Sunday, 11 October 2009

... New York City: New York State Of Mind

Sleep is over-rated... right? Isn't that what I constantly tell myself?!?! This meant I was going to ignore the fact that I was technically landing in the middle of the night and instead embrace the 3 hour time difference upon landing at JFK. I couldn't check into my Hotel until 11am anyway.

JFK is about 25km from Midtown in the far reaches of Queens. AirTrain JFK is the easiest way to get to, from and around the International Airport. Operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, AirTrain provides easy connections with the MTA New York City Transit subway. All I had to do was look for the signs for Rockaway subway station and then from there get the train into Manhattan.



Public transit becomes one of your best friends. It smells a bit funny in places and makes me wonder "who you gonna call?" but it really does zip up and down Manhattan with such ease. All you need is a MetroCard.

I was staying in Times Square so decided to get off a few stops earlier in the Diamond District and get my itchy feet walking. Plus it was an excellent opportunity to eat breakfast.

Avenue of the Americas: Chrysler Building
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning and the city was still, for most part, asleep. I grabbed breakfast to go and sat in Bryant Park taking in the 360 degree sights and sounds whilst refuelling. The Empire State Building, the Bank of America Tower, Bryant Park Hotel can all been seen from here. Perhaps more importantly the central building of the New York Public Library is in the park.

Bryant Park
The Empire State Building
Known as the "Crossroads of the World", Times Square consists of lots of dazzling neon lights - surely requiring a rather large shoe for its considerable carbon footprint. Running through it is Broadway where many have come nameless and penniless in a bid to get their name in lights.


My hotel was right in the middle of the hustle & bustle - fantastic! Yet my room was literally in the clouds and so well sound-proofed that you could peer down on the silent pseudo-ant world below.


All checked-in, day pack packed with cameras, it was time to go exploring.

Midtown East, from 30th Street to 59th Street on the East Side of Manhattan, is home to some of NYC's most popular sights. My little walking tour took in Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Rockefeller Centre & skating rink, Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the race for the tallest building in the world started and the Chrysler Building (1047 ft) was the first building to top the then tallest structure, the Eiffel Tower. It's distinctive architecture is a classic example of the Art Deco style. The gargoyles depict Chrysler car ornaments and the spire is modeled on a radiator grille. It has continued to be a favourite city symbol amongst New Yorkers.




Grand Central Terminal is the World's largest and busiest train station. It just happens to be housed in an architectural dream that is well worth a visit.


It is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms: 44, with 67 tracks along them on two levels. When the Long Island Rail Road's new station, below the existing levels, opens, Grand Central will offer a total of 75 tracks and 48 platforms. You can't help but marvel at the beautiful gold-veined marble arches and the blue domed ceiling decorated with twinkling fibre optics.



It also has an upscale food market that is well-worth a stroll around even if, like me, you've already got your eyes on a pretzel from the stand outside for lunch.


There are thirty-eight Broadway theatres available to enthrall you with lavish spectacles. The price of many tickets though can be steep BUT there are ways to get heavily discounted tickets (including half-price).  NYC has three discount TKTS booths run by the Theatre Development Fund selling seats to same-day Broadway shows with the main booth located in Times Square. It is worthwhile queuing as there is usually a lot of very good options available including for the big Broadway shows.


Chicago is one of my favourite shows. Despite having seen it in Vancouver I was certainly more than happy to see it again. I mean c'mon, this IS Broadway! I did what we Brits do best prior to my personal walking tour and queued. This scored me a ticket for an excellent seat near the front of the stage for the 230pm matinee at the Ambassador. Surprisingly, the lead of Roxie was played by an entertainer whom I remembered mainly for being primarily ridiculed by the British media when I was younger. Noel Coward had once famously criticized her for her performance in a play as a child and I suspect that haunted her for much of her adult career too. However, I found myself being pleasantly surprised by Bonnie Langford's performance. It was certainly a bit of an "Up Yours" to the British Media who are often cruel and ruthless. The show was amazing... and all that jazz.


What an excellent way to lead into a relaxing evening of dinner & people watching.

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