What an exciting prospect – a trip to New York – an adventure all of my own. With half term on the horizon my sights were set on tasting the fruits of that magical global metropolis and I was overawed by what the Big Apple had to offer. There is no doubt that the people of New York must be very proud of their city.
That pride must come from celebrating the achievements of all those intrepid entrepreneurs and seekers of fame and fortune who made their way to the top. When you think of the famous names which tumble from the pages of their history, they have every right to be proud. Visionary men such as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Roosevelt, Walter Chrysler, Frank Winfield Woolworth, Irving Berlin, Tommy Hilfiger, Eugene O’Neil, Yehudi Menuhin as well as all the countless actors and actresses that have graced the stage through the decades, certainly justify this pride.
This photo by Momos is of the beautiful Central Park which bordered the west side of my hotel in New York.
Well, let me tell you about my trip to New York. The first day of travel was a long one, from catching the train to London at 5 a.m., a stopover in Paris and through to the arrival at my hotel at 10.30 p.m. (UK local time) in New York.
I was on the go for a good 17 hours. Not plain sailing either! Going through immigration, I had to take off my heavy walking boots – it takes me a good few minutes to lace myself into them and a good few minutes to unlace them – then, as the metal indicator bleeped furiously, I had to take off my belt, with a subsequent falling down of my trousers. So tumbling around with falling trousers and no shoes didn’t make me an enthusiastic traveller.
Then, on arrival in the Big Apple, I discovered that my suitcase was still in Paris.
Complaints to the airline were of no avail and all they could do was give me a toothbrush and tee shirt and promise to send my case when it arrived. So, after a $100 taxi fare to my hotel, I arrived with nothing for the night. Although the Astor-On-the-Park is set in a fairly quiet Upper West side of Manhattan, at night it is fairly desolate and intimidating.
I set out to find a corner shop or deli to buy myself something to eat and drink and also make a purchase of hand lotion. The items were not difficult to procure, but I got lost on the way back to my hotel and wandered around for a good 45 minutes before locating the Park as a land mark and was able to retrace my steps to safety.
The room was comfortable enough with big soft pillows, large, comfortable beds, big, fluffy, white towels and gallons of hot water.
Thank goodness for the body lotion. I plastered on layers over the next few days. The product was a new one – DOVE – ENERGY GLOW. I was thankful for the energy and was quite happy to glow.
Unbeknown to me I was layering on a tanning lotion which guaranteed to slowly darken the skin. My hands in particular turned from pale brown to bronze, to chocolate, and for the rest of my stay I was conscious of two grotesque dark attachments at the end of my arms.
On my first day of exploring I had to negotiate the subway. I have often complained about the London underground, but it is a pleasant haven compared to the subways of New York.
They are bleak, austere, Spartan and joyless. To call them clinical would be a compliment. Huge iron girders support the rail links and the trains thunder by at various distances and levels, but all visible to the naked eye.
The carriages are devoid of any comfort. Metal seating is the only respite for the tired traveller. There is an art to this seating.
When the carriage is full, all is well, but if empty you must ensure that you sit close to a hand rail for security. To place yourself in the middle of the metal bench subjects you to sliding from one end to the other depending on speed and suddenness of a station stop.
My answer to the challenge was to dig my heels in firmly, grip the floor with 10 out stretched toes, grab the seat and grimly confront the hazardous journey
Once I had left 103rd Street, I had no idea where I was going.
It was only when we reached 42nd Street that I remembered there was a musical of that name and so I made this my point of departure.
What a fortunate decision! 42nd Street seems to be the middle of Manhattan and everything happens here.
Naturally Fifth Avenue and Macy’s would not suit my pocket so I wandered along some rather shady back streets until I found a flea market which boasted boxes of clothing and clutter of every conceivable kind. I rummaged around and found two rather good quality panties with leg cuffs and decided that these would be just fine.
Imagine my distress a little later, when adorning my fresh attire I found that I had a huge expanding bump in the front. I had obviously bought men’s undies.
Well they would just have to do. I must confess they were very comfortable and in the months that followed I ignored the hump and continued to wear them until my husband queried strange men’s underwear in the wash. I am not sure if he believed my garbled explanation.
