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New York

It’s time to light the lights

Wednesday 6th  

Today was the day I’d been looking forward to more than any!!
I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets.
There’s photos of me as a toddler holding a Kermit toy that I still own today. I’ve seen all the movies, watched all the shows and own all sorts of weird and wonderful merchandise.
Today I was going to the Museum of Moving Image, home to the Jim Henson Exhibition.

I got to the temporary entrance and was told that due to the ground floor being closed, entry was free. Splendid, that was about $17 saved!
Big Bird. Museum of Moving ImageFirst up was the ‘Behind the Screen’ exhibition, an interesting, very hands on display detailing the processes behind creating tv and film.
Just this in itself would have made for a good visit, however, I was here for the one thing….
….I was like a kid at Christmas!
There are around 300 objects on display including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf, The Swedish Chef, Statler, Waldorf, Big Bird, one of Animal’s costumes and lots of scripts and drawings.
Ok I have to admit, I went around the display twice!

After the museum, I took a wander around Astoria before getting on the subway back to Manhattan in search for food. I got off at Hell’s Kitchen (a great name for a place!) and wandered down to Greenwich Village, probably one of my favourite areas of Manhattan.
I had dinner at the Mexican restaurant, Caliente Cab, starting with black bean soup, very tasty, very filling. Main course was beef burrito, again, very tasty and filling. Plenty of rice and skirt beef.  It’s a great place with friendly staff.


Thursday 7th

Today I was ticking a few more sights off. Getting the Subway to Penn station, I walked down 7th Ave. and kept heading South until I hit the 9/11 Memorial. I was surprised at how tastefully this area has been designed.
As this was my first time in New York, it was hard to imagine the two towers that once stood there but not as hard as imagining the terror of that day in 2001.
I continued South, through Battery Park to the Staten Island ferry terminal. The terminal is a huge empty space where hundreds gather to board the free ferry to the island. I was a little worried I wouldn’t get on the ferry looking around at the numbers of people getting on, however, I needn’t have worried, I got a space outside with  great views back to Manhattan and, of course, the Statue of Liberty.
Manhattan skyline New York
The initial plan was to get off the boat, get the train to Oakwood Heights station (using my Metro card) then walk to the Greenbelt via Wilowbrook Parkway, a small strip of woodland between two roads.
The trains ran every 30 minutes and the journey took 20 minutes.
From the station  I headed up Cedarview Avenue to Riedel Avenue where I took a right. About twenty minutes after leaving the train, I entered the small woods on a path opposite Thomas Street.
This was more pleasant than walking on the roads but not particularly scenic unless you count the abandoned printer on the footpath.
Alarm bells should have rung earlier, there was little mention of the trails on Google maps, there was very little information online, my four US maps on Viewranger didn’t show the paths. The only map I could find was printed off the Greenbelt website. https://www.sigreenbelt.org/Trails/trailmap.pdf
I joined Rockland Avenue but there was no trail where I expected. I glanced at the map and noticed another possible way on to the footpath further up the road, it looked roughly 15 minutes walk  from where I was currently.  A quarter of an hour on a busy road with no pavement (sidewalk) was not something I fancied doing especially if there was no sign of the route there either.
I was getting rather fed up now, I turned around and headed back to the station. There may well have been other routes in to the Greenbelt but there were a long walk away, it was getting later in the afternoon, I was hot and frustrated.
Back in Tompkinsville, I popped in to the Flagship Brewing Company for a drink and a chat with the very friendly, well-travelled bar man. Surprisingly, the highlight of the day….well, either that or the dinner at the Pig Beach over in Brooklyn. Ohh this was good. A big slab of BBQ pork with slaw and pickles eaten on a large wooden table outdoors….yes, this was the highlight of the day….or was it the walk down on the waterfront at sunset, the views were amazing!

Manhattan skyline New York night time

Friday 8th

A bit of a mop up day today. Took the subway to the north station of Central  Park for a stroll around down the eastern side of the park,  passing Trump Tower as I left. I wandered round the Manhattan then jumped the Subway across to Brooklyn. Not much to report on today’s events other than the meal at Dinosaur BBQ was fantastic and very filling!


9th June

Unfortunately, I have to say I’m not sorry to be going home. I usually take holidays in the mountains but I like a city break. I enjoyed Budapest, I  love Paris, Rome is  one of my favourite destinations but,  New York just ain’t my kinda town .

The hotel was very good and  I ended my stay there with the usual; coffee and cornflakes with a banana. Check out was easy and friendly and the area to leave luggage seemed secure enough.

