We Went to the Theatre – Day 29

This morning started off a little reflective. We started at the Ground Zero of the World Trade Centre. Walking around the massive fountains that have replaced the buildings the air is heavy. On each of the massive fountains the names of those who perished on that fateful day in 2001. This is a place for reflection, for healing, and for mourning.

Next to the memorial fountains is a newly created museum for the World Trade Centres. It is a curious place because they hold tributes to all the people who died in the terrorist attacks, as well as try to educate people about the attacks. There is so much content within the museum that it becomes tedious. Maybe it’s because I was so young when the attacks happened, maybe it’s because I’m Australian and geographically I’m so distanced from any terrorist attack, but I feel disconnected from these attacks. I can reflect and understand that this was a horrible day for humanity and was a gross and deliberate attack on the world. But I can reflect on this with or without the use of this museum. This is a place for education, tribute, and recovery.

To perk up our day we wandered around Wall Street and then over the East River via the sprawling and impressive Brooklyn Bridge. The thing about wandering over the Brooklyn Bridge is that there is only one path over and back, as well as this you have to share the path with bike riders and venders. It’s little congested but the views are well worth the hike.

On the other side of the East River is a suburb called Dumbo. This area is traditionally a historic one. I suspect that it was an old dock yard (not much wifi means not much research). You can get some very nice shots of lower Manhattan from Dumbo. We spent maybe an hour or two wandering around. We had to leave Dumbo late afternoon because we were off to the theatre.

Long story short, the Book of Mormon is a musical by the writers of South Park. It’s sold out every session for the last 3 years. So we decided to head on up to the ticket office to suss out the situation. Too our luck they had two seats free at a very decent price. So we go to see Book of Mormon. Hilariously funny, grossly obscene, aggressively sacrilegious, and very catchy. Let’s hope it can get to Australia sometime soon.

Live from Central Park – Day 28

The last couple days have been wet and wild but this morning the thunderstorms have cleared. Deciding to make the most of the good weather Steph and I took off up to Central Park. I’m not 100% sure what the exact dimensions of Central Park is but I’m going to guess its about 6 km long and about 1 or 2 km wide. Central Park could be best described as an oasis amongst the crazy. Trees make way for sprawling fields, prehistoric looking rock formations hid sun backer and children playing, it is a strange sight, yet something heat you can truly get lost in.

Across the road from Central Park is one of the most visited museums in the world (remember I’m not a fan of hyperbole). The Museum of Natural History was first kick started by naturalist, and President, Theodore Roosevelt back around the turn of the 20th century. One of the first exhibits that you find yourself lost in is the African Mammals room. Around the sides of the walls you have dioramas with taxidermied animals from Africa. In the centre of the room is a family of 8 elephants. Wandering further through exhibits you can find mammals from all the populated continents, relics and dioramas or traditional cultures (including aboriginals), and even a massive life sized blue whale (which I’m still confused as to whether or not it’s real or not).

One of the things that I really wanted to do whilst in New York was to see the Late Show with David Letterman be recorded. I had to wait around a pay phone to call the producer for tickets, but I got in! It was pretty surreal to see this man that I’ve watched for years on my TV at 12:30 at night.

Some people frown upon the type of tourist who goes on holidays and visits all the generic tourist places. But oi nah you’re on holidays bro! You’ve got to do all the tourist crap! For dinner we went to this diner very near Time Square called, Ellen’s Stardust. Imagine this for me dear reader, a diner where professionally trained broadway singers and dancers perform show tunes for you whilst you wait and eat your dinner. It is far from tacky. If I’d suggest one place for anyone to eat a meal whilst in NYC, Ellen’s Stardust would be it!

So Much Cake – Day 27

Spending the morning wandering around midtown I found the NYC essential, Magnolia Bakery. If you’re unaware as to what Magnolia Bakery is, they specialise in serving small cupcakes with excessive amounts of icing. For some it might sound off putting but trust me it was amazing! I’m not going to lie, I lined up for an hour just for a couple cup cakes and it might have taken a chunk of my time but oi it was worth it!

