Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tuesday - Day 4 NYC

Today we were woken up by Minty's mobile phone going off at 8.30am. We lazed about and watched a bit of morning TV American style...... mainly local stuff, hardly any international. One story that made us howl with laughter was a cable TV installation company offering a "free gun" with every order for Cable TV. Turns out that the State that this offer is being made in, has an average number of 24 guns in every household!!! Nearly as much as Glasgow.

The Beeb outside Chelsea Hotel

So, the day started with breakfast, again at Bread & Butter and then we took a walk down to 23rd street and into Chelsea, to see the Chelsea Hotel where Sid & Nancy stayed.

We spotted a guitar shop nearby and The Beeb had a browse. He did ask if he could have a go on one of the guitars but the owner (Dan) wouldn't let him, citing the fact that the guitars are old and fragile. How he expects to sell a guitar without letting anyone play the thing first, we have no idea!!!!

It was mid-day now, and we went back to 5th Avenue and met Beat Rat, Frank for lunch. We ate in Desmonds and had a couple of beers. It was fab to catch up with Frank again.

The plan for the afternoon was a trip to Brooklyn on the Subway, and then a walk back to Manhattan across the mile long Brooklyn Bridge. A trip to Ground Zero and then pizza in Little Italy. And that's exactly what we did.

Getting a metro card was odd - we walked up to Penn Station and got only one card between the 2 of us. However, it did work, letting both of us through the turnstile, and the trip across to Brooklyn on the "A" express subway was quick. We got out at High Street Brooklyn Bridge and found the steps up to the bridge with no problem.

The Beeb on Brooklyn Bridge - Empire State in the backdrop

The Bridge is quite impressive. It is a mile long and you can walk / cylce in the middle of it. In the middle you are in the open (it was a mite windy today) with the opportunity to have your picture taken with a fantastic back drop of the Manhattan skyline. How Posh and Becks managed to conceive a baby here with so many people around is a mystery!

Minty on The Bridge
Next up (after a coffee in Starbucks and a lengthy queue for the loo) was a visit to Ground Zero. The guidebooks warned there is not much to see, and indeed it is a large construction site, bordered off as the City builds the memorial to 9/11 which is due to be unveiled on the 10th anniversary this year. We did go into the memorial centre on Vassey Street which has the vision of the memorial being built and a tribute to the victims. It's amazing the amount of books and videos they have all about 9/11 there. Very moving.

Then we walked up Broadway, all the way through Tribeca and Soho and across to Little Italy, where we found ourselves in Lombardis - a really busy Pizza place (which only took cash!). We were advised by the guidebook that "Pizza doesn't come much better than at this unpretentious old timer that turns out delectable thin crust pies"

There is a table under there!
The waiter was actually really sensible and suggested that we have a large pizza between us rather than a small one each. We were quite glad of his suggestion when the meal arrived...... the pizza was as big as the table! The waiter saw the look on our faces and said "Welcome to New York"!!!!

Stuffed, we climbed into a cab (did you know that it's against the law to enter / leave a cab from any side other than at the kerb?) and headed back to the hotel..........

Minty's feet are really sore at this point! (at THIS point?..The Beeb)

Monday - Day 3 NYC

Again, we let ourselves wake up naturally and by 9.30am we were out on the sidewalk, to yet another sunny and bright (but cold) day. We started to head for Penelope again, but on the way, spotted a less expensive establishment called Bread & Butter, which served up a tasty spanish omelette for breakfast.

Hunger satisfied, we headed out for the day, in a cab up to 74th Street and the Dakota Building where the world was robbed of John Lennon. We got out of the cab and you couldn't see The Beeb for dust. He just sped of towards Central Park without looking back. No words, no photos, nothing!

We strolled down through Central Park to Columbus Circle.

Minty in Central Park
On the way down, a film crew were filming a couple of joggers, from a rickshaw! At Columbus Circle, things were busy, both traffic wise and stalls selling bottles of Snapple - this seems to be the themed drink in NYC as everyone is selling / drinking the stuff!

Minty outside Carnegie Hall
We had a quick stroll through the Time Warner Centre, then headed across to 7th Avenue to see Carnegie Hall, the location of a Brian Wilson concert a few years ago.

After that, The Beeb lived out his dream of being able to say he bought a shirt from Bloomingdales, following the words from a Bruce Springsteen song. The first shirt he picked up mind you was $295 and that was returned to the rail like it was on fire!!!!

