After having travelled to a decent amount of places, people kind of expect that you have been to certain cities (note: this only applies to cities, not towns, villages, national parks). New York City is one of those cities. And when the plan came up for another family vacation (the last one having been over 5 years ago), only a little persuasion was needed to put the Big Apple on the list. Unfortunately the folks back home decided that the weekend before departure was better spent at home, so I took a flight 2 days earlier to prepare the city for their arrival, and visit some places they did not show interest in.
After the usual pleasant flight with Air Berlin (“we recommend wine with dinner and cognac after dinner, no charge of course”) JFK was the starting point of my North-East USA trip. The Airtrain and metro brought me to my hotel on 47th Street (a block from the Waldorf Astoria), where a pleasant surprise awaited: I got the penthouse suite with private rooftop terrace. Quite a posh start of the trip. First thing I did was taking advantage of the beautiful evening by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge to (surprise, surprise) Brooklyn. Taking photos was obviously the goal, because there are plenty of Starbucks in Manhattan too. After some great shots of the downtown skyline I checked out Times Square for some Las Vegas-style New York. I could not think of a better start in NYC.
Sunday morning the plan was to go to Central Park, but the rain messed that up. When it cleared, I walked across the Queensborough Bridge to (surprise, surprise) Queens, but that was a total waste of time. No decent views and no decent neighbourhood on the other side of the bridge, so I took the metro to B&H – the largest camera store in NYC – to buy a wide-angle lens. Since it was pouring down rain now, I figured it would be a good thing to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was not the only one with this line of thought. Once inside, the crowds were not that bad because of the sheer size of the museum. It would have been easy to spend more than 3 hours, if it were not for closing hours. Luckily the weather had cleared up by then, and Central Park offered some nice walks and great sunset views. In the evening I wandered throught Little Italy and Chinatown, to have some Vietnamese dinner.
After having breakfast on my rooftop terrace Monday morning, unfortunately the time came to switch to another hotel. Having done that, I went to United Nations, but decided to forego the tour, as the next available one was in 2 hours. Instead, I took the free ferry to Staten Island with great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. I returned back to Manhattan on the same ferry. There I explored Wall Street and the surrounding downtown area, before checking out the shops on 5th Avenue. When the family arrived, I met them at the hotel and we had dinner on Times Square.
For Wednesday morning we had booked a helicopter ride, but as the weather forecast for Wednesday was not too good, we rescheduled it to Tuesday morning. Seeing the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, the Hudson River and New Jersey from the air was amazing. Too bad the ride only lasted for 15 minutes. (Update 08-08-2009: only 5 days later a similar helicopter crashed above the Hudson :() The boat tour was a little longer with 75 minutes, and offered the closest views of Lady Liberty and the New York harbour. Then we got on the bus to drive from Midtown to Downtown Manhattan, where we checked out Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, before getting back on at South Street Seaport. In the evening we did a night tour through the city.
Wednesday we walked through the Empire State Building, but got the lift to Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. After a Starbucks coffee at the Trump Tower, we walked through Central Park, and joined a bus tour through Harlem. In the evening Laura, Wilbert and I went for some dinner at Union Square and watched the show Fuerza Bruta. It was easily the most unique show I have ever seen, with (amongst other things) female performers moving around in a transparent swimming pool, 20 cm above the audience! After the show we went for some drinks and live music at Cafe Wha in Greenwhich Village.