Thursday, 25 August 2011

New York - days 1 - 3

Holiday got off to a great start. Arrived at Heathrow and found BA couldn’t fit me on the plane. WTF??? After a minor strop, by the time I got through security they’d sorted it out, so that was a relief. Flight was cool, usual BA. Spent the whole trip watching cheese on the TV – No Strings Attached (with Natalie Portman) and Forest Gump, which I never realised was so great!

Day #1
Got off the plane and had a record run through immigration. Only took half an hour, and the immigration man didn’t even speak to me. Made a big change from the Chicago grilling last time. Hopped in a cab with my huge backpack and took the trip to our hotel in Chinatown.

Staying at Hotel 91 on East Broadway. It’s a niceish hotel, good for the money we paid (cheap), however it is in the biggest Chinatown I’ve ever seen. There is NOTHING apart from Chinese restaurants and supermarkets for umpteen blocks in every direction – which is great for me as I hate Chinese food! Anyway, checked in easily, unpacked then ran out to find a bar and wait for Tim. After getting lost and seeming like ages, I eventually made my way into the Lower East Side. First bar I found was dark and had skulls on the windows. Promising! Peeked inside – Elvis Costellos Armed Forces on the stereo, Sierra Nevada on tap and a hot barmaid. Sold. This was Motor City Bar, and we’d be back here the following night. Had a couple of beers, but still not heard from Tim, so consulted the guide book and headed to Arlenes Grocery round the corner. Another place with great music on the stereo and tattooed bar staff. Started to get hungry, so left Arlenes and pitched up round the corner at a groovy little burger bar, Mikeys Burgers (on Ludlow St for info). Still no sign of Tim, so decided to go back to the hotel and chill out, as was knackered from the flight, and a little pie eyed from the beer. Tim arrived an hour or so later, and I passed out!

Day #2
Yep, we decided we’d WALK all over NY to get out bearings. Heading out of our hotel, we walked the length of Broadway from Chinatown to above Time Square, 56 plus blocks! Weather was immense, 75 degrees plus. First stop was Joey Ramone Place, where we had the most expensive breakfast ever, which consisted of toast and a muffin. Next we had a look round Generation Records, which was an awesome shop but am being wary not to blow all my cash on CDs before I get to SF. Rest of the walk took in Union Square and Times Square, which made my head hurt. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, with all the people and the flashing lights. NUTS. Was ace being able to see the Empire State Building slowly coming into view as we walked up Broadway. By the time we passed Times Square it was late afternoon, so we headed for our first Hooters of the holiday. As usual, the wings and shrimp didn’t disappoint, although it was pretty quiet in there for a Hooters. But we had a cool waitress which was good, and although the merch staff and seater girl were pretty attitudey (which seems like an NY trait), we had fun.

Stuffed, we decided it was time to be proper tourists. Thanks to the advice from friends, we headed to the Rockefeller Centre for a high rise view of NY. It was AWESOME – not only did you get the best views of the Empire State and Central Park, but the highest level on the viewing platform was open to the elements, so you didn’t have anything obscuring your view. Highly recommended!

No way was I walking back though. Headed into the subway and was surprised to find how easy it is to negotiate! I used to get very confused with using other countries subway systems , and it always worried me slightly. After Berlin, Vienna and Chicago, I’m kinda getting used to it. NYs system is also pretty straight forward, esp when you consider how insane their subway map is! Headed back to the hotel ready for the evenings shenanigans. I was getting hungry again, so pitched up at The Meatball Shop on Stanton St. This place was AMAZING, and I def wanna go back if I can. Had to wait for a seat at the bar for a while as it was so busy, but once seated, was treated to an awesome pint of IPA (Bengal Tiger I think it was) and four spicey meatballs. YUM! After that, headed back to the Motor City Bar, where a mate of Tims was DJing a load of punk rock records. Was a great night – music was kicking, and Tims mate and his friends were cool people.

Day #3
Time to walk SOUTH down Broadway instead! After stopping for a breakfast Subway (yeah I know, but its keeping the holiday cheap so far), we headed to the WTC site to see what was going on. Lots of building work was the answer. Not much to see apart from cranes and half a new building, but was weird to see where they stood and what surrounded them – its hard to imagine what a mess this area of NY would have been back in 2001. And I know saying that is a total understatement!

Next up, the Staten island Ferry. Headed south down Broadway in the blistering sunshine and hit the ferry terminal – and got straight on a ferry! I love the fact its free, and the ferry is full of tourists (and the odd very grumbly local!). Awesome views of Brooklyn and Governers Island and other places that I have no idea what they are. I think Hoboken might have been one side, but I’m not sure. We took hoodies for the boat trip cos we thought it would be cold. No such luck, the wind is hot is NY. Love it! Get to Staten Island, take photos to prove we got there and use the loo – then back on the next ferry to Manhattan – and get amazing views of the skyline and the Statue Of Liberty (Tim: Bitch With The Stick). On docking, we head to Battery Park for a sit down after all that walking. Then Tim decides we haven’t walked enough, and we head for the Brooklyn Bridge.

We don’t have bridges like this in London. I’m sure Americans must refer to our bridges as “walkways” out of earshot when they are in London. The Brooklyn Bridge is a BRIDGE. You can see why they always destroy it in every Hollywood disaster movie set in NY! We head over the bridge and go straight to Grimaldis Pizza, which Tim assures me is incredible. Judging by the queue to get in, everyone else thinks so too! After 20 mins wait we were in, and proceeded to order and eat the biggest flippin pizza I’ve ever seen. Tim ate the whole of his, it was pretty impressive. By the time we left, the queue to get in was bigger than most gigs we go to, and we headed down to the river for a view of Manhattan from the other side. Stayed there for a while taking photos as the sun set. The view was Gobsmacking.

We were knackered by the time we got back to the hotel, so Tim decided to call it a night, as heaving his pizza belly around was killing him. I fancied a tipple, as drinking water all day had got a bit dull, so I jumped in a cab and headed to Manitobas in the East Village. Another punk rocknroll bar, this place is owned by Handsome Dick Manitoba from The Dictators. Friendly barstaff, great punk/rnr/60s garage jukebox, and awesome beer selection. Had a couple of quiet beers – Goose Island IPA, yum – and then headed back to the hotel and crashed out. Will be dragging Tim back here before the end of the week if I can, as they have Hardcore Cider on tap!

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