Throwback Thursday: New York City 1998

NYC Metropolitan Museum

Metropolitan Museum, August 1998

In the summer of 1998, I had been sent away several times for training courses. One of the destinations was just outside of Boston so I had the opportunity to spend a little time there. The next course was in Parisppany, New Jersey which isn’t all that inspiring but it was possible to catch a bus into New York. It was a journey of about an hour to Port Authority bus terminal. One evening, three or four of us made the trip in and went up the Empire State Building to see the lights of the city come on at twilight. We walked back to Times Square and were wowed by the lights!

At the end of the week, my flight home was not leaving until Sunday so I had all day Saturday to spend. It was early August and stinking hot and humid. I took the bus into the city again and rather than taking a tour or something, my plan of attack was to see several exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum. As you can see from the photo, one of them was about Tiffany and another about the pre-Raphaelites. I also had the chance to see the Unicorn Tapestries that were on show while the uptown branch of the Met, The Cloisters was being renovated.

The thing that really stands out in my memory about the museum, however, was getting to see Monets and Renoirs that they had.  I’m trying to remember if the National Gallery in London had any when I was there in 1993. I do remember seeing Turners and Canalettos there. In my memory, it was the first time I’d seen something by Monet and Renoir, though, so I’ll stick with that. They were stunning, as you might expect!

The Met is enormous, though, and you won’t see it all in one go. I saw what I went to see, the Impressionist galleries and the special exhibits and then took a cab down Fifth Ave. where I was meeting an internet pal that I traded postcards with. He and his wife and I had a quick lunch and when she went back to work (Sak’s Fifth Avenue!), he and I walked around that area, from Fifth Ave. over to Times Square. I picked up some souvenirs, took some photos and just soaked in the atmosphere of Summer in the City.

Eventually, he had to leave and I was hot, sweaty and very footsore. The heat and humidity were really dragging me down by this time so I completely failed to stay in the city and have my evening meal there, I took the bus back to the hotel where I had room service after soaking my feet in the hot tub! You’ve got to know your limitations!

That was my first nibble at the Big Apple. Graham and I went there for a few days in 2013 and did all of the touristy things and saw a show. We’d love to go back again and take our time, walk, go to museums and galleries, take in a show or two, eat fabulous food and shop until we drop!

New York birthday memories

A few weeks ago, I posted a few cartoons that my fella does for me as my annual birthday card. Often they are based on where we’d traveled in the previous year. This year’s card was based on our trip to New York City last May. One of the things he really was looking forward to was going up to the top of the Empire State Building, and mentioned several times King Kong. Now, See, I would have been more romantic, with thoughts of Sleepless in Seattle and An Affair to Remember.

I expected the cartoon to have some sort of NYC theme but I didn’t expect this:

Birthday-2014sm

You can also see that I have a camera in my hand, which is pretty typical of me. No matter what’s going on, I’ll be likely to take a photo before running off to safety! He joked “Oh, let’s go to New York, she said. It’ll be nice this time of year, she said. The view from the top of the Empire State Building would be great, she said”

He wanted to make sure the cartoon looked authentic so looked around the net for photos of the building in the 1930s when the original King Kong movie was made and wanted the Chrysler building in it as well so you knew for sure it was NYC. Utterly brilliant!

A Word a Week Challenge – Yellow

Every week, Sue from A Word in Your Ear has a challenge. She picks a random word out of a dictionary and followers rise to the challenge. This week’s word is Yellow.

Rather than picking photos from various locations from my travels, I’m gathering Yellows from my trip to New York City last May.

Tir Na Nog Eggs Benny

Yellow Hollandaise on the Eggs Benny to start the day

Souvenirs

Souvenirs

Park the car here!

 

Rainy yellow cabs

Soho Detail

 

From the Sea, Air and Space Museum

New York street food!

 

Impressions of New York

Chinatown New York

Chinatown New York

Here I sit, nearly 2 weeks after returning from my first proper visit to New York City and it’s still fresh in my mind though the blisters have now healed. I say “New York” but really, like most tourists, I mean Manhattan since that’s where most of us tourists visit and sight see.

