Saturday, April 03, 2010

Our trip to New York, “this is America Mam”, a reunion in New Jersey and all about the Big Apple.

This photo was taken in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan in a moment of madness during our trip.
Hi my friends,

Here I am writing at terminal 7 of JFK waiting for our Iberia flight surrounded by a group of American kids going to Madrid to practise their Spanish. Whilst their holiday is starting, ours is over and you know what? It was great.

Our first time in the New York was as good as we had expected, the only down part being the cold and rain at the beginning. Right now as we are leaving it is over 20ºc and the sun is shining but then that’s Murphy’s Law for you. We were hosted by our friends Javier and Ana who live in NYC (actually round the corner from Michael Douglas, yeah and near John Lennon’s house, Dakota Towers on Central Park West) who came to pick us up and also to take us to the airport this morning. Thanks guys, it was great to have friends in town.
Eladio in Central Park opposite John Lennon's house
New York is a great city in many ways. I feel it is the capital of the world at least as far as money and trade are concerned as well as tourism. One of the biggest cities in the globe, it is home to more than 8 million people and is a total melting pot. You hear every language on the street but mostly English and Spanish. I think one could live here knowing only Spanish and maybe that is one of the reasons so many Spaniards come to visit. I read somewhere that 48% of the population of the big cities in the US are Spanish speaking. We heard that there is no official language in the States. Imagine. The Latins as they are known now outnumber the American Africans who used to represent 15% of the country’s population. There are many people of all origins and apart from the Latins or Hispanics and American Africans the most numerous origins are probably German, Polish, Italian, Chinese and now Bangladesh and even India. And of course the USA has an enormous Jewish population. Someone told us that more Jews lived in New York than in Tel Aviv which seems quite believable as we saw lots of them around. Many of them are Orthodox and it seems to me they live in ghettos and parallel to society in their own little world. They dress traditionally and stick out even in the NYC crowds.
There are many Orthodox Jews who dress like this in New York.
New York is also known as The Big Apple and there seem to be various explanations for the term none of which have anything to do with the fruit. One was about the fever for building in the 19th century and it was said that everyone wanted a piece of the apple. Another explanation comes from jazz performing. Apparently an old saying in show business is “there are many apples on the tree but only one big apple”, New York being the premier place to perform. The reason for the term may also have to do with horse racing when a writer, John Fitzgerald referred to the New York City race courses as the Big Apple. Since 1971 apparently it became an official reference to the city and very fitting it is too or so I think.

New York has some great attractions and sites to see but I actually found the types of people equally interesting. You get fat and thin, less fat than you expect but some very obese people waddling down the avenues. You meet polite Mexican waiters, like Pedro from our hotel who entered the States illegally when he was 13, or sociable and outgoing American Africans like Travis who cleaned Eladio’s shoes for 4 bucks on Broadway and lives in Brooklyn.
Travis from Brooklyn who cleaned Eladio's shoes on Broadway. I have promised to send him this photo and I will.
You would meet people dressed up in the streets like the living Statue of Liberty that illustrates this blog, people dressed like Star Wars characters in Broadway or outgoing and un self conscious street vendors like this lovely lady who sold me a ring for 1 dollar. New York has room for them all.
The lovely street vendor who sold me a ring for one dollar on Broadway.
We even met Spiderman in Times Square and couldn’t resist snapping this picture. I was told there is a naked cowboy in that legendary square but we never found him.
We even met Spiderman in Times Square.
New York is now apparently much safer than in the 70’s and 80’s. You see policemen and police cars on every street so that doesn’t really surprise me.
A photo with 2 NYC cops, a grand moment for me.
It’s not that clean though. Rubbish bags (all the rubbish is separated) line the streets, which is ugly and the streets are in desperate need of repaving. When it rains the streets flood as well as the metro or subway as it is called here. Food is sold in the street in enormous quantities which is probably very convenient for the non sitting down New Yorker lunch eaters but the smell invades the streets and can only contribute to the pollution. What also adds to the smells is the occasional street pipe blowing out steam from underground which you see quite often. I’ve never seen anything like it elsewhere and still don’t know what it’s for.
Pipes that blow steam from underground. I still don't know why but you see them everywhere.
Manhattan is 21.5km long and 3.7km wide at its widest point. Everything seems so near but you end up walking for hours. It’s terribly easy to find your way around because most of the island’s streets are based on a grid system. The main avenues (1 to 12) are crossed by numbered streets either west (Hudson river) or East (Eastern river). Directions always refer to the two numbers much more than the number of the street. Thus our hotel was at 7th Avenue with 56th street rather than 870 7th Avenue.

