With heavy heart I said goodbye (for Now) to my friends in New England and opted for a Mega Bus ride to The Big Apple (New York). The Mega bus Boston to New York took 5 hours and at $19 in a comfy seat with one comfort break represents great value for money.
I found some really cheap accommodation via one of my favourite websites (AirBnB) just across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey.
So - 202, Van Horne, a basement flat that came with a bedroom with a bed, a closet and a desk, a comfy lounge to relax in and a shared Kitchen with family that wasn't there, complete with free WiFi became my home for the next 7 days.
It was about a 15 minute walk to the station to catch a PATH train under the water into New York Penn Station with trains every 15 minutes and taking about 30 minutes and if you intend to be there like I was for 7 days it is best to buy a weekly PATH Pass.
Arriving at Pennsylvania Station or Penn Station as it is known is mind boggling. As you emerge from a station that is the busiest in the Western Hemisphere, serving more than 600,000 passengers per weekday you are surrounded by the famous Madison Square Garden where some of the greatest boxing matches of all time have taken place and the headquarters of the New York Police Department and you just have to stand and take in the hustle and bustle of the city that seems to be travelling at 100 miles an hour all the time.
From Penn Station I headed for Times Square where I had seen the New Year Heralded in the same way as we do in Trafalgar Square on my television in the past - passing "Bubba Gump Shrimp" from "Forest Gump" fame on the way, where a Television News Reporter was giving an on the spot report about something that had just happened and New York's Finest were on the scene.
Once you reach Times Square it will put you in mind of Piccadilly Circus in London crossed with Leicester Square but on steroids. There are crowds 24/7 just wanting to be there and at the back of the steps you can see in the pictures there is usually a long queue for theatre tickets, either returns or last minute not so cheap seats for the shows on Broadway and 42nd Street.
The people who dress up as The Statue of Liberty, Ghost busters Ghosts and other famous New York Landmarks to have photos taken with the tourists are everywhere but there is only one Famous "Naked Cowboy", Robert John Burck, is an American actor, singer, songwriter, writer and street performer who sings in New York City's Times Square. He wears only cowboy boots, a hat, and white briefs, with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity.
All the famous sights & Sites that require no description are close by like 42nd Street with its theatres and the Flat Iron Building at the junction of Broadway and 5th Avenue or Macy's legendary Department Store.
Another short walk brings you to one of the most famous New York landmarks thanks to an oversized Ape and peoples love of movies.
The end of my first day of sight seeing was spent in Union Square where people gather after work at the end of the day to have a drink and relax in the local coffee shops and wine bars to watch and listen to the street performers of varying abilities in the park watched over by a bronze statue of George Washington on horseback before heading back to my lodging to plan for day 2 tomorrow.
New York Day 2
On my second day in New York City I decided to make my first stop the site of the 9/11 atrocity and see what had been done and the photographs don't do justice to all the commemorations they have put in place and how they have picked themselves up and refused to be beaten - very emotional visit
The exit from the Path Train that runs under the river from New Jersey to World Trade Centre Site comes up right beside the ground zero site.
The world renowned and recognisable Twin Towers that were destroyed on that fatal day back in 2011 have now been replaced by a single building known as The World Trade Centre with an area set aside as a memorial as well as a museum you can visit.
Currently fenced in due to building work but there is a plaque with an explanation that is worth reading at the side of the horse rider. Where the twin towers stood there is now 2 water feature which disappears into the foundations with the names of all the victims etched in the surrounds.
The new Tower that was built as a replacement now stands tall and proud against the New York skyline as a symbol against terrorism.
After this moving experience what better than some time to reflect on a sea cruise - well almost. A little down the road from The Trade Centre is Battery Park where I caught the famous Staten Island ferry which turned out to be great value for money as it is FREE and if you travel out on the starboard side (Right looking at the front from the back) you get a great view of The Lady herself.
The Ferry can get very busy but there is plenty of room and one leaves every 30 minutes from the concourse. Staten Island is/ one of the New York Cities 5 boroughs where commuters to Manhattan tend to live so there is not a lot to see.
