New York City 2009
Tuesday 2 june 2009
The flight : my first time with Swiss! Maybe that contributed to my good mood, because it was the best flight ever. I never had a personal digital entertainment system (little individual screen embedded in the screen in front of you) with a remote/joypad. I was however a bit disappointed by the fact that the movies still begin at fixed times for everyone and that you can’t pause them when the flight attendant interrupts you. Which happens all the time! As a matter of fact, I think I never ate/drank so much during a flight : drinks every half hours, a snack (the typical nut bag, haha), a “dinner” (which was actually good), another snack and a Mövenpick ice cream! I ended up spending most of my time playing Tetris and a couple of rounds of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
JFK to Hotel : the Department of Homeland Security. Don’t we all love it? After taking a picture of me, taking my 10 finger prints (if I remember well, last time I entered the USA it was the thumb only), I was all good to enter the promised land (mmpff… ). When planing your trip, and if your country is part of a VISA waiver program, you should know that you might have to complete some forms (e.g. APIS) prior to entering the USA. Police state? yup. So, anyways, we had booked a shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel (Carlton on Madison Ave). The driver was a real jerk. He said that our reservation wasn’t valid, that the email I printed (which was the only confirmation I got) was bogus, etc. Finally, we ended up tipping him mistakenly 15$ (the ride was 40$)… asshole.
Broadway uptown : during the shuttle ride, we drove all over Manhattan and Katia was all hyped up, so we didn’t stay long at the hotel, just dropped our luggage (shower? don’t remember), and went straight out to start our 6 days Manhattan safari. The first landmark would be that famous corner building (don’t even know how it’s called) on Broadway. A couple of pictures, and we’re headed north to…
Times Square : since parts of Broadway have been closed down for cars, I think Times Square became a more enjoyable place. It sure is fun watching all the people from all over the world. We were getting hungry but were lazy to look for something special. The Hard Rock Café was too busy, so we explored a couple of side roads and ended up in a “cuban” place called the Havana-something (uh! my memory!). I got kinda pissed because of my English skills. Katia was understanding everything the waiter was saying, and I didn’t get a single word. I definitely lack practice.
Grand Central Station : Madagascar! Remember the part of the movie where the lion escapes from the Central Park Zoo and ends up in a train station with a huge hall? That’s Grand Central. The hall is all shiny and bright, but as soon as you enter the tracks area, it gets hot, humid, smelly. The station doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years. A thing to do next time in NYC is to take the train somewhere (Philly? Boston? Pittsburgh?).
Wednesday 3 june 2009
Looking for Krispy Kreme : the hotel had free wifi, so while trying to adjust to the local time by staying up till 4am (european time, so 10pm over there), I used my iPod touch to look for stores/restaurants to visit during our stay. Oh! about time conversions… Don’t we all have trouble with them? Well Katia fucked up when she told her mother that we would land in JFK at 6pm (instead of 8pm). And since the mother is a bit on the paranoid side, you can imagine the result ;) Anyways, back to my story. I have to admit I’m a bit of an american brands whore. I looked up Apple, California Pizza Kitchen, American Apparel, Ben&Jerry’s, Urban Outfitters and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. So for our first morning wouldn’t it be great to get some big fat donuts? We tried, but couldn’t find that damn Krispy Kreme. It later turned out that the plan shown on their webpage was wrong (plan by MapQuest, fuck them). On the evening, I entered the address into Google Maps and surprise, surprise, the map was correct. Google FTW! So no donuts. Katia got herself a New Yorker cheesecake, and I ate nothing until after the…
Empire State Building : we got really lucky, because there almost was no queue. The weather was gray, but not cloudy. It seems this is enough to keep most people from visiting the Empire State. I would have settled with the 86th floor view, but Katia insisted on going to the 102nd floor observatory too. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I wanted to make the same shot as 7 years before, but it wasn’t possible to find the exact same angle. I like it nevertheless.
Back on solid ground, we made our first stop at one of those typical 24/7 “pharmacies”. I love them. It seems that the most represented ones in Manhattan are Duane Reade’s. I grabed some cookies, Mountain Dew and of course some Cherry Coke!
5th Ave : we walked all the way up to Central Park. On our way there, we made a stop at the Rockefeller Plaza where Katia discovered a L’Occitane store (turns out it’s about 50-60% cheaper than in Suisse, despite the fact that they’re selling French products). On 5th Ave, at the south-east corner of Central Park, there is the famous Apple Store. I had to make a stop there. Of course since there now is an Apple Store in Geneva, the experience wasn’t extraordinary, but it’s a biiig store anyway. Because everything is cheaper here too, I felt obliged to buy something :) So I got myself… a pair of headphones. Hehe!