People flock here to shop in their millions, Europeans mostly because of the strong Euro. There is a choice of goods for everyone, starting with fashion (yes we Europeans now know what Abercrombie and Fitch is), footwear (there are Converse shoes in every shoe shop and Uggs, those ghastly Australian fur boots are on sale at every corner) as well as electronics, perfumes and souvenirs and anything else that takes your fancy. All in all some 40 million people visit New York every year. That’s a lot of people.
I discovered Abercrombie and Fitch the latest rage in fashion in NYC. Here I am coming out with a bag with t-shirts for Suzy and Oli.
Everyone buys the I love New York t-shirts at 5 for 10 dollars and I of course am carrying my 5. They are made in Honduras and I wonder how many millions are sold each year. Nearly every second shop is a souvenir shop and there are also souvenir stands lining the streets. It seems there are buyers for everything on sale. You can also buy imitation brand goods at these stands and no one seems to mind. I have a nice imitation black patent Prada bag in my suitcase I am looking forward to using in Madrid. I love Prada but refuse to pay the price for the real stuff. One of the places I had high recommendations to visit was the Prada store in Soho. We went past it yesterday and only dared enter when someone opened the door to go in. The store is unique. Eladio thought the black sales girl was much more beautiful than any of the bags!! It seems to me the staff are chosen very carefully as they were all extremely attractive.
The must visit Prada store in Soho even if you are not buying anything like me.
But above all New York is larger than life, big, oh so big. Everything is big, the enormous skyscrapers like the Empire State Building (we went up that of course as our first attraction) which has over 100 floors or the GE Building of the Rockerfeller Centre.
The view of the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock.
The Empire State and the GE buildings of the Rockerfeller Centre may be the tallest but the building I liked most in Manhattan is the Flatiron Building, or Fuller Building as it was originally called and which is located at 175 Fifth Avenue. It is considered to be one of the first skyscrapers ever built. Upon completion in 1902 it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. The unique triangular building sits on a triangular island in between 5th Avenue and Broadway and maybe that inspired its architect.
The unique Flatiron building in between 5th Avenue and Brodway, my favourite building in New York. I wonder if it's called that because it looks like a flat iron?
It’s not just the buildings but the streets which are both long and wide. Broadway is the longest and runs the whole length of Manhattan. That's pretty long for a street but then Broadway is not just any street. One day we walked half of it from Battery Park in the southern tip of Downtown to our hotel, the Park Central in 7th Avenue in Midtown which took us a few hours. You walk everywhere in Manhattan. The cars are big too, though you don’t get the gas guzzlers you used to in the 80’s. Even so you still see the odd stretch limousine. If you want to hire one they cost over 100 euros per hour and the minimum time for hire is 2 hours. Needless to say we walked or yellow cabbed it. Cabs are not expensive in Manhattan and there are plenty of them.
Everything is big in America including cars of course, like this limousine parked outside our hotel.
It’s the food portions which are so big. Whatever you ask for comes in huge quantities and layered with French fries as the Americans call chips. At the very American and superb steak house recommended to me by Julio, Smith and Wollensky on 3rd Avenue, I hesitatingly asked the waiter if the portion would be big to which he answered me in his Eastern European accent: “This is America Mam” to which I could only laugh and accept. It’s true most things are big but restaurant tables for example are minuscule with the hefty platters hardly fitting on the tables. That is of course to fit as many people in as possible and make more money, something the Americans are very good at.
Food portions are gigantic and when I commented that a waiter answered "this is America Mam" to which I could only laugh in reply. This was the steak we had at Smith and Wollensky, great place on 3rd Avenue.
Dogs also deserve a special mention in this post on the Big Apple. They are everywhere and seem to be a much more privileged species than in other parts of the world. Especially in Central Park and in Central Park West you see very fancy dogs wearing coats, trousers and even shoes in the cold weather. We were told by our Cuban guide to Harlem that dogs in these parts of Manhattan even had psychiatrists to look after their mental health!!! There are special areas for dogs inside parks and the “doings” are quickly scooped up by the dog owner or the dog walker whichever the case. Yes some people are so rich or so lazy they pay other people to take their dogs for a walk. I saw quite a few like the chap in the picture below with various dogs whom I snapped on our last morning in Central Park.
A professional dog walker in Central Park. We saw many all over Manhattan.
I keep referring to New York but mostly I mean Manhattan just one of the boroughs and which is an island surrounded by the Hudson and Eastern Rivers. We learned that New York has 5 boroughs, some very well known such as Brooklyn and The Bronx or Queens but also Staten Island which you get to by ferry. We spent nearly all of our time in Manhattan except for one night when we had dinner in Brooklyn (right under the famous bridge) with our friends Javier and Ana at the wonderful River Café restaurant where gentlemen have to wear a jacket. It has the most amazing views of the NYC skyline. Another recommendation from Julio (and David).
Dinner at the River Café with Javier and Ana. It is in Brooklyn right under the bridge and has marvellous views and even better food.
The only other time we left Manhattan was for a reunion dinner with Angel and Rosa who live in Milford in New Jersey, the state next to New York and only some 15 miles away. Angel and Rosa were our friends when we first started living in Madrid. On my first day at my first job with the arms export company, Defex, Rosa of Cuban American origin joined too. Rosa and her Spanish husband Angel, who was a Professor of mathematics at the Autónoma University in Madrid at the time, lived nearby in Saconia. We became firm friends and Rosa played a major role in the organisation of our wedding. Her family lived in New Jersey and she missed them and the country she had grown up in and some 25 years ago they decided to move back. We parted young women who had just started their families and we met again last week as middle aged women whose children have flown or are fleeing the nest. It was a very emotional reunion and just lovely to see them again. As Angel said, I hope it won’t be another 25 years before we see each other again, hahaha. But now with internet it will be much easier to stay in contact and hopefully we may see them this summer in Alicante where Angel’s brothers and sisters live.
Rosa and Angel, our friends from when we started married life in Madrid and who went to live in New Jersey some 25 years ago. I hadn't seen Rosa since we were young women. It was a lovely reunion.
I had come armed with recommendations from friends and we would have needed 2 months in the city to try them all out. We tried out as many as we could and our thanks go especially to Juana, Marta, David and Julio for all their advice of things to do and places to see. The best piece of advice was getting the New York Pass in advance on internet. You not only save money on all the attractions, but most important of all you skip the queues in many places.