I headed out one last time, getting the subway to the North of the park. There was a softball competition taking place with teams from all around the country competing.
It was a lovely sunny day,  the park was quite busy but it’s always easy to find a quiet spot and a drinks stand!Baseball, Central Park New York

After heading into town again I wandered round before jumping the subway to get back to the hotel.
Here’s where the fun began…. I’d planned to leave myself 2 hours to get from the hotel to JFK, a journey Google maps claimed would take 90- 100 minutes. The first train was fine then a change of trains which involved hauling my luggage up and down narrow stairs. I didn’t realise at the time but, this line was having its signalling upgraded. Progress was very slow and the train was packed and hot.
We eventually reached Jamaica. The station was swarming with people wanting to take my metro card so they could sell it on to some poor arriving tourist. Needless to say, the ticket stayed with me as a made my way to the Airtrain…. services suspend.
Everyone crammed on to one bus going to all terminals.
People struggled to get off at their terminal and to make matters worse, at each terminal, people were trying to get on for the trip in to the city.
A horrible journey from the city to the airport and not something I was expecting in a big, modern city like New York but at least this bus replacement was free!

Check in was painless as was the security, why did I set alarms off in Manchester but don’t at JFK despite wearing the same clothing?!
The queues however…. lines split only to re-join further along.  People had to filter back in. Other people were directed into the middle of the line, causing families to be split. Amazingly people remained good natured probably helped by the cheerful dog handler who, on spotting a young girl’s colourful, fury travelling case asked her, ‘did you kill all of Sesame Street to make that bag?’

Once past security, I decided I wanted a coffee…not a beer, not a wine bar , not an oyster bar just a simple coffee. Easier said than done. I eventually found one place that claimed to sell coffee only to be told,” our coffee is cold now go to the end of the row to Dunkin Donuts.”  Off I went and started to fill my cup with the Dunkin Donut blend…  It ran out. I left the cup and just managed to fill a new plastic cup with the standard blend. How hard can it be to get coffee at an airport mid afternoon?!

We boarded the bus to transfer from the gate to the aircraft. No modern airbridge for us!
In so many ways, New York is so behind the times.

How on an aircraft with no noticeable way to recline do I end up behind the one person who the aircraft who shoves their seat back?!
Shortly after take off we got cheese and pickle roll. I was beginning to wish  I’d had more time to eat at the airport! Breakfast was worse, omelette doesn’t work to well reheated on an aircraft especially when served with bland mushroom and ham. Despite only eating cornflakes and the small cheese  roll in the past 19  hours and not sleeping for 20 hours,  I couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
Still, the sunrise was lovely and I managed to acquire a second cheese roll (-:

20 mins before landing I found the recliner I’m saying nothing in case I fly with these again (-;

Part 1 – Start Spreading the news
Part 2 – Getting out in the coutnryside 

 

Getting out in the countryside

Monday 4th

I started the day on the Subway, red line number 2 to Brooklyn.
It’s worth pointing out then when entering station, check it doesn’t specify which lines/directions it serves, some entrances are for just the one line and once you swipe your ticket you have to wait 10 mins or so before you can use it again.  I had a 7 day pass so it’s not an problem, however I suspect it may be an issue if you’ve paid for a single journey.  Incidentally the 7 day unlimited pass for around $32 (plus initial $1 for the new card) is well worth getting.
I’d already mastered finding my way around on the Subway, it’s easy to use and trains are frequent. Unfortunately, however, they can become very, very crowded and there are some ‘interesting’ people on board at times.
View from Brooklyn, New YorkI got off the train at Hoyt Street and wandered down the shopping street, on to Brooklyn Bridge road and Pearl Street towards the park on the water front. The path along the waters edge offers great views over to Manhattan’s distinctive sky line.
I continued to Pier 5 and decided I had to make a return trip one evening.
I moved inland and took a wander around Brooklyn, finding a couple of potential places for evening meals. Tonight though, dinner was taken at Da Gennaro in Little Italy. A real tourist trap, the restaurants here are not cheap! The carpaccio starter and lobster ravioli were extremely good though.


Tuesday 5th

After breakfast, walked towards the Yankee stadium and the Yankees-E. 153rd Street train station.
I paid the $5.50 train fare and waited on the platform along with a few others for the Croton Harmon train. It was due at the same time as a train going the other direction towards Grand Central so I didn’t think anything of it when a train came in. on the other platform. I then noticed other passengers running up the stairs.
I’ve no idea what became of the Grand Central train but the one to Croton had been moved onto the other platform. I quickly ran up the stairs and over the bridge. As I boarded the train a man in front of me shook his head, “they’re always doing this” he sighed.
The train journey was pleasant and I was surprised how quickly we left the city.
Getting off the train at Croton I wandered through the streets in the pleasant leafy suburb. I’d left behind the apartment blocks and was now walking past family homes with kid’s toys lying in well-kept gardens.
Leaving the road at Truesdale Drive, I dropped down to the Silver Lake beach on the Croton River and on through the woods. I felt a million miles away from New York City.
I crossed the river at the Quaker Bridge and, after taking a left, joined the Old Croton Aqueduct trail. This is a pleasant, easy to follow, wide trail through woodland, opening out at the New Croton Dam. The views went on for miles, it was very difficult to imagine this was so close to New York City.