People ask how did I like New York and what did I think of it? I think I need to go again to really get a good feel for it because mostly this time we were on tour busses and seeing the famous sights. To really get a sense of a location, you need to spend time in the neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village, SoHo, or the upper East or West sides at the very least. You need to shop, visit galleries and museums, and dine in restaurants, drink beer in pubs and sit in cafes watching the world go by. We did a little of that but not enough. The first time is your time to see the iconic New  York. After that, you can relax into the vibe of the city.

Stating the obvious, New  York is big. Very big. Even Manhattan, a small island, is packed with so much that you could spend all your time and visits there and never be unsatisfied. In fact, most people only see the bottom half of the island from Central Park south. It’s also flat for the most part, from Central Park to the south. That is not it’s natural state. One tour guide told us that the land had been leveled as the city grew. Flat makes it easier to walk and it is very much a walking city in spite of the thousands and thousands of vehicles that often clog up the streets and avenues.

It’s a colourful city. The most noticeable is the bright yellow from the streams of yellow taxis. There are street vendors with brightly coloured umbrellas and carts. There are street news stands. Advertising on buildings, be it painted on, or billboards is everywhere. Neon is King in mid-town Manhattan even putting the Times Square district aside.

We visited in May, not high tourist season of the summer but in New York, it’s always tourist season so the sidewalks are always busy with people, both tourists and residents. Lunchtimes, evening rush hour and, in the Times Square area, after theatre (10 – 11 pm) are when you’ll find the highest volume of people on the sidewalks. Post-theatre people are all happy, strolling, chatting and excited. Morning, lunch and after work, the people are more business-like, intent on their destination. Don’t get in their way!

Freedom in the mist

Freedom in the mist

Some people we encountered in restaurants and shops were very nice but there were some in some shops that were dismissive and rude. The friendliest seemed to be those that appeared to be from elsewhere, at least, their accent seemed to indicate they weren’t born and raised in New York/America.

New York is very multicultural as you would expect from a city which was the entry point for millions of immigrants. Many just stayed where they arrived and many are still coming. It makes for a much richer experience for the visitor in more ways than just having more variety of restaurant choice. We spoke with one man in a deli who was from Yemen and another very helpful fellow in a souvenir shop was from India. The wait staff who served us in every Irish pub we went to had an Irish accent. One tour guide had a strong Arabic accent and another was Spanish, though he was a bit cranky at times.

New York is one of the most famous cities in the world, for the culture, the finance, the icons, and The Great American Dream. It is similar to London in that there is something for everyone and you’ll never get tired of it. When one is tired of London, one is tired of life. That is true of New York even though the city has a different vibe as all cities do.

New York is crowded, it’s expensive, it’s got world class entertainment and museums. It’s a city of many different types of neighbourhoods, each with a different look and feel. The city is very good for keeping the historical aspect alive these days, and the older buildings with the wonderful detailing are maintained wherever possible.

They are still reeling from the tragedy of 911 but, like Londoners in the Blitz, refuse to be beaten down by adversity. They talk about it, they think about it and they remember it. It’s always there in the background in spirit. I think that visiting New  York is in itself an act of defiance. You are not letting fear keep you away. Even if you don’t see the Ground Zero site, you’re paying your respects and showing your support just by being in the city.

As I said, we mostly did touristy things, visiting some of the famous and iconic sites, taking tour busses around, doing some walking and taking in a couple of museums and a Broadway show. We didn’t do much shopping and we would love to have had more time to see a few more museums and shows. It’s expensive but there are always ways to save a little money. There aren’t as many free museums which is a shame. That’s one great thing about a city like London, most of the major museums and galleries cost nothing. Transportation is efficient though we didn’t use it other than the taxis.

Would I go again? Yes I’d like to but there are plenty of other places I want to go first. Our next few holidays are already in discussion. A road trip around Scotland this fall, possibly a road trip around Ireland next spring and maybe a road trip to Boston in late summer or early September. We’ve also thought about Iceland as a destination, as well.

