Thursday, October 12 – Day 45
Everyone was up early anticipating spending the day in one of the most famous cities in the world.
Cool temperatures, clouds, and sun greeted us as we hopped into Ralph’s truck for the 2-mile drive to the Croton-Harmon commuter train station. Allyson discovered the commuter train system had an express train which we were lucky enough to catch.
The cost for seniors was $14 return, the regular fare which Allyson and Lois, the young stuff, had to pay was double.
After the scenic train ride along the Hudson River and the last few miles in underground darkness, we arrived at Grand Central Station, the grandest.
A massive old structure with more scurrying ant people than I have ever seen. The group stood in awe surveying this iconic landmark crowded with commuters.
I had to pinch myself, this is real, I never dreamed I would see New York City in person.
After we gathered our faculties it was time to find our way to the hop on hop off bus terminal. The Groupon price was $38 for two vs the regular price of $59 per person, awesome savings. A couple of blocks from Grand Central we were directed into an underground office to redeem our Groupon tickets.
We picked the deluxe hop on hop off tour, uptown and downtown including Time Square, Little Italy, China Town, Soho, Tribeca, City Hall, Ground Zero (911 memorial), the Freedom Tower, Greenwich Village and Harlem.
We redeemed our tickets and walked toward the bus stop, we rounded a corner and there it was.. Time Square. We stopped and stared at the huge color flashes of 10 story screens advertising the most current products.
A sight and feeling words cannot describe, like Christmas decorations. The group enjoyed the moment along with thousands of others.
Once the Fantasia wore off I noticed police with automatic weapons everywhere, including many police vehicles parked with lights flashing, a definite show of power and readiness.
We continued toward the bus stop on the way we picked up a soft pretzel. An interesting flavor like sourdough bread, everyone agreed a dip of some sort was missing, butter was Lois’s thought.
Hop on hop off is a perfect and relatively inexpensive way to see a city and hear the history, and you may get off at any attraction that suits and get back on the bus when you wish.
Busses run every half hour to an hour. We soon discovered a live tour guide is much better than a tape recording. The tour guide shared tons of information as the bus made its way along the crowded streets through historical areas and iconic structures of the past and present.
An interesting fact, New York City is on the Island of Manhattan, the greater New York City area is made up of more than 40 islands.
A couple of other trivia, Harlem was originally settled by Dutch immigrants also Wall Street was named after a wooden wall that ran beside it. The east river is not actually a river, it’s part of the ocean.
The bus stopped at the World Trade Center, 911 ground zero, time for us to hop off and pay our respects.
The memorial is comprised of two square sunken ponds located where each of the twin towers originally stood. Water streams from the parameter wall where the names of the souls lost are engraved, it cascades into the ponds and disappears into a central void.
A solemn experience for us as well as hundreds of others quietly paying their respects.
The peace tower which was built close to ground zero is a magnificent building and the tallest in the world.
Time for lunch, we walked north towards the bus stop, one of the group asked a local street person a recommendation for lunch. He directed us down a side street to a local bar. A refurbished long narrow room in an old building with typical pub décor featuring plenty of wood paneling and a long wooden bar.
The most interesting part of the pub was the bathrooms located down a wide flight of stairs in the basement. Each of the 10 bathrooms is large enough for 1 person, 3 feet wide by 4 feet long with a toilet and a tiny sink and a full size bright red entry door with no gender on the door.
After a light lunch, the waitress brought our bills. While waiting for the others to pay Lynda checked our bill, she noticed a 12% tip included in the total. Unfortunately, the others missed it and tipped twice. The last time this will happen, I’m sure.
We got back on the bus and continued our tour uptown through the upper west side and back through upper east side bordering Central Park. The tour guide talked about many historic events, structures and famous people who made Manhattan their home past and present.
Housing is hugely expensive in Manhattan the cost of a small apartment starts at over 1 million dollars and a small rental flat starts at $3 thousand a month. We wondered how people can afford to live here?
Dusk was on us by the time we finished our tour. We headed back to time square to check out the lights and sights after dark, we found a sidewalk café and enjoyed a drink while taking in the carnival-like experience.
One of our bucket list items was a New York hot dog from a sidewalk vendor our $3.00 dinner as we walked back to Grand Central Station. Not the best pooch I’ve tasted and not even in the same category as the one we had on the Newfoundland ferry.
On our way back, we often had to weave through piles of garbage on the sidewalk. Apparently, New York City was built with almost no alleys to store garbage. One would think a famous city such as New York could find a better alternative rather than on the sidewalks??
The train ride back to Croton was pleasant, back at camp the tired group headed to bed. My cold/flu was still hanging on, plugged ears now, not fun.
Friday, October 13 – Day 46
Friday the 13……….. hum. Our trailer developed a leak near the water pump in the bathroom, probably from traveling the rough roads of New Brunswick and Newfoundland.