New Croton Dam, New York
It was back on roads again for a short while before re-joining paths near Colabaugh Pond. It was here I met friendly chap collecting logs. He mentioned the local wildlife to look out for which included beavers and coyotes. The best I managed to spot was chipmunks.
I was now heading for the Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, another well marked route through woodland. At least it was well marked until I reached Watch Hill Road.  After taking a left, the route disappeared. According to the map on Viewranger, I should head up Mountain Side Trail.
Looking at my GPS, I  was right on track but no path and no blue blobs. I cross checked with Google map, yes this was where the path should be but no sign of it, just over grown woodland and people’s back gardens.
Briarcliff Peekskill Trailway, New YorkI ended up passing between two houses and working my way up to where the path should be. I was very glad of my GPS at this point!
Once I found the path, it was, once again, easy to navigate, just following the now yellow blobs.
The route made its way around dense woodland. I eventually left the woods by Woodside Elementary school. From here it was a fairly straight walk along roads to Peekskill station.

Surprisingly, the return journey was $12.75, twice the cost of the train to Croton despite being only a stop or two down the line. I can’t complain though, it was a reasonable distance and provided me with one of my most enjoyable days of the holiday. The route can be downloaded as a GPX file.

Back in the city, dinner was taken at the Amsterdam Burger Co, unbeknownst to me, I was in the Jewish area and this small eatery only served kosher dishes. I only realised when I noticed one of the ingredients was written as “bacon” the quotes added as it was beef bacon.
I started with chilli loaded nachos then an Aussie burger, basically a beef burger with beetroot. Not sure if that is how they take their burgers in Australia but nice if a little on the expensive side, $18 for a burger with no sides.

Part 2, It’s time to light the lights

Start spreading the news

Saturday 2nd June

My brother picked me up from home at 6:45 and we got to Manchester airport in very good time,  just as well, there was one huge queue for all Thomas Cook transatlantic flights. There were more delays going through security.
This left me with just 30 mins to wait before boarding. Once we did start to board I was pulled over for a random swab test apparently looking for traces of explosives!
When I finally got on-board we waited, and waited, and waited.
Apparently, there was a delay in getting the bags on board, presumably extra security checks were being carried out on those too.
An hour later than scheduled we were on our way.           .
The aircraft, a leased Air Tanker A330, G-VYGK, was comfy enough.  A bottle of water had been placed on every seat. Each seat back had a screen with USB port showing a few films,  tv shows and the obligatory moving map.  You can pay extra to make more shows available. At least the in-ear headphones were free.

Thomas Cook flight to New YorkThe in flight meal was by James Martin.  Jasmine rice, chicken curry and soya beans (?) and was really rather pleasant. Desert was chocolate mouse desert, coffee followed.
The only free drinks are the bottle of water, the water with meal and the after-dinner coffee, all other drinks have to be paid for, needless to say, they weren’t cheap, the real reason for banning liquids at security checks??!!
A lemon drizzle cake was handed out before landing. All in all, a decent flight and although we arrived late we did make up some time.

Immigration was painless and friendly, I was soon out of the airport and on the Sky Train to Jamaica….well the stop before Jamaica, the train became out of service everyone then had to cram on to the next one.
At Jamaica things became confusing. You pay $5 for a ticket to allow you to exit the station, this is separate from the metro card used to travel the subway. Cue lots of confused tourists milling around the small number of ticket machines. To make things worse the ticket machine  wouldn’t accept either  of my cards. Using the ‘pay with ATM card’ option failed and it  prompted for a zip code when I selected credit card.
Given that I’d just landed, I only had notes, the smallest being a $20,  the machines didn’t give change.
A member of staff was pointing customers to the nearest cash machine/ATM which was out on the street. I watched as weary travellers carried their cases up the stairs to get  some cash.
Along with many others, I went to the one manned ticket counter.
Further faff  once I got my ticket and swiped it through the barrier, it was too small for my rucksack. Clearly not designed for people coming straight from the airport.  People with bigger luggage than mine struggled to make their way through.
The subway is at the far end of Jamaica, down the lift. The route wasn’t very clear and there are very few maps around. One plus is the stations have free WiFi so a quick look on Google maps resulted in a plan. Take orange line F as far as Lexington then change onto green 5 to 3 av 149 st.
Almost 2 hours after boarding the Skytrain I was walking down to the hotel in 28 degree heat.
I can see why people take the taxis!

