View Larger Map
Mean: 16°c Max: 18°c Min: 12°c

New York, New York

New York, USA
Thursday, October 10, 2013

After both an eventful and uneventful visit in Washington the time came to move onto the bright lights of New York. Although there were a few sketchy moments we really enjoyed our time in the Capital. We did find it ironic that the world's largest economy is collapsing under the weight of its own debt yet all around us people were living the high life; overindulgence seemed to be part of everyday life. One evening we walked down Constitution Avenue lined with closed museums on one side of the road, with the lights turned off and everyone sent home until who knows when and on the other side there were glitzy cocktail parties and fancy dinners with people acting as if nothing was going on.

When it was time to check out of the hostel, we carefully made sure that we hadn't broken any of the 'ten commandments' and walked to Union Station. After capturing some photos of the grand building we caught the early morning train to New York City. It was a simple three hour journey and before we knew it, we had arrived and it was time to negotiate our way to the hostel. This should have been an easy task but the New York Metro has to be one of the worst we have ever used. With signage about as helpful as a chocolate fireguard, virtually no real time train information and lots of platforms that are only accessible by stairs, it is not a friendly place to hump and dump your luggage around!

Sometime later....

We finally arrived at the hostel ready to check in and drop off our bags. Things were looking good until the reception staff informed us that we had to wait 2 hours because check in time was 3pm. We had planned to spend the afternoon exploring the city, not wasting time hanging around to check in. Although we acknowledge the hostel has a check in policy, when we politely asked if there was a room available the reply was plain stupid 'it is the hostels policy to wait until all of the rooms have been cleaned before anyone is allowed to check in' so although there were rooms available, we had to sit around and wait!

We should have laughed at such a response but we could see that the reception staff didn't give two hoots and seemed happy to rile Sonya, which as we know isn't a difficult task, especially after she has been humping and dumping bags around the Metro. When Ross started to see red hot steam bellowing out of Sonya's ears he knew that she was about to explode....five minutes later she had given the reception staff a piece of her mind and although her points were valid they landed on deaf ears because the staff were unwilling to do anything about it.

Admittedly we might have become a bit complacent over time but every other hostel on this entire trip has allowed us to check in as soon as we arrived, even in Vietnam when we arrived at 5am! But not letting someone check in when you have a room available just for the sake of it is plain stupid. It's a shame to say the more places we visit in America the more we have experienced bad service. In our previous visits we remember fantastic service maybe it is because we visited the very touristy areas such as Florida but hey New York isn't exactly a small backwater without any tourists! We would have to disagree that America has some of the best customer service in the world. We are not joking when we say we got better service in Subway's in Australia than we received in most of the restaurants we visited in America. The whole tipping thing is crazy and does not always promote good service, as it has simply become part of the culture and is expected regardless of the service provided. It has almost become a status thing where tipping a large amount gives you kudus, sorry folks it doesn't it just makes things worse. Sushi Yasuda of New York might have gone too far by totally banning tipping, quoting on their till receipts 'following the custom in Japan, Sushi Yasuda's service staff are fully compensated by their salary. Therefore gratuities are not accepted' but in our opinion this has the right sentiment. We didn't tip unless we received great service, we wouldn't do it in any other country so why do it in America?

After Sonya had calmed down, we set off to explore the city and we ended up taking a stroll through the enormous Central Park which was full to the brim of runners, dog walkers and street artists and of course there were hot dog stands on every corner. The park had a horsey aroma and for a large fee we could have jumped onto one of the many horse drawn carriages that were dotted around but we decided against this and instead continued on with our walk and the further we walked into the middle of the park the less it felt like we were in the middle of New York.

When we left the park we headed over to Times Square so that we could take the obligatory photos of the huge screens and dazzling lights. After checking out some prices for a Broadway show we made our way to Hard Rock Café where we sampled some of their ice cold beer. This was a great way to end the night and we went back to the hostel a lot more chilled out than when we arrived.

