A week ago today, at around this time, Jackie and I were landing at JFK.
Our crack of dawn drive to Heathrow — my chance to re-do Security at the Gate — the hours of watching us fly through the sky curtesy of Virgin’s on-tail camera were all done as we prepared for touchdown in America.
Having myself been to LAX and LAS, JFK struck me as a very typical American airport. Long lines for the sake of it, mostly because there’s no-one at station, and a character rather lost in glass and concrete. It’s all very big and long, with guns and official acting people. Fortunately, Passport Control took the perfect length of time, allowing us to step out and grab our bags off the carousel.
Our Super Shuttle to YMCA West Side was an eye-opener into New York rush hour traffic. The sheer volume of vehicles, each honking and pushing in, made me glad that in Portsmouth we drive less dog-eat-dog and have orange rear indicators. The American flashing break light is hard to spot in a sea of red. I googled it. Their way is indeed more dangerous.
It took us an hour to get from the airport to the hostel. We heard the depressed wail of a fire engine and saw chimneys of steam rising from the streets. We caught glimpses of bridges — were held at a red outside the UN — and drove on a road that cut through Central Park. Upon arrival at our brightly lit and pleasantly warm room, we dumped our bags and took a wander.
Our hostel was on the lower corner of Central Park, a mere few minutes walk from Times Square. The best time to visit Times Square and surrounding Broadway, and the reported most dangerous (due to muggings and murders), is 3am. There are no crowds and everything is still brightly lit, almost wastefully so since there’s no-one but you to look at it.
In the morning, we discovered our view over Central Park:
Our first day saw us walking around 20 miles (no lie) and hitting up many key spots. We explored the lower third of Central Park, popped into Trumps golden tower, saw the Rockerfeller tree, climbed the Empire State, sat and had tea in Bryant Park, boggled at the size of Grand Central Station, which really puts Portsmouth & Southsea into perspective, and ended it by having a rather mediocre meal in Applebee’s.
On our second day, it snowed. We took a long brisk walk along the Hudson towards Ground Zero. We saw a hearse and a funeral home, found time to build snowmen, and took in this river we’d heard so much about on TV.
The 9/11 memorial and museum held back no punches. It gives the events of that day to you raw, and makes human the victims. I found it highly enjoyable — they way it moved through the footprints of the two towers, interweaved the horror, the tragedy, bravery, and resilience was a humbling and absorbing experience, all done exceedingly well.
Our third day was our last day, but we weren’t leaving until 6pm, so we still had a whole day to explore. We grabbed our souvenirs and went ice-skating in Central Park. We ate hot dogs from a place on 72nd like how the American’s do. We popped to the zoo and saw a sad grizzly bear, snow leopards, and feeding seals.
By the time our shuttle to the airport arrived, our feet were done in.
After flying Delta, which if you have the choice, you shouldn’t, we got home in time for lunch on Friday. I managed to stay awake until 9pm, making it 34 hours awake, give or take a timezone.
New York is quite a place!
It’s big and bold, loud and brash, odd, wasteful, delightful, amazing, and all these things and more wrapped up in a face smudge. I’ve come away both glad to be home and wanting that little longer away.
There’s so much we didn’t see.
If you’re looking for hot blokes, though, go someplace else. There aren’t any.
Saturday was a lazy day with Myles and Shaun visiting to watch Scooby Doo.
Sunday saw Shaun’s mate Tony visiting and us having a carvery by the ocean.
Today, with nothing planned other than the dentist, which I cancelled, I’ve well and truly done sweet FA.