Four days in New York City
Having completed out visit on Long Island, we drove back to JFK and returned the car. From the airport we used a limo-service to get to our hotel in midtown, Manhattan and after driving around between the terminals in JFK for almost an hour and half, the car was finally full, and we could leave the airport. The hotel was on 8th Avenue, just one block from Times Square and we got there around 8 PM. We got a room on the 16th floor, and took the elevator up while a bell-boy brought up our luggage and earned a tip from Dorte, who by the way hates to tip.
The room was nice for a room in a city hotel. Dorte unpacked and then we went off to find somewhere to eat. We chose to eat at a place called Chevy's, which despite the name was a Mexican restaurant on the corner of 42nd Street and 8th Ave. Here we got a great margarita and some even greater guacamole, which the waiter prepared at the table. It was excellent and so was the main courses.
After dinner we continued down 42nd Street to Times Square. We looked at the lights and then went back to the hotel where we relaxed and got ready for next day's sightseeing.
The next morning we started planning our New York City tourist tour. Before we left home Dorte home had prepared a list of things she wanted to see. I had contributed with a few things too, and also, tried to organize our days in New York, in order to see as much as possible of what was on the list.
On this, our first day in NYC, we were going to visit the Statue of Liberty and the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island. When we got up at eight, we made ourselves ready, and then had breakfast in a restaurant on 45th Street. After breakfast we walked to Times Square and got a taxi that took us down to Battery Park on Manhattan's southern tip, from where the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island leaves. The ticket office is inside Castle Clinton, and we had to stand in line almost all the way around the castle. We got fairly quick through the queue though. After approx. 35 minutes, we had our tickets and walked down to the ferry. Here we waited in line again for another 30 minutes before we could board. While waiting I read a bit about Castle Clinton in a guidebook, and discovered it served as immigrant station where immigrants were received prior to 1892, when the station was moved out to Ellis Island. Over 8 million immigrants entered The United States through Castle Garden as the place was called at that time.
On the ferry ride to Liberty Island (originally named Bedloe Island) we could enjoy the Manhattan skyline - or at least as much of it as we could see, which wasn't much. It was a very hot day and most of the city, and also the Statue of Liberty, was obscured by haze. When we got to the island, we walked around and looked at the statue from different angles. The Statue of Liberty stands on a star-shaped foundation that is all that remains of Fort Wood, another of the forts, that were part of New York's coastal defense. We didn't climb to the platform, but bought ourselves a pretzel, which served as the day's lunch. Dorte also had time to buy an icecream while I stood in line for the ferry to Ellis Island. This time we waited about half an hour before we could get on the ferry, so Dorte had plenty of time to both buy and eat her icecream.
The ferry ride to Ellis Island took just a few minutes,so we had plenty of time to walk around and look at the museum. Ellis Island was the main point of entry for immigrants to the U.S. from 1892 to 1954. More than 12 million people entered the U.S. via Ellis Island. Among the more famous, that entered via the island, were Salvatore Lucania, which they probably should have refused, as he is better known as the gangster Lucky Luciano. Also, Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, Claudette Colbert, Isaac Asimov, and Max Factor entered USA via Ellis island. A few of my own relatives did too. Unfortunately I have no contact with any of them, but I know a few settled in Minnesota, some in Califonia and some in Colorado, but where their descendants are now I have no idea. Dorte's relative, who we had visited on Long Island, did not enter via Ellis Island. As her mother was married to an American citizen, the two of them was allowed entry without having to go through the immigration procedures.
The visit here was very exciting - although actually there was not so much to see. The buildings where the immigrants were received, is of course still standing, but almost everything from the inside has been removed. In stead we found images and texts that told the story of how it was when immigrants arrived on the island. We had bought a radioguided tour, so we were given a pair of headphones and a little gizmo, and then we were guided around between various "stations", where we were told about what had happened right there. We heard, among other things, the questions that the immigrants were asked such as "What is 1 + 1?", "What is 2 + 2?" etc. A young Polish girl was asked "Do you wash stairs from the top or bottom?" The young girl had replied "I have not come to America to wash stairs." If she was allowed entry or not, was unfortunately not part of the story.
We spent around two hours inside the buildings. Then we walked outside and lined up for the ferry back to Manhattan. While Dorte stood in line, I went out to the coast and took a few pictures of downtown Manhattan. The weather had cleared up a bit, so the city skyline had become a little more visible. When we got back to Manhattan we bought a few bottles of water. It had turned into a very hot afternnon, so even if we brought water, and bought more together with our pretzels, we were thirsty once again.