Day 2

We started the day off with a walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge which led us to Lower Manhattan and the 9/11 Memorial. Ross visited the World Trade Centre approximately 9 months before the horrific acts of 9/11 and he would have been in the tower around the time of day the first plane crashed. It's the first time Ross has been back to New York since the skyline has changed and with clear memories of the Twin Towers being the first and last thing you saw of New York as you came and left the city, the skyline now looked very bare.

9/11 Memorial

The memorial is a beautiful work of art, it is just a shame that it represents the most horrific day in modern history. We have visited many memorials on our travels most notably the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe way back in Berlin, but as the vast majority of the memorials are connected to things that happened before our time it is sometimes difficult to comprehend the actual events that took place. As we, along with the world witnessed the callous acts that took place on the morning of 9/11 our vivid memories touched us in ways that no other memorial has.

Having said that, even though we could both visualise the horrific events that took place, making a connection between our vivid memories and the beautifully carved names around the pools, to actual people was still hard to comprehend.

The memorial stands for all of the people who perished at the Twin Towers in both the 9/11 attacks and the terrorist attacks in 1993, for those who died at the Pentagon and the heroes on flight 93 who crashed in Pennsylvania. Although there are two smaller memorials at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania it is nice that all of those people that perished are remembered in one place.

Returning the truly incredible 'Survivor Tree' to memorial was a beautiful thought. The tree was originally planted on the original World Trade Centre plaza in the 1970's. After 9/11, workers found the damaged tree which had been reduced to an eight foot tall stump in the wreckage of Ground Zero. The tree was nursed back to health in a New York City park and grew to be 30 feet tall. In March 2010, the tree was uprooted by a serve storm but true to its name it survived again. The tree wanted to go home and in December 2010 was returned to the World Trade Centre where it stands today with the clear message of survival and resilience.

After visiting the pools we visited the temporary museum. In 2014 the proper museum will open between the two pools and will feature events of the day and the national and international response that followed. The atrium will include two steel tridents from the original facade of the North Tower. The temporary museum ran a short moving video of how the events have impacted people's lives. Now to sound completely naive we only ever thought those inside the towers either perished or were lucky enough to escape relatively unharmed from the building. Neither of us have ever thought about the people who escaped but suffered life changing injuries. We almost felt ashamed to have never thought about these people and our thoughts go out to them.

Although the complex around the pools is a busy construction site, the proper museum has yet to open and the swamp trees that will one day fill the site are still only finding their feet, it was a nice time to visit and see the resilience of the city and its people as it rebuilds the World Trade Centre. With Tower 1 nearing completion and standing at 1,776 feet tall when complete it will be the tallest building in America, quite fitting for such a building to stand tall and bold in the face of terrorism. Our visit was a very solemn experience which brought tears to our eyes on several occasions, especially when we found out that the white roses dotted on people's names represented those who would have been celebrating their birthdays. We found it really heart-warming to know that the donations given for the upkeep of the memorial also paid for the white roses and as solemn as the experience was it was one that we wouldn't have missed.

We along with the world will never forget 9/11 and all of the people who perished.

Visiting the memorial

The memorial is very popular and is ticketed to reduce crowding; you can either apply in advance for a set time or turn up and queue to get a ticket for immediate entry. We did the latter and although we only had to wait around 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue, when the memorial is very busy the wait time could be extremely long, as they issue a number of tickets for each batch of people with tickets already in-hand. If you intend to visit we strongly recommend getting a ticket in advance.

Day 3 - Yankee's &Broadway two of New York's Great Icons

Although we have been to a couple of baseball games in the past we have never been to the Yankee's stadium which in our opinion is the home of baseball. We know this will be controversial to fans of other teams, especially the Boston Red Sox fans but unfortunately other teams are relativity unknown outside of America whereas the Yankee's brand is global. It's a bit like Man Utd vs. Tottenham (sorry Ross!)