Traveling through the movies – Premium Rush (NYC)

rush24f-1-web

Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Premium Rush keeps ahead of the yellow New York cabs

My trip to New York has me still in a mental holiday spirit and with memories of the city still clear, I bring you an excellent movie filmed on the streets of New York. Premium Rush is about a bicycle courier, Wilee,  who has to deliver a ticket to a location in Chinatown but the ticket is also worth a lot of money to a dirty cop, a gambling addict whose debts will be forgiven in exchange for this ticket.

premium-rush-blu-ray-box-artThe ticket which is a receipt, was purchased by a Chinese immigrant and it proves her payment which will allow her son and mother to come to the US aboard a ship that is used to smuggle immigrants out of China.  The dirty cop chases Wilee through the streets of New York and Wilee, with the help of his ex girlfriend and courier rival must get the ticket to it’s intended recipient by 7 p.m.

It’s a pretty good thriller and the movie was shot on the streets of New York, mostly from a low level so you really feel like you are part of the action, in the middle of the traffic with Wilee, or zipping along the paths of Central Park. There are streams of yellow cabs, lots of traffic and great shots of the shops and streets, most of which are not lined by skyscrapers as the action starts in the upper west side of Manhattan at Columbia University and traverses through to Chinatown by the end of the film.

Also interesting to me is the star of the movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I was surprised to find out this is the actor that played the younger lad in the great comedy Third Rock from the Sun. I think I probably have seen him in a few movies since then but it never struck me who he was.

Anyway, watching this film really puts you on the streets of New York City, mostly the Upper West Side and some of Central Park,  the streets of everyday working people rather than the famous tourist sites. I would love to go back!

premium-rush-movie-poster-13

More Streets of New York in Premium Rush. The camera work is shot from street level and you really feel part of the action

A Word a Week Challenge – Face

Face can mean so much. This week’s challenge can go many ways. The most obvious is people’s faces but you can face challenges, you can face forward or backwards, face the truth, do an about-face, be two-faced. A face represents things or people, not just literally but figuratively too.

I’ve just returned from New  York City and I’m going to post a few photos that represent the Face of New York to me. It’s not just the famous and iconic symbols, it’s the details that will remind me of New York even more than remembering the awesome view from the Empire State Building or watching the skyline go by as we cruised around the tip of Manhattan or getting soaked on the top of the tour bus. Those memories are important, but the little things that make New York as a city stand out are these:

New York is famed for theatre, film, and tv. Thousands of people make the trek there every year. If they can “make it” in New York, they can “make it” anywhere, as the song goes. But you have to support yourself until you get that big break so you will find actors and performers waiting tables, working on construction crews, guiding tours and working in offices. The Stardust Diner on Broadway is a singing restaurant and all the staff take turns singing for you in between taking orders and delivering food.

Singing for her tips.

Singing for her tips.

Advertising is everywhere. Neon, billboards, signs in windows and banners on buildings. But what struck me is the ads painted right on the brick and concrete of the sides of the buildings. There are loads of them in New York, many faded over time but they still do it. We were told that they use a sort of paint by numbers template to do it.

New York buildings have ads painted right on the brick.

New York buildings have ads painted right on the brick.

There are 13,000 yellow cabs in New  York City. There are streams and streams of them on the streets and avenues. New York wouldn’t be New York without them.

Yellow cabs in New York

People here, like everywhere, have pets. But so many people work that they pay someone to walk their dogs. You see dog walkers leading up to 6 or 7 dogs on leads sometimes.

Dog walkers in New York.

Another thing I saw that I have never seen anywhere else (mind you, I haven’t been all that many places in the grand scheme of things) is the vertical parking. They raise the cars up on lifts to the parking bays. Man, parking is expensive in New  York and obviously, not that convenient but using this type of parking, you’re pretty sure you’re car won’t get stolen!

Vertical parking in New York

This is just the kind of street view I like. People doing everyday things, taking a quiet moment out of a hectic day, finding a peaceful spot in a noisy city and chilling with a coffee and newspaper. This was taken on the 41st St. side of the New York Public Library.

 

Taking a few chill out moments

Even more than the famous buildings in New York like the Chrysler, the Empire State or the new Freedom Tower, this tower kept popping up in my view and in my photos. It’s the tallest residential building in the city apparently and was designed by Gehry. It looks like someone crumpled it and I really like it a lot.