Once reconciled to my lack of clothing, I decided to take the harbour tour of Manhattan. The two hour boat trip around the island was interesting but because my knowledge of the areas was sparse I found it slightly confusing and resolved to organise a map at the earliest opportunity.
Be warned! Don’t attempt to negotiate New York without a sound knowledge of where you are and where you hope to be going. Once you can see a map, no matter how basic, you have a good chance of conversing easily with the locals, asking directions and making plans for your adventures.
Thankfully my luggage arrived at the hotel and I had clean clothes to wear. Throughout the week I indulged in all the wonderful tourist visits – Times Square, China Town, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Empire State Building – and even made my way into Grand Central Station. I was becoming quite an accomplished traveller.
One of the highlights of my visit was to enter the renowned, iconic building of the United Nation.
How often are the proceedings of world affairs negotiated within this majestic structure?
How often are condemnations made, decisions contemplated and nation states brought to order by the so-called democratic processes of a world body? And I was a visitor here. It was so exciting! Ban Ki Moon was happy to see me and even agreed to our being photographed together.
Durng my stay restaurants were kept to a minimum and I survived on take-aways, but on Friday morning I decided that I was hungry enough to have a really good breakfast and, having become quite adventurous, I negotiated my way via the subway to the Rockefeller Centre.
I decided to eat at a quiet restaurant adjacent to the food centre. The meal was my most expensive culinary treat of the trip – and I should have been warned by the menu without prices, the genteel clientele, the heavy silver cutlery, the stiffly starched white table linen and the attentive waiter. My bill of $37 included a small raisin strudel starters, a glass of chilled tomato juice, an enormous breakfast platter of sautéed potatoes, topped with slices of thick, well grilled Virginia ham and covered by two poached eggs immersed in a béchamel sauce and garnished with pieces of chorizo sausages, tea, toast and preserves. Delicious! I sat back with a very full tummy and enjoyed the gastronomic experience while gazing through the plate glass wall at the skaters on the rink outside.
Saturday was my last day of seeing the city sights. I used the subway to travel to the southern-most point of Manhattan and proceeded to wend my way to Ground Zero. I took a photo through a tear in the plastic sheeting, but I know that today there is a memorial dedicated to the 2606 people who lost their lives on 11 September 2001.
What a blight on mankind when he sets out to exterminate those with different beliefs and life styles. What a sickening tragedy to punish the innocent in such devastation. Will the people of New York ever forgive and forget?
En route to my destination, a harassed lady shoved a pizza pamphlet into my hand and so I later obliged her by entering the restaurant to taste their wares.
Good move! I had a delicious cheese topped pizza cooked in real Italian style – thin base and crispy. I tried to compliment the chef and he became quite distraught as, being unable to understand English, he thought I was making a complaint.
However his colleague, who understood my accolades, quietened him down and invited me to return for a further meal. Sadly there was no time for this.
After paying my respects at the memorial, I made my way to Brooklyn Bridge and, along with other pedestrians, walked up to the top. Three bridges span East River and connect Brooklyn with Manhattan. The guide told us to remember the names as BMW – Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg. Standing at the top I could see Pier 17 and this became my next port of call.
Pier 17 is a lovely tourist holiday centre, similar to the Waterfront in Cape Town, but not quite as large or grand. It has its own special shops, boutiques and eating houses. It also has a row of large leather massage chairs. I sat down in one, paid in my money and proceeded to have my aching muscles eased. I felt as if I was in the grip of two mighty hands which pummelled and soothed, pounded and stroked. It was magic – when I rose from the chair I felt I could take on the world. The best $2 anyone could spend.
I returned to Times Square that evening for my final little treat.
It had been my intention to take in a Broadway Show. However I was not prepared to pay $120 for my usual good seat, so I decided to do a movie on Broadway instead.
I was quite happy to pay out $8 to say that I had been part of the theatre group on Broadway.
And so, the following day saw me packing my bags and moving off to J.F. Kennedy airport to catch my Delta flight back to the UK. The city was clearly visible from the plane – this is not my picture of course, but one that will certainly bring back pleasant memories of wonderful sights and memorable experiences in this fascinating, cosmopolitan city.