The Yankee's brand is arguably one of the biggest brands in sports and its popularity exploded when the incredibly successful businessman George Steinbrenner purchased the club in 1973. He only paid $10m for the club and within a year had paid back his investors; he then managed to grow the brand within 3 years to be worth a staggering $3.5Bn! Who says sport shouldn't be run like a business? If football clubs weren't bank rolled by billionaires and run as businesses it would be more competitive to watch. Stadium tours are extremely popular with fans (not just those who follow the Yankee's) and tourists so we booked online in advance to secure our tickets. The tour was a bit of a whirlwind and it was run like a well-oiled money machine where everything was done to a precise timetable with a set amount of time in each section before the next tour group caught up.

Although we were ushered from place to place the tour did last 45 minutes and we managed to fit in the Yankee's museum, Monument Park and the famous dugout.

The stadium is the 4th in the history of the club and relocated from just next door in 2009. The new stadium is smaller than the old stadium. We thought it was strange that you would build a new stadium, especially with a team with such as strong following as the Yankee's with fewer seats but apparently this is to make it more comfortable for the fans. In other words the seats are bigger, it's a crazy world where you have to build a new stadium to 'fit in' your fans!

We have just one question that we really wanted to ask our enthusiastic tour guide but didn't because we feared we would upset all the American's on the tour. Why do they call it the World Series when only America plays the sport professionally? There are other countries beyond those borders. We will never forget when we were in Florida a few years ago on a different holiday and stopped off to grab some food. After ordering the cashier asked 'where you from' we replied 'England' her response was 'gee that's a long drive, you do speak different up there' It took us a few moments to realise she thought we came from New England and not being able to think of a way to reply without offending we just smiled and waved.

After the tour we enjoyed yet another beer at HRC at the Yankee's very own café.

Rock of Ages

For our last proper evening in America we decided to treat ourselves to a night on Broadway. With so many different musicals and plays to choose from we didn't know which one to choose and opted for Rock of Ages. We weren't disappointed and we had an amazing evening that was full of adult comedy and soft rock ballads which had us singing all the way back to the hotel and well into the next morning. It was a great way to end our time in America.

Goodbye America

Next stop Boston and then onwards to Lisbon to start the 'final leg'

All good things must come to an end and with just one week left our amazing trip is nearly over. But we won't complain as looking back we have done some incredible things since we left the UK way back in January.

Ta Ta for now.

Team Chip

Hotel Review

We stayed at the B Hotel in a double private with shared bathroom. The hostel/hotel is located right next to Marcy Avenue Subway station just over the river in Brooklyn. The nearby subway station made travel to and from Manhattan Island easy, although direct 'M' trains do not operate at all times. This was only an issue on arriving in New York when we made our journey from Penn Station as the metro has a distinct lack of accessible ramps and lifts and humping our luggage up and down the narrow staircases was a nightmare. The hotel has a strict 3pm check in time, rules are rules but it was plain stupid when the receptionist admitted that there were rooms available but we couldn't check in! Firstly the good bits.... the hostel recently opened and everything is clean and new. The lounge area is massive and has 2 TV's, pool table, great kitchen area, toilets and even showers which you can use before or after check-in. Now for the bad bits.... the hostel is converted from an old office building and the rooms have been built in the middle of large space. The walls do not go completely to the ceiling and if you stand on the top bunk you can easily look over into the next room. This is a security risk as somebody could easy climb over (the rooms do have security lockers but you need your own padlock); it doesn't give you any privacy and finally does nothing to stop noise. We could easily hear people having a conversation a few rooms away and the hotel is so close to the Metro that you can clearly hear the trains rumbling past. Luckily we had some ear plugs and got a good night's sleep but we wouldn't have got any if we didn't have them! Not a bad hostel but it could have been much, much better and as it only recently opened it is a shame that it has so many negatives. If you decide to stay and we are sure there are much worse places in New York to do so.... DON'T forget to pack some earplugs!


© 2014-2021 All rights reserved.
All images and logo's are licenced. Please contact us before copying any content or linking to our blog - Thanks! :-)