Gehry tower

Here’s another view of it

Another detail that says “New York” to me is the fire escapes zig-zagging down the sides of the buildings. They’re mainly on the older buildings. The tall modern architecture doesn’t have exterior fire escapes. That’s kind of scary really but they probably have more than one inner staircase for emergency exit.

Balconies in SoHo and lovely window detailing

I could post a lot of photos that show the architectural details I saw on buildings in New  York but that’s not really unique to New York in my mind. I look for that and find details  everywhere I go in various cities.  I’m sure many cities have similar fire escapes but I haven’t seen them so to me, they’ll always remind me of New York. Another thing I particularly remember is that there are so many Irish themed pubs in New York! I know the city, historically, has had many Irish immigrants but they must still be arriving because in each that we patronized, the waitress serving us had an Irish accent.

There are always things that remind you of a particular city, that will, in your mind and memory, be the “face of ” that city, over and above the famous sights.  You see the Eiffel Tower,  you think of Paris, but do you recall the horse chestnut trees everywhere lining streets and boulevards or all the sidewalk cafes? I do. You see the Colosseum and you think of Rome, but I remember the golden colours that wash the walls of the buildings, the many shades of oranges, yellows and  the pinks and all the Vespas buzzing about.  Copenhagen brings to mind the outdoor tables and chairs, complete with a little blanket to wrap around your shoulders if it’s chilly. London has the ubiquitous black cabs, even if they’re painted all colours with advertising, and the signs painted on the streets at intersections to remind you which way to watch for oncoming traffic!

These are the faces of some of the cities I’ve been to. What kinds of details do you remember about places you’ve been, above and beyond the notable sights?

The hellish side of travel

No Love for United Airways

No Love for United Airways

I don’t know whether the seventh level of hell it was to get out of Newark Liberty airport was due to a United Airways check in clerk’s screw up or the way I had booked my tickets but either way, I am extremely reluctant to fly through that airport ever again.

I had used my Aeroplan points to book two return tickets from Halifax to Newark (New  York). The airline we were given was United Airlines on the way down and for the return journey, it was United to Boston and changing to Air Canada for the hop to Halifax. The flight to Newark that we were booked on was delayed several hours but they got us on an earlier flight. Coming back it was a different matter. Was it me? Was I making bad decisions? Were the travel Gods punishing me for some unknown slight?

Talk about one bad decision and/or screw up after another, it was one thing after another until I was in tears several times. I couldn’t check in online. It just didn’t work and it hadn’t worked trying to get here earlier in the week either. I have no idea why. We couldn’t check in online before we left as a result. We grabbed a take-out from the café a few doors from the hotel and walked around to Port Authority bus terminal to try to find somewhere to sit and eat but nothing was there. Not one bench or chair to be had in the terminal where the shops were. Perhaps there were some by the bus bays but we didn’t need to go through that labyrinth as the airport bus picks up on the street. The wrong street where we went first. We went to where it dropped us off on 42nd St. though I wasn’t sure it would pick up there and when I asked someone, found out we had to go back to 41st street. We stood on the sidewalk and ate our snacks and then dragged ourselves back through the terminal to the other street and luckily the airport bus was right there and boarding.

We put our bags in the hold and got comfy. When we got to the airport we attempted to get out at the wrong terminal. Fine. Climb back on and get to the right one. Check in was another nightmare. The kiosks wouldn’t take my reference number so one of the United staff checked us in but then we still had to put the details into a keyosk right in front of her. She doesn’t actually give out the boarding passes, just the luggage sticker.

I think she did something wrong. She seemed to have checked G. through to Halifax but not me. I kept asking why. She kept saying it was a different ticket, yes… but why didn’t mine get checked through? We were booked the same way. Kept getting the same answer. When we navigated the touch screen check in, again, mine only gave me paperwork to Boston, not through to Halifax unlike G.s process. I couldn’t seem to get the woman to understand and she kept assuring me it was ok, I was checked through to Halifax but all the paperwork said otherwise. It just didn’t make sense that he would get two boarding passes and a luggage receipt to Halifax and I only got one boarding pass and a receipt for the luggage to Boston. It was futile trying to get any further explanations or answers so I walked away in tears of frustration, worried about whether I should collect my bag in Boston and how do I then get a boarding pass?

