More Holiday Highlights
Halfway through our holiday in New York, and we were in the grips of an Indian summer with temperatures in the mid-70s, which had been perfect for our river cruise the day before. What came next?
The morning was spent wandering the halls of dinosaurs, fossils, animal dioramas including the suspended Blue Whale in the Great Ocean Hall, and seeing a live axolotl in one of the special exhibits plus all the gemstones and rocks in the geology section.
We took our street food lunch into Central Park opposite, and then wandered for a bit past the famous Alice in Wonderland statue before bussing down to Central Park Zoo which was absolutely lovely.
Juliet and I both love zoos, as long as thought is put into giving the animals a good life there of course. This tiny zoo had red pandas, snow leopards, and a herd of inquisitive chinstrap penguins in its collection. We headed back uptown slightly earlier this day as we had plans for the evening…
We did the Empire State Building at night, going up once dark. Before you get close to the lifts, you have to walk for what feels like miles between velvet ropes, zig-zagging up and down the mezzanine. I guess it is designed to minimise queues for the lifts – keep ’em walking – but was just irritating to me!
Once up though, the iconic views open up again and you forget the pain of getting there – your next mission is now to avoid all the
buggies pushchairs and selfie sticks (they were everywhere!) to reach the viewpoints to take your own photos. If you want to go up to the 102nd floor observatory from the 86th, it’ll cost you an extra $20 each – we declined.
The Empire State Building does stay open until 2am when I’m sure it would have been quieter – 8pm was rather busy and no time nor room for pretending you’re meeting someone like Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle.
A change of pace today – although driven out of the hotel early by the noise of the city inspectors who started work shortly after 8am, we headed downtown for a long subway ride to Brooklyn. The heat had broken giving us a crisp, autumn day and we started off browsing the shops in Williamsburg which is cool and hip. I managed to sneak in my only bookish purchase at Spoonbill & Sugartown while Juliet was browsing a gift and stationery shop next door. We lunched at a neighbourhood cafe Fabiane’s, before heading back to Brooklyn Bridge Park and more iconic views back across to Manhattan.
We dallied with an ice-cream from the Brooklyn Ice-Cream Factory before heading back uptown for more midtown shopping. I did drag my daughter into the cavernous Strand Books for a quick look, but didn’t have the inclination to submit Juliet to being bored while I browsed the second-hand shelves.
Our last day. After packing and leaving our cases to pick up later, we headed towards the Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway. Rather like the Staten Island Ferry which is free if you don’t get off (you only have to pay coming into Manhattan boarding in S.I.), the R.I.A.T. big cable car ride is the price of a subway ride – or included in a Metrocard. So we went over to the island, confirmed there was nothing to do there (it’s a mix of industrial and residential), and came back – but again you get good views and it’s another different form of transport!
We lunched in a proper diner, then headed back to Midtown for more shopping – starting at Michael’s which is an arts and crafts chain a bit like Hobbycraft in the UK, but not as nice. So over to Greenwich Village and Washington Square (right) for a last stop on our touristic itinerary. It was heaving with buskers, prayer groups, dog-walkers, the young and the old alike.
Getting homesick as you do on your last day of a holiday, we headed back back to the hotel and then to JFK a bit early. Now, we need a holiday from our holiday to recover!
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While there are undoubtedly bargains to be had in New York, Levis for $25 at Century 21 if you can find your size for instance, T-shirts in H&M 2 for $10 instead of £10 – that sort of thing, you have to search for them. I want a new Swatch Skin watch but the price of $110 everywhere was exactly the same as the £70 in England. The Duty-free at JFK wasn’t worth bothering with it was so expensive (but we did have a tester squirt of perfume each way – as you do!) US paperbacks are also more expensive than UK ones. So New York isn’t a good place for bargain hunting unless you have the time for it.
I did get hassled by a homeless guy inside a coffee shop which was a pain. He asked for change. I politely refused. He asked another lady for change and she bought him a donut and drink – he wasn’t going to say thanks until she prompted him. Then he came back to me, and said ‘The other white lady helped me out’! I asked him firmly to leave us alone. He continued to work the other customers, but kept looking my way. The shop staff seemed quite happy with him being in there. I hate being made to feel guilty in such a persistant and irritating way though. (As I had planned to do anyway, I gave all my spare coins to the Virgin children’s charity on the plane home.)
However to end on a positive side, nearly everyone was really friendly – some shop assistants were over-friendly, but others made up for them. If you looked lost, it is easy to get disoriented at crossroads in NYC, someone would always point you in the right direction. I think it was much friendlier than London in that respect. I’m looking forward to going back and exploring more of this fascinating city.