So what did we see and what did we do? We saw an awful lot and walked our feet off the ground. There is just so much on offer and we wanted to make the most of our trip, our first time in the capital of the world.

Our first day, FRIDAY was spent visiting and walking through Times Square, one of the most jaw dropping places I’ve been too. It reminded me of Piccadilly Circus in London but is bigger and has more multimedia billboards that are absolutely gigantic.
In Times Square on our first day. It's a very wow place.
From here we walked via Broadway to the renowned 5th Avenue and were bowled over by the glamour and skyscrapers.
Happy on 5th Avenue, one of the most famous streets in the world if not the most.
Our destination was the Empire State Building and we were not disappointed. We went up to floor 86 and could not believe our eyes when we saw the views. Eladio commented it would have been worth coming to the US just for this.
The amazing view of South Manhattan from the top of the Empire State Building.
From the Empire State building we took our first yellow cab to the Meatpacking District to have lunch at Pastis which everyone had recommended. It was full and we got a tiny tiny table but the food was good. Having spotted the financial district and seen the skyline where the twin towers used to be, we both felt that we just had to go there. We walked from the restaurant along the West Side Highway along the Hudson River and it must have been more than 3 kilometres until we reached Ground Zero.
By the Hudson river on our walk to Ground Zero. Freezing but a superb walk.
Everyone was gravitating here. If you are visiting New York everyone wants to see it, except that there’s nothing to see but a big hole and work going on I think to build a new and taller Tower 1. Tower 2 will not be rebuilt. We learned that on 9/11 there were some 2.5 million people working in the city and that they were all evacuated via emergency services as all public transport had halted. We visited the Tribute WTC visitor centre and I must admit I cried when I saw the big list of deceased in the blast. 9/11 hit New York really hard and they will never forget but the city has bounced back and is as vibrant as it always was.
The list of the deceased after 9/11 at the WTC Tribute centre. There were boxes of tissues on the benches and I had to use some. Awesome was the right word to describe what that list means to us all.
Wanting to see more we walked through some of the city towards the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge over the Eastern river which we very much wanted to cross. Boy was it cold but boy was it a marvellous thing to do with some amazing views. It was the longest bridge in the world when it opened in 1903 and the first one to be made with steel. Today it is a bit rusty but still going strong. It connects Brooklyn to Manhattan and has been used in countless films as many other places in New York have.
Me on the legendary Brooklyn bridge that connects to Manhattan.
Exhausted and frozen we decided to take refuge in the famous Bloomingdale store and took a cab there. I had a quick look at the jeans and saw prices ranging from 150 dollars upwards so decided against purchasing any there. That evening we were so tired that we had dinner in the hotel and it was during the dinner that we met Pedro, the Mexican from Puebla. He treated us to the desert. Lovely guy.