To let the cupcakes digest I decided to go for a walk up and down Madison and Park avenue. This is the shopping and business end of town. Super expensive shops line the streets as beautiful people parade up and down in search of items that will in theory make them more beautiful.

I have an update on my passport situation. If you remember I washed out my passport in Austin. In NYC I received my new emergency passport. The only problem with the emergency passport is that I can’t receive an electronic visa with it, because it doesn’t have an electronic chip in it. Getting a new/ updated visa into the US has become horribly hard and seriously shouldn’t be this painful.

Today had a lot of food featured in it. For dinner we met up at a night market filled with food trucks. One of my favourite foods that I’ve been eating is blue corn chips. Blue corn (yep that’s a real thing) is turned into corn chips. Because they’re already a sweet vegetable they don’t need any flavouring. For dinner I had blue corn chip nachos, and they nailed it!

The last few days have been plagued by thunderstorms mainly around late afternoon and into the night. Yet that didn’t stop us from climbing to the top of the Empire State Building. At the top the clouds hovered around us and often swallowed the building. Thunder echoed around us as we watched lighting crack out to the distance. The cities lights shone through the rain as the lights of Time Square stood most prominent.

Before we said good bye to some of our last Topdeck buddies we ate a delicious dish of desserts from the infamous Cake Boss. In my opinion this dude knows how to make his cakes look brilliant beyond all belief, but they’re nothing too fancy to eat. They had this strange looking Cake Boss life sized bobble head in the corner of the shop… It was very odd. Just because you can make yourself a life sized Cake Boss doesn’t mean that you should make yourself a life sized bobble head Cake Boss.

Islands & Games – Day 26

I’ll offer some advice for anyone who calls themselves a traveller, or anyone who wishes to call themselves a traveller in the future. Make the most of the sunlight. Wake up early and enjoy all the time that you have. I only had 6 days in New York, and that wasn’t enough for me to see everything I wanted to see.

Starting out early we took the impeccable subway service downtown to Battery Park. Battery Park extends along the bottom of Manhattan Island me up the western side. At the southern end of park is the Staten Island ferry terminal. Jumping onto a ferry we took off across the Hudson towards Liberty Island.

#FunFact. Liberty wasn’t originally the colour she is today. The copper she’s made out of has oxidised to the green we see today.

On Liberty we wandered around the Island taking lots of selfies. It started raining so the selfies turned into poncho selfies. In the rain we walked around the Island avoiding tourists taking photos. I seriously think that there ought to be a walking lane for people who want to take photos and another for those who want to leisurely meander around.

Heading back to Manhattan we first stopped off at Ellis Island. Once upon a time ago, millions of immigrants from hundreds of countries across the world travelled through the immigration processing centres on Ellis Island. They’d undergo health checks, luggage inspections, and passport checks, before they’d be allowed into America.

One of the good things about travelling alone is that you can find people who travel alone, and then you can travel together. On my Topdeck tour I found a few people who have similar travelling styles as me. In particular I found a new travelling companion, her name was Steph. A black and white blooded New Zealander, who wanted to see the stuff I wanted to see in NYC.

Steph and I went back to mainland Manhattan. From there we caught the train out to Flushing to CitiFields. We met some more travel buddies at a Mets baseball game. The game had an exciting and constant atmosphere. Similar to cricket there’s lots of change over time in baseball. In this time there is entertainment in the form of roving reporters. The roving reporters part is a little tedious but what was entertaining was the t shirt cannons. Girls in tight t shirts fire a bazooka filled with t shirts into the crowd. People went crazy for these bloody t shirts!

Back on Manhattan Island we decided we needed to do more touristy stuff. For dinner we went to Carnage Deli, one of the most famous and popular Delis in New York. Between four of us we ordered two Reuben sandwiches. A Reuben sandwich is a sandwich filled with pastrami, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. These Reubens were open top and seriously massive. For dessert we decide to eat some of their cheese cake. One slice between four was more than enough. Portions in the USA are totally out of wack! No wonder Americans are so big!

