New York Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
We managed to book really cheap flights with British Airways from Manchester (UK) to JFK for about £270 return. We're going to be in New York from August 1st to 11th and I'm really excited about it now!!! I've started counting down the days (12 left!) and am starting to think about what I'm going to pack. I'm travelling with my flatmate, who's also a teacher. We're doing the holiday on a budget (we always try and keep cost down so that we can go away 4 or 5 times a year, rather than splurging on 1 trip) and have booked a private room in a hostel. It's called Jazz on the City and seems to have pretty decent reviews. We've never stayed in a hostel before, but have spend many a night in (very) budget hotels, so I'm sure it's not going to be too much of a surprise!!!!
While we're in New York, we've booked tickets to see "Naked Men Singing" via BroadwayOffers.
Apart from that, we have no set itinerary, preferring instead to pick one place to go each day and then explore that district. It usually works pretty well for us!
Update: July 28th - have sorted "home-made" luggage tags thanks to some self-laminating jobbies that I found in WHSmith in Blackpool the other weekend. Have printed out all my documentation, luggage and flight info to put in suitcases in case they go astray and inputted my passport details to British Airways as requested (even though the on-line scheme isn't supposed to start until August 1st, and even then it's voluntary until the New Year, I think). Am on my umpteenth load of washing. I like to have everything I'm taking with my nice and fresh! Thankfully, it's a gloriously sunny day, so everything is out on the line drying!!!!
Day 1 (August 1st)
We had a taxi booked to take us from our house in Blackpool to Manchester Airport. Cost was £75 return. It’s a bit expensive, but it saves struggling with carrying bags from the train station to the terminal in Manchester, and also when you add the price of a taxi from here to Blackpool North train station and the train fare to the airport (and the same on the way back), it’s not much cheaper anyway…
When we arrived at check-in., we were directed to some self-service machines. When we entered our passports, it said there was a problem (!).
At security, I got my hand luggage thoroughly searched.
So, we were upgraded to “World Traveller Plus”. To be honest, I couldn’t tell much difference apart from there being slightly more legroom and the seats being configured 2-2-2, instead of 2-3-2 like in economy. Never mind, the flight wasn’t that long anyway and there was plenty of in-flight entertainment to keep my occupied. Just after take-off, we were served salt and vinegar bagel bites (hideous!) and I had a diet coke to wash away the taste! The lunch was pretty tasty actually. I had poached salmon with potatoes and spinach. It came with a small salad, profiteroles and a twix finger! I had some nice white wine to drink and a bottle of water. The tea was fairly drinkable for once, too! Later in the flight, they served “dinner”, which consisted of a lemon pepper chicken sandwich (only half of which had any filling in!), some pieces of melon, a minute chocolate brownie and some more water.
We arrived at JFK 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Our luggage came straight out on the carousel, so there was no waiting after we’d gone through immigration. We got a taxi outside the terminal. We only had to wait a minute or so, even though there was quite a line. The fare from JFK to anywhere in Manhattan is $45 plus tolls (@ $4.15), plus tip. We ended up giving the guy $55 (about £28), which isn’t too bad considering it took us the best part of three-quarters of an hour to get the hostel on the Upper West Side.
We arrived at our hostel, Jazz on the City (95th and Broadway) at just after 2 o’clock. We were told check-in was at 3 o’clock (and not a minute earlier). They let us leave our bags and we went to explore the area and get something to eat.
So, after having stuffed out faces we walked back to the hostel and tried to check-in. The staff was totally inept. There was a new guy at the desk and he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. A girl was supposed to be training him by showing him what to do, but she just whizzed through and didn’t explain anything to him. She couldn’t check us in, as they hadn’t checked the previous occupants of our room out. She finally managed that, but then tried to charge us the completely wrong amount for our stay. She punctuated this by answering the phone instead of dealing with the customers who were actually there in front of her face! When she’d done this 3 times and had still made no progress in checking us in, we started to get a little angry, especially when she announced she couldn’t give us our electronic key cards for the door to the room either… The newbie had to let us into the room after we’d struggled up 5 flights of stairs with our heavy bags! The hostel doesn’t have a lift, which we’d known about, but we were hoping that we’d be on one of the lower floors, not the second off top!
The room itself (a private en suite twin) was clean but basic.
After we’d dumped our luggage and got ourselves sorted, we headed out to Times Square. The subway (lines 1, 2 and 3) is literally a 100m away on Broadway (96th Street). We bought a 7-day pass for $25 and jumped on a 1 train. It took about 10 minutes to get to Times Square (with hindsight we should have got the line 2 or 3 as these are express trains and would’ve done the journey in half the time). We had a bit of a stroll and browsed in some tacky gift shops. I resisted the temptation to go wild in the Hello Kitty shop! We called off at Ben & Jerry’s and had a hot fudge sundae each.