The next day, SATURDAY, was sunny but even colder. After a breakfast of wonderful waffles and maple syrup (yes I’ve had that every morning for breakfast along with a toasted bagel, so my diet has gone out of the wind whilst in New York. I’m human aren’t I?), we walked to 5th Avenue for a photo of Tiffany’s made eternally famous by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I don’t know why it’s called that as you can’t get breakfast there, hahaha.
Outside Tiffany's in 5th Avenue for a photo of course, not to go in or to have breakfast hahaha
Our destination was Central Park which was very near our hotel and here we wanted to take a horse and carriage ride recommended to me by my dear friend Sandra from Brussels. So Oliver and his horse The Spirit took us on our 20 minute ride covered with a thick blanket thank goodness. Here what most impressed me was seeing the outdoor skating rink which featured in Love Story.
In the horse and carriage that takes you on a 20 minute tour of Central Park, a lovely ride to take.
Oliver in his very thick New York accent pointed out many points of interest including the buildings in which the rich and famous owned their condominiums as the Americans call flats or apartments. So we saw where Pavorotti and John Lennon used to live and where Angelina Jolie or Diana Ross live and the building Onassis bought for Jacqueline Kennedy when they married or the various buildings owned by the multi millionaire Donald Trump.
Oliver our driver and The Spirit his horse who took us on a tour of Central Park.
From Central Park we made our way to the MOMA also on 5th Avenue and here we bowled over by the art we saw. I think there were more Picassos than in any other museum in the world including those in his home country. I was happy to see Andy Warhol art such as the head of the beautiful Marilyn Monroe or the Campbells’ soup cans, the Starry night by Van Gogh, the Drowing Girl by Lichtenstein and the many paintings by Cezanne, Gaughin, Matisse, Kandinsky, Modigliani or Gustav Klimt to mention just a few. The Moma also has a design shop with great kitchen equipment and we bought a few items including a multi coloured food board both for ourselves and our friends Ana and Javier and Rosa and Angel. It will now be forever known at home as the Moma board.
The famous Andy Warhol Soup cans at the Moma museum which I adored.
From Moma we made our way to by cab to Prince Street in Soho for lunch at Fanelli’s café recommended to me by Vicente who said they made the best hamburgers in town and they did. The afternoon was spent shopping mostly for shoes at places like Zacky’s in Broadway from where we walked back to our hotel for a short rest before being joined by Ana and Javier to see Times Square during the Earth Hour. We had hoped the lights would go off at 20.30 but the initiative at least there was a bit of a flop. In any case it was impressive to see Times Square at night in all its glory, something we never tired of throughout our stay.
Times Square at night is magical.
Afterwards we took a cab to Javier and Ana’s house where their kids were waiting for us for dinner. We loved their New York condominium near Central Park with its high ceilings and wooden floors. It was great to see Ignacio, Laura, Cristina and Maria again and to hear how well they are getting on in the Big Apple.
Javier and Ana and their kids Ignacio, Laura, Cristina and Maria who now live in New York. They were great hosts.
SUNDAY was spent seeing more of the sights. We visited St. Patrick’s catholic cathedral which was full owing to it being Palm Sunday. It’s so funny to see a gothic style church amongst all the sky scrapers but there are many in New York. We also learned that there are more than 1.600 religions in the US! After a quick incursion into a lovely shop called the Banana Republic where I bought some pretty pastel Spring cardigans, we stumbled upon the famous Rockerfeller centre where an ice skating exhibition was going on. The place was magical with all the flags of the world, gardens and shops and people watching the skating. Our mission here was to go the Top of the Rock as the top of the highest building in the Rockerfeller centre is called. They say the views are better than those from the Empire State. I’m not sure I agree. What is nice though is that you can see the Empire State Building close up from the Top of the Rock.
Love this picture called "Lunchtime" which you can find at the Top of the Rock.
From here we made our way on foot to another landmark in Manhattan, the Grand Central Terminal which is the biggest train station in the world and a marvellous feat of architecture with its enormous marble lobby. Here we had lunch at Juniors on the ground floor, a place recommended to us by Sandra. Once again they had great burgers.
In the Grand Central Terminal, the biggest train station in the world.
To work off the food we walked all the way to Columbus Circle on 8th Avenue before going back to our hotel to be picked up later by Angel for dinner at their home in New Jersey. On our way we passed Times Square and chanced upon a shop called Champs where we bought Eladio a lovely pair of Timberland walking shoes. At Columbus Circle apart from a statue to Columbus, Time Warner has its HQ where CNN is broadcast from and where there is also a luxurious mall.
At Columbus Circle.
The next day was MONDAY and our 4th day in New York and time for some more culture. We wanted to go to the Met, otherwise known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Central Park on 5th Avenue but it was closed as are most museums the world round on a Monday. Instead we visited Madame Tussauds in Broadway as the entrance was included in our New York Pass. We had a lot of fun there taking photos with all the famous people in wax from the past and the present. The best picture of all is the one with Barack and Michelle Obama. It looks so authentic. What a laugh.
This is probably the best photo of our whole trip, here with the Obamas. I hate to admit it was not in the White House but at Madam Tussauds on 42nd street, hahaha.
It rained all day Monday and we got wet trying to walk to the United Nations building on the East river. As it was lunchtime when we got there we decided to keep our lunch appointment at Balthazar’s in Soho (recommended to me by Gloria and Julio) and return later. The lunch was good, this time lobster instead of a burger and the place was full of life. Unfortunately we were not able to visit the UN later as you had to order the guided tour tickets in advance and we hadn’t. That was our first disappointment.
The United Nations on the east side right by the Eastern River, pretty impressive to be here.
We walked all our way back to the hotel as we did most days and flopped on the bed before going out to dinner again, this time to a place recommended to me by Andrew Dale called The Russian Tea Room. The place was round the corner from our hotel and turned out to be wonderful. The decor was very typical of Tsarist Russia with lots of red and gold and the food amazing. We were warned the recipes were not completely authentic but in the end it didn’t matter as the borsch (beetroot and vegetable soup) was as good or better than any my Mother ever made and the strogonov out of this world if slightly different to any I have ever eaten. If you like things Russian and are ever in the area, do go there. You will not be disappointed.
At the Russian Tea Room round the corner from our hotel. Loved it and would go again any day. Their borsch is as good as my Mother's was.
On TUESDAY the rain increased and people’s umbrellas got broken in the effort of sheltering from the rain in the wind. There was no other option than going to a museum. So today was the day to visit the Met. Today was also the day we used the subway (what the Americans say instead of metro) and although it’s supposed to be easy it’s not that easy if it’s your first time. On our way to the stop for the Met we did a sort of Pied Piper of Hamlyn collecting other tourists on our way, amongst them a Swiss girl and a German boy who we later saw twice, once in Harlem and once at our hotel. The world is very small.

