I had been waiting for New York like a child waits for Christmas, with bright eyes willing myself to stay awake all night – only when I finally got there, I realised that a part of me had been waiting for New York or what it was a symbol for, my whole life. I have always been independent, even as a child, and over the years lost and gained confidence sporadically depending on what life hit me with, but I had some strange idea, that when I got to a city bursting with life, when I was finally doing it all on my own – it would all make sense and I would become exactly who I was meant to be. In actuality, that wasn’t New York – It was Melbourne. In Melbourne I grew a little bit more, made decisions more fearlessly, rounded out those angles and corners and redirected myself towards the path I always wanted to be on. For the first time in my life, I was an independent functioning adult, working and saving, planning holidays with friends and travelling alone, paying rent, grocery shopping and cooking and amidst budgeting and paying off my student loan. In a way I suppose Melbourne was my New York. It was what I needed to come into myself. But Melbourne only prepared me for New York itself.
Saturday 5th September
On my first day in New York I woke up at 6am and my Aunty dropped me off to the bus stop and I got the New Jersey Transit bus to New York. I will never forget the confusion of the Times Square Station, the warren of tunnels leading from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to Times Square Station and the heat of the subway it was just above the earth’s core. I arrived in New York by 7.40am and walked to the Empire State Building which opened at 8am and skipped the steadily growing line to go up to the 86th Floor with my shiny New York Pass – shame suckers! Just kidding. Amazing views from the top of Empire State Building, walked up to the upper viewing deck as well and saw all of central park, the Statute of Liberty, Chrysler Building, and Brooklyn Bridge. Then did the Sky Ride which was also part of the New York Pass and it was shit.
Walked down to St. Paul’s Cathedral and had a look there before going to Rockefeller Centre and had some more jaw-dropping views. Unfortunately didn’t have time to do the Rockefeller centre tour which I heard a lot about, even though I got a ticket for it, was pretty bummed about that. Then went to Duffy Square which was cool, saw this kid being filmed and realised he was this little fat kid that was on Ellen – really obnoxious and loud – kinda like a male version of Honey Boo Boo but everyone thought he was cute. Meh. Walked up to Central Park and did my first walking tour which was the Central Park movie tour. Saw a lot of famous places from Gossip Girl, Bridesmaids, Enchanted, Harry Met Sally, etc. Also saw Strawberry Fields, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s apartment building, the Imagine memorial, the ‘Dairy’, and the temporary fair grounds that are converted into the famous skating rink in the winter. Never realised that this was where the Ice Skating scene in Love Story was filmed.
Then had a bit of a rest because I was really tired and hadn’t eaten all day except for a banana and walked to McGee’s Pub where I met the bus group for the second tour. Did the Uptown Movie Tour by bus and saw places from Friends, Seinfeld, You’ve got mail and lots of different movies like rosemary’s baby, and the hotel that had the infamous scene from Almost Famous. Also went to Café Lalo where You’ve got Mail was filmed, and saw some more scenes from Enchanted up around the top of Central Park. After the tour was over, finally got a sovlaki from one of those street food places, and was really looking forward to eating it. Was my first meal of the day at 5.30pm haha. But decided to walk to the Guggenheim first.
My map of New York was a tourist map and only went up to halfway up central park so I ended up walking from 47nd street to 86th, eating my sovlaki somewhere along the way. When I got to the Guggenheim I was shocked at the length of the line going in but luckily I had my New York Pass so could skip the whole line and spent about an hour and a half there walking from top to bottom with my audio tour. Loved the Kandinsky exhibition.
$31 Metrocard was the best investment ever. I used it so much over that week, definitely got my money’s worth riding the subway everywhere. I took the subway down to Times Square and met up with Rohan, Savini and their friends. Had Pizza for dinner and then went to a rooftop bar in Little Italy that was really cool. Met another group of people randomly and hung out with them. Unfortunately by 2am when we left, I realised that I was sick. Suddenly got food poisoning from the souvlaki I had at 5:30 and spent the rest of the night doubled over in pain in line to the McDonalds Bathroom at 3am. It was like the scene from Bridesmaids – you know the one I’m talking about.
Went back with Rohan and his friends to the place they were staying in in Flushing, Queens. Fell asleep on the subway with my mouth hanging open and was sick as a dog the whole night. Finally crashed and slept at 4:30am so I guess all in all it was a pretty eventful first 23 hours non-stop in New York City.