Right next to Battery Park is the National Museum of the American Indian - one of the two Smithsonian Institute museums, with branches in New York. We both wanted to visit this museum, located in the former customs building on the fine address, 1 Bowling Green. We had to go through the usual safeguards of fluoroscopy, bag check, etc. Then we could enter the museum, which turned out to be a big disappointment. Most of the exhibits consisted of photographs, and there were only a few items on display, and most of those were from Indians in northwestern North America. It was not what we expected - what that was, I do not actually know, but certainly not what we got. We had an idea that it would be something like the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, only larger, but it was nothing like it. Here the exhibits primarily showed Native American art, not so much Native American history as we had expected.
We only spent a little under one hour at the museum, then took a stroll through the southernmost (and oldest) part of Manhattan. It was here that the Dutch originally settled and named the city of Nieuv Amsterdam. We walked up to Wall Street, which despite its importance for the world economy is a relatively small and insignificant street. Then a short visit to Ground Zero and finally we headed north in direction of our hotel until we caught a taxi the rest of the way. We rested for a couple of hours and at half past eight , we we went out to get something to eat. We went up to Times Square, where we knew there was a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, which we had never tried before. After dinner we went for a short walk - we had to save some strength for the coming days.
Often, when we have only limited time in a large city, we take a sightseeing bus on one of the first days. Partly to see as much as possible of the city, but also to "spot" locations that we should take at closer look at. Thus, also in New York. Everywhere on the major streets were representatives of different sightseeing companies, trying to sell tours with their particular company. The previous day we had gathered a few brochures, and we studied them while we ate breakfast at a restaurant near the hotel.
One company, Gray Line, offered a two-day ticket for $ 49 with hop on hop off on all their four loops). Two routes began in Times Square: the Downtown Loop and The Night Loop. A third route, the Uptown Loop departed from 8th Avenue, a little farther out than our hotel. We walked up to Times Square, where we were immediately attacked by ticket sellers from several companies, but as planned, we bought a two-day ticket from Gray Line.
After getting the tickets, we found a bus for the Downtown Loop and climbed the top floor. Shortly after the bus left for Downtown, going down 7th Avenue. The first stretch of road went through the "garment district". This is one of America's leading areas of fashion design and manufacturing, although many of the old clothing factories are closed today. There are still both design schools, design studios and workrooms and "the fashion district", as the area is also known, boasts of "the world's largest needle" which is part of the area's information stand. The bus continued through other parts of New York's Midtown till we reached the Empire State Building. Here we hopped off for the first time and walked around the building to the entrance. Once again we had to stand in line; first to get through security, then to buy the ticket, and finally to get on the elevator. In total, we were probably waiting in line for about 45 minutes. From the viewing platform at 86th floor we enjoyed the view of New York, although unfortunately there wasn't that much of it. It was very hot, and everything that was just a little bit away, virtually disappeared in the haze and smog. Yet we saw a lot, and using a supplied brief, we could also read what we saw :-). Among the most notable buildings is of course the Chrysler Building, which is very easy to recognize with its slightly unusual Art Deco top formed as hubcaps. While we were on top of Empire State Building, Dorte's camera ran out of power, and her extra battery was of course left at the hotel. When we left the building a fire truck was parked outside, and one of the firefighters stood on the sidewalk and had his picture taken with various bypassers. When also Dorte had been photographed with the fireman, we went on to the bus stop and found a long waiting line.
Tour buses run irregularly, as they typically leave the terminus when they are filled up with passengers and they also get delayed by the heavy traffic in New York. We therefore had t wait for a long while before a bus finally arrived. And even if three buses arrived within five minutes, there was no room on any of them. We then agreed to take a taxi back to the hotel, pick up Dorte's spare battery, and then go up to Times Square and take the bus from the terminus once more. And so we did.
Having replaced the battery and put the other one in the charger, we walked back to Times Square, and here there were no trouble getting a seat on a bus. While waiting for departure, we studied the route plan, and agreed that we would stay on the bus until it came down to the port (2/3 of the trip). Here we would then hop off again and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
We had already seen the Garment District once, but now we continued through Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. We passed Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. Rail traffic now goes underground but Penn is still New York's busiest railway station. Not far from Penn and Madison Square Garden we passed Macy's - the world's largest department store. After Macy's, we got to the Empire State Buildin one againg and also passing the Flatiron Builing. From there we went through the charming West Village and Greenwich Village with its narrow and winding streets. Our guide told us that despite the fact that he had worked for three years in the West Village, he still got lost in the district once or twice a year. From here we continued through SoHo, which stands for South of Houston. Houston is a street that intersects Manhattan from east to west.
