New York - Part Two
30th July 2013 15:56
Grand Central Terminal is another one of those iconic landmarks that I just had to visit while I was in New York. I had actually found myself passing through it previously when I was headed elsewhere in the city, but I made sure that day I was able to spend a decent amount of time there to soak up the atmosphere and get the required snaps. It’s every bit as frenetic as you would expect, and a great place for people watching as they go about their business. Some might call it spying, I call it observing. With a camera. And a big lens.
I was a busy boy myself that day though, and I was soon due to wander off to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which was unfortunately undergoing restoration works at the time. I couldn’t get too many great shots, but here’s a few that I managed to take without any scaffolding in them!
Continuing my busy schedule (the only way to get to see everything I wanted to while I was there!) I headed to a genuine Hollywood film set! Anyone seen “I Am Legend” with Will Smith? The bit where he hits golf balls towards the city skyline is filmed on a Blackbird jet on the Intrepid aircraft carrier - converted into a very cool museum.
Unfortunately - again, due to Hurricane Sandy - the Enterprise space shuttle exhibit was closed for maintenance and repair. Apparently it did have a kind of tent covering it, which had collapsed and caused some damage. The silver lining was being able to get a nice side on shot without anything in the way though.
Another Hollywood film set beckoned - actually come to think of it, most places in New York probably are! - anyone who’s seen Night at the Museum will know the Museum of Natural History. What most people don’t know is, it’s actually based on a true story. Indeed, on more than one occasion I caught “inanimate” animals quickly turning their heads out of the corner of my eye as I walked past.
With a city as crowded and densely populated as New York, any space is valuable. That’s why the repurposing of an old elevated railway line in the lower west side to green space was so clever. Apparently it took inspiration from a similar project in Paris.
High Line is 1 mile long, and as you can imagine - being built where a railway line once ran, is not your average park. Judging by the number of people that were there when Amber, Emily and I visited, it’s a very popular addition to the area, especially on a nice sunny day.
The following morning I had a slight problem. I was unable to withdraw any money from the ATM, and I was down to my last $30. Since I’d lost the card for the current account I’d opened specifically for my trip, back in Vietnam - I’d been using my credit card to withdraw money. Not only did that cost me a load more in fees, but once you reach a certain percentage of your credit limit, you are then unable to withdraw anymore. I’d already learnt this the hard way somewhere in Asia. I assumed this was what the problem was again, so logged in and juggled things around to pay off some of the balance.
This didn’t work. The following day I was still unable to withdraw money (it should have cleared by then), so I was forced to phone the credit card company. It transpired that due to suspected fraudulent activity, they’d frozen my account. This, despite the fact I’d phoned them once before I left to inform them I’d be travelling abroad, and again somewhere in Asia where they’d done the same thing. The lesson to learn from this is - don’t be an idiot and leave your bank card in an ATM in Vietnam.
Having eventually been able to get my hands on some more cash, I continued on my sightseeing extravaganza. The name of the next building I was going to visit was an uncomfortable reminder of what I would soon be heading home to after so long doing absolutely no housework! The Flatiron building is so named because of its unusual shape in construction. Built where an avenue and a street converge, the iron shape is very unique and many people come to view the clever architecture.
Not content with my previous clueless experience at an American sporting event, I’d booked a ticket that evening to go and see The New York Knicks play at Madison Square Garden. Once again, absolutely no idea of the rules whatsoever, but the scoring was far easier to understand than baseball! The atmosphere was fantastic, better than Yankee stadium in fact - possibly because it’s all enclosed. And the action is far more fast paced which made it more exciting.
Sexy dancers too...
Oh wait... wrong video.
The English premier league is definitely missing a trick with its half time entertainment...
Of course no trip to the Big Apple would be complete without a trip in a rather quick elevator (lift, for us British folk) to the top of a very tall skyscraper. You really have two options, Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Centre), or the Empire State Building.
The Top of the Rock has the advantage of being able to see the iconic Empire State Building when you’re at the top. The Empire State Building, well... it’s the Empire State Building! I couldn’t decide between the two, so I did both. In fact, I did Rockefeller twice...
As I made my way there, I was looking upwards between the rows of tall buildings at clouds drawing in, and covering up the previously sunny sky. I could have delayed my visit, but the forecast for the next few days was no better. The sun I had been enjoying looked to be coming to an end. I made the decision to go up anyway, but wasn’t out on the top observation deck for long at all before the sky came over very dark, and the wind picked up enormously.
This made for very cool photos, but unfortunately it was short lived, as the staff came outside and rounded up all the tourists, closing the topmost observation deck in anticipation of the imminent bad weather. I didn’t have to wait for long. Within a few minutes, the skies opened and torrential rain began falling, forcing the last of the stragglers to run back inside. With no prospect of it stopping anytime soon, I made my way back down, disappointed... consoling myself with the smoky BBQ burger and milkshake I posted last time!
This absolutely did the trick, and apparently also had some freaky control over the weather too, as when I came out of the restaurant, the rain had stopped! With nothing else planned that night - as I had intended to hang around at the top for a while enjoying the view and going overboard with photos as I usually do - I decided I would pay to go up again. What the hell, I was only going to be there once... make the most of it!
Repeating the journey upwards, with a strong sense of deja vu, I emerged onto the observation deck again to see clouds and lightning in the distance. The camera was set up, and hundreds of photos later I managed to capture one I was really pleased with!
Now libraries aren’t my territory usually... but i think you’ll agree this one isn’t your typical library, and was well worth a look.
The New York Public Library has over 75 miles of shelving and if I’m honest, is just a tad more impressive than Croydon Central. It’s a close run thing though.
The daddy was next. The Empire State Building is the first thing you think of when you think of New York City, and the views were incredible.
It’s strange to view the city from this height, being so used to the hustle and bustle down on the streets below. You can still see things happening in the distance, but it’s like you’re detached from it being so far up. You also realise just how big the city actually is!
Back at street level, I returned to Times Square for the obligatory night shots before returning home to drink with the girls, and get jumped on by King some more.
My time in The City That Never Sleeps was drawing to a close. I had time to see a few more things before going home, which really didn’t seem real after being away for so long!
Underneath Brooklyn Bridge, you can get a great view of Brooklyn across the river, and then once on the footpath crossing the bridge, behind you looking back towards Manhattan.
And the rest of the photos that didn’t really fit in anywhere in particular, but that I quite liked:
So after one year, ten countries and seventeen thousand photos, I was finally going home. My flight back to London landed at something unpleasant like 6 am. It was actually strange seeing my parents in real life, as opposed to the tiny Skype-sized faces I'd grown accustomed to. The weather was cold, and cloudy. My cat pretty much ignored me for a few hours, as if to punish me for leaving for so long. There was a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I should be getting ready for my next coach, train or plane journey to my next stop, but there were no more places to visit... my once in a lifetime journey was over.
Reality slowly sunk in, and as I trawled through my photos I reminisced on the best year of my life. There were plenty of ups and a few downs - some more painful than others! - but zero regrets, and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat if I ever got the chance.
So that's all folks. I got there in the end... only three months late! If you stuck with it for this long, then wow - I'm impressed! A big thank you for joining me, and farewell...... until next time!