We took the line 1 from Times Square to South Ferry to have a look at the boats going across to Staten Island, but it was way too busy, so we went back to 96th Street and a had a look around the area near our hostel. Before retiring for the evening, we had pizza at Famiglia. The pizza is sold by the (huge) slice and is about $3.25 a go. The drinks are a steal at $1.10. It ended up being a fairly cheap bedtime snack!
We ended having a very early night (7:30 p.m.) but it had been a very long day and it would’ve been 12:30 a.m. back in England!
Day 2 (August 2nd)
After a very early night, I woke up the next morning with extremely swollen tonsils, so after getting showered and dressed we headed to the pharmacy.
We went for breakfast near the hostel at Lenny’s Bagel (98th and Broadway, I think!). We had a sesame bagel, an onion bagel and eggs and a sausage patty each, washed down with huge coffees. It was all very tasty! The bagels are good value at $1 dollar each and they come in about 15 different varieties, sweet and savoury.
We took the subway to Penn Station / 34th Street. We had a quick look in Macy’s (it was only a fleeting visit and we only did one corner of the menswear department); long enough for me to buy 2 sleeveless jumpers (one powder blue, the other black) in the sale – 40% off.
From there, we headed to 5th Avenue, but it started raining really, really heavily. We took shelter under some scaffolding, but the rain was coming down so quickly that it started to leak all over! We took refuge in Wendy’s, where I had a “small” iced tea, which came in a cup like a bucket!!! We decided to check out Christopher Street for somewhere to go that evening, but as soon as we emerged from the subway the heavens opened again. We flew into a Dunkin’ Donuts (classy, I know!) and had a coffee while we waited for the rain to ease off. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any toilet facilities, which was a shame after a huge coffee at breakfast and the vat of iced tea!
We strolled down Christopher Street, which was quite pleasant despite (because of?) the proliferation of XXX DVD shops.
From there, we had a stroll down Avenue of the Americas back to the Empire State Building. We called off for lunch of Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich and fries on the way. After looking in a few more shops around 34th Street, we decided to go back to the hostel for a short relax and to get showered and changed.
At 8 p.m. we went to a restaurant just opposite our hostel on Amsterdam Avenue called “Acqua”. I had a salmon fillet with spinach (just like I had on the plane!) and pinched half a slice of Andrew’s pepperoni pizza (for the carbs!) It was all really tasty.
After having eaten, we got the subway to Christopher Street and had a vodka and diet coke at Stonewall. It was very dark and gloomy inside and reminded us a bit of The Admiral Duncan in London. It had very little atmosphere considering its importance in social history. We drank up and went to a bar called Boot and Saddle just along the street. They had a Latino “go go” boy on performing. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to dance and kept looking at his watch, which was a little off-putting! It was very much an older crowd in this establishment. We had a vodka and diet coke again while watching an old geek tip the go go boy to use a leather strap on his behind! Afterwards, he kept moaning, “Oh, my ass is sore” – as if that hadn’t been his intention all along!! We walked down the street to “Ty’s”, which was very much leathery.
Day 3 (August 3rd)
We had breakfast of bagels and coffee at Lenny’s again.
We didn’t have long to wait for a ferry back to Manhattan and we managed to position ourselves right at the front of the boat for unobstructed views! The Statue of Liberty was difficult to photograph, as it was still quite a distance away.
When we got back to the hostel out key cards didn’t work, so we had to walk down (and back up) 5 flights of stairs. Once we were in the room, we noticed they hadn’t left us any towels (and had taken Andrew’s own towel into the bargain!), so down and back up we went again. We weren’t happy!!!!
On the evening, we headed to Times Square and had a wander down 7th Avenue. We had dinner at Dallas BBQ – half chicken and shrimp combo with baked potato and sour cream and cornbread, all for $13.99! Had a frozen raspberry margarita and a diet coke to wash it down!
We did a little shopping around Time Square.
Day 4 (August 4th)
Went for “all you can eat” buffet breakfast at Sbarro near the Empire State Building. It was absolutely horrible! The food was cold and swimming in grease. The only edible bit was the scrambled eggs, but even so… What can you expect for $8.99, though???
There were huge queues to get into the Empire State Building.
We went to find the TKTS booth (they sell the leftover tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway shows at a reduced price) after a quick lunch at McDonald’s. The booths didn’t open ‘til 3 and at 2 o’clock the queues were already around the block! It opens at 2 p.m. tomorrow, so we’ve decided to come back at midday with a book to read for entertainment!
