The Big Apple
New York Travel Blog› entry 41 of 42 › view all entries
So, after our encounter with Mr. Creepy we got up early to catch a bus to New York.
While walking around DC we had noticed a bus company called boltbus.com. It was bright orange so kind of stood out and one of its routes was to NY. We looked it up online and found out it was only $15 so we booked it.
We arrived in New York around 12.30pm, with our bus terminating in Chinatown. We were starving so fought our way through the bustling crowds of tourists, dodgy dealers selling fake rolex's & gucci and chinese shop owners trying to drag you into their shop to sell you tacky gifts & terapins in plastic tanks to get to Burger King. It was of course busy too but we managed to grab a seat and wolfed down some food.
Once our bellies had stoped growling we hoisted our backpacks onto our shoulders and fought our way back through the crowds to the subway. We got onto the A train which we thought would take us to our stop. Unfortunately what we didnt reallise was that the A train is an express train so could only watch helplessly as we sped past our station without stopping. When it finally stopped we got off and caught the A back, hoping it would stop at 103rd (our stop) but it didnt let us off until 59th. We finally managed to catch a train that went to our stop and arrived at 103rd st. Our hostel was a couple of blocks from the station and as we were standing about trying to get our bearings a homeless man came up and offered to take us to the hostel. He was pretty harmless, he was HIV positive and living rough, sleeping on the train and washing in public bathrooms.
The lobby was very impressive, it was more like an upscale hotel than hostel so we were hopeful for the rest of it. We had booked for 8 nights, which apparently caused them some problems, apparently they dont like people booking for more than a couple of days. They had placed us into a 12 bed co-ed room, something we were less than thrilled with but didnt really have a choice. We were knackered so had a few hours kip before exploring the hostel. It is a massive place, it is a former hospital with 600 beds. Downstairs it a has a tv room which is one full wall painted white and a projector displays an 8 ft tall picture onto it. The kitchen was also very impressive, an industrial quality setup with plenty of cookers.
We were wiped out so headed to bed around ten, there were a group of Belgians that had arrived the same time as us that had already gone to sleep. We also had a group of middle aged women in our room that had arrived to take part in the annual NYC bike ride. We had settled down, switched the light off (I was actually asleep and Rachel told me later) and the room was silent when the middle aged women came in.
We had arranged to meet Rachels cousin Jess at midday so we made our way down to the visitors centre beforehand to pick up some leaflets. Downtown Manhattan is a very busy place, people walk at London speed, no one waits for the lights, they just nip across the street when there is a break in the traffic, taxi drivers perminantely honk their horns and everywhere you look there is someone trying to sell you something.
It was a pretty overcast day, with fog covering the tops of most of the buildings but it wasnt that cold so Jess played tour guide and gave us a bit of a walking tour of the city. We walked through Times Sq, stopping to watch the naked cowboy (he has just underpants, boots and a stetson on) play his guitar and pose for photos. We eventually found ourselves in Starbucks on Fifth Avenue, right next to the Empire State building. We coudnt see much of the Empire State as the fog was so thick so couldnt take any photos of it.
The next day we visited ground zero, figuring that we couldnt really be in NY without visiting the point where the World Trade Centre buildings once stood. We had, like thousands of others, watched the events of 9/11 unfold live on tv so it was a very surreal feeling to stand there, looking at a huge hole in the ground, watching a construction company building the memorial. There were, not surprisingly I guess, protesters waving banners and handing out leaflets that said that 9/11 was a coverup for shady dealing by the government and that it was a controlled explosion that brought the WTC down, not the planes. What we found in rather poor taste was the hordes of vendors trying to flog WTC & 9/11 items. There were signs up on the barriers of ground zero advising people to not buy anything from these vendors as they were just profiting off of others misfortune.
We then walked down to Staten island ferries as we wanted to see the Statue of liberty. On the way we encountered a Romanian festival. Stalls and tents lined the street, selling food, clothes and trinkets (none of which were remotely Romanian) and just outside Battery park there was a stage with a Romanian singer belting out festive tunes. We then queued up for the ferry, well we joined the ton of other people milling out as there was no queueing system. The staten island ferry doesnt stop at Ellis island (where the statue of liberty actually is) but passes by quite close, and is free! We did have to jostle with a boatload of other tourists who had the same idea though. Once we got to staten island we bought some food and waited for the ferry back.
Our hostel is two blocks from the North end of Central park so Sunday we decided to spend the day exploring. As we walked down we came across a Mexican parade taking place. The road was closed to traffic so we stopped to watch for a while. There were lots of people dressed up in various outfits, all dancing along to different music.
We then continued into the park, whixh is HUGE. We wandered through a wooded area, which had bridges over streams and waterfalls, down to the formal gardens at the other side and sat down eating ice cream for a while. We also went down to the baseball fields and sat watching a game. It was only practice games but they were very competitive, and very good. We spent almost all day in the park and didnt even see all of it, its so big.