NYC

Today is Day 4 in New York! The week has been going quickly, but we’ve been able to take it quite slowly since we’re here for a total of 8 days. It’s been a while since I last posted, so let’s go back to the flight into New York.

My flight came in to Laguardia Airport. We circled the city and I had some awesome views of the city, Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. We were flying quite low, and it was a really exciting “welcome to New York!”

The flight was 20 minutes early which was good. I had booked a Super Shuttle bus the day before to pick me up when my flight arrived. I called through to check in with them, and they said there would be a 45 minute to 1 hour wait. I’m not sure why there would be such a long wait when I had prebooked, because I thought that would allow them to plan their schedule. Anyway, I sat in the Visitor Welcome Area of the airport, where the driver would come in and call my name when he arrived. 90 minutes later no one had come, so I decided to give them a call back.

The lady I spoke to said that my booking didn’t show that I had checked in. She then said there was a shortage of drivers and I should catch a cab instead, then fax through my receipt and they would reimburse me. This was a good alternative, but I wish they’d told me that the first time I called because all up it wasted almost 2 hours.

When I went outside to find a cab, there was a massive line. I think it would’ve taken at least an hour to get a cab there. Fortunately a security guard walked past and told us there was another taxi rank around the corner. Not many people heard him, so I hurried around the corner to find a queue of taxis waiting for passengers! I jumped in and within 30 minutes I was at the apartment. The taxi was pretty cool, with a touch screen in the back showing the news channel, and with information about the trip including tolls as we passed through them.

The apartment we’re staying in isn’t massive, but it comfortably fits the three of us – me, Julie and her friend Azuo. There’s a single bed with pull out trundle in the living area, then a double bed in the bedroom. The apartment is split level, with the kitchen / dining area on the first level, living area on the second, and bedroom / bathroom on the third. We’re on the fourth floor of the apartment building, and there were 43 stairs to carry my suitcase up!

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Our apartment

The first night we discovered that we’re across the road from a school, with the sound of school buses and kids waking us up around 8am the first morning. It didn’t help that there were some construction workers out early that morning too. Since the first night it’s been quieter, although the blinds let in a fair bit of light so it’s hard to sleep in too late. That’s a good thing though because it makes sure we don’t waste our time in bed.

So on Monday morning we bought weekly subway tickets, and made our way towards Times Square. We had a look around and took some photos. My initial impression was that it wasn’t as big as I was expecting, but having gone back at night I now realise just how impressive the area is. There are so many flashing billboards, and the number of people flowing through the area is crazy. The traffic hardly moves because there are so many people walking around, and the traffic lights definitely favour the pedestrians – that and the fact that in New York pedestrians tend to ignore red lights and just cross if there’s the slightest gap in the traffic.

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Times Square

While we were at Times Square we stopped in at the M&M store. The shop is huge! There are three levels of M&M goodness, complete with escalators and an elevator. There are heaps of M&M merchandise, along with several different colour walls where you can mix and match your own container of M&Ms, including colours that you can’t get in the supermarket, like purple, pink, white and various shades of blue and green. There’s even a section to personalise them with words or clipart! We bought some raspberry, mint and peanut butter M&Ms. Raspberry was my favourite, but they were all really good.

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M&M colour wall

From there we caught the subway again to the Lower West Side. We were booked to do a graffiti tour with Jess and Leanne at 3.30pm, so Julie and I had lunch at a deli in the area (I had a delicious bagel with smoked trout mousse) then  explored the area for a little while before the tour. We saw some nice streets, interesting parks with playgrounds, chess tables and concrete table tennis tables (BYO chess pieces and table tennis equipment), basketball courts and soccer goals. There are a lot of parks, both big and small, scattered throughout the city. Given most people are living in apartments I guess it’s important for them to have communal outdoor areas to enjoy. There were a couple of community gardens too where locals are able to grow their own plants and vegetables.

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A pretty New York street in Lower West Side

Just before the tour we stopped in on a cafe for a fresh juice and some fries, then met Jess and Leanne along with our tour guide, ready to go. The tour guide was from Brooklyn and is a local street artist who conducts tours and runs art classes. He took as around the area for about 2 hours, showing us various pieces of work, both legal and illegal, and provided background on the artists and how their work fits into the area.

The first piece he showed us was a silhouette of Steve Jobs. The piece was done just after his death, and was created by attaching pieces of perspex to the side of some fence rails so that when you stood on the right angle they aligned and the silhouette became visible. You can just make it out in the photo below.

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Steve Jobs silhouette

For the rest of the tour we saw different types of painted work, either spray painted, stencilled or paper glued to the wall. We were lucky enough to see an artist putting up some work, and there was quite a crowd gathered around to watch, including a guy playing guitar off to the side and a couple of young kids helping to draw grass on the hills (bottom right of the photol. This was one of the works legally commissioned on a piece of wall that rotates every month or so. We saw quite a lot of public galleries like this, including a workers shed on a construction site that is repainted every three months by different artists.

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Street art in progress

Thee was another massive piece on a busy intersection that currently has a picture of Pop Eye.

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Pop Eye painting

Overall the tour was really interesting, and a great way to see part of the city in a bit more detail. After the tour we had a famous margherita pizza at Lombardi’s, then checked out some of the nearby shops. I needed a new jumper because I left mine in the taxi from the airport. The weather has been quite cool, but since they’re going in to summer it’s hard to find any warm clothes. We ended coming back to the apartment and I tried the H&M store at a nearby shopping centre and found a plane black hoodie. Made a huge difference the next day having some warm clothes!

Julie’s friend Azuo arrived about 7pm so the three of us went out for Mexican, then stopped in at the local supermarket to get some supplies.

The supermarket is split over two levels and there’s a separate escalator for trolleys! Also, the checkout operators all had flags and waved them when they were ready for a customer. I don’t think this is a standard supermarket because it seemed more of an alternative organic type of store, but still it was interesting to see some differences from home.

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Trolley escalator at Trader Joe's

So that was our first day in New York! It was a good introduction to the city and gave us a feel for where things are in relation to one another. Travelling the subway was quicker and easier than I was expecting, and the weekly ticket is great value. We’ve visited most of the tourist attractions by now, but I’ll have to post about them another time because I’m off to bed. Good night!

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