New York Travel Blog› entry 2 of 2 › view all entries
East Village, Greenwich and West Village are known for their abundance of little pubs and bars, so one night me and my hostelmates went for a bit of a pub crawl nearby. However, one of the girls was from England and was only 18 (old enough to drink at home, but not here), so we couldn´t go into a couple of places when they asked for ID straight away.
New York pubs are mostly dark and small. One place we went to, The Thistry Scholar, was decorated rather artfully with a fake scholar poring over his books by the top window. It was a Tuesday night and not crowded at all, but with prices at $6 a beer it´s not hard to see that you need money to enjoy the nightlife there.
On my last night I met a guy who was friends with the hostel workers, who was heading out to a drum and bass gig (to be their last gig at the place, as they weren´t putting enough money over the bar). I´m glad I went, to experience a bit of American style dnb, in a very small underground room with couches and broken mirrors on the stone walls. It was a lot of fun to have a dance (this British guy even came up to me and said the way I was dancing made him homesick!? - when I said I was from Australia, he said it was pretty much the same, lol).
I had a couple of random encounters with friendly New Yorkians. On the ferry to Staten Island, I met an old man who chatted about living in the city, who was very nice. Once when we were looking for a particular cafe and asked a guy for directions, he called Information on his mobile to get the directions - really going out of his way.
However, most of the service people, particularly on the public transport system, really lacked customer service. (Did I really expect better?) They have a strange bus system that I don´t understand... I think you need to have a Metro card (which you use on the subway) but there was a sign saying $2 so I was trying to give the driver $2, but he wouldn´t take it and kept pointing at the sign, not explaining what I had to do, until the helpful guy behind me offered to swipe me on with his card, so I gave him the $2. (That was the one and only time I caught the bus. The subway is much easier to understand.)
Jazz on the Town, East Village, was my home for 5 nights. It´s a great location, which is probably one of its best features. They do try to give the hostel character, so all the floors are painted different colours and there is some funky artwork in the corridors, but the overall feeling in the hostel is cramped. For the first 4 nights I was on the top bunk of a 6-bed dorm, which had its own bathroom. Such is the foundation of the hostel that you can hear everyone walking up and down the stairs, the doors tend to slam if you´re not careful, the air conditioning is noisy and the bunks (which were tiny and metal and kind of rickety) squeak. Add New York traffic to this and you get a somewhat noisy sleep, but I got used to it.
Living in such close quarters, you make friends pretty quickly so at night I would go up to the roof (the roomiest place in the hostel) with the German couple who were in my dorm, and take in the street noise. The frustrating thing about the dorms was that there were no seats in the rooms, and they were so small, so you couldn´t really relax in there. They had a tiny room with two PCs, phones and a microwave and not much room for anything else. All part of the charm, I suppose.
The people who work in the hostel also sleep in the hostel, sharing a dorm, which amazed me as you could hardly get any sleep there what with all the noise and people going in and out, and living with your workmates would drive you mad, but oh well...
I´m not jaded, but sightseeing in New York was underwhelming. I caught the free ferry to Staten Island, which takes you past the Statue of Liberty (which you can see much better on all the postcards they sell). It is, after all, only a statue. However, I did meet a lovely old New York man, called Nick, on the way over, who lived on Staten Island and told me about the high cost of living and poverty it created. (Although when I mentioned I was travelling to South America, he agreed that the poverty there is much much worse than what he was experiencing.)
I had been warned that the World Trade Center site is just a big hole in the ground, although they do have plaques with the names of all those killed in the attacks, as well as the towers´ history and what they´re going to build in its place. I went there expecting to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the event, but I wasn´t - there was too much construction work to be meditative.
However, the Jewish Heritage Museum was well worth the visit. I spent quite a while in there, and there was some rather confronting video footage from the Holocaust, like Jewish men being ordered into a ditch and shot. It´s a well put-together museum, and they even had people there who were either in the war, or descendants of people you can see in the photos, to talk to the visitors.
Times Square is a mind-boggle. I didn´t go at night, but even by day it´s chaotic, moreso than other parts of New York due to the large amounts of tourists gawping at the bright lights and the ferris wheel inside Toys R Us. I decided to see a Broadway show, although it wasn´t on Broadway, called Hot Feet. It´s easy to get caught up in the excitement of these things and I had a good time, it´s more of a dance-musical with some absolutely awesome dancers.
Central Park was beautiful, although I only saw a small pocket of it. There were big rocks, turtels, squirrels, ducks and big old trees... I decided to see the zoo, which is fairly small but enjoyable. They had polar bears (I wish I had a digital camera so I could show you the picture, they were just like giant fluffy white bears sleeping).
East Village, West Village, Greenwich and SoHo - these places are full of young people, small cafes and pubs and stalls - SoHo is trendier. It was great staying in East Village as it´s safe, busy, and close to a lot of things.
I caught the subway to Brooklyn Botanic Gardens to see the cherry blossoms, because I´d read somewhere that they were having a Japanese festival there. I got there kind of late (5pm, and they close at 6) but managed to see the two long rows of cherry blossoms in bloom, very pretty. They had a Japanese garden which was honestly kind of crap, although I did spot this little creature that looked like a rabbit-deer or something. They have a lot of tulips here in New York, planted in pots around the city which I found enchanting - so many colours!
Although the view from the top of the Empire State Building was great, getting up there was rather meh. I had to really think about whether I wanted to go up there, and I thought - why do people climb mountains? - For the view (well, at least partly). Also, what better city to see from above than NY? For US$16 you get the privelege of lining up about 5 times and being shepherded through corridors and velvet ropes and into elevators. I took the stairs for the last 6 floors which you can do. Once at the top, it´s great, and it was a clear afternoon so visibility was pretty high. But I´m still not quite convinced it was all worth it...