Ryan, Khalid, Michelle and James
in Times Square
After enduring a long flight from London to New York we arrived at JFK airport and despite everything that we had heard about US border security we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly we were able to get through immigration.
I have said since I started writing this blog that the best part about travelling is meeting people, and we have met some awesome people, whilst we were in Spain we met Ryan and Khalid from Brooklyn New York who insisted on treating us like Kings during our stay, and we had a blast!
Statue of Liberty by Twilight
Khalid met us at the airport to pick us up and as he drove us to our accommodation he pointed out all of the big landmarks as we drove into our city.  They say ‘ignorance is bliss’ and this was certainly the case here, when we pulled up to our apartment Khalid said “oh this is where you are staying? In the projects?”.  (Projects are government style accommodation, that get a particularly bad review on popular American crime shows.
A little sceptical we wandered inside to meet the guy we were staying with but the place was far from dangerous, and Jamarr was quite friendly.  A full time comedian and performer Jamarr has been having people stay with him for quite a while.  The place was nice and I can honestly say that it was the most comfortable bed to date, and after spending most of the last few months sleeping in hostels a comfortable mattress is rare.
Mahatten Skyline
We had a chance to freshen up a little, even though it was only 5pm we had essentially been travelling for about 10 hours plus had only had about 3 hours sleep the night before.  Turns out spending the night at the airport, probably not the best idea.  At about 7 Ryan and Khalid, picked us up from our apartment and took us out for dinner and gave us a bit of a tour around the centre of New York.
Dinner was Korean Barbeque, amazingly something we have not tried at home but it was brilliant, really tasty and great flavour, it was good to be somewhere where the food was good again.  Especially Chinese, Korean and Thai – something that Europe sorely misses.  We spent some time catching up with the guys and hearing about the rest of their adventures in Spain, and it just made us all miss it even more.
Times Square
After dinner we walked into Times Square to check out one of New Yorks most popular tourist attractions.  It was pretty impressive by night where all the advertising boards illuminate the square.  On the night before thanks giving it was a pretty quite night with not too many people around.  We checked out the Toys R Us toy store which was huge, it made Hamleys in England look almost like a corner store.  It had inside its own Ferris wheel as well as several large figurines built entirely out of Lego.
After exploring Times Square we went out for Rice Pudding, a very different desert that shouldn’t taste how it does – it is essentially a risotto that is sweet.  It actually doesn’t taste too bad.  The guys gave us some great recommendations for food and attractions whilst we were enjoying the pudding but unfortunately the exhaustion caught up with us and we had to call it a night.
Manhatten Skyline and
the Chrysler Building
The next day we woke up late and had planned on seeing the Thanksgiving parade but we slept right through most of it and caught a little on TV, for what it’s worth it looked impressive.  We decided to enjoy a walk in the (cold) sunshine through Central Park and take in another of New Yorks icons, quite relaxing and picturesque.  We walked towards 34thwhere the parade finished in time to see the aftermath of the tickets everywhere and get a glimpse of them pulling the floats apart.
For lunch we decided to go all out American style on our first day and get a hamburger and the closest place was TGI Fridays.  Unfortunately the food is actually better at TGi’s at home. (And we were reminded by Ryan and Khalid that we were to stay away from the ‘chain’ stores).  After lunch we did some exploring, mainly the shopping around 34thSt.  We headed to BH Photo and Video, the popular online store with a superstore complex in NYC.  It is quite impressive, and a massive store!
After lunch we walked back into Times Square to check it out by day before wandering around to find some dinner.  We were quite fortunate that for dinner we found a place that served a traditional style thanksgiving dinner.  Right under the Empire State Building was a little restaurant that was doing a 4 course dinner which included traditionally cooked Turkey complete with cranberry sauce and trimmings.  It was great to be able to get a little taste of what thanksgiving is like in America.
After dinner we decided that whilst we were under the Empire State building then we might as well check out the view from the top.  Although it was a bit expensive to climb to the top the view was certainly worthwhile.  The Manhattan skyline at night is breathtaking.  We were able to snap some great photos of the surrounding cityscape, and even of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges as well as the Statue of Liberty.  It was quite a sight to be seen.
