Back to New York

On our way out of Nashville we went to the Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, TN. They do free tours which last just over an hour. 

After that we had a long, long drive to Wytheville, Virginia. It was probably the most scenic drive in the south. It was very lush and green and we saw mountains for the first time in weeks – the Great Smoky Mountains.

We got there fairly late, and went for a Chinese before collapsing into bed.

The next day we headed to Washington DC. First off we stopped off at Foam Henge, a replica of Stonehenge built entirely from styrofoam (like you do…)

Maybe I should go to the real one when I get home to compare!

We stopped off at Arlington Cemetery on the way. We saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was an immaculately observed ritual, and I was really glad I got to see it.

After that we headed into Washington DC. In the evening some of us walked around DC and went to the White House:

The Washington Monument:

The Reflecting Pool:

And the Lincoln Memorial:

We went for dinner and then walked back past the White House when it was lit up:

The next day I went for breakfast with one of the girls to Old Ebbitt’s Grill which had been recommended by one of the guys on the first part of the US trip – I had pancakes which were really good. We then headed to the Washington Monument to get a final selection of National Park stamps:

After that I went to the National Archives to see the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

I also walked passed Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was shot.

I went to the Smithsonian American Art Museum specifically to look at Thomas Moran’s paintings of Yellowstone which are  very impressive.

After that it was time to find a pub to watch the footy. Met up with some of the guys from the camping group to cheer on both England and Wales. At least we got out of the group this time!

In the evening we all went for dinner and then went to the Jefferson Memorial to watch the sunset. The sky was amazing.

The next day was the last day of my 6 week Trek America trip. We had a delayed start as there was a problem with the van but we eventually got going and went to Philadelphia. I had a Philly Cheesesteak for lunch and then we went to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and we ran up the ‘Rocky Steps’.

And then it was back to Newark…where it all began 6 weeks since. We have done and seen an insane amount of things in the last 6 weeks. I have had such a great time, and have made memories that will last the rest of my life.

Once back at Newark, the rest of my group headed into Manhattan to see as much of the city as possible before most of them flew home the following day. As I was staying a couple of days in Manhattan anyway, I decided to stay in Newark and hung out with the camping group for the evening.

The next day I headed to my hotel in Manhattan. I’m staying on 27th Street this time, kinda in Chelsea. Went for a wander around Chelsea Market while I waited for my room to be ready, and then I went to see a taping of Late Night With Seth Meyers in the evening (another talk show ticked off the list…). I had tried to get Jimmy Fallon tickets but they are impossible. It was a lot of fun. After that I came back to my hotel and crashed out. I do have a cool view from my hotel window though:

Today I went on a shopping spree as I have money left and it’s burning a hole in my pocket. Aeropostale in Times Square is closing down and they have a massive sale on so I may or may not have bought some stuff from there…

My bags are packed and I head home tomorrow. Can’t quite believe where the last 6 months has gone…

New York, New York

After one last day in Auckland it was time to bid farewell to New Zealand and set off for the States. I had a 12 hour flight to San Francisco and then a 5 hour flight to New York. The queue at passport control in San Francisco was insane. Fortunately, having been to America previously, I was able to use the automated machines, but not before standing in a queue which didn’t move for 25 minutes! I was worried about missing my connection at one point but thankfully it all turned out OK.

I arrived at JFK airport in New York at around 1am and eventually got to my hotel near the airport at 2am. I crashed out for 8 solid hours and was only woken by my alarm going off. Probably the best sleep I’ve had to this point. 

Then it was time to work out how to get to Manhattan. The hotel wasn’t particularly near any subway stops so I had to take a bus for about 20 minutes to the nearest station, and then it was about an hour on the subway to Manhattan. I was staying in a hostel on East 34th Street which was only a couple of blocks from the subway.

After dumping my bags I went in search of some food, and then headed to the TKTS booth in Times Square for discounted same-day Broadway tickets. As it was a Tuesday, the queue was pretty short and I managed to get a ticket for Jersey Boys in the orchestra for $80 (regular price would be around $140). Jersey Boys is my favourite show and I’ve already seen it twice. There were different leads this time compared to when I saw it last year on Broadway but it was still really good.

