In an effort to move these posts along quicker, I’m going to wrap up all my visitors in this post. In the last post I wrote about the majority of what can be achieved in 75.5 hours. There’s still a little more to mention about what can be achieved in that time frame, but also highlights from other visitors.
A few other highlights from when Jo (then Fox, now McAleer, but that’s another blogpost!) was in town included the Public Library on 42nd and Grand Central station. Both are spectacular architectures, the former with the lions outside the building and the rooms with books stacked to the ceiling which you have to do some exploring to find.
The latter is one of my favourite buildings in New York, it feels a throwback to a more classic station with the style of the ticket offices and list of train destinations. I haven’t found it yet but apparently Grand Central also has a tennis court within, it’s a secret that is you could ironically say is better kept than Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross. From trains to boats, after Jo left, Mum, Dad and I took a boat tour (Pinnace may have been artistic license) around Manhattan. A really great experience made even better by the guide’s commentary including his playful comments about the tight fit under several bridges (those of a nervous disposition may want to close their eyes and cross their fingers as we go under this bridge….like the captain is doing).
Top of the Rock was another attraction which was squeezed into that 75.5 hours. I’ve been up it twice now, although two very different experiences. With the family it was a super hot day and clear skies providing fantastic views. The second time, was when another visitor – Rich stayed. We decided to go in the evening, as with everytime there was a wait from buying the ticket to being allowed up. In order to while a way the time we found a dive bar nearby to settle in for a little bit of time. A dive bar is much like a spit and sawdust type pub, nothing fancy but cheaper drinks and often more of a local flavour with your expected regulars. The bar itself is a shrine to boxing and there were photos of Jimmy with Ali. I did a search later and apparently Jimmy is/was a professional trainer and remains something of a legend within the local New York community and especially boxing circles.
This story isn’t his story though but it’s also a story which pales in comparison. Never-the-less, it’s a little funny anecdote I guess.Given this was December it had been about 6 months since I’d seen Rich so we did the take opportunity to catchup over several drinks. When the drinks are so cheap there were probably a few too many packed away. We made our way eventually to the Top of the Rock and it is definitely an experience worth doing in light and night – however if you want photos definitely go during the day. Through a combination of drunkenness and low-light it took quite a lot of effort to try and get a photo of us at the top. The rest of the night was spent in similar fashion – beer in hand.
When we’d got back to the apartment I had apparently gone to bed, Rich though had decided he wanted food. When I woke up the next morning my head was…not perfect, focussing on the hangover I had nearly forgotten we had gone up the Top of the Rock. The painfully taken photos sufficiently jogged my memory though. Rich then informed me how my neighbours had given him some very strange looks the last night. Having ordered food online he couldn’t work out how the buzzer to the door worked and not knowing where my keys were he had set up a series of elaborate door stops using shoes and any other items he could find to hand to prevent getting locked out. Apparently and understandably those within the building who were also coming/going at this time were slightly befuddled by this drunken Englishman collecting pizza while leaving a trail of shoes in his wake. It was a fun long weekend though as we explored several other bars as well as a good dabbling of some of the highlights from New York in 75.5 hours.
The only downside was the weather. Having extensively played chess in university, usually as a means to decide who collected the pizza – Rich was keen to play chess in the parks. He went to the extent of buying a chess set however we never got to play it given the weather. On one of the last days when we had planned to play it was so wet we decided to go to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum (the museum is itself an aircraft carrier with a submarine also). We did get a good reaction going through security as they searched our bags and the only thing of note was the chess set! They also noted the weather wasn’t conducive to chess, to give a picture the museum ended up closing the upper deck because of the winds and torrential wind!
In between the family and Rich, Axelle also visited. Having been one of the last to see me off – in fact having been part of the slightly stressful (though I’m still very appreciative) car journey to the airport with Amrit and Rob, was one of the last three to see me before I departed the British shores. So I was especially appreciative also of the effort to see me in New York.
For the most part I was working as normal during Axelle’s stay, leveraging my experience as a tour guide I was able to point her in the direction of things to explore while I was working. Ordinarily I would come back to find her on my sofa with aching feet having walked too much. I should also make a note at this point – this has been a recurring theme with all guests –
aching feet. It is possible, and I’m sure some who know me will jump to agree at this point, I walk more than most. I think it might also be something to do with Manhattan though – the grid system makes it so easy to get everywhere it encourages walking and perhaps even the pavements (sorry, sidewalks), are less even than the UK?!
The undoubted highlight of Axelle’s stay though was Garden City. Having lived in New York state between 2 and 5, Axelle was keen to revisit some of her childhood. For me, it was interesting to explore some of the state rather than just the city. A couple of hours train from Penn Station takes you to Garden City. It’s hard to compare it to somewhere in England but probably a nice part of Surrey is a reasonable comparison. Given it was fall/Autumn the leaves were a great colour and it was also very close to Halloween. I knew Halloween is big in America (and found out more later specific to New York City) but here in suburbia every house had significant decorations – from 10x life size spiders attached to houses, to various other decorations. It was a huge contrast to anything in the UK.
Aside from checking out pumpkin patches (awesome, by the way), we were kindly let into her old school by a teacher who saw us taking photos and looking in from the outside. I’ve said it before but I do find Americans generally much friendlier than the British and there were many examples during the day in Garden City. Axelle lived in two houses and we had the address for both. The first house, now had a couple about in their 70s living there and a dog. The dog sensed our presence prompting the man to come out and talk. He was extremely friendly and had some history of the house, completely fairly he didn’t let us in but was very willing to talk. During the talk his wife actually phoned up and he mentioned how a couple of people were here and one used to live in the house. I can imagine it would have made for a fantastic conversation over tea for the couple.
The second house had a young family in it. Without a dog it required a doorbell to bring attention to the owners. It was possible to sense a slight apprehension but they were kind enough to invite us in to look around. Having only lived in two houses growing up – excluding flats and university, and those two houses being within three doors of each other, I can’t really have a similar experience so it was fun to live this vicariously. I do remember once during my first year at university in the halls of residence, receiving a phone call from someone who used to live in the same room. Could be fun to return that call to whoever now occupies that room sometime.
So, in short in the year (yes, it has now been a year – watch out for celebrating anniversary blogpost!) I’ve been here I’ve been very fortunate with all the guests I’ve had. I can only hope their feet have stopped aching. And how good a tour guide am I? Well, my parents are planning another visit to the states and Axelle has followed my footsteps and transferred from the London office to New York. I’m not sure Jo has much reason to come back given how much she crammed in..though she and her husband, Connor, are of course welcome anytime! Then finally – perhaps the temptation of having that chess match will convince Rich to come back in better weather and we can collect pizza in a more sane fashion next time.