Black Friday sales in the US are crazy, for those in Australia imagine what boxing day sales are like *20 better deals, bigger crowds and maximum crazy.  We resisted the urge to get up and people watch, deciding instead to do a tour around the Financial District.
Chrysler Building
The Financial District tour was interesting, we went past a lot of buildings that held significance many years ago, and got an overview of the tussle for control of New York (formerly New Amsterdam) between the Dutch and the British.  We heard about Ellis Island and how the immigrants to America made the journey and were processed.  We also heard about the damaging effects of Hurricane Sandy and saw the clean up that was happening a few weeks after the event.
We walked past Wall St which was interesting to me as a finance graduate, although I was disappointed to learn that public tours have stopped as a result of security risks.  We also saw the famous charging bull that is also the most photographed sight in New York.  They say that if you rub the two large balls of the bull it is supposed to bring you good luck financially.  (We did and we didn’t win the $500million lottery so the jury might still be out on that one).
After the tour concluded we went to see the 9/11 memorial to the thousands of people who lost their lives.  The memorial is considerable and the park is quite beautiful and will sit in between the base of the new world trade centre towers, including the new Freedom Tower that will be the third tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  It is a good memorial with 2 giant waterfalls that were the same size as the base of the towers with the victims names etched into the concrete.
Statue of Liberty
After taking in the memorial we headed uptown to Greys Papaya Hotdogs – the best in New York as told by Khalid and Ryan.  They were pretty good, and ridiculously cheap which made for all in all a pretty nice lunch.
Next stop for us was the Staten Island ferry, the deal to see the Statue of Liberty is (because of damage from Sandy) you can either take a tour around the island or you can catch a ferry to Staten Island for free that gives you the same view.  We were able to take in Lady Liberty in all her glory and get some great photos.
The Charging Bull
One of the things that we were recommended by friends was the cheap ticket booth in Times Square if we wanted to see a Broadway show.  We jumped in the line and managed to get some pretty cheap tickets to see Annie, the only catch was that they were right at the back, although how often are we in New York.  For dinner we took up Ryan and Khalid’s suggestion of Chinese food in Chinatown.  Another sound recommendation.
Brooklyn Bridge
We hurried back to get to the theatre and enjoyed a wonderful production of Annie.  I was particularly impressed with the main stars of the cast many of whom were in their first Broadway season at age 11.  This classic musical was a wonderful way to enjoy the night in New York.
Saturday morning we started early, had our first American Bagel and caught the bus to the popular shopping outlets – Woodbury Commons.  I don’t think I quite imagined spending so much or so much time there but as someone who doesn’t like shopping I was pretty impressed.  Presented with a range of designer stores we didn’t have enough time to visit all of them.  Michelle took the chance to beef up her wardrobe while I jumped at the opportunity to save a few thousand dollars on suits that I may need when I find full time work next year.
We also visited some of the designer stores to see considerable savings on the expensive watches from Rolex, Tag Heur, Omega and many more.  It was a great day shopping although we unfortunately saw the fruits of buying so many clothes, resulting in a considerable problem when we went to pack our cases as we left New York.
That night we got back to our apartment at 8.30 quite a bit later than expected but we were just in time to go and grab some Chinese food with Jamarr at his favourite local place.  They served really good food and I am not sure how free wine makes them money but we were able to enjoy several glasses of wine before we called it a night.
Cheetah Exhibit in the
Natural History Museum
Sunday was a later start after spending all of Saturday shopping but we headed into the New York Museum of Natural History.  We spent most of the day in this amazing museum.  The exhibits range from their extensive collection of animals to their collection of artefacts from ancient peoples.  There are several stuffed animals set up in a realistic environment.  These displays are quite remarkable.  There is also the exhibit in the Ocean Hall with several incredible marine displays.  The centrepiece is an amazing full size Blue Whale.  We also discovered the hall of Dinosaur exhibits that had all manner of creatures including the famous Teradactyl, T-Rex and Triceratops.