The Opera House hotel was easy to spot on a street full of food stands and market shops.
Check in was simple and friendly.
Room of the Opera House Hotel, Bronx, New YorkMy room, 406, was extremely spacious and clean The aircon did a good job at cooling the room, however, it sounded like a jet engine. That was getting turned off at night!
The walls are full of old posters and building plans from the hotel’s previous life as an opera house. Entertainment these days was provided by an ipod dock and a flat screen tv connected to a cable box.
Once I’d unpacked and freshened up, I wasn’t going to venture far for food so wandered down to the Yankee stadium. There was a game on tonight but I was surprised to find it was a football, or should I say soccer, match.  The area was full or people in New York City kits.  Their kit looked a lot like the Manchester City kit, light blue with the same sponsor. After a quick look on Wiki, I discovered they’re both owned by the ‘City Football Club’ company.
Luckily for me, the bars emptied out just before kick off and I got in to the Bronx Drafthouse where I got some nice chipotle wings. Very ready for bed afterwards!
Speaking of the bed, it was not only comfortable but huge! I could have had two others in there with me!
Despite being in the middle of the Bronx it was very quiet. No noise from outside or the hotel corridors. A very good sleep.


Sunday 3rd June

I wandered downstairs to the breakfast room.  Coffee came from a machine. It wasn’t too bad. Next to the coffee machine was a machine for skimmed milk, full fat milk and ‘half and half’ which I later discovered was single cream.
There wasn’t a huge choice. Cakes, bread, bagels, eggs, Cherios and cornflakes. I grabbed a plastic cup of coffee, plastic cup of orange juice and a plastic bowl full of cornflakes which I ate with a plastic spoon.
Seeing how long it took to toast bread in a country that ran on 110v I quickly concluded life was to short for toast at breakfast.

After breakfast it was time to immerse myself into New York city. I turned left from the hotel entrance and wandered down the road in the Bronx. This was clearly a poor area filled with homeless people and others who clearly needed help. The smell of marujana is strong and large sums of money was being handed over to people on street corners, I can only assume for drugs.  Despite this, the area felt ‘quirky’ but not threatening.
I headed in a straight line, down 3rd Avenue to cross the water in to Harlem. It was amazing the difference between here and the Bronx. Wide roads with places of worship on virtually every street corner.
Once I reached Malcolm X Boulevard, I followed it to Central Park.
The park was high on my to do list, partly due to it’s links with my local park, Birkenhead Park,  the world’s first publicly funded park and the inspiration behind Central Park.
There is one obvious difference between the two, Central Park is massive! About 2.5 miles/4km from top to bottom.
 Reservoir in Central Park New YorkI zig zagged around, visiting the North Woods, the Great Hill and The Pool.
I stayed on the western side of the park and reached the running track around the reservoir. It’s strange seeing the high-rise buildings towering over this oasis of green and blue. Even more strange was seeing turtles swimming around. Definitely something we don’t see here in Birkenhead!
Once I’d reached the imaginatively named ‘The Lake’ I stopped for a coffee at The Loeb Boathouse. I sat myself down outside at spotted my first (and only!) famous person of the holiday, John Noble who has appeared in a number of shows including Fringe and Elementary.
I weaved around the park some more, eventually popping out at the south end on 6th Avenue. Yet again, the area I was now in was totally different to the places I was in earlier in the day. There was some money here. Big, posh hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and shops that included Louis Vuitton.
Empire State building, road New York CityMy route continued South towards Times Square and Broadway, the sights were certainly getting done today!

I continued south until I hit West 22nd Street, a left here took me towards the Flatiron building. 5th Ave then took me to the park at Washington Square. Today it was full of kids taking part in various science experiments.
Next up was the pleasant Greenwich village and a brief wander in to lower Manhattan before heading back up North, through Union Square Garden, passing the Empire State building, ending at the Subway station to head back.

A gpx file of this walk is available on ViewRanger

New York, the city that never sleeps….unless it’s a Sunday evening and you want to eat. Many restaurants closed at 8 or 9pm. I ended up having dinner at Dallas BBQ. Ok.  Decent prices, huge portions, but not the greatest taste.
After food it was back to the hotel’s  mezzanine floor for a water (with ice and lemon) and decaff  coffee before bed.

.Part 2 – Getting out in to the countryside

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