The boat crossing takes you past Ellis Island where the Statue of Liberty has stood since 1886 welcoming immigrants and others to The USA. It is possible to take a boat ride to the Island and take a tour but not on the ferries. On the way back you can see the Brooklyn Bridge.
I didn't intend to spend a lot of time on Staten Island as I had a lot to fit in and I was about to walk past this excuse for a theatre The St. George as it looked really run down then I saw Tony Bennett was to appear there and Tickets were $180-00 - so not a tribute act I thought.
When I asked if I could look around the guy was happy to leave me to my own devices and apologised the lights in the stage area were off but what a shock I got as I nosed around - what was that about a book and it's cover - Ok.
Back from Staten Island, Near Battery Park is the museum of The Native American Indian which is open 9 am to 5 pm and free to enter so being of an age brought up on cowboys and Indians I thought I would see what they had on offer.
The exhibition is well worth a look and considering that it is not a part of their history they can be too proud of it has been handled honestly and as the Black African American and the Off white Hispanic American running the exhibition explained they don't have any Native American Indians working there as they don't think there are any left in New York
I must also say it was funny but on my way back to my lodgings I saw a man with a T shirt that had a picture of four Apache Indians on it and the slogan "Homeland Security - fighting invaders since 1472" - you have to laugh Ha Ha
The rest of my second day was similar to the first walking around downtown Manhattan and just taking in the sights which in New York City is pretty varied from Trinity Boxing Club with it's open window for anyone to join, past the Black Eagle sculpture for war veterans in Battery Park , the Korean War Memorial and Castle Clinton or Clinton Fort a circular sandstone Fort built from 1808 to 1811, it was the first U.S. immigration station, where more than 8 million people arrived in the United States from 1855 to 1890.
Besides the Memorial to commemorate all the Immigrants that came through Ellis Island sat one of what I assumed was one of the current Immigrants but what a wiz he was on that electric whatever - I even gave him money.
I managed to get to Broadway and Wall St before I got caught in a downpour but not before I asked the guy with the placard on the corner of Wall Street when was the last time a banker cut off his clients head with a knife?
I hid in a bar until the rain stopped and then took some night time shots of Times Square, Union Square, 42nd Street and The lights on Broadway before finding myself outside "Sardi's Restaurant", probably the most famous eatery in New York but of course I didn't eat there instead I found myself at "il Forno" in "Hells Kitchen" No sign of Daredevil and the food wasn't that bad so a good end to a second day.
As Thursday was raining and overcast and I was feeling under the weather anyway I decided to Stay in New Jersey and head for Hoboken where probably the most famous singer of all time was born Yes Francis (Frank) Sinatra but not that they put a plaque up on his door or anything in fact the house wasn't even there but there is always something nice to see anyway.
My day started with a walk through Liberty Park where there was as a Music College right next to the train line station which wasn't worth a picture so I took one of the college instead. Then after a short train ride along the water with a view of Manhattan from The Jersey Side I arrived at Hoboken Docks with a fabulous view of the new Trade Centre Building.
As I already stated my journey to find out about Hobokens' most famous son came to nought as there wasn't even a house let alone a plaque on a wall to commemorate him but wait, my journey has not been in vain there is our Frank immortalised with his name on a ferry boat - Well I suppose He did it his way.
The waiting room for the train / ferry in Hoboken is an amazing sight to see and I was going to say the shoeshine boy is something you don't see too often these days but then on second thoughts a teenager sitting around doing nothing when they are supposed to be working, not so unusual after all - Ok put the gun away Just Kidding !!!!!
On the way back I noticed the big Gas Guzzling taxis have now become much smaller probably due to the cost of Gas nowadays.
New Jersey Town Hall was very smart but I was more Impressed by Scotland Yard that was all fitted out to sell real British Ale - Hmmmm Beer
So Friday is another day however the forecast for the days weather is not good so as it wasn't raining first thing I jumped on the sightseeing bus to take in the parts of Downtown that I had missed and struck lucky with the weather and a great Guide who made the trip great - worth the tip I gave him when I got off - see Denise, Tammy & Lynn I am learning about tipping ! !