D.C. To NYC – Day 25

Leaving D.C for New York was bittersweet. I’ll be back to D.C. before too long. Even though we covered so much, there is only so little you can do in 32 hours.

On the way towards New York we stopped at Philadelphia. We ran up the Rocky steps (waste of time), we saw the line up for the Liberty Bell (not worth it), and I ate a Philly Cheese Stake (never again). But we took a cab to John F Kennedy park with the big LOVE sign in it. The $2 per person for the taxi ride was well worth simply because of the locals. A hyper dramatic black lady stood in front of the LOVE and offered to take photos for a dollar. If you didn’t pay her she’d yell, cry and carry on until you gave her a tip (worth it).

The drive into NYC was bumper to bumper. The highway weaves through industrial areas until you see it, the New York skyline. It just pops out of nowhere and demands your attention. Sadly we took the Lincoln tunnel into the city rather then the George Washington bridge.

Arriving into New York scheduled the end of the 21 day Topdeck tour. Saying cya later to 45 people who you’ve shared a bus/ bed/ meal/ drink/ laugh with is a strange experience. With these new friends I’ve experienced so much and so many new things. It’s hard to not form a bond with with people when you literally are spending every waking hour with for 21 days straight.

I stayed in an apartment on 54th street which was refreshing. It’s always good to get some space after 21 days crammed into a bus.

For dinner a few bus buddies and I went to Bubba Gunp’s in Time Square. Bubba is a restaurant themed around the great film, Forest Gump. They sell coconut shrimp, banana shrimp, pineapple shrimp, fried shrimp, grilled shrimp, boiled shrimp… The list goes on.

Then it was time for our first crack at a classic New York tourist attraction, Top of The Rock sky deck. I’m not going to lie. Wandering around the building of 30 Rockerfella place I was nerding out with all the SNL, 30 Rock and Tonight Show memorabilia. I whistled the 30 Rock theme song all the way to the top of the rock.

Washington D.C. – Day 24

Woo wee! If there was a day where my feet could have fallen right off it would have been today! We smashed out a solid 10ish hours of hard core sight seeing, and we didn’t even see it all.

Leaving the hotel we separated into the clean and very walkable Washington streets. First we visited Old Mate Obama at his White House. He wouldn’t come out to see us, but we did see Bo, the Obama families dog.

Walking towards the National Mall we passed the Old Executive Office Building, now the office of the Vice President. The Mall is one of the most breathtaking man made marvel in the world. I know that’s an overstatement, and I try to keep hyperbole away from this blog, but I tell you no joke. You’ve got the Capital Building on one end of the mall, in the middle of the Mall you’ve got war memorials shattered around near the Washington Monument, and at the far end you’ve got the reflection pool and the Abraham Lincoln Monument. So much good stuff, so close together!

Touring the monuments we also snuck in a sneaky trip to the Air and Space Museum. In the museum is hundreds of models and original planes, space crafts, rockets, and space suits all suspended on the roof of the museum.

People ask you, “what’s the thing you most miss about Australia?” For a non Aussie this answer might surprise you, but one of the biggest things that I miss is Chinese food! Sweet and sour pork, honey chicken, Mongolian lamb, and fried rice just to name a few. So for lunch we found a decent Chinese shop and ate like kings!

I feel that D.C. has the largest concentration of museums per square centre metre. You can’t walk one block without seeing some type of museum. Being a journalist in training I had to go to the Newseum. Picture this, a whole museum dedicated to journalism and news! From there we saw the big three ‘freedom’ documents. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Just standing in front of these documents I could only just imagine Washigton, Adams, Hancock all standing in front of these documents weighing up the future of the United States.

Tonight was the last night of the Topdeck so we went out and had a D.C. style dinner.