Another Exhibit of Waterbuffalo
Later in the afternoon we caught up with Khalid and met his girlfriend Dalia and we went to a market called The Flea in Brooklyn.  This was a pretty cool market that had a slightly different collection of market goods from antiques to a more ‘hipster’ style of clothes.  After the market we wandered to get a pretzel from Aunt Anne’s pretzels, tastily unhealthy, but incredibly moreish.  Michelle then took the chance to try and find a new jacket to try to battle the incredible cold that we have been experiencing in some of the better local department stores.
T-Rex
After an unsuccessful shopping trip we went to drop in on Ryan and met some of the people that he and Khalid work with while they were enjoying a rare moment of respite.  They are some pretty cool people!  Next stop was the promenade on the East River where we were able to shoot some nice photos of the Manhattan skyline by night.  We got some great photos of this amazing cityscape.
The rest of the night was a great and varied cultural experience.  We started at a great Ethiopian restaurant which was a great new experience to this different cuisine, and it was not something that either of us has tried before.  After enjoying a great dinner we headed to the popular comedy club – The Comedy Cellar for a live comedy show.  Another first for us but it was great, the better known comics that we saw were Todd Barry and the head writer for Saturday Night Live.  Their jokes were entertaining and it was something different, and new.  We had a great time and we were lucky to be shown such an awesome night in New York
On Monday we got up early because we had to visit the post office, an unfortunate side ffect of buying so many new things.  We also wanted to see a few museums before we met up with Khalid and Ryan who were going to take us to the best pizza in New York and show us around Brooklyn.
Times Square
After visiting the post office and sending what we couldn’t fit in our suitcases home we headed for the Intrepid museum (a massive aircraft carrier converted to an exhibition) however were disappointed to learn that it was closed as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  But not to be put off we headed for the Met museum of art only to find out that it too was closed.
The Flea
So we headed into Time Square and grabbed a few last minute souvenirs before we headed towards the Rockefeller Centre and the surrounding shops.  We saw the famous 30 Rock Tower and took a chance to explore some of the shops that were at the base of the tower.  Namely the Nintendo world and Lego land, both stores filled with extraordinary displays including the newest Wii U and an amazing dragon display. We were also fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the city’s Christmas tree being set up for the lighting in a couple of days.
After enjoying a pleasant lunch in China town we navigated our way to the closest subway station, past all the people on the street offering to sell us watches, handbags, sunglasses and actually anything else that we were or weren’t in the market for and headed for the Brooklyn Bridge.  It was a pleasant stroll and gave us a great view, as well as some well needed exercise.  When we crossed into Brooklyn Ryan picked us up and took us to see the spectacular view of the Manhattan Skyline – this time during the day and we enjoyed a walk along the riverside.
Chilling with the guys
After getting a few good photos and listening to a few interesting stories of Manhattan from Ryan we went to get the best pizza in New York from L & B Spumoni in Brooklyn.  I am not quite sure how these guys make their Pizza but it is good!  After Pizza we went to catch up with Khalid after he finished work and we enjoyed a few beers together before we went out to Juniors to get some cheesecake, another great New York specialty.  After this we turned in to make the most of our 4 hours sleep before we left to go to Niagara Falls.
We had an awesome time in New York and our friends helped us made our time there what it was.  Great recommendations for food, taking us out and showing us the sights we are already looking forward to returning to New York and hosting the guys when they come out for a visit in Australia.
Funniest Things that I saw in New York
Enough Luggage
We hardly had a chance to see any of the city before I found the winner for New York, this tourist stood by his trolley for 15 minutes alone and I didn’t see anyone else who looked like they were with him, and we thought we had perhaps taken too much stuff.
Just in case you were thinking about it
I did also spy this ad on the New York Subway.  Just in case you needed a little help deciding…

I was also disappointed to find out that the Easter Island Head is in fact a fake.

The Easter Island Head

 

 

 

 

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