Sunday 6th September
Woke up at 8am, slept for about 3 and a half hours but felt a lot better but still sick. Left at 10am and started walking towards a general direction of where I thought the subway might be. Found myself in freakin Chinatown or Korea town and tried to ask for directions but no one could speak English. Apparently my sign language for train (choo choo!) wasn’t as obvious as I thought it was because no one could understand me and just shook their head and walked past. Finally a nice man walked me to the subway, where I had to quickly say thank you and bye to him and make a dash for a nearby Burger King and use the bathroom again. I was starting to get terrified that I wouldn’t be able to make it back into Manhattan on the subway without having to stop multiple times to use the restroom but turns out I was okay after that, just very very tired and weak.
Took the subway to Times square and then changed lines and took th subway to Spring Street. Did the Soho, ChinaTown and Little Italy Walking tour which was really interesting – seeing the oldest Pizza Restaurant, oldest cheese restaurant, Cast Iron buildings, and mafia and mob streets in Chinatown – Dovers corner I think. It was the street where the real Gangs of New York happened, with the Irish Italians. There was this restaurant where a man got shot in the back by another gang which resulted in the phrase – never eat with your back to the door. Really interesting! Wish I had been well, could have had some gelato but didn’t want to risk it. Just got some rip off Gatorade from Chinatown for $1.50 and kept drinking that all day, was too scared to eat.
Then went to Madison Square park and saw the Flat Iron Building and then to a near by museum where I spent a chouple of hours. Before taking the subway to Times Square and got the Bus back to New Jersey. Didn’t do as much as I planned to today but I think I learned by lesson after yesterday and decided to just take it easy – no more 22 hour days! Went back home and played with the kids. Aunty Preethi made some really amazing soup which was really sweet of her and I felt a lot better. And hungry! Which was amazing. Went to bed by 10:40pm
Monday 7th September
Woke up at 7:30 and had breakfast, played with the kids and left by 8:25am. Went to Times Square and bought a ticket for the Chicago Broadway show this evening so very very excited, as anyone who knows me that I was obsessed with the movie Chicago in my early teens. Then went down to Tribeca and walked around, home of Taylor Swift – half hoped I would see her just casually walking her cat or something but no such luck. Walked down to Chambers street and saw the Parliament Buildings, then did Brooklyn Bridge tour and walked across the Bridge which was really cool, amazing views of the whole city and the New York Skyline. I would love to live in Brooklyn, just across the bridge from Manhattan. Walked past Dan Humphrey’s apartment from Gossip Girl, saw some street art by Shepard Fairey, and cool old Warehouses and buildings. Just love the red brick and the oldness so drinkable like I could sniff it up like a library.
Met up with Deanne at Brooklyn Bridge Park and had quesadillas for lunch, then walked around Brooklyn in the suburbs. Was surprised at how well everyone dresses, like it is constantly fashion week. I thought Brooklyn would be really indie and hipster, and I guess it is, but it is also very very upmarket in some areas. Saw some houses I would love to live in. Then got the subway back to Battery Park in Manhattan and Deanne and I went to the Jewish Heritage Musuem. Was really nice just walking and talking and seeing her after ages. Both of us liked the Jewish Heritage museum but were moved to tears a lot of the time. Really sad seeing the photos of children who were victims of the holocaust. Then Deanne came with me back to Times Square to pick up my ticket for Chicago, walked through Bryant park and we got banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery which was yum!
Said bye to Deanne and then went to see Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre. Was amazing I loved it, a little bit disappointed with Velma’s character. I guess nothing could beat Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly. She just had that magnetic personality and the performance of ‘My sister and I’ was a little bit lacking in oomph. Had a good time anyway, though I felt very underdressed in sneakers, shorts and a singlet while there were people dressed in beautiful dresses and expensive shoes. Ah well. I am incredibly grateful that I got to go to a Broadway show in New York.
Got the bus back to New Jersey and Uncle Neil picked me up at 11:50 which was really nice of him.
Tuesday 8th September
Got up at 6:15 and had a quick shower, and Aunty Preethi made me a sandwich for breakfast and I ate it in the Financial District on my way to Battery Park. Had a quick look at the Bull on Wall Street, then got the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty and walked around for a while. Great views of the skyline again and again, it was humbling to be so close to such an iconic statue that has meant so much to so many people. Had a really nice lemonade at the Statue of Liberty.