We made our way to the Met with the rest of New York escaping the rain as we all crowded in to one of the biggest and best museums of the world. We just didn’t know where to start.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, very impressive but too much to see.
Should it be the Egyptian section, the Roman section, the collection of musical instruments or shoes or the old masters or the Impressionists? We decided on Tutenkhaman’s funeral exhibition and from there went to see the old masters, our overall favourites. Here we visited all 30 odd rooms and marvelled over Vermeer’s Young Woman with a water pitcher, one of Renoir’s self portraits, The Calmady children by Sr. Thomas Lawrence, amazing Velázquez’s including María Teresa, the Infanta of Spain and daughter of Philip IV as well as the El Grecos. I just loved the miracle of Christ healing the blind by the Greco Spanish painter. Then there were the Italian masters: Fra Angelico, Canaletto (Piazza San Marco), Botticelli, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Tintoretto, the English painters: Gainsborough, Reynolds and the other great Spanish masters of the art such as Murillo, Zurbarán, Ribera, and Goya.
The girl with the water pitcher by the Dutch master Vermeer, one of the Met's most famous paintings.
After the great masters we couldn’t take any more art in and so left the Met with a heavy heart, hoping to visit the Russian Orthodox church of St. Nicholas but it was too far and too wet to get to unfortunately. So in the end we went straight to lunch to Smith and Wollensky where the waiter said: “this is America Mam”. We spent the afternoon listening to Spotify, uploading photos to Facebook on a slow internet connection and generally relaxed until dinner with Ana and Javier at the River Café which I mentioned earlier.

