Day 19-22–New York, New York!

So there are four days bunched up here, but two of them were fairly dominated by a 12 hour bus ride between Toronto and New York. Like us, you’re probably thinking that 12 hours on a bus sounds hellish, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I did some good booking when I booked us two table seats opposite each other. This way, we could mingle our lower limbs together in an attempt to try and get comfortable. On the first stint, we slept as well as you could expect for an overnight bus and the time passed well. On the second we barely slept, but the time still passed faster than expected. We used the American Megabus service and for cheap travel, I would recommend it!

Travellers on the bus, however, you can never guarantee. On our first stint we had a colourful bunch. There were a group of teenagers who must have booked their tickets fairly late as they were spread out throughout the seats. This didn’t bother them as they decided to keep noisily visiting each other and passing each other hash cakes over the other passengers heads. On the table opposite ours, we had one of these charming kids who sat there, giggling away, while he ate a cake and let his friends record him. He happened to be sitting on a table with two younger children and their anxious mother who looked like she was silently going out of her mind. The good thing about weed though is it calms you down, and the kid was asleep within the hour. On the way back, we had another experience with some teen backpackers who had (to their credit only just) arrived late. The bus driver had closed his doors and refused to open them again, saying that his job was to get the rest of us to our destination on time (he didn’t, but he was close). One of the girls in the group then ran in front of the bus and made the bus pull an emergency break.

Moving onto New York itself, we had a blast! On the first day we went to the 9/11 museum. That experience was chilling.

There were two memorial waterfalls at Ground Zero. The water itself made barely any noise as it flowed from the perimeters of the monument into the well in the centre. Within minutes, we managed to find, not only our names written around the edges, but all of our immediate family as well. Not only that, but several of the names included “and her unborn child”. It does make it hit home, when you realise that it was by complete chance that these people were killed. They just so happened to work at a place that was targeted and they just so happened to be on the unlucky floors that didn’t manage to escape. The passengers on the planes just so happened to have taken that flight. No particular person was targeted here, and no one was destined to die that day. I have a lot of respect for their families and for the survivors – I don’t know how it must feel to live with that. It’s some small fortune that this was a first world country where they could build monuments to honour those that were killed. Many won’t even get that privilege before the fighting is over. Inside the museum, it was nice to have the opportunity to learn about how the twin towers came to be as well. In the 60’s, their aim was to build the tallest building in New York at the time, and they did.

Here’s how the new tallest building in New York looks from the bottom. It was a really bizarre feeling not being able to see the top.

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We then moved on to see the sights on the highest floor of the Rockefeller Building. Dan isn’t the easiest with heights, so I have to give him credit here for not only going for it when climbing the stairs to the top floor, but not wanted to leave in a hurry either. Obviously we got some good shots here, and it was amazing to have the opportunity to see New York during a clear sunset. On the ground, trying to see the top of these buildings made us feel sick and dizzy, yet a lift took us up into the sky in less than a minute.

On the second day, we decided to hire bikes around central park. As amazing as the other attractions were, I would recommend this above all to anyone wanting to go to New York. The park is geared up well for cyclists, and it was amazing cycling alongside many other people – if not a little scary as well!

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Afterwards, we took a walk around times square and came across an outdoor market that seemed to go on for miles through 7th avenue! A lot of the stalls sold watch pendants and it took me a while to get why – buying time in Times square I guess! If I wasn’t trying to save money, I definitely would have got one for the cliché. We organised with some Belgians that we met in Iceland to meet for food in the evening, so we decided to stroll over to the restaurant a couple of hours early in order to check that we could get a table. On the way, I saw a piano shop and one of the most beautiful pianos I’ve ever seen – a Steinway Grand! It didn’t have a price tag on it, so I had to go into the shop and ask the owner how much it was. The answer was he hadn’t decided yet but it was around $150k. Apparently one of his friends told him that this piano was left in a theatre, on its side and falling into disrepair. He spent several months and easily $40k rebuilding it slowly. 

I don’t know how we got from there to the hour long chat that we had; he probably asked us where we were from. The next thing we knew though, we were talking to the owner (a Finnish man who’d been living here for over 30 years) and his friend (an ex communist Russian who gained political immunity in the 90’s) with some beers in our hands. It was fascinating talking to them. The Russian was telling us all about how he was looked down on for wearing jeans in his youth and how people would pay out of their nose for a basic plastic bag if it had any kind of American logo on it. They were desperate for some sense of fashion or identity. I can’t remember why we started talking about young people today, but the Finnish man, who was mostly speaking with a gentle, husky voice, became angered on the subject. “Why do these kids give more of a shit about Kim Kardashian’s ass than homeless people on the street?!”. Who could honestly argue with the man?

So, 90 minutes later than we intended, we arrived (still early) to the restaurant we told the Belgians we’d meet them at. When we saw them, the first thing they said to us was “we’ve been trying to spot a man with a beard, but you’ve shaved Dan!”. Dan did look different and about ten years younger without the grizzly on his chin. While quizzing them about their future plans, we quickly learnt that they had been together for seven years and had come up with a plan to keep the relatives at bay in terms of kids and marriage. They had announced very clearly to their families that they wanted to see the world first and would see as much of it as they could in five years before thinking about either. It sounded like a good plan! They were also bloggers, but were much better than we’ll ever be. They take 100+ photos every day and blog every night. Sorry for not being that good Sad smile, but we’re getting there.

After dinner, we took the ferry back to where we were staying in Staten Island.

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It takes us a good hour to get to and from New York from Staten Island, but its worth it for the views we get on the ferry. At night, you get a clear view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline and it’s amazing. Our camera did fail us a little here for capturing it, but with steady hands, Dan managed to get a few shots. Our hosts were from Spain and had a good sense of humour. We were staying with a couple, and the man was telling us to close our eyes when ordering one dollar pizza so that we couldn’t see the kitchen it came out of.

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