Then got the Ferry back and decided not to go to the Museum at Ellis Island. Instead went to the Freedom Tower, and Highline Park up on the east side of Manhattan and walked it for a bit. High line was alright, not that amazing. Then had lunch and went to Hells Angels Flea Market which again was disappointing, and then rushed back to Financial District for my Wall Street Walks Walking tour. Saw the Charging Bull, Trump Tower, famous buildings like Delmonicos, the place where the first terrorist attack occurred in New York City, the old stock exchange building. Apparently it was called Wall Street because a Wall used to exist there and they traded stock over the wall.
After that I went to the September 11 Musuem which was at Ground Zero, saw the twin tower memorial pools which are these huge pools in the footprint of the two towers, with the names of the victims on the walls around it. There are two waterfalls in each pool. The September 11 Museum affected me a lot more than I thought it would. As I wasn’t personally affected by 9/11, I didn’t think I would be as moved as I was, but it was really sad hearing families leaving messages for each other saying the loved them when they realised that the plane was hijacked and they might die, or messages saying please call me back so I know you weren’t in Manhattan that day.
After that bought chocolates for Tina/ Colin and took the bus to their place which was in Zone 3. Managed to find it pretty okay. Was nice to meet their family and the kids. Slept by 10pm.
Wednesday 9th September
Got up and went to the UN with Aunty Tina. Went looking for Andy Warhol Factory early in the morning before it opened to the public but I couldn’t find it. Walked around the block to kill time and saw parents walking their fat toddlers to school which was very cute. Finally got into the UN after huge issues with scanning my passport and printing me a pass. Then did the walking tour around the UN which was really cool. The UN has so much art that has been donated by countries across the world and it must be such an honour for them to have art from their country displayed at the UN. Saw the General Assembly Hall, meeting rooms, where the interpreters sit, was really cool, amazing art work as well.
Then went to Grand Central Terminal, did some of the audio Tour. But just walked around mostly. Got the subway to the Lincoln Centre and had a look around, then to the Museum of Natural History. Freaked out a little bit by the time it was closing cos my phone was dying but nice security guard charged it for me for a little bit. Saw almost the whole museum, all the stuff I really wanted to see anyway. Spent about 3 hours there was intense, really good, I would love to be able to take my kids there one day. It was really heart-warming seeing families there, parents with a young child with their nose pressed up against the glass staring at all the animals and dinosaurs.
Then got the subway to Harlem and went on a Harlem Walking Tour. I expected it to be a lot dirtier and more visible crime and drugs just based on the stereotypes – harlems reputation preceeds itself. But it was really beautiful, loved the buildings, the character, so many churches and history. Saw the house belonging to Alexander Hamilton. Really interesting backstory about the duel in which the Secretary of State was killed by the Vice President!
Then went to the Brown House buildings, city college, Strivers Row – where people who strived to exceed their place in life lived. Finally ended up at a Gospel Church service where we had to all hug each other, and it was really upbeat and fun, definitely did some finger-snapping, clapping with the music.
Then went to Times square, picked up some chocolates for Trisha and took my favourite NJ bus to Binoy’s place and met him at the bus stop. Had dinner with Binoy and Nipa, was lovely spending the evening with them at their apartment and playing with Trisha who is very very cute. Then Binoy dropped me to Uncle Eugene and Aunty Tinas place and went to bed.
Thursday 10th September
Went into the city with Eugene and tina, was raining and yuck. Saw Marilyn Monroe’s subway grate (I think), and then got the subway to the Met and got someone to take a photo of me sitting on the steps, in the rain, like Blair Waldorf. Spent 2.5 hours at the Met but only saw the 1st floor and part of the second floor. It is so huge, and theres so much to see I could easily spend a couple of days there. Loved the Ancient Egypt wing!
Then went to Greenwich Village where I did my last walking tour. Saw Washington Square Park, Café Wha where Jimi Hendrix and Dylan Thomas played, NYU, amazing old buildings, site of the gay pride movement. Unfortunately it started raining halfway through which was horrible, more worried about my camera than anything else. Saw the Friends Building, very cool area. Big part of the gay movement, lots of gay bars and night clubs, first place that had black and white integrated bars as well, also the site of the Womens shirt waist factory fire which killed lots of women. Saw local fire pizza places.
Then went down to the MOMA which I loved. Wish I could spend more time there – saw lots of Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, Monet, Picasso, Seurat, cool photographs and exhibits. Then went back home and spent the evening with the kids.
Aunty Preethi cooked amazing food, dinner was awesome. Played with the kids and read to them before bed. Packed and slept.
Friday 11th September
Woke up early and Uncle Neil drove me to the Airport where I got my flight to San Francisco : )
4 days left before returning have to Auckland!