On WEDNESDAY the rain finally left us although it was still very cold. This was the day we did the Harlem Gospel tour, our only guided tour and it was a great experience. Harlem as we all know is the African American centre of the USA. Our first stop was the main street where we took pictures of the famous Appolo theatre where the young Michael Jackson sang with the Jackson Five.
The Apollo theatre in Harlem where Michael Jackson sang as a child with the Jackson Five.
We went past the equally famous Theresa hotel where Fidel Castro stayed with Kruyschev in the 60’s in the middle of the cold war. From here we made our way via the City College where Colin Powel studied to see Paul Robeson's house, the man who made the songs Old Man River and Swing Low Sweet Chariot so famous.
Paul Robson of Old Man River fame's house in Harlem.
Across the road from where he lived is the oldest house in Manhattan known as the Morris Jummel Mansion which was once George Washington’s headquarters in Manhattan.
The oldest mansion in Manhattan used as George Washington's HQ in the island.
But the main objective of visiting Harlem was to witness the gospel singing at one of the churches. We went to the Metropolitan Community United Methodist Church for the Wednesday service and found the whole experience very uplifting. There was very little prayer or preaching. People stood up spontaneously to recount how their lives had improved thanks to God and people clapped and stood up. Then the gospel singing began and the whole church came alive. The voices were magnificent. People clapped and danced and the saxophone was playing and there was a great atmosphere in this particular house of God. Apparently the birth of gospel singing has to do with the first African American converts to Protestantism. They read a psalm which said that God should be praised by singing and that was the birth of this type of worship. We loved the experience. The tip came from my friend Sandra who said she knew I would love it. Well I did, thanks Sandie.
Gospel singing in Harlem, an uplifiting experience to say the least.
After the tour we were left at a unique road in Manhattan, Restaurant row which is on 9th avenue with 46th street. Here you can literally take your pick of food and nationality. Being in American, we once again chose Yankee food. Lunch was a short affair as we wanted to catch the Circle Line cruise around the island at 15h which leaves at Pier 83 on 12th Avenue with West 42nd Street, another recommendation, this time from Juana.
On the Circle line cruise that goes round the island of Manhattan.
Here we got a close view of the Statue of Liberty, that unique symbol of America, as well as Ellis Island where the immigrants used to disembark and of course of the New York sky line from all sides.
The Statue of Liberty, probably the number one attraction in New York.
After the cruise we had 2 disappointments. The Intrepid (air craft carrier) sea-air-space museum right next to Pier 83 was closed as was the famous B+H Jewish owned unique camera store, due to Passover and would not reopen until 7th April.
Eladio by the Intrepid aircraft carrier on the Hudson River and part of the Sea-air-space museum which also includes a BA Concorde.
On our last full day, THURSDAY, the sun finally came out and we decided to visit Downtown and see it properly. We actually took a bus, the M1 outside the National Library on 5th Avenue and got off at Battery Park where the ferries leave for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The queues were enormous and as we had already seen the statue the day before we decided to remain on land and visit the city. It was here we had our photo taken with a living statue of liberty (at 10 dollars a shot!). From here we walked to the financial district, to Wall Street, the NYSE and Federal Hall and marvelled at where we were.
The NYSE on 4 Wall Street, kind of impressive to be there.
We then crossed the road to visit the Trinity Root at the church of the same name near Ground Zero. The story goes that a sycamore tree from the nearby St. Paul’s Chapel protected the latter from damage during the blast of 11/9 and was found uprooted at Trinity Church. A sculptor then turned it into a sculpture to honour the fallen from the Twin Towers. It is quite unique I must say.
The Trinity Root, the sycamore tree that was uprooted after the 11/9 blasts and was turned into a sculpture.
It was outside Trinity Church that Eladio had his shoes cleaned by Travis from Brooklyn for 4 bucks only. We also visited St. Paul’s chapel which played an important role during the aftermath of the blast as a refuge place for the rescue workers. Here you can see a lot of the 9/11 memorabilia as well as George Washington’s pew where he prayed after having been sworn in as America’s first President at the nearby Federal Hall.
Tear jerking 9/11 memorabilia at St. Paul's Chapel which served as a refuge for rescue workers
From St. Paul’s we walked down Broadway (from number 1 – we later walked all the way to number 1370 odd, a good 10 kilometres!) to Fulton Street where we ventured into Abercrombie and Fitch and into the South Park and Pier 17 area, a very commercial part of Downtown. After lunch in the open air, we started our long walk to our hotel all along Broadway. In doing so we passed the cool Tribeca area, the trendy Soho district where the Prada store is and the quaint Greenwich Village. On our way we stopped for a rest at City Hall Park, Union Squre (so alive and so many people) and Madison Square Park until we reached Herald Square where you can find the largest store in the world, the famous Macy’s. By then we had done so much street shopping and were carrying so many bags, that we had no desire to enter it. One thing we did on our way was to enter the proverbial Starbucks for a coffee. I mean you can’t go to America without having a coffee there and actually they are quite good.
Eladio in a Starbucks in the financial district.
Soon we were in Times Square again which was busier than ever and here we peaked into Toys R Us and saw the carousel inside. Imagine a shop with a roundabout inside. So big, yes, well this is America isn’t it? On our way we enjoyed seeing all the different people, black Americans, Jews, US Marines enjoying New York, people playing chess in the parks, kids performing in the street some sort of gym cum acrobatics, a man with a beagle who upon command turned into praying mode, Spider Man, characters from Star Wars, everyone everywhere on the phone (mostly blackberries or iPhones), a video clip being filmed on Broadway and of course hordes of tourists like us.
My Marines looking too good to be true I just had to ask them if I could take their photo.
We were just too tired that night to go out to dinner so got some ready to eat food from a “deli” round the corner from our hotel and ate it in our room.