We took the subway to Wall Street and walked down to Ground Zero.
We got the subway back to the hostel – still no sign of Andrew’s towel, although 2 blue towels have been left instead of the usual white ones. We ate at Dallas BBQ again; in Chelsea Village this time, though. I had Carolina pulled pork and brisket with French fries, and a tangerine margarita. We headed along 8th Avenue in Chelsea to a bar called Rawhide, a dingy, “local” bar.
Day 5 (August 5th)
We had a bit of a lie in and didn’t leave the hostel until almost 10 a.m. As usual, we went for bagels at Lenny’s. I had an onion bagel and a ‘My 2 Son’ with eggs.
After the performance we ate at Dallas BBQ at Times Square (this is becoming a habit!). I had the chicken and ribs combo and a blue lagoon colada. Yummy!
Early to bed!!!
Day 6 (August 6th)
I had onion and pumpernickel bagels for breakfast.
We caught the 1 train to South Ferry and walked through Battery Park to Castle Clinton to buy tickets for the Ellis Island ferry. The queues were massive (11:15 a.m.), but we were willing to wait, until they announced that there were no more tickets available for visiting the statue itself, only to visit the island. We decided to try (really early) on Friday morning instead. Tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. so we need to be there by then at the very latest!
In the afternoon, we walked along the Brooklyn Bridge. We stopped halfway across. The views weren’t very good at all as they were obstructed from the walkway by the bridge suspension. We caught the number 2 train downtown to Hoyt Street in Brooklyn where we discovered loads of shoe shops! On one street, there must have been at least 15-20 of them! There were bargains galore! Called off at McDonald’s to recover.
We took the 2 train all the way back to 96th street to go back to the hostel. We called off for quick lunch of lox spread and scallion cream cheese bagels at Lenny’s. Delish!
We decided we’d quite like to see the Statue of Liberty by night, so we took the Staten Island ferry from South Ferry at 7:45 p.m. We were the first to board, so we bagged a prime vantage point on the top deck. The sun was just setting so we got some lovely views of Manhattan and the Statue. We caught the next ferry back again and positioned ourselves right at the front of the top deck so we could watch Manhattan getting closer and closer. Was a really interesting sight – and free!!!
We called off at Dallas BBQ (again!) and had brisket (without the sauce) and a strawberry colada… This is the life!!!!
Day 7 (August 7th)
We got up at 6 a.
At that time of day, the queues for tickets to the Independence Hall (free) and to see the Liberty Bell (also free) were both astronomical, so we decided to go for a wander.
We got a taxi to Girard Avenue to see where the vintage trams, but they just seemed to go through lots of deprived areas (tram route 15), so we caught a bus up 12th Street to Market. We tried the historic sights again. There was no queue to see the Liberty Bell, so we went there first. I was surprised by how small it was! Independence Hall had an “open house” between 5 and 7 in the evening, so we had a quick look around. We saw where the Declaration of Independence was signed. I was saddened, however, to see how little of the original stuff had been preserved – like the odd chair here and there…
We enjoyed the sun and watched a convert in the little park opposite.
In the evening, we got nervous when the Megabus was 20 minutes late picking us up. We thought we were going to be stuck in Philadelphia all night! The journey back was uneventful apart from trying to tune out a loud family sitting opposite us! Just as we were approaching New York, rain broke out again! We had to run for cover at Penn Station before catching the subway to the hostel.
Day 8 (August 8h)
We got up at 6 a.
We had to queue again to catch the ferry to Ellis Island.
We went to back to 96th and Broadway to put Andrew’s photos in for developing before going back to the hostel.
In the evening, we went to our new local, the Dallas BBQ at Times Square! I had a wild berry frozen colada and brisket with coleslaw and fries!
We got the subway to 50th to find the New World Stages, where we had tickets to see “Naked Boys Singing”.
The performance was very minimalist, but highly entertaining! We had seats in the 2nd row, so we got a good view, which was quite important considering! The performance had to be paused partway through because some woman dressed as a bridesmaid had been taking photos, despite having been warned at the start that it was not allowed and against NYC law. The show got underway again pretty quickly. There were lots of funny songs about circumcision, naked housework, masturbation and porn. What more could you ask for from a night out??? On the subway home, we saw one of the performers. We almost didn’t recognise him with his clothes on!
Day 9 (August 9th)
We had a lie in ‘til 9 o’clock.
We walked up to 50th and Broadway to catch the subway to 59th Street. There’s a Best Buy store at 62nd and Broadway where I wanted to buy a Nintendo DS. For what I would have paid for the console along in England, I got the console, electricity transformer, 4 games and 2 years’ international insurance. It can’t be bad!