Central Park : by the time we got to the Central Park Zoo (didn’t visit), it started pouring. Needless to say, the park was deserted. We weren’t sure we would have another occasion to come back, so we took a walk despite the crappy weather.
Burger Joint : after all that walking we deserved some food. What better than a good burger in a wicked little “restaurant”. Meet the Burger Joint. It probably used to be a “best kept secret”, but now it’s even listed in the Lonely Planet. The place was fun and the burger was ok. A nice way to end the day.
Thursday 4 june 2009
Brooklyn Bridge : on our 2nd full day, we wanted to give the subway a try, so we bought a 7 day metrocard for 20$. Our first trip brought us to the Brooklyn Bridge. I have to say that it looks a bit shady. I’m sure the numerous layers of paint are holding together parts of the construction ;) Brooklyn was the only other borough we visited (of course besides driving through Queens between JFK and Manhattan). What a difference with Manhattan! Everything seemed more laid back and calm. No cars honking, people walking slowlier. Because we figured that walking the same bridge again was dumb, we took the subway to the lower end of the Manhattan island.
Wall St : there isn’t much to see at Wall Street, so we headed to Ground Zero. Still the same hole as last time I saw it 7 years ago. We took a short break at the waterfront right next to a memorial and then while looking for a place where to eat something walked all the way up to…
Canal St : it’s a special street, with all its small shops and the people solliciting. I personnaly don’t like that kind of atmosphere. We kept on walking at a fast pace and finally found some mexican restaurant called Papatzul. The food was ok, but very welcome since we had no breakfast.
Times Square : we took the metro to Times Square with the intention to do some shopping. Katia and I wanted to find some cheap(er) pair of jeans.
Macy’s : somehow we ended up at Macy’s “the worlds’s largest store” (hugely overstated!). Katia spent some time trying out a couple of pairs and when we got to the cashier, the sales person told us that tourists get an 11% discount in the whole store. All we had to do is find the visitors center, which wasn’t an easy task with the directions she gave us.
Krispy Kreme : when Alex and I did our trans-USA roadtrip, we bought a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in Tallahassee, FL. I (surprisingly :P) ended up eating most of them. I remember savouring the last one on a parking lot in New Orleans. They tasted good, so I had to have some, and this time we had the right address and map. It turns out to be located in a subway/train underground passage under the Madison Square Garden. The lady made fun of me because I chose 4 donuts and Katia only 2. I guess some things never change, eh.
California Pizza Kitchen : after a well deserved stop at the hotel, we decided to have dinner at a California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). We were lucky because the closest one was only 2 blocks away (less than 5min walk). I discovered CPK when I was in Hawaii. I simply loved their (very american) pizzas. Katia found it very tasty too. Our waiter sucked though. That’s one thing I don’t like about the USA. Every 3min they come over to your table and ask if everything is fine, if we need anything, etc. Just leave us the fuck alone! I had a Buffalo chicken pizza and Katia one with something pesto-ish on it. So good.
Friday 5 june 2009
Times Square Levi’s : I didn’t find any suitable clothes at Macy’s the day before, so I wanted to go back to the Times Square Levi’s store. As it turned out on Sunday, the men’s clothes department at Macy’s was located at the story 1.5! 3 pairs of 501s and 150$ later, my stock of pants was renewed.
Urban Outfitters : when I was in Miami, I bought some stuff at Urban Outfitters. One of the Manhattan stores was located at the 14th St, so we took the metro south. I didn’t find anything interesting, but Katia did, so at least we didn’t make the trip down for nothing. We had lunch at a Subway in the neighborhood. Katia was disappointed because it wasn’t as good as she remembered it from Australia. Sorry for that :(
Up in 3D : what’s there to do on a rainy day in a town you don’t know? Go see a movie of course! Even better, a movie in original language without subtitles and before it comes out in Switzerland. Even better better, a Pixar movie. Even even better better, that Pixar movie in 3D! I loved it.
Souvenirs : when we came out of the AMC Empire theatre, it was still pouring. We stopped at a souvenir shop on our way to the hotel. The “I [heart] NY” t-shirt was of course a mandatory purchase. I got another funny one depicting the New York subway map.
Tabla : a couple of streets from the hotel there was this indian place called the Tabla that the Lonely Planet guide mentions. The food portion was on the small side but good, and the waitress sucked. The usual.
Saturday 6 june 2009
Pain Quotidien : in Genève, there is a Pain Quotidien. It’s a place where you can have breakfast or brunch. You pay a fixed amount and can pretty much eat as much as you want. We assumed that the Pain Quotidien in New York would be the same. Wrong! You only get 2-3 slices of bread, and the menu is very americanized. But I guess it’s ok since we didn’t go to the USA to eat like at home.