From there the tour took us to Little Korea, Little Italy, and China Town. We passed the City Hall and then headed further south, all the way down to Battery Park. While we were jammed up in traffic in a narrow street, the guide answered questions from the passengers, and he explained why some street signs in New York are green, others brown and some are black. The green signs with white lettering represent the "ordinary streets", ie those with no special significance. The street signs of the historic areas of town are brown with white lettering and the black signs represents the streets that are older than the U.S. - that is, streets that have existed before 1776.
At the next stop, South Street Seaport, we got off the bus. Here was a lot of people, music, performances, etc., and just opposite the bus stop was a nice cobbled street with outdoor restaurants. Here we chose to have lunch at an Italian restauran. Then we were going to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but it turned out we had to walk quite a distance along tiny streets to get to the bridge. We actually walked all the way back to the city hall to get to the pedestrian portion of the bridge. We admired the town hall once again, and not least the Manhattan Municipal Building, a very nice, 177-meter office building from 1915, which is home to a number of public authorities. With its 40 floors is one of the world's largest public buildings. On top is a female statue in gilded copper. In her hand she holds a five-pointed crown representing the five burroughs, constituting New York City; Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Then we went on our way across the bridge with a bunch of other pedestrians. The pedestrian and cyclist portion of the bridge located is one floor above the driveway, so you can walk in peace and enjoy the view of Brooklyn Heights on the other side of the East River, or you can turn around and enjoy the sight of the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Well across, we walked down from the bridge and back toward the river to catch the fourth bus route that our tickets were valid for, the Brooklyn Loop.
When we got aboard the bus, the driver told us that this was the last bus on the Brooklyn loop, so if we left the bus, we had to get back to Manhattan ourselves. We therefore decided to stay on board until the bus was back at the South Street Seaport. We would then continue on the Downtown Loop. We rode through Brooklyn Heights with the old houses and leafy streets. The district is situated on the westernmost part of Long Island, so now we had seen both ends of this island. A lot of people live in Brooklyn - in fact so many that had it been an independent city, it would have been the fourth largest city in the contry.
We drove past a number of so called "brown stones', houses built of brown sandstone. Furthermore, a monument to soldiers and sailors. We also passed the city's largest park and the botanical garden, several museums, the library iwith it's almost 20 feet tall doors with Egyptian motifs. In the southern part of Brooklyn is the amusement park, Coney Island, but we didn't go that far. But we did pass the Ebbetts's Field where the Brooklyn Dodgers formerly played baseball until the owner of the team, Walter O'Malley, in 1957 moved it to Los Angeles. Although O'Malley died in 1979, he is still not forgiven in Brooklyn, and even people who are too young to remember that the team played in Brooklyn, dispises him. A still told anecdote from the time of the move: "You're in a room with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Walter O'Malley. You have a revolver, but only two rounds. What do you do?" The answer is: "Shoot Walter O'Malley twice."
When the bus got back to South Street Seaport, we left and changed back to Downtown Loop, as we continued toward the hotel. On this part of the tour we passed Fulton Market, the town's old fish market and now an exhibition hall. We continued past the Lower East Side and East Village, and passed the UN building. We passed the Trump Tower and other very expensive houses, and also passed the Waldorf-Astoria. At the next stop, at Rockefeller Center, we got off the bus and walked back to the hotel. Here we took a bath because we had become quite sweaty. The temperature in the late afternoon had been formidable, and at the Brooklyn Loop and the last part of the Downtown Loop, we had almost melted on top of the bus. The highest temperature that day passed 110° in the shade, so I expect that it was in the neighborhood of 120° or more in the sun on top of the bus.
When we were ready to go out once more it was 7PM, so we walked up to Times Square once again. The plan was initially to get something to eat, and we did at a Ruby Tuesday. When we were done, we went out and took a trip on the Night Loop. We, and every one else on board stayed for the whole loop, which takes about 2 hours. The tour led us past some of the places we had seen during the day on respectively the Downtown Loop and the Brooklyn Loop, but this time we had the opportunity to see the city enlightened. We stopped at the port on the Brooklyn side of East River, so we could enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline.
Before we left Denmark, I had agreed to making one day in New York "shopping day", so Dorte could shop or at least look at shops. However, she didn't, imagine she would spend a whole day shopping, so we used our bus passes once more and took the last route, the Uptown Loop, among other things running through Harlem and Spanish Harlem.