City Sights New York Ticket can be bought separately or with a city pass and worth every penny especially with guys like this as guides he should have a show of his own. The bus takes you around all the sights of the city This building known as The Flat Iron because of it's shape splits two of NYC's famous streets Broadway on one side and 5th Avenue the other. The Pratt Institute and its faculty and alumni include the most renowned artists, designers, and scholars in their fields.
Passing the Hollister building we came across a group of skateboarders that were everywhere we went around the city, all to do with the big charity drive for cancer - way to go guys - If any of you watch CSI New York this is the court (and it really is a courthouse) where they film it.
And so we reached Wall Street with crowds flocked around the Big Bronzed Bull - it is supposed to be very lucky and you will come into money if you touch it - Bull - Bull Market - Get it - No me neither I touched it and i'm still in Air BnB and not The Waldorf Astoria.
Chinatown, Bigger than the one in San Francisco and great food - Look really close at the sign of Mc Donalds in the third picture and you will see it's written in Cantonese in this Chinatown.
Didn't get a good shot but really folks this was a line of indigents queuing up at a soup kitchen - Only in New York eh - At the other end of a scale is The Waldorf Astoria still the Grand old Lady and free - to go in the foyer and finally (on this bus tour) Carnegie Hall and I missed the tour as well as the concert given by my Polish friend with her Larks.
Well the rain didn't stay away all day but I had made a plan B and so I dropped in to see some people you may know and I have taken some pictures to see how well you know their faces but there are 10 I have an Idea you may not know so look for the ???????? to see if you can come up with a name - are you game.
Finished with my goodbyes in the waxworks and when I got outside it was overcast and could be going to rain so I decided not to be put off and headed for the Pier and the round Manhattan Scenic tour (by Boat) and as it was getting to Dusk thought it would be the right time to see it all and if it rains stay inside - little did I know I would be fortunate to get some of the best pictures I have taken so far so settle down for a treat and don't forget I own the copyright or at least the negative oh no what about the digithingy whatdoyoumacallit oh what the heck copy what you like !!
There are numerous boat tours offering Bay Cruises and you should choose which one suits you and check the Pier number it departs from as there are quite a few different starting points just remember to wrap up warm its easier to take a coat off than shiver on deck having not brought one with you.
After boarding my boat with lots of room inside and out with coffee and muffins or alcohol if you want at Hudson River Park I took off with Manhattan on the left and those three piers known as CHELSEA PIERS were left over from World War II and have been redeveloped. The two to the left are sports centres and eateries and the one to the right looking like a fishing net is a golf driving range with three levels - and look at that sky rain clouds rain clouds told you it would rain.
With New Jersey on our right and the sun just starting to set behind The Lackawanna Clock tower in Hoboken and The Colgate Clock and then when rounding the end of the bay with the sunset behind me you see the colours of Manhattan South and The Freedom Tower at Ground Zero now tell me that doesn't look good.
Round the bottom of Manhattan now on the East side between Manhattan & Brooklyn looking at Manhattan in the Middle of The Hudson River. Unfortunately this was nearest I got to the famous Brooklyn Bridge as I ran out of time this trip but I shall return.
Ellis Island was where every immigrant who arrived in third class was processed to make sure they could make their way in the New World even our own Bob Hope from the UK went through here - I think he made good - now a museum.
Obviously no Bay Cruise would be complete without the chance to take pictures up close and personal with probably the most Iconic statue in the world - The Statue of Liberty - a gift from France after gaining Independence from those dastardly Brits.
By the end of the trip although it was dark I ran along the shore to get a picture of "Intrepid" which was a WW2 Aircraft carrier that was docked there with planes on the deck including an old Concord but closed for the night . Next to it a WW2 Submarine, too dark to get pictures and the guards were not friendly as I leaned over to take photos - did no one tell them the Iron Curtain has gone ???
I saved my favourite picture until last to bring the curtain down on a fabulous trip around the waters of the Big Apple - Not too Shabby eh !!!
My final destination before my night came to close was made famous by an Ape from an Island on the other side of the world who fell in love with Faye Wray back in the 1930's and came to a sticky end shot down from the top by aeroplanes - Don't make out your too young to remember it "King Kong" ( you probably saw the remake) and the Empire State Building from where you can see New York City and it's lights at their best.