We went through a pain in the arse at security, having to actually stand by our trays until they went through the conveyor. I was scanned and then had to be body searched/patted down anyway even though I didn’t hear any beeps in the machine. I probably looked ultra-stressed and that probably ticked an alarm box or something.   G. didn’t have that indignity. We finally got through all that and got ourselves back together and sat at the first café we found. Guess what? They had lots of different kinds of tea but no normal plain orange pekoe so I suffered Earl Grey instead. It just felt like I didn’t make one decision that ended well today and it was so frustrating!! I’m in tears again and G. is saying don’t let it get to you. Well, clearly it has already.

We got to the gate and there was another assistance desk so I asked there about the confusion. The man said I was only checked in to Boston and would have to retrieve my luggage there and re-check in. We had suspected that might be the case but it’s good to know so I didn’t leave my luggage behind in Boston. If I’d trusted that witch that checked us in, that’s what I would have done.

One good thing, our seats were near the front of the plane and they had buckets of leg room, a ‘United Plus’ type of thing. One bad thing, we weren’t sitting together. The United clerk checked us in, and we were clearly traveling together,  and when we went through the keyosk check in process for my ticket, it seemed like the seat beside me was empty. We tried to change his seat to one next to mine. Guess what? They’d have charged 14 dollars. As it was they charged 25 to check the bags. Nickel and diming you to death, right? To top it all off, the person that did sit beside me changed her seat just before takeoff so he could have changed and sat with me had he known but by then I was just zoning out to try to take the stress levels down a bit so I didn’t try to get over to him to tell him and he hadn’t looked back to notice until we were almost ready to land. It was only a 30 minute flight so it wasn’t really that big a deal but why didn’t she just put us together in the first place?

I did go and get my bags which came off the plane without going missing. From there we had to figure out where we had to be, which was Terminal B.  It was quite a hike to get there, long hallways and a dash across a parking garage level for some strange reason. Maybe it’s a short cut.  But there were the Air Canada desks with a one-“stall” security check beside them. It felt like AC was hidden away in a back room secret closet!

Over to the AC desk, and I explained my problem. The desk gal checked my details and said I was indeed already checked in to the flight and we were already sitting together.  She didn’t know why I wasn’t issued a boarding pass back in Newark like G. was.  I told her I had had such a horrible day to that point but that when I saw the Air Canada desk, I knew everything was going to be OK! She laughed and agreed with me, of course! I have a boarding pass in my hot little hand and have rechecked the bag so I didn’t have to mess around with it. These planes are so small that they make you put the bag in the hold at the gate anyway. Might as well check it to start with. We went down the hallway a bit to find a restaurant and got some hot food inside us and lots of cold fluids.

Since I had been traveling with a laptop and didn’t want to check that in the baggage, I had it in a shopping bag. The bag was heavy paper and the handles were sort of a twine kind of thing. The laptop was a bit heavy for the bag and one of the handles slipped off. I had a feeling that would happen but never mind. There’s free Wi-Fi in Logan so we logged on and I made sure my nephew had the flight details for picking us up tonight with the rental car.

Feeling much better now, we headed back to security which was much less of a hassle even though we still had to take off shoes and belts etc. That’s standard stuff these days. The security area led right straight to and area with three gates. That was all, and the gates were right there, no further walking needed.  There is nothing on this side of security except a little concession stand, not even duty free shops. There was a small duty free place outside security and I noticed when we boarded that there was someone there to hand out your duty free purchases at the gate. They do that in Halifax, too, even though the duty free is already inside security at Stanfield Airport in Halifax. .

The flight is about an hour and 20 minutes so it was  fairly quick and easy. I was never so glad to get to the end of a travel day in my life. Even that long delay and subsequent rerouting through Toronto back in January wasn’t as bad as this, stress wise. I know others have had far worse experiences trying to get places but this, for me, was my worst to date.