This bus departed from 8th Avenue, a few blocks from the hotel so we walked north, and when we passed a Starbucks, we went in there to have breakfast. After breakfast we walked to the bus stop and waited for a bus, which came fairly quickly.
Well on board, the guide told us that the trip would take between two and three hours depending on traffic. It ended up taking about 2 ½ hours and this time we stayed on the bus for almost the whole loop. We began by driving through a part of Hell's Kitchen, as this part of Manhattan is called. Here we passed New York's "lowest skyscraper". The building of the scyscraper had begun in the 1920s but there were never built more than 4 or 5 floors. It was not until 2003 the owner, Hearst group, built a new building on top of the original. We continued up past Columbus Circle, located at the southwestern corner of Central Park. The tour continued along Broadway to Lincoln Center and then returned to Central Park at the Dakota building. From here we continued up along Central Park West past the Museum of Natural History. Then the bus turned west to Upper West Side and headed north on Amsterdam Avenue, past St. John the Divine Cathedral. This Episcopal Church is the fourth largest church in the world and it is so large that it is almost impossible to get a decent picture of it.
We also went by and partly through Columbia University, one of America's oldest universities (actually only the fifth, that was established in the 13 colonies that later became the U.S.). In Riverside Park, diagonally opposite the Riverside Church is Grant's Tomb. Here the Civil War general and 18th President of The United States, Ulysses S. Grant and his wife are buried. Grant is one of the many Americans who have an meaningless initial. Originally his name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but when he arrived at West Point he changed it to Ulysses Hiram Grant. He didn't want to be known as "hug". However the school did not accept anything but the name under which he was enrolled, and for some reason he was mistakenly enrolled as Ulysses Simpson Grant as his proponent knew that his mother's maiden name was Simpson. He began to use this name, but only by initials because he did not recognize the name Simpson. Later, he was nicknamed "Sam", because his fellow cadets "translated" U. S. to "Uncle Sam". This nickname has given rise to a common misconception that the "S" in Ulysses S. Grant meant Samuel. But I digress.
From Grant's tomb, we continued north and then west along 125th Street through Harlem, where we among other things, passed the Apollo Theater, which has the motto, "Where Stars Are Born and legends made," and many famous black musicians and singers have started their careers here, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and many more. More recently, Mariah Carey also started her career here. We also passed the Cotton Club, or rather the place where the Cotton Club used to be. This jazz club that had its heyday during the prohibition, and has also given stage space for many big names such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bessie Smith, George Gerswin, Irving Berlin, Mae West, Al Jolson and others. Moreover, it should probably be noted that despite the fact that the vast majority of artists who performed at the Cotton Club, were black, there was only access to the club for a white audience!
We passed the Harlem Market, and the mosque where Malcolm X in his time was preaching. From Harlem, we continued through Spanish Harlem, and back toward Central Park, this time on the east side of the park. Here we drove along 5th Avenue, which along the northern part of the park is known as The Museum Mile. Here, among others El Museo Del Barrio, the Museum of the City of New York, the Smithsonian National Museum of Design, The Jewish Museum, The Guggenheim Museum, and not least the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several other museums are situated.
When we arrived at Rockefeller Center, we got off the bus. Now it was shopping time. First of all Dorte would like to see the glamorous part of Fifth Avenue, and I'd like to see St. Patrick's Cathedral and secondly we had seen a Barnes & Noble bookstore on the opposite side of Central Park at the corner of Broadway and West 68th Street, and there we both wanted to go.
We walked the few yards along 52nd Street to Fifth Avenue, and continued south to St. Patrick's Cathedral. We entered but didn't stay long as a service was in progress. Instead we crossed 5th Avenue to a restaurant where we had lunch. Then we walked north again, so Dorte could enjoy the sight of all the exciting brand shops, located on the stretch between 34th and 60th Street. Most are between 49th Street and 58th Street, and it was precisely on this part of the stree, we somehow found ourselves. Here you will find many really expensive stores and shop rents on the street is also the world's most expensive, so prices in the shops is set to pay the rent! Among the shops are Cartier and Tiffanny's, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue, Versace, Brooks Brothers, Elizabeth Arden, Hermes, Christian Dior, Victoria's Secret, Lacoste, Hugo Boss, Abercrombie & Fitch and Apple's subterranean store.
At home Dorte had expressed a irresistable desire, to get herself a new handbag. And now that the shops just happend to be there... As she has a thing for Gucci we visited that particular store, and eventually she came out with both bag and a wallet. The last I donated on the occasion of our aniversary :-) Gucci, however, was the only 5th Avenue store, we visited that day.
