Who are we
We are a family of 3 who took a break from our routine. Usually we live in Scotland but February to the end of July 2011 we were on the road in North America for 6 months. We are Mark (also known as Dad), Rachel (also known as Mum... and a whole bunch of other names... my usual at-home blog is here) and little h (10/11 years of age during the trip).
Friday, 8 April 2011
So we knew we had to go to New York City (you can’t do a tour of the USA and not go to NYC after all now can you?). Mark had visited the city a couple of times before (but only very briefly) and h and I had never been so yes, we were definitely going to see (for real!) this place that we have seen over and over in movies and on TV shows and in music videos of all kinds. What would it really be like? Would it live up to all the hype?
It was suggested that we take the ferry from New Jersey to get to the city and the idea of arriving by water really appealed so we took the tip and this Tuesday morning a very kind relative took us to the ferry port at Atlantic Highlands in New Jersey to catch the 10 am boat. Below you can see photos from our first day which include:
Views from the ferry, Manhattan getting closer and closer, bridges (Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge… in that order), Statue of Liberty, Wall Street port (though we got off at the last stop up by East 35th Street). It really was a great way to enter the city (and it meant we didn’t need to get any of the other ferries – out to the Statue etc.).
Sights up on 42nd Street (Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station) as we worked our way across town to our hotel.
An American toy phenomenon called ‘American Girl’ (they have a huge store on 5th Avenue… you can get your doll’s hair done in a special salon there if you feel so inclined… we did not... nor did we buy a $100 doll... just a little, cheaper one... from the 'historical' line).
Some central sights (still en route to the hotel, partly in rain…) – a whole lotta Times Square, Broadway etc.
Some views from our cheap (ish) but really pretty good hotel in Hell’s Kitchen (ten minute walk from Broadway, if that, and half the price of central places). It’s a place that used to have quite a reputation but these days it just felt like a pretty regular city centre neighbourhood – not flashy, not rough, just a bit of all sorts.
Our pre-theatre dinner venue – the Ellen Stardust Diner where wannabe Broadway stars sing and serve (more or less at the same time). This was another tip from a relative (hello Auntie Morag!) and we thought h would love it but in fact she was a bit overwhelmed (very loud!). Never mind - we loved it and sang along (embarrassing parents award please…).
A shot of the theatre (Lunt-Fontanne) where we saw the "Addams Family" musical on our first night in town (h is mad for musicals and it was cheaper than "The Lion King", more bearable than "Mamma Mia" for some of us, not as British as “Billy Elliot”). The show starred Bebe 'Lilith' Neuwirth and Roger Rees and was really very good… set in New York too... fab sets.
More hotel views (by night). And then we even slept.
When we got up on Wednesday morning it was sunny so we decided to head straight for Central Park (again just a short hop from the hotel). Photos from Wednesday are below and include:
Views from a horse and carriage ride from Hell’s Kitchen to Central Park (the horses are stabled near where we stayed so we hitched a ride up to the park and then paid for the short trip round it too).
Lots and lots of shots of in and around Central Park. It really was lovely… and so quiet considering it’s in the middle of all that city madness and honking traffic. Also photos of the Dakota alongside the park (where John Lennon lived and died) and the memorial to him in the Strawberry Fields area.
No pics of the Whitney Art Museum (though we did go there… and looked at work by Edward Hopper, Glenn Ligon and others). It was fabulous – full of New Yorkers in kooky and/or expensive outfits (I saw at least 8 Annie Halls).
Some street shots as we walked down from the Upper East Side back through Midtown. On the way we saw lots of police and apparently Obama was in town for a meeting at the Sheraton on 7th Avenue. We stood with the crowd and waited to see him (for about ten minutes) but by then it was raining again and we were hungry so we wandered off elsewhere. We did, however, see Obama (and Michelle O) dolls in the NBC shop at the Rockefeller Centre on Tuesday (see them here).
A pic or two of Little Italy where we went for our dinner. The book said it was touristy and it wasn’t wrong. Still, h wanted to see it… so we saw it (kooky/scary doormen trying to lure in to try their wares and all). Mad cab ride back to the hotel too…
Thursday morning came and we were weary but not defeated. We packed up, stored our big bag in the luggage room and set off for our last NYC day. From the photos below you can see that we:
Went to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)...well, I did… Mark had been before and h had other priorities. I saw lots of European tourists (visiting their ‘own’ artists – Picasso, Van Gogh, a special exhibition of German Expressionism… heaps of European stuff on top two floors). Some tourists were taking photos of each other next to the works of art ("here’s me and ‘Starry Night’…") and I found that a bit odd (don’t you?). Then I moved down to the American works (Pollock, Rothko, lots of colours, lots of lines…) and then to the contemporary work on the first floor (much more women artists down there… a great Gilbert and George Lord’s Prayer to art too). There was an excellent photography exhibition somewhere in there too – a really huge museum.
Meanwhile h and Mark were visiting FAO Schwarz (giant toyshop, home of the 'Big' movie piano scene…) and then onto the fancy candy store (that’s sweet shop, people) - Dylan’s Candy Bar.
After this we collected our bag and headed downtown… mainly because for some reason I felt quite strongly that I wanted to visit Ground Zero. I think maybe it was to do with being in the city with all those huge buildings and all those people crammed in and thinking how amazingly terrifying it must have been to have two of those huge buildings fall down right in front of you (or worse). So we went, saw the models of what they’re putting there to replace the towers (due to be finished for the 10 year anniversary this September), took pictures. We also saw the chapel (St.Paul’s) next door to the site that has survived more than one catastrophe. Lots of memorials (bells, sculptures...).
Once we left the Ground Zero site we were surprised by how lovely the rest of the city is down there in its oldest part (plus the sun came out again too). Maybe it’s the lack of grid-streets (they’re great for traffic and orientation but they’re kind of predictable too, aren’t they?), maybe it’s the narrower streets (and so less traffic)… but it really is engaging. We went to Battery Park, took more pictures of the Statue of Liberty from there, went for dinner to a lovely ‘tavern’ near Wall Street (full of very young city types from all over the world, great atmosphere, good food, Scottish band playing… it had been Tartan Day on Wednesday apparently… and if you don’t know what that is see here). Then we went to the Wall Street pier and waited with some chilled-out and very friendly commuters for the 7.30pm ferry back to New Jersey. We even got a gorgeous sunset for our trip back (that really was lovely). H and I danced a bit of a jig on the deck as commuters snoozed (upstairs) or enjoyed the bar (downstairs). All commutes should be as lovely.
Now a few more family days, a birthday… then on with roadtrip.
Posted by Rachel Fox at 17:34