Luggage Gods still kind, but the Travel Gods must have been off duty or else they have a grudge against United who have been notorious of late anyway so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Tripping over the lights fantastic

42nd Street at night

42nd Street at night

When last we spoke, I had taken a bus tour of tv and movie locations. The rain had stopped and the sun was trying hard to come out. That night, we saw Rock of Ages at the  Helen Hayes Theatre, a few short blocks from the hotel. It is quite possibly the most fun you can have at the theatre! It’s all cheesy 80s rock, lots of great jokes, with talented actor/singers (unlike the film of the same name!) and musicians. The theatre is not large but that means everyone has a great seat. The theatre staff were very anal about people taking photos of the stage set before the show, claiming copyright. Seems a bit petty to me. Banning photos during the performance is something I can certainly understand and get on board with. Well, even when they hollered at people for taking photos, they didn’t take the camera or make them delete it, not that I saw.

We walked back from the theatre and thought the better of walking over to Times Square as our feet were hurting but we could see the lights along 42nd street and some of the other streets leading over to Times Square. That’s good enough.

Friday was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. We  had been told that the queues at the Empire State building were very light in the morning. Probably, it was earlier than we got there which was about 10:20 or so. It took us pretty much one hour from the time we entered the lobby to the time we walked out on the Observation Deck of the 86th floor, through four different lineups but for the most part, it wasn’t really that bad. The longest one is the queue for security and it moved quickly. The slowest was the one for the elevator which only takes you to the 80th floor first where you can see an exhibit about the ESB. Then there’s another wait for the lift up the last 6 floors though you can climb steps if you wish. We didn’t wish.

The observation deck was pretty busy but people seemed to be easy going and willing to move away from the view points to let others in. The sky was blue and the views were spectacular. When we left, the line up to get in was right out onto Fifth Ave.!

ESB  northwest

We had a drink and then attempted to get a cab. We had no luck. There are 13,000 cabs in New York and all of the streams of them that flowed past us were occupied. We walked, stopped, tried to wave one down, repeat. Finally a guy cycling a pedi-cab wheeled over. I asked how much, showed him where we were going and hopped in. Our destination is the Intrepid Air and Space and Sea museum on the Hudson River and it was a fair little walk from Fifth Avenue without a subway station all that near, not without a further walk. The pedicab was an unusual perspective to transport through the streets of New York. Yes, it was a huge tourist trap, as are the horse drawn carraiges but it was something different at least.

We enjoyed the Intrepid museum, a museum of, on and in an aircraft carrier that is nearly as long as the Chrysler building is high! They had lots of planes and helicopters on the long flight deck including a space shuttle which was closed due to some damage to it’s canopy from a hurricane not long ago. They have a submarine docked as well, one that was one of the first to carry nuclear and cruise missiles. The hangar deck had a couple of space capsules, an American one and a Russian Soyez. It was all really cool, we both like that sort of thing.

We could have spent more time there but we needed to get something to eat in the cafe and get to the next pier to take the Circle Line cruise around the island of Manhattan at 4. There was a very long queue there as well which wasn’t moving for the first half hour. I wasn’t sure all those people were even going to get on one boat but the boats are very big and everyone fit! We sat on the outside deck though not out at the edge of the boat. We were in the center of it so we had a lot of heads in our photos. Most people were pretty good about staying in their seat but a couple of times many of the tourists got excited over the Statue of Liberty and stood up to shoot pictures and stayed up for awhile. It’s annoying when the boat is going to come around and give everyone a good view of the Statue of Liberty.

Sailing up the East River under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges was nice too. I like boat cruises as you get a different view of a city and it’s great for skyline type photos. It stayed nice and sunny all day and even out on the water it wasn’t very chilly or windy.

The cruise takes about two hours for the “semi circle” which doesn’t go completely around the island. We walked over to 9th Ave. from the piers (on 12th at 42nd St.) where there are lots of restaurants. We had a most excellent Thai meal at a place called Yum Yum! It was certainly appropriate.

After four days of walking and sightseeing, we’re done in. It may be Friday night in a happening city but we’re worn out and are very happy to have a relaxing evening at the hotel. Just as well. Trying to get out of the damn city was a pain in the ass. But that’s something for another blog post. Stay tuned.