After the acquisition, we continued up along Fifth Avenue and crossed through Central Park. On the other side of the park, we continued to the bookshop, we had seen from the bus. We both like books so we had agreed that we should purchase books in New York. Books in English are typically much cheaper than in Denmark, mostly because of the larger market for English books. We then entered the bookshop, as we always do when we're in an English speaking country, and bought a few books. Approximately 16-20 pieces. And so we just hoped we could find room for them in our suitcases. We took a taxi back to the hotel with our purchases. When we gote back, Dorte went to our room, while I found a shop where I could buy a corkscrew. When I returned with my purchase, we opened one of the bottles we had purchased on Long Island and relaxed a couple of hours while Dorte moved all the content of her old handbag into the new!
A few hours later we went out for our last dinner in New York City on this trip. After dinner we went to Times Square to watch this space with all its lights once more. The square was formerly known as Longacre Square, but in the early 1900-century the New York Times moved it's headquarters to the site, which was then renamed Times Square. According to an anecdote the newspaper's owner, Adolph S. Ochs was annoyed that the other two major newspapers in New York, New York Herald and New York Tribune both had places in the city named after him, while the Times did not and that was why he moved his newspaper, to a place he could get renamed. The paper did however not last long in this spot. Already in 1913 it moved to larger premises, but the building, One Times Square still exists. The building is now empty. It is not worthwhile for the owners to rent it to someone, because they earn over 20 million dollars annually, just to rent the space on the outside of the building for various neon signs.
We had to leave NYC early in the evening, but still had most of the day to spent, so after breakfast man we checked out of the hotel, and deposited the suitcases in a store room for later retrieval. We decided to take a taxi to the airport at 3 PM to avoid rush hour as we had previously seen on our bus ride a few day before, how delayed you could get due to traffic.
For the first time during our stay in New York, the air was fairly clear without too much haze and smog and the temperature was low at around 80 degrees and it probably not rose to more than 85° during the day. We therefore decided that once again we would "go high." This time we would visit "Top of the Rock", the observation deck in Rockefeller Center. It was "only" on the 70th floor, unlike the Empire State Building's 86th floor observation deck, but then it was within walking distance from our hotel. We walked, therefore, to Rockefeller Center and after a little location trouble we found the entrance to the observation platform, located in the GE Building at 50th Street. Rockefeller Center itself is a large complex with many buildings, but the GE Building is the highest, with its 870 feet. The famous picture of workers eating lunch on a steel beam high up in the air comes from the construction of this building in 1932. The building's 65th floor houses the famous Rainbow Room restaurant.
We went straight for the entrance to the observation platform. Here there were no queues, so after buying tickets, we got on the first elevator, which took us up to 67th floor. Here the elevator stops and you go partly by escalator and partly by steps up to 70th floor. There are observation decks on both the 68th, 69th and 70 floor. The views from up here are excellent in clear weather and the weather the were much better than the day we visited the Empire State Building, so we spent some time to look at and photograph the city from above.
After the visit to Rockefeller Center, we went to Fifth Avenue, as Dorte would like to "see" that again. She also managed a little more shopping. While she went into shops, I admired once more St. Patrick's Cathedral, but only from the outside. And so I studied of course the crowds of people - for even on a ordinary day, there were many people both here and everywhere else in New York. In fact, New York has been called "a city with too many people in too many, too tall houses on too little space," and it gives a very good impression of the city, especially if one adds: "with too many cars".
We continued up to Central Park, where we decided to take a ride in a carriage through the park. The ride lasted about 20 minutes, and it was very cozy, and when it was finished, we walked again through the southern part of the park, and visited, among other the pavilion, where you can see people sitting and playing chess or checkers against each other. We also looked at some of the 23 playgrounds for children in the park and the winter skating ring. We left the park again through the Columbus Circle exit, and walked along 8th Avenue back toward the hotel.
The time was now around 2 PM, so we were a little hungry. We had discussed the impossiblility of visiting New York without eating a hotdog, but the hotdog stands, we had passed, had not looked exactly inviting. Instead, we entered an Auntie Anne's Pretzel Shop,where we bought a jumbo pretzel dog. Having killed the hunger, we went back to the hotel, got our luggage and also got a taxi. We got to the airport in good time, and spend some hours there, before our plane left. Finally it was our turn, and the flight across the Atlantic was as usual long and tedious, but finally we returned to Denmark after a couple hours layover in Heathrow.