Empire State Building. Quite a bit of queueing later I was enjoying the view from the top, as per my usual plan of attack whenever visiting a new city. Unfortunately the view was very misty so the view was limited to a few kilometers which was a little disappointing. I spent quite a bit of time there nevertheless and took heaps of pics. Very faintly the Statue of Liberty was visible in the distance, almost hidden in the fog.
I went down to meet up with Olga and from there we headed to the south, driving past 'Ground Zero' where the Twin Towers used to be (destroyed during a terrorist attack 2 years previously), to Battery Park. Our aim was to catch a boat out to the Statue of Liberty but unfortunately it was already too late. So we caught a ferry to Staten Island (free!) which goes quite close by the Statue of Liberty, enabling us to take a couple of nice pictures.
Dinner ended up being a couple of slices of pizza in Penn Station as we were waiting for the train back home. Our initial plan of having a nice dinner somewhere in Manhatten faded as we were both pretty tired. We had a great day though, so skipping dinner was only a small price to pay.
Day 5Tuesday 10th August 2004
Not much to say about today. I was initially planning to head back into Manhattan to keep playing at being a tourist, but ended up sleeping in. Around lunchtime I headed to the mall for my Cinnabon and coffee, and wrote a whole stack of postcards while there (if you didn't get one and want one in future, send me your postal address sometime! Oh, and I also enjoy getting postcards back.. hint hint).
After breakfast / lunch I wandered around doing some shopping, then
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Last updated: 2004.08.13