While on the love story aspect - every year on 14th February someone is married in the building Ahhhhhhh
Evening seems to be a good time to visit as lines are small and it was a little cloudy but at night who is looking at anything but the lights.
I took the outside picture and I couldn't get the top in without taking my life in my hands and standing in the road - take my word for it - it's tall. The building was the fastest ever erected taking only 1 year and 43 days from start to finish and still holds that record.
The Entrance wall is made of marble from Italy and the whole foyer is an amazing example of Art Deco at it's best, it really didn't need King Kong to make it so famous.
Now do you believe me it's high and I am on the 86th floor there is another 17 floors above me and then the mast. In picture 2 see the high building to our left with the steeple lite up that was the highest building "The Chrysler Building" before this one was built. That one in the centre of the three is the New Trade Centre building and is higher I think,but from here it doesn't look it.
You can see the Brooklyn Bridge Lit up and the Borough of Brooklyn across the river, Brooklyn has three times the population of Manhattan and the bridge is the main artery. Up here at night surrounded by the lights not even the rain clouds can dampen your spirits but I suppose it's worth remembering that The Empire state Building is hit hundreds of times each year by lightening however it channels it safely directly to earth, amazing, and it looks as if it might happen again tonight !!!
And now a happy fella is going to make his way home until tomorrow and my last day in the big apple
Foot note to the Day
After I left the boat cruise I mentioned I went and took pictures of the aircraft carrier and Submarine and I have to tell you about Christina who I met on the way,
Christina stopped me and asked me for a cigarette and I said I didn't smoke and started to leave and she said not to go the way I was going as it wasn't a safe place a conversation ensued where I told her what I was going to look at and she accompanied me as she had never seen an aircraft carrier.
Cutting a long story short I don't know how old Christina was but I imagine about early 30's she had no possessions, nothing except a bible in her handbag, she hadn't eaten for two days had nowhere to sleep and was unable to walk too quick as her imitation UGG boots were worn out and her feet hurt.
She never once asked me for money and I think she was just glad someone was acknowledging she existed, the information she gave me was just from questions I asked her.
She had travelled from Kentucky (look it up), miles away, and was heading upstate to try and see her two children that her "ex" had taken away as she had no job and little prospects.
I walked with her to find a pizza place that did $1 pizza slices and stayed while she bought 2 slices and a drink with money I gave her and I gave her a little extra and wished her luck with finding a shelter for the night.
As I walked away I saw a couple of police officers and went to them to find if they new of any places for Christina to stay, they gave me an address but she must have thought I was talking to them for a different reason and had gone before I got back.
The reason I am posting this is I came across a lot of indigents on the streets of New York City and they are everywhere we always walk away when all of us have so much more than they do FOR WHATEVER REASON - I wished I had done more for Christina and I hope she makes it to see her children - next time you get asked by someone for some change before you say NO think can you really not spare a dime for a cup of coffee - Please, Pass it forward.
Sunday morning and my Final day in New York City and I want to start the day of with an arena that was known by every fight fan (that's Boxing) from back in the 1950's where every big fight (and I sat up until the early hours of the morning listening on radio to the world heavyweight hero of mine Mohammed Ali) was staged known around the world as simply "The Garden" now, unfortunately for some, the home to an Ice Hockey Team and a Basketball team as well as one of the premier concert halls in the world that Elton John described as the best concert venue in the world where else but The famous "Madison Square Garden"
When I visited it had just undergone a $1Billion makeover -The pictures below are of the concourse to the garden where you undergo Airport style security before being allowed to enter and is quite futuristic.
The pictures and information around the concourse go way back in time and cover a lot of occasions, in fact around the 366 concourse there is an event that happened in The Garden for every day of the year albeit in different years. Are you old enough to remember "Happy Birthday Mr President, Happy Birthday to You" without doubt the sexiest song ever sung by someone who couldn't sing. Or what about Marvellous Marvin Haglar (Middleweight Champion of the World) who won his only fight at the Garden back in 1984.