And finally FRIDAY, yesterday, our last day came. As we always say at home: “all good things come to an end”. But it was not quite the end as after packing (our suitcases were bursting with stuff) we checked out, left our luggage with the concierge and made our way to Central Park where the rest of New York seemed to be. It was Good Friday and a holiday and the weather was splendid so it was a great place to spend our last few hours.
Central Park on our last day, what a lovely morning we spent there.

The blossom was blooming, there were daffodils and bluebells everywhere and everybody was doing their own thing. Some were jogging, others were biking (even on tandems), some were playing baseball, others were sunbathing and had stripped off most of their clothes and others like us were exploring the park, enjoying the scenery and making their way to Strawberry Fields, that peace park dedicated to the Beatles and the Imagine plaque which people flocked to like us.
The Imagine plaque in Strawberry fields in Central Park.
And very soon our American adventure was over. At 13.30 we were waiting outside our hotel for dear Javier and Ana who came to pick us up and drive us to JFK. Our plane was not leaving till 18h but we were worried about possible overbooking and the tight security. And this line now brings me back to where I began at in the lounge at Terminal 7. I am now writing from home with jet lag and nearly falling asleep. Our flight was on time and uneventful but we didn’t sleep a wink because of the time difference.

New York is my kind of city and a place like London or Paris that you can go back to again and again. So I said farewell and not goodbye and look forward to going there again in the not too distant future, to that great melting pot, the capital of the world, the Big Apple in all senses of the words.

And that my friends, is my post on New York. Tomorrow, Easter Day, Adele and Bernard will be coming to stay and another chapter of our life begins. Till next week,

Cheers / Masha
PS if you haven't already seen the full collection of photos on Facebook here they are, part one and part two.

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