West Village : judging by the number of people on the streets, you could definitely tell it was the weekend. Plus the sun was shining bright. That day, our goal was to visit the lower part of Manhattan, but north of the financial district. The first stop on the list would be West Village. Katia wanted to see where Carrie Bradshaw was living in Sex & the City. So we walked a bit around West Village, which is a completely different architecture and atmosphere from everything we’ve seen so far. I liked it very much.
East Village : right next to the West Village is the (surprise, surprise!) East Village. There was a little festival in one of the streets we crossed and there would be bands playing, but we had more stuff to see that day, so we just walked along. And then we ran at random into a cool bike shop. The bikes were sooo cheap! A Biancchi Pista for 700$!! (it’s worth over 1400chf over here!)
China Town : further south, we entered China Town. No more English speaking people in the streets, and lots of weird stuff being sold in the stores. We didn’t stop anywhere and ended up in…
Little Italy : the complete lack of transition between China Town and Little Italy is funny. At one point, one side of the road is chinese, and the other is italian. I’ve never been to China, so I’m probably wrong about this, but Little Italy looked a lot more cliché than it’s chinese counterpart. We had lunch in one of the italian restaurants. During the meal, I realized that I hadn’t taken a crap in 5 days! That’s a lot considering what I’ve eaten until then. The thought must have triggered something, because right after we left the restaurant, I felt nauseous and started swea(t/r)ing a lot. We went into the first bar that seemed to have a toilet, but at the entry that fucking door man wanted us to show our IDs. Come on man! I’m 29! Do I seriously look like under 21? I almost ran to the bathroom, which of course wasn’t free. Anyways… biggest dump evah, haha (sorry for the detail :)
Central Park : after all that walking, we went back to Central Park to lie down on the grass. I haven’t seen or heard any Swiss German, but now they were everywhere! In the subway, at the park, in the streets etc.
Times Square : we spent the evening (almost 3h) at Times Square, again. It’s just fun to look at all the people from all over the world. The place recently became partially pedestrian, so the city put hundreds of chairs onto the streets so you could sit down and enjoy the animation. It was funny because any chair wouldn’t stay empty for more than a couple of seconds. People litterally through themselves at them.
Junk food dinner : after the day’s digestion congestion, I wasn’t much in the mood for a restaurant. Plus, we had lunch kinda late. So we decided to have a junk food dinner on the hotel bed: cookies, sodas, M&Ms etc. Hey, we were in the USA, we had to eat junk.
Sunday 7 june 2009
Hidden Ben&Jerry’s : there was one thing left on my list : the Ben&Jerry’s. It turns out it’s located inside Macy’s! It wasn’t obvious. Sadly we didn’t get anything, probably because last night’s junk food was messing with our system.
Central Park (north) : we had to find something to visit that would allow us to be back at the hotel on time to get to the airport. So we took the subway from Times Square all the way up to the north-western corner of Central Park. We sat down a while next to a pond and watched people passing by.
California Pizza Kitchen : our last meal in NYC would be another CPK :) I know it’s not very original, but at least it was guaranteed to be tasty. Plus, the annoying waiter from last time wasn’t working. And there is another thing that americans need to learn (that is, besides the annoying I-want-more-tip waiters and salespersons) : quit using air conditioning for fuck’s sake! Outside it’s a pleasant 20C and inside it’s freezing. For no reason. Uh!
Ride to airport : we didn’t want to repeat the bad shuttle drive experience from tuesday, so we decide to have a private car ride to the airport. It’s a bit like a cab, a tad more expensive (couple of bucks), but completely worry-free. We didn’t know if there was going to be traffic, so we decided to leave the hotel extra early. As a result, we got to the airport a whopping 2 hours before take-off.
Flight home : the flight back was a bit less cool. Maybe it was because the vacation was over. I again spent most of the time playing in-flight Tetris. Just in case you fly with Swiss, the score to beat is 1’040’000 (714 lines). The Game Over was actually due to the airhostess disturbing me one time too many. No shit.
Last words : besides the weather, I really enjoyed the trip. Very good company, the perfect balance between walking and subway-ing, between shopping and sightseeing (the not-so-perfect balance between the filling and emptying of my digestive tract, haha). The hotel was perfect, clean, not expensive thanks to a special deal. Next time, I will either take my bike or buy one there, and I will definitely ride a bike in NYC.
Thanks for reading everything, feel free to drop me a comment and sorry for my English errors.