My choice of the third picture was very personal as my Father's sister went out with this winners cousin, Alf and both Alf and his son Tony won The Golden Gloves representing England in the Olympics - they now have a pub in Fulham London - there you go, small world innit?
Now home to the New York Rangers franchise who were playing Sunday night so we couldn't visit the changing rooms — It takes 24 hours to prepare the Ice and if a basketball game or a concert is being held before or after they cover the ice with a special fibreglass covering and perform above it - amazing what $1 Billion can buy. The centre picture shows the state of the art scoreboard that can be one complete 260 camera shot or 4 different screens also used to show close ups in concerts as well as numerous flat screen TV's scattered around the arena no one will miss the action.
When a concert is put on and that happens a lot the stage is set up either at this end of the stadium or in the round (The Centre) wherever every seat has a perfect view. Elton John holds the record for the most continuous sold out concerts here and Billy Joel has done the most even now he is contracted to perform every month here until no longer supported by the crowds but don't hold your breath he is sold out for months to come.
My final three pictures may only show one performer who was officially known as The King but I'm confident that every other person in the pictures could just as easily be regarded as the "King of the Ring" at different times during their careers.
Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali, The Louisville Lip, call him whatever name you like, in my humble opinion "The Greatest Sportsman" who ever lived and with him in the picture is Smokey Joe Frazier who wasn't bad either.
Elvis "The King" Presley takes centre stage as a firm favourite of Phyllis, my Sister in Law and her son Steven and yes he did perform here.
I was going to ask if anyone knew who the two sporting legends in the final picture were but the trouble you had with Madame Tussaud I better tell you. Standing up, known as "The Brown Bomber "The Great Joe Louis who reigned supreme for 12 years before the man sitting down, Rocky Marciano knocked him out in 8 rounds in 1951 (before my time) he took the world Heavyweight Title by beating Jersey Joe Walcott. in 1952 and become the only man to retire in 1956 defending his title 6 times without being beaten.
One last look as I head out the door at what was once my dream destination to watch a world heavyweight fight. Oh well, I think I better settle for a concert with Billy Joel if I can get a ticket one day.
After all the fun of The Garden I decided to jump on the sightseeing bus and take in uptown which I didn't know at the time is where all the stars have their apartments either side of a Park known as Central park which believe it or not was where all the poor people lived before they built a subway system and upgraded it.
Now all those people live to the North of the park in a place called Harlem - but not only there, there is also a part called Little Puerto Rico which is quite funny as there are more Puerto Ricans there than live in Puerto Rico.
Heading out of midtown you can see so many different buildings that all have history, The theatre where Cabaret is showing used to be an original speak easy. For followers of Sinefeld, sorry if I spelt it wrong, this guy was always on his show, he owns the soup kitchen below the sign where he makes unbelievably good soups and you can eat in and buy cartons to go. The one at the end was built by a guy who didn't want to pay the high fire insurance premiums so he built the walls 12 thick with concrete so fireproof - also soundproof and an amazing amount of musicians have apartments there
This is the spot (right where the concierge is standing) where John Lennon was shot dead and as you can see people still come to look - that is a sightseeing crowd to the left and the second window down at the end is John & Yoko's flat and she still lives and can often be seen walking around in the park.
This will look familiar to film lovers as it is where Night at the Museum was shot, it is actually The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and close by a great Gothic looking building owned by the University and we travelled further North until we reached Harlem and this is the church where I was told you hear the best Gospel singing on a Sunday - but too late they had finished when I got there.
The late , Great Jazz musician, Duke Ellington was born here and the street was named after him and across the road in Central Park is a Memorial Statue
Arriving in Harlem proper and we see "The Apollo" well this is where it all started with "Live at the Apollo" and I think it's still going strong mind you there is an Odeon Cinema in Hammersmith, London, where I used to live, now renamed the Apollo Theatre and it looks so much Bigger than this one from outside - not often you can say that about anything American. The White Hotel, Harlem famous is the only hotel Bill Clinton stayed in when he visited New York. And you can just see The Red Rooster to the left of the bus stop owned by celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson.
On the return leg you can see into Central Park and how beautiful it is during the day but somewhere to avoid once the sun goes down.
