So it had been holiday time again, a break away from the old pyramid and pharaonic routine and of out into the great beyond. This year it has been a two stager, very different stages detailed in this and the next blog (cause they are so different).
New York, New York (so good they named it twice) was hot, in the 30s during the day and mid 20s at night, and humid. It was the humidity and the 12 plus miles we walked for 3 days running that really wore me out. None of that though has put me off New York, it just made me realise that we should go back in the spring or autumn (or maybe even in the winter if we are feeling brave), so that we can continue our galloping tour of the city.
Getting off the plane at Newark was a pleasant surprise, I had many horror stories of long waits and rude border control, but it was seamless and relatively quick; my comparison is from when we crossed by road between Vancouver and Seattle, that was a long wait in a hot coach and then a queue beyond that. I was good that we had taken some advice and pre-booked a car to take us to our hotel; no wondering where to catch a bus or long struggles with suitcases, a quick call and there was our black sedan and an air-conditioned ride over to Manhattan.
But this isn’t going to be a “what I did and what I saw” blog about the trip…. The awe prevents that.
Size is the one thing that always gets me about America; 5 lane freeways and huge bridges all filled with cars and trucks (I like American trucks, I don’t know why but think it is the ‘nose’ compared to the British flat face). Skirting through New Jersey (there as a sign for the New Jersey Turnpike and I do need to work out what that is) we entered the tunnel to cross under the Hudson and onto the island.
I love grid systems, there I said it, I just become attuned to the blocks and grids and love it. There most be something in my psyche to draw me to them. Glasgow is very much the same in the city centre and it makes navigation and transit so much easier. Saying that, the journey from the tunnel exit to the hotel on west 50th was a real rat run; at one stage I see West 30th and then the number counted down and across and miraculously we popped out right outside the hotel. As it was a fixed fair I didn’t really care and was more interested in gawping (as I was) out the window.
The sliding entrance doors into the CitizenM became a ‘view of mercy’ for me. The opened and you got this lovely clod blast of air conditioning which gave me the most delightful shivers in comparison to the sticky heat of the outdoors. Even on that first trip through those doors I knew is was going to be something I learned to appreciate more and more.
The modern informality of the CitizenM is what draws me to them, I had previously stayed in the Glasgow and London hotels and deal for citizens make it more than comparable with other hotels which run a more budget approach to their establishments and guests. The fact that everything is electronic and I can sign myself in and get my own room key is a winner for me, in this modern age we should have the option to self-serve when we want to. We had a pod hotel in Heathrow and this the more advanced version of that.
Back the size thing, the 12 miles a day were spent exploring the Park and museums, the Highline and Midtown and it’s skyscrapers. The only exploring that didn’t add to the mileage was the roundtrip boat tour of the Manhattan island; who knew it was so green at the northern end of the island? If you had asked me with was end to end building and high-rise, not so green and dramatic.
Central Park is something that to me is incomparable in terms of size of a municipal park space. You could wander for miles and hours around its paths and byways. Finding (another) Cleopatra’s Needle sparked my immediate Egyptological interest and being on the park front of the Met it doomed poor companion to a fate he has been knowing would be coming. The Egyptology section of the Met is famous and well stocked with everything from pre-dynastic artefacts right up to the Greco-Roman period. To say this is where the highest percentage of my photos were taken would be spot on.
There was an incident in the Met, a small sign that there are some aspects of some American’s cultural values that I would have a problem with. Read all about that here.
Of course the Empire State and Top of the Rock (again I didn’t know that the Rockefeller Centre was multiple city blocks, I though it was just a building) were completed; the former during the day and in the evening (the photo beside is looking south to Empire State, Lower Manhattan and the Freedom Tower) and the latter only in the evening. Both stunning in terms of design, decor, views and buildings. To think that the Empire State was completed in 13 months and the story and history of innovation during the construction was incredible.
Shopping. Macy’s was a bit of a let down, but I think that was more due to the breakfast hunger and the rather disappointing fulfilment of that hunger in a dim and dingy looking restaurant. I think it needs another visit to get me out of the frame of mind that it is just a big John Lewis or Debenhams. However …. wow does 5th Avenue have some pricy jewellery shops, just looking in the windows almost seemed to cost! Saying all that though New York was the scene of my most recent technology purchase. Though slightly disappointed that the 5th Avenue Microsoft store was not yet opened, I found the concession stand in the Time Warner/Columbus Circle mall.
I had done my research before going, gathering up UK pricing for a Surface 3 with all the bells and whistles and, through a degree of humming and hawing (perhaps in a way the British can do) the helpful young lady at the concession stand also gave me the education discount and saved over £150 on the UK retail pricing (that includes the charge for the credit card $ to £ transfer!).
The last attraction I am going to mention specifically is the Intrepid. It is crazy to see an air craft carrier parked of Manhattan Island, but there she is all buddied up with a Concorde and the Growler. Beyond the ship herself two things stand out for me; the Enterprise, and the retelling of the kamikaze strikes on ships during the second world war.
The former is just so inspiring to me, granted the Enterprise never made it in to space, but was part of the effort to just a reusable launch vehicle. To see her up close gave me the shivers as to what we can achieve and where we can go. The latter was upsetting. It was a very emotive telling of the Japanese kamikaze strikes and, importantly, it was from both sides. There was the Japanese perspective of the fact these pilots died for what they thought was an effort to save their families and their way of life. To see it told in such a graphic and honest way, with footage from the Intrepid when she was struck by these planes and the loss of life… it is fair to say I did leave with a tears in my eyes. We all have to live on the tiny little planet and essentially we are all the same thing; human being, but the desire for mastery, power, wealth and ideology (though how much ideology is not driven by the three before i don’t know) have always made us want to conquer, subdue and kill. Would Britain, America, China and Russia be such ‘great nations’ if it were not for the last two world wars and the follow on wars of the last 4 decades? The Intrepid and her story and exhibitions caused me to be a bit reflective and grump for a few hours, so spare a though for the other half….
New York, I will go back. All the frantic walking and absorbing of the place made me just discover more I wanted to see. Next time though, it is not going to be in the heat of late summer.