State 1 - New York
01/15/2010 - 01/17/2010 57 °F
As a Christmas gift to one another, Megan wanted to take a trip. She had no clue where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do, but she did know she wanted to do something. Enter Ray and Jenn, long time high school friends. Ray has pushed me to come visit since we graduated college. I almost made it a little over a year ago, but my flights were canceled two consecutive weekends. I met up with Ray and Jenn during the Christmas holidays, and as our conversations usually start out, Ray ribbed me about the various people that have come to visit him before me. The most recent vistor? The 9-month old first-born son of a mutual friend. Not to be upstaged by a man in diapers, and to kill two birds with one stone by taking Megan along, and after being motivated by 4 shared pitchers of beer, I purchased 2 tickets to the Big Apple.
This wasn't my first trip to New York. 9 years ago, during my freshman year in college, I spent a week in New York visiting my roommate's sister in Queens. As expected from two college students, my first trip to the Empire City was a frugal visit. Most of my time was spent walking the streets, taking in the sights, and absorbing the big city atmosphere (all things I could do for free). On my first trip I shopped Chinatown, dined in Little Italy, walked Wall Street, admired the Empire State Building, took my time around Time Square, ran through Central Park, bought an imitation Rolex, looked for rats in the subway, and toured Queens. What could I do that would make this an unique experience to cross New York off my list? For starters, I'm now legally able to drink.
We arrived Friday night at LaGuardia and headed to Ray's place in Brooklyn Heights. Ray gave me excellent instructions on how to get to his place, and I took detailed notes on his instructions, but conveniently I left those notes back in Raleigh on my dresser. I remembered enough to get us close to the apartment, and Ray was able to find us. Not wasting any time, Ray and I left to pick up two pies and grab a case of beer. After a quick bite to eat, we strolled around Brooklyn making our way to Ray and Jenn's local bar, Floyd's. We watched games of indoor bocci, drank some local brews, and stayed up way too late (bars in NY stay open to 4am). Eventually we made our way back to the apartment to rest up. Tomorrow we would enter Manhattan.
New York is the most populous urban area in the US. It was once the capital of the country from 1785-1790 (George Washington was inaugurated here). Over 170 languages are spoken in NY, and 36% of the residents were born outside of the US. New York was originally acquired by the British from the Dutch in exchange for a small Indonesian island that produced nutmeg. From 1890-1930, the title of tallest building in the world switched almost 10 times, all within Manhattan. There is a lot of history and diversity in the city, and to start our tour we headed to the center of it all, Times Square.
After a bagel sandwich from the deli and a quick subway ride, we arrived in Times Square. It was a beautiful day outside, unseasonably warm and sunny. People were walking everywhere. I looked in the window of the Lego store, made a poor joke about seeing TRL (apparently it is no longer being recorded), and gave a fist pump at the Budweiser advertisement. I had spent whole days in this area on my last trip, but it was still very cool standing in the spot filmed by so many movies and the location of the biggest New Year's party. After a quick picture to prove we made it to New York, we walked down Broadway to take in the sights on the way to Central Park.
We strolled through Central Park, watched some street dancers, paused at the ice skating rink, smelled the horse poo, reminisced about the scene from Home Alone 2, and then wound our way over to 5th Avenue. Upon coming out of the park we ran into a battalion of police officers. Looking around, the only reason a could see for the cops blocking off the area was a small group of people protesting the abuse of the horses for the horse-drawn tours of Central Park. It was almost comical. The 4 of us would have nearly doubled the size of the group, but over 10 cop cars and 20 cops attentively watch the group in case the protesters decided to storm the city.
We passed the protest, viewed the shops of 5th Avenue, took a potty break at Rockefeller Center, went into the underground Apple store, and passed the Nintendo store. An unique building peaked our attention, prompting us to stop and go inside. The building was St. Patrick's Cathedral, the home of the archbishop of New York and the largest Gothic-style cathedral in the US. It was visually stunning inside, with multiple statues of saints and popes. After a look around, we continued on our walking tour.
We continued down to the New York Public Library, saw the lions name "Patience" and "Fortitude", and moved up a couple blocks to center of public transportation, Grand Central Terminal (not Grand Central Station, a fact I learned from Die Hard). We decided to stop touring for the day. We had been on our feet for a while, we were getting hungry, and the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS playoff game was coming on very soon. We hopped on the train and took it to Ray and Jenn's favorite watering hole, Brother Jimmy's.
Brother Jimmy's is a southern-style bar, and appropriately we were seated at a table with a giant (and inaccurate) map of North Carolina painted on the wall. Brother Jimmy's is known for their beer specials and Carolina BBQ, but our attention was drawn to another signature-special that they served—the fish bowl filled with "swamp-water". "Swamp-water" is a glorious concoction of a multitude of liquors. With an alligator and 8 straws sticking out the top, it was the perfect drink to kick off the football game. The only damper on the afternoon was that we had shown up to watch the Saints game, the Jets were actually on tomorrow. After a couple pitchers of beer and another fish bowl, we somehow made it back to the train and headed back to Brooklyn.
The next day was rainy and very cold. We decided to check out some museums to stay out of the bad weather. We headed further into Brooklyn to check out the Brooklyn Museum. The museum had a lot of cool exhibits. We wandered through Egyptian tombs and artifacts, the Who Shot Rock & Roll Exhibit (a collection of awesome photographs showing Rock & Roll artists and explaining how the shots were captured), and after making a wrong turn through the feminist art we ran into one of the best exhibits I have ever seen—the watercolors of "The Life of Christ" by James Tissot. It was just absolutely amazing. We left the museum and headed back to Brooklyn Heights.
I had one major regret from my first New York trip. Despite wandering around the city for a week, I never actually saw the Statue of Liberty. I don't know how I missed it. It's perfectly visible from multiple locations across New York. Thankfully I didn't suffer the same fate this trip. Walking around Brooklyn Heights offered a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. It was just a lot smaller than I had expected.
We picked up some Chinese and went back to the apartment to watch the Jets game for real this time. Once the game was over, we decided to do some bar-hopping on Bleecker Street. We didn't do much hopping as we ended up staying in one bar all night. However, when the beers are this size, it takes a little longer to drink.
The next day was our last in New York. We decided to get an early start and head to Lower Manhattan to check out Wall Street.
We started off at the site of the World Trade Center. They are currently rebuilding the site, but when we walked past, it was just a giant (and I mean giant) hole in the ground. I guess they were building the subterranean levels and setting the foundation. We walked down to Battery Park, checked out the Statue of Liberty again, and the turned the corner to walk to Wall Street. We passed the most expensive piece of real estate in the world at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway (according to the sign). We continued north and worked our way towards the pier next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was another gorgeous day, so the four of us took a break on the deck of the mall at the pier to enjoy a drink in the sun.
We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to check out the neighborhood of Dumbo before making our way back down to the water. We snapped a couple more pictures with the city in the background (one has Lower Manhattan, the other has the Empire State Building).
We strolled back through Brooklyn Heights to Ray and Jenn's apartment. Our 3 day trip was coming to a close. There was still one thing I had left to do. If my first goal for the trip was to see the statue of Liberty, my second goal was to eat a hotdog from a street vendor. I found the lucky vendor and purchased my delicious treat. Mmmmmm. What a great city.