Half way around the Bus tour of Uptown I came to The Guggenheim Museum which is a really neat museum of Art and I wish I could have taken a load of pictures to show you but alas not allowed so if you are interested in impressionists Monet,Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec and others as well as exhibits that move pop in and have a look.
I had heard that the richest people live or lived in New York and I mentioned this to the guide at the last place I visited and said Bill Gates doesn't live here or the Mexican Dude who owns all the telephone companies down there and they are the two richest men in the world but the he told me about the wealth of this family and explained Bill is worth about $76 Billion, yes, I said Billion, whereas the founder of this family owned 80% of all the Oil that was produced Via Standard Oil before it was split up and his fortune if inflation is taken into consideration would be 20 times more than Bill Gates - welcome to The Rockefeller Family and Rockefeller Plaza New York.where I thought I would leave New York with a bang and a guided tour of the New York richest real estate.
Rockefeller Centre "The Rock" is the family estate here in New York, they own 22 acres on which are built 19 buildings on prime New York location. Picture 2 is the top of the rock where you can go to look out over the city but it is very popular and the only time I could get was too late I would miss the last train home so hey ho next time.
The Building that houses "Christies" the worlds most expensive Auction House in New York - They own it, 20 Rockefeller Plaza and by the way see that balloon figure it's coming up for auction in two weeks expected / Guide price $25 -35 million.
You must have heard of NBC News - They own it and In case you thought the facade was porno, no, look closely it shows three dancing girls representing entertainment facing the symbol called receiver who then on the other side turns to face the other way and becomes transmitter and you can see the smaller image above her hand being transmitted to the fourth figure that represents the public - why no clothes? The artist explained "If we clothe the figures then the clothing will date them, this way they are timeless - " Simples!!
50 Rockefeller Centre known as "The Rock"is the epicentre of all the buildings. Do you know the plaza has it's own postcode for all the buildings. The wife Abbey asked for money to provide art for the buildings so the hubby thought, waste of money and said she could have $150,000 and just like a woman she spent $1.5 million - but she knew what she was doing and they were a bargain ( don't they all say that?)
This is Art Deco at it's best, the job was put out to tender and Walt Disney wanted to do drawings all over the walls. The plans were never revealed but I think the Gold & Marble is classier. I'm not sure but I think they financed Charles A Lindbergh as well.
Remember every year you see the famous New York Christmas Tree lit up - well this is the spot it was always placed and when finished with given to IKEA to make furniture with how's that for recycling. On the other side of this open air Ice rink in the centre of Rockefeller Plaza is where the tree will stand.The Prometheus Statue at Rockefeller Centre is one of the most famous sculptures in the world. After the Statue of Liberty, it is perhaps the most celebrated piece of artwork in America.
Not sure if you know this but The United Nation Building is in New York and that is where they meet in a fabulous building on the west side of the city - Rockefeller Family bought the land and built the building and then gave it to the United Nations free and like at building this centre has every flag from A-Z of the countries in The UN flying within the plaza as a sign of friendship. Outside another main entrance Atlas is seen holding up the world and in case you are wondering - millions that what it cost.
Inside the first mural that was done here to represent the struggle between communism on one side and democracy on the other cost $21,000 and when it was finished the sculptor had done things he shouldn't have, like putting Lenin face on one of the people. When he wouldn't change it they paid him in full and smashed the wall down
This following pictures each show one third of a ceiling painting that is amazing - shown are the three Titans of Time past, present and future, this side of the scales represents time past - In the centre is the Titan representing the present time doing a balancing act to maintain the equilibrium - and finally we have the Titan representing time future
If we view the figure in the centre who is the present and is balancing mans achievements you will see that he has all his weight on his back leg taking the strain as the future competes with the past - move to the other side of the pillar and now look at the other - When you compare mans deeds of the past the present adjusts his position and you see his other leg is braced to maintain the balance - a very clever optical illusion.
As my final day in New York City comes to a close I have really enjoyed my time in the city that never sleeps The next time I post a blog I hope to be in Philadelphia of which I know very little other than Will Smith's mother sent him away from here to become the fresh prince of Bel Air but I hope to learn more.