The next day I had a lazy morning before queuing for just under 2 hours for tickets for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which is a daily (Monday-Friday) late night talk show. Kinda like Graham Norton or Alan Carr but 5 times a week. Full disclosure at this point – I am a big fan of US late night shows including The Daily Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Conan, and if you pay close enough attention to my previous US travels, you’ll see that I’ve been to some of the shows before. 

After a couple of hours we were issued with tickets and then told to come back in another couple of hours for the actual taping of the show. I used this time to go to the Museum of Modern Art which was only a couple of blocks away. I saw some Andy Warhol paintings, and some Henri Matisse and I was really pleased that I recognised some George Seurat from across the room.

The TV show itself was amazing. It’s filmed in the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway and looks more like a theatre than a TV studio. The guests on the show were Anthony Mackie, Rob Reiner and Buzz Aldrin. I even got myself on the TV at one point. It was a great experience, especially for a big Colbert fan like me.

The next day I went on a tour of the NBC Studios in the Rockefeller Center. This was pretty cool, we saw a couple of the studios including the one where Jimmy Fallon’s show is filmed, and saw what it’s like behind the scenes of a TV studio.

In the afternoon I went to see a taping of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Nowhere near as hard work as tickets used to be when Jon Stewart hosted. Minimal queuing now to get in. Trevor Noah is a funny guy, and I’m still a bit gutted that I missed out on seeing him do stand up in the UK last year. I had tickets but then it was cancelled when he got The Daily Show.

Judy arrived the next day. It was so good to see a familiar face after 4 months. It also meant it was time to stay in a hotel! The weather in New York up to this point had been cold and miserable, and my bag got totally soaked as I walked from the hostel to the hotel. Thankfully it had a couple of days to dry out.

Judy arrived in the early afternoon and we headed down to the Financial District to see Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The weather was so miserable that the top of 1 World Trade Center was lost in the clouds.

The next day we got up early and headed into Brooklyn for breakfast. We probably didn’t choose the best diner (half the breakfast menu wasn’t available, and they had no fruit or yoghurt for smoothies) but eventually had a bagel for breakfast. Then we had a brief wander around before heading to Greenwich Village and the West Village. I’ve not been to either of these areas in any of my previous visits but they were nice, upmarket areas. We had a look in an estate agents and the average rental price for a 1 bed apartment was around $3000 per month – yikes!!

We then headed to a cat cafe, Little Lions, in SoHo for afternoon tea, and to play with the cats. The cats are rescue cats and get rehomed through the cafe.

After that we walked through Chelsea Market and onto The High Line. A really cool idea, which has converted disused rail tracks above street level into a nice planted walkway between 14th Street and 30th Street.

We then headed to the madness that is Canal Street and Chinatown, where we had dinner.

In the evening we went to see An American In Paris at the Palace Theater, right in Times Square. It was really enjoyable, and the first time I’ve watched this much ballet.

Afterwards we took the obligatory pictures of Times Square at night.

The next day we got up early to head down the Battery Park for the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We had been down the previous day but the queue was insane. It was cold and miserable so much shorter queues. The ferry goes to Liberty Island first before heading on to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island was where immigrants were processed into the USA in the first half of the 20th century.

We then headed back towards the hotel and went for sushi for lunch. We then decided on the spur of the moment to try for some more theatre tickets. As it was quite late when we got back to Times Square (4pm), there were only a couple of Broadway shows with tickets left, so after chatting to one of the sellers we opted for a play called Incognito. Charlie Cox was in it. It was probably the weirdest show I’ve ever seen, but was very well acted.

We walked back to the hotel via Rafio City and the Rockefeller Center which were all lit up at night.

The next day was Judy’s last day. We got up early and headed for the Empire State Building. We were there at about 9am and there were no queues at all. When we came back down about half an hour later, there were longish queues forming.

After that we walked towards Central Park, popping into the New York Public Library on the way.

We walked a loop through Central Park through Strawberry Fields and across to the Met.

After an hour or so in the Met (which is not nearly enough time, you could easily spend a couple of days in there), it was time for Judy to head to the airport, and for me to head to the starting point for my Trek America trip at Newark Airport Hilton.

New York is a great city, and can easily sustain multiple visits. I’ve been 3 times in the last 3 years and I’m still not bored of it.