A trip to Walmart first thing on this sunny warm morning was necessary. Henry accompanied me, he needed some supplies and Ralph needed some caulking and glue.
Our second day to New York began later than the first day. We arrived at the Croton train station at noon. Our plan was to stay in the city for dinner, Chinese food was the target.
Today would be a little more challenging we need to find our way from Grand Central Station to the waterfront for a harbor tour. A cab would have worked but we chose to ride the New York City subway another bucket list experience.
We arrived at Grand Central about 1 pm not as crowded as the day before. While figuring out which subway route to take one of the vendors at the station offed us free ice cream it turned out to be our lunch.
After the ice cream, we headed to the subway platform to figure out how to get to the harbor. A couple of subway employees noticed us standing around like deer in the headlights approached and asked if they could help.
With their help, we figured out which platform and which train to catch and which stop to get off. Now the issue was getting tickets, the subway employees suggested we buy a $20 refillable card per couple.
Each train ride costs $2.75 paid by sliding the card through a credit card like slot and then we passed it to the next person.
We made our way to the subway, the atmosphere is just like the movies, dark, dingy and dirty with hundreds of scurrying underground people.
The subway trains are old, noisy and each with its own beggar standing at the door announcing his plight to a captive audience.
A strange experience for us country bumpkins. I’m not sure we would try it alone, a taxi would be a comfortable alternative although more expensive.
The subway took us within a mile walk of the waterfront and another Groupon experience a half-price harbor cruise, another score. Perfect timing, the tour boat was unloading as we arrived and joined the boarding lineup.
The afternoon warmed as we boarded and headed down the East River. Our first sights were the double-decker Manhattan Bridge and then the iconic Brooklyn Bridge built in the 1800’s and still in use.
After we pass under the bridges the New York skyline grabbed our attention with sights of the Empire State building and the Peace Tower.
Next, we passed the famous immigration port of Ellis Island where many millions of new Americans set foot for the first time on North American soil.
Soon after we passed Manhattan a shadowy statue was visible in the misty distance. As the tour boat approached the statue the sheer size commanded our attention.
The Statue of Liberty is a vision like no other, the most perfect picture could never capture this magnificent sight.
As we came about to face this marvel, the boat’s passengers jockeyed like hungry paparazzi for a picture of the 24-story statue of a Muslim woman dressed in slave clothes with a broken chain link at her ankle.
I’m sure everyone was amazed after hearing the story of this iconic gift from France. The tour boat stopped and bobbed in the bay as we absorbed the history of this most famous statue.
The tour boat moved away as the passengers sat back quietly as the Statue of Liberty faded into the distance,
A sight no one will ever forget.
By the time we docked and disembarked it was time to seek out our dinner venue. We walked the mile or so to China Town.
Entering New York City China Town was like entering another country, a different language, different attire and strange packages and products stacked on the sidewalk.
There were stores selling strange looking vegetables, stores selling dry goods wrapped in canvas with Chinese writing and smelly stores selling large tubs of staring fish.
Not sure why, but the group was drawn to a window of hanging carcasses of bird-like creatures, not very appetizing, I followed along weaving through the crowd of strange dressed short people.
We entered the restaurant to find tanks of shellfish and strange swimming things and more hanging carcasses.
Someone said, ‘this seems like an authentic Chinese restaurant’, I was thinking, ‘this seems like the entire opposite’.
We were shown to our pre-set huge round table by a typical Chinese waitress with a limited grasp of our language she referred to as ‘Ringrish’.
Immediately a pot of steaming Chinese tea was placed on the lazy person spiny thing in the center of the table.
Soon our order was taken, the usual dishes Sweet Sor por, Chicken Cow Mien, bee en bokwee, and I think a seafood dish.
The first two dishes arrived quickly, the rest followed every few minutes or so. The dishes were not at all what we expected, Cantonese style one of the buzzing waiters mentioned.
The chow mien was the strangest, dry noodles with a thick sauce on top. After seeing us struggling with what to do with the concoction a waiter stopped by our table cut and mixed it up, not sure why it didn’t arrive already mixed?
The sweet and sour was also different, pork chops in a not so sweet sauce, but nice flavour. The waitress upsold us on the seafood dish, too expensive for octopus, squid and scallops.
The beef and broccoli was a typical Chinese dish. The meal was a great experience with many different flavors.
After dinner we headed out to find a subway stop, note to self, don’t rely on tourist maps, we walked for several miles probably passing within a block of several subway stations. The map was not accurate.
Finally, we found a station and headed back to Grand Central and then the train back to camp.
The group was tired out, after a fantastic day in New York City, plenty of walking and sightseeing.
Back to camp and off to bed, tomorrow another day in the Big Apple.