"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted." -- Bill Bryson

Monday, September 13, 2010

Young & Stupid? Yes. Have Fun. Pt. 11: In New York

Disclaimer: This post will have a crap-ton of photos. Be prepared.

Part of the travel experience is making sacrifices when it comes to comfort. Leaving home with a tiny bag, packing yourself in a tiny car or plane seat, only using tiny versions of your favorite shampoo, sleeping in often uncomfortable beds, throwing yourself into a country where no one speaks your language, these are all part of the fun. So I didn't think it was any big deal to sacrifice my comfort our first night in New York when I decided to sleep half the night on the floor. It gets really, really hot being squished between two people in a king-size bed, so I moved from the bed to the floor. The saddest part was that I had been the one to turn down the air conditioning to about 65F with the hope that it wouldn't get too hot when we were sleeping. My evening on the floor turned out to be an extremely cold one. Luckily, the Holiday Inn had the best blanket of all time, so when I wrapped my entire self (head to toe) in the blanket, I was actually quite comfortable.

But on to more important things. We wake up late(noonish to be exact. Not good when you have the entire city of New York to see in just that day), throw ourselves together and escape out the door. We have a few missions this time: find Amy's bank, find Sarah's bank, find food, find memory card for Francesco's camera, find postcards. North up 7th Ave towards Times Square we do go stopping to stumble into an appropriately busy New York dining establishment. Sam, who is used to a country that has a total of 4 million people and is constantly surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a sheep farm, is already beginning to feel a bit out of sorts. Being shoved into this tiny place with wall to wall people isn't doing him any good. I, on the other hand, think it is amazing. Here we are eating, by the way.

I go for a grilled cheese sandwich. Simple yet delicious.

The rest of our walk to Times Square is rather uneventful. We do discover that Madison Square Garden is literally down the street from us, as is Penn Station (I only know that they are both next to each other because a poor lost looking Irish man asked me where Penn Station was as I was ogling Madison Square Garden. I told him I wasn't sure but I thought it might be down the street. That's when a real New Yorker interrupted and pointed to a staircase to our immediate left that said "Penn Station." Both I and the Irish man looked rather sheepish at that point).

We reach Times Square proper.

(This statue is new)

Times Square also is partially shut down now and has been morphed into a pedestrian walkway. Probably a good idea to have a spot for tourists to take photos without getting run over. Especially tourists like these:

Stereotypical touristy things occur. We pop in and out of shops looking at I Love NY shirts and the millions of tiny Empire State Buildings and Statue of Libertys (Statues of Liberty?).

It's New York so the things we run into don't always make sense.

Once we get the touristy stuff out of the way, Sarah and I take over and inform the boys that we will be shopping. H&M doesn't exist in Texas and a few blocks from Times Square exists a 3-story version of the store. We drag the boys in and disappear for a good hour. I only saw glimpses of them throughout the hour looking sad and bored, but this was the only thing on the trip that Sarah and I require we do, so we shopped til we could shop no more. By the time we were finished, the boys had gathered outside to wait for us. I join them while Sarah pays for her stuff. While standing out there we are approached by a gentleman named Louis. Louis was selling tickets to a comedy show that was supposedly featuring one of the actors from 30 Rock, Judah Freidlander. We had been approached earlier by a much less friendly man who was charging twice the price for these same tickets. Louis is actually pleasant to talk to and only wants to charge us $5 a person. We decide to spring for the tickets since we have no other plans for the evening.

We part ways with our new friend Louis and decide we needed a break from all the hubbub and a good sit down. The nearest subway isn't far, so we brave the steep steps and the usual subway stink into what feels like the pits of hell. No air conditioning? Yikes. Sarah and I take a long, hard look at the subway map before realizing it's the bus map..luckily the only friendly New Yorker happens by, sees our confused faces and asks if we're lost. We tell him we were searching for the best route to get to Central Park and he points us in the right direction.

We hop off around 57th St and 6th Ave right near a really cool looking place called the Jekyll & Hyde Club.

View Larger Map

Central Park is a perfect break from the extreme amount of walking we've been doing all day. We wander a bit until we find Strawberry Fields. I had never heard of this area of Central Park but it is an area (located right next to a mosaic that says "Imagine") designed to honor John Lennon. Apparently John & Yoko lived in The Dakota building just across the street from the area and this is also where John Lennon was shot. We rest our tired feet on a bench next to the Imagine mosaic and sadly listen to a couple of guys with guitars play really bad music. We can only listen for so long before we have to get up and run away. Luckily we stumble upon the lake!

The lake is always beautiful. Plus, right next to the lake are bathrooms! Which are lovely and convenient since we all need to use them. Also near the lake is a statue of THE Scottish poet of all time, Robert Burns!

Robert Burns wrote (among other things like Auld Lang Syne) the poem 'To A Mouse' which has the line "the best laid plans of mice & men" which is where John Steinbeck got the title of his book, 'Of Mice & Men' (which is one of my all time favorite books). The fact that Robert Burns is Scottish and that 'To A Mouse' is brilliant, makes it even more exciting that there's a statue of him in the park. No one else cares, but I do.

By this time my old friend Alan is on his way to meet us. He was going to join us for dinner in Little Italy but wanted to meet us in the park. We decide we need a good grassy knoll to lay on while we wait. Somewhere between a carousel and the Zoo we find the perfect location and lounge while we wait for Alan to arrive.

And this is where I must leave you for the time being. Seeing as how this post is incredibly long already and I'm not even close to being finished, I think I better split up New York into yet another post. Sorry!

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