We walked into Central Park @ 62nd Street (Columbus Circle) and had a wander past the “Sheep Meadow”.
The cleaners hadn’t been in (3:30 p.m.), so we were stuck with yesterday’s sopping towels that we’d flung on the floor! It’s not worth the hassle of walking down and back up 5 flights to change them… (The cleaner appears at 4:40 p.m. wanting to do the room. I get clean towels and send her on her way!)
In the evening, we had dinner at Acqua opposite the hostel. I had a pizza bianca and a glass of pinot grigio. Andrew had the same, except with pepperoni on his.
We caught the subway to 50th Street and try and scope out a couple of bars between 8th and 9th Avenues, between 45th and 54th Streets. We end up at Vlada first, which is what I’d describe as a lounge bar. The décor is as minimalist as the bar is long. Despite having an extensive menu of flavoured vodkas, we opted for our mainstay of vodka and diet coke. There was an upstairs, but it was roped off. We left after one drink and moved on over to Therapy, which had an ultra-modern blonde wood and stainless steel interior. The upstairs was more comfortable with leather cubes and sofas, while downstairs was more high barstools and standing. We had a drink at Barrage. Again, the design was very chic and aesthetically pleasing, but like virtually every bar we’d been to in New York, it had little atmosphere. We decided to call it a night at that point and head back.
Day 10 (August 10th)
Our last full day in New York! After a bit of a lie-in (‘til 9 a.
We headed to Times Square, so Andrew could buy a Hard Rock Café t-shirt for one of his friends. It was $24 – cheaper than I would have thought! I went to Virgin Megastore and bought 4 DS games. I’d wanted to buy Xanadu Broadway cast recording but it was $20 and I’m sure I can get if for cheaper than that backing England. I also bought a mini coin wallet for $5 that says “I’m not gay; I just really like rainbows”! Hm!!!!
We headed then to 34th Street so Andrew could have the pictures of him in front of the Empire State Building retaken (the first lot were on 35mm and when developed they had a smudge on the negative or something).
There was lots of maintenance work going on on the subway today, but we managed to get a 2 to Hoyt Street in Brooklyn. I ended up buying another pair of trainers and some silver shoes! There’s no way all of my purchases are going to fit in my luggage! So far I’ve bought 6 pairs of trainers, 1 pair of shoes, 1 t-shirt, 1 pair of jeans, 2 sleeveless jumpers, 1 DS and various DVDs, CDs and DS games. Phew!
Hoyt Street uptown station was cordoned off when we tried to catch the subway home, so we had to walk up to Borough Hall where only the number 2 line was running. We ended up having to change for a number 5 at Bowling Green, which was running as the number 2 up the West Side for some reason (!?!?!) We got back to the hostel without further incident or confusion.
In the evening, we had our last trip to Dallas BBQ for medium-rare sirloin steak and a blue lagoon colada. We headed to Christopher Street and had a vodka and diet coke in Boot and Saddle, an absolut pears at Duplex (where they had a comedy vocalist on downstairs and quiz screens upstairs – we won both games we played!) and two drinks at Stonewall (Stolichnaya raspberry with diet coke).
Day 11 (August 11th)
Got up at 8 a.
We took the subway to Times Square and got the shuttle across to Grand Central Station to admire the architecture. We were about to have a wander down Lexington Avenue when it started bucketing it down. It didn’t look as if it was going to stop, so we caught the subway back to the hostel, grabbed our bags and took a taxi to the airport. We arrived at terminal 7 (very small and quiet) of JFK at just after midday even though our flight wasn’t until 18:05. There was no-one waiting at any of the British Airways desks, so went and checked-in. we got rid of our communal loose change at McDonald’s. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading a book at the gate (#1).
The flight boarded at 17:20, but once everyone and everything was loaded and all checks had been made, we were told there would be a delay while waiting for clearance to take off. This was a long time coming and we must have sat on the tarmac for the best part of an hour…
When we finally took off it was already getting dark. Asked camp Scottish steward for a diet coke and got given 2 and 2 bottles of white wine. He must have taken a shine to my Sesame Street t-shirt!! Dinner was salmon with green beans and pasta in a cream sauce, a tiny tomato and mozzarella salad, a bread roll, slice of tarte au citron and a mini crunchie!
I watched Son of Rambow and The Orphanage before having a little nap.
Just before landing, breakfast of a stale, cold croissant was served… I wouldn’t have bothered!
We landed about 10 minutes late into Manchester in heavy rain. By the time we’d picked up our luggage, our airport taxi had arrived!