Last day of our holiday, flying out of JFK in the afternoon so time for another quick parkrun in Central Park in the morning. 51 weeks away and 51 parkruns completed.
We’ve arrived at our final destination for a bitter-sweet few days in New York. I’ve been to NYC before, but Mr Beet hasn’t, so we have to hit all the main tourist attractions, including:
A trip on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and great views of the Manhattan skyline.
A trip to the top of Empire State Building
Times Square – where the heavens opened to relieve the heat and humidity that had been building up over the past few days. There were great big hailstones and everybody got soaked to the skin.
Grand Central Station
Natural History Museum
We crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge to watch an open-air showing of Slumdog Millionaire in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and thankfully it stayed dry.
We saw some open-air improv comedy in Central Park.
And we were going to see another open-air film in Bryant Park, but rain stopped play again and we retired to a local bar with my law school friend Chris, who is now a fancy schmancy New York lawyer. We haven’t seen each other for about 8 years so we reminisced and agreed that we both feel simultaneously very old and yet still not quite grown up.
Most of the rest of the time was spent enjoying the beautiful weather (it was beautiful in between downpours) in Central Park
On our final evening, we went up to the top of the Rockfeller Centre at dusk to see great views across the city as the sun set on New York, and on our unbelievably brilliant year circumnavigating the globe.
More pictures from New York on Mr Beet’s flickr page.
Some little observations from my trip to New York.
1. New York taxis deserve their bad reputation. The taxi driver who took us from the airport to our hotel looked like a kicked puppy when I gave him the exact fare. I’m sorry, but if you crash into the central reservation then no tip for you.
2. My only other trip to the US was to Florida, where people were noticeably fatter. In general, people in New York seemed no fatter than people in London, but the exception was the policemen. Is there no kind of fitness test to join the NYPD? Either these guys took the test a very long time ago, or it’s a policy decision that since they have guns there’s really no need for them to be running after suspects.
3. UK budget cuts were on US news, putting paid to the idea that Americans don’t care about the rest of the world. They referred to “the new British Conservative government”. Nick Clegg wouldn’t be best pleased.
In New York last week I chased after a woman who had dropped $50 in the street to return it to her. She said “You’re a good girl – you’re going to Heaven today.” Which, when you think about it, is a really dreadful thing to say to someone. I looked twice before crossing the road in front of those unpredictable NY cabs for the rest of the day!
So here’s what BeetMum, BeetBro and I got up to in New York last week:
This was my absolutely favourite bit of New York. It’s enormous and it’s really easy to get lost in because of all the trees so it feels properly wild and like a real escape from the city.
We did the obligatory horse drawn carriage ride, and the driver told us where all the celebrities lived (we didn’t ask). And we went out in a rowing boat on the lake and spotted the terrapins. There’s also a zoo which is quite small but has a very good tropical house. There were loads of brides wandering about getting photos taken as well, it was like one of those Moonie mass weddings.
Some autumnul foliage – Americans seem obsessed with this. They have a leaf forecast with the weather forecast.
Madison Square Garden
I had booked tickets to the ice hockey. We spent quite a while trying to track down a giant foam finger that I had promised to bring back for Mr Beet. This was my first ice hockey game and I really enjoyed it. It’s easy to follow and very fast. The players show immense skill in moving the puck up and down the rink, which then all seems to go out the window when they get near the goal and it just disintegrates into an undignified scuffle with everyone piling in.
It’s a pretty rough game: bodily slamming a player from the opposing team into the wall without any attempt to go for the puck seems to be a favoured tactic, rather than something that is in any way frowned upon. And there were a couple of scuffles that broke out – I think we would have been disappointed if there hadn’t been.
I always had the impression that Americans were dead keen on sports, but the crowd were really quiet. They kept flashing up signs on the big scoreboard trying to encourage the fans to sing and make noise, but to no avail. Also, there seemed to be a lot of other things going on to distract you from the actual ice hockey – loud music, quizzes on the big screen, people in the crowd winning prizes every couple of minutes. It’s almost as if they were catering to a crowd that they didn’t really expect to be interested in the main event.
Empire State Building / Rockerfeller Center
We went up to the Top of the Rock by day, to get views Central Park and the skyline including the Empire State. Then we did the Empire State by night and the lights just stretch on and on. It was chilly up there but worth it, especially as it was designed by the Daleks.
BeetMum and I took a bus tour. I’ve done them in London and Paris and think that they are a good way to get an overview of the city and work out how it all fits together, so I’m a fan. The spiel from the tour guides was pretty informative too – luckily they did not confine themselves to celebrity residences and actually told us a bit about the city.
We did three tours over two days – Downtown (Empire State, Flatiron, Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown), Uptown (Central Park, Harlem) and Brooklyn (good views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan, a look round the more residential part of New York and a stop for pizza).
Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island
We queued for about 2 hours to get the Ferry over to the Statue (which is cool, but actually would probably have been just as good to see it from the free Staten Island Ferry) and then Ellis Island – which has a museum about the immigrants that laid it on a bit thick. I find I’m less likely to be moved or impressed by something if I’m constantly being told how incredibly moving and impressive it is. I probably should have just turned off the overly earnest audio tour.
BeetBro queued up at the half-price ticket booth in Times Square to get us some tickets to some shows. We plumped for West Side Story and the Addams Family. Because we really, really like finger-clicking.
West Side Story had a young cast and was a pretty straight performance with no updating from the original. The one change was that the Puerto Ricans (some of whom looked distinctly pasty – surely it couldn’t have been that hard to cast Hispanic actors, or at least break out the fake tan) sang and spoke their parts in Spanglish. So my ten-year-old A-level Spanish came in handy. I guess that was supposed to make it more authentic, but if you’re portraying gang violence via the medium of ballet, then I think that authenticity is probably the least of your concerns.
The Addams family was much more fun. Nathan Lane was Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Cheers and Frasier) was Morticia. Cheers was about 25 years ago, so she must be in her 50s (*Google tells me she is 51*) and she was incredibly glamorous. The songs weren’t very memorable, but it was an old-fashioned farce with really slick and funny performances.
BeetMum was not keen on too much museum action, but we did spend a day in the Metropolitan. It was incredible, you could easily spend weeks there. We only did about half the first floor, taking in the Greek and Roman section, Africa and Oceania, Modern Art, Art Deco Design and the Armoury. Fantastic – even BeetMum loved it.
I’ll blog about my recent trip to New York properly when I get the chance, but to whet your appetite – here’s a minor celebrity spot from the streets of Manhattan. Aficionados of America’s Next Top Model (the early seasons) will be familiar with Nole Marin.