The shirt he did get was a T Shirt, but it was quality. the assistant who made the sale even attached her business card to the receipt.... she is a "Selling Specialist" dontcha know?

Anyhow, The Beeb had to have his picture taken..........

"I bought a shirt uptown in Bloomingdales"
Next on our list of things to see today was St Patricks Cathedral on 51st and 5th (see we are getting into the NYC street names!!!). This building was awesome, and we were able to go inside. It's a shame that it's a bit touristy now, with many camera flashes, but the atmosphere was peaceful. The Beeb was shocked at the idea of having to pay £2 to light a he didn't!

Outside Radio City Music Hall
Not far from St Pats is Radio City Music Hall, another venue with a close connection to Brian Wilson, in that an all star tribute was held there. This was another of the must sees....

Just along from the Radio City Music Hall is The Rockefeller Centre where, for the princely sum of $22 each, you can take the elevator to the 67th floor and then view the city from the "Top Of The Rock". It is quite a fantastic view, but Minty being a bit fearful of heights, could swear she could feel the building swaying, and hugged the walls!

The Beeb was far more adventurous and whereas Minty stopped at the 2nd level from the top, The Beeb went right up to the highest point and took a great shot of the world below........

From The Top Of The Rock
Do you have any idea how tall the Rockefeller Centre is........

Yep - we were right up there!
Next up was a stroll down 7th Avenue heading to Times Square.

The one place The Beeb really, really, really wanted to experience was The Brill Building. For those who don't know, in the 60's this building housed the best song writers the world could wish for.

When we got to the site, a crowd had gathered. Turns out there was a bit of filming going on for some TV show - the actor we didn't recognise, but looked a bit like Michael Brandon did 20 odd years ago (well it might have been him, and he might have had plastic surgery). We hung around for a few minutes, thinking, how long can it take to shoot one scene............ forever it would appear. We wandered into Colony Records just alongside the Brill Building for a while, and then as the filming was still going on, we walked down to Times Square and back.

In Times Square, we saw the queue for cheap theatre tickets (only one source here versus many booths in London's Leicester Square!). We found out the show we would have been interested in seeing "Million Dollar Quartet" doesn't play on a Monday. We did enquire at Times Square visitors Centre but the tix for the show on Tuesday, whilst quite modestly priced (aside from a $7.50 service charge) were way at the back of the top level of the theatre...... we took a raincheck.
The Beeb experiences The Brill Building

So, about an hour later we went back to the Brill Building and thankfully the film crew had packed up.. this gave The Beeb the chance to wander through the doors.......
Just along from Time Square, on West 48th Street, we found a nusic shop, and scarily, as soon as we went in the door a Gretsch White Falcon beckoning at The Beeb. It took all his will power to restrain himself from taking out his wallet!!!!

It was now early evening, the temperature had dropped with the sun disappearing behind the skyscrapers, so we started to look for a place to grab a pizza...........

Now, places to eat in NYC........ unless you want a cafe / deli type place, the choice seems to be quite limited and many restaurants (when you look on the internet) are actually within hotels! Could we find a place to grab a pizza or pasta from 42nd street down to 27th, which did not mean eating a "pizza slice" or sitting in a small part of what is essentially a takeaway place, with small metal tables? Not on your life.

Hungrily we went back to the hotel and checked the internet which confirmed our fears that to get a proper sit down pizza / pasta meal you really need to go to Little Italy. We settled instead for a  burger and chips and a few beers in a restaurant just down from our hotel - Deweys Flatiron, which was a bit of a sports bar and had great service in that the waitress kept us in beer (and knew what our order was!).

So Day 3 finished. Minty had very sore feet from all of the walking.......(No change there then..The Beeb!)

Sunday - Day 2 NYC

Although we had set alarms, we woke up naturally at a reasonable time, and headed out into yet another bright and cold, yet sunshiney day for breakfast.

On a recommendation of a friend we went to Penelope (on Lexington). There was a queue, and we had a 20 minute or so wait, but the brekkie was good. Brunch on a Sunday is obviously a done thing in NYC!

It was a short walk back to the hotel, where we met up with Dennis Kelley, a DJ at Luxuria Music and someone we've befriended over the last few years via social networks etc. It was great to finally meet the man in the flesh.

He had driven in from New Jersey, and with us securely belted up, he headed back to NJ. As we went through the tunnel, on the route Tony Soprano takes from NY to NJ on the shows credits, he played The Sopranos theme for us on the cars' CD. Class.

First stop was Asbury Park... a place The Beeb has wanted to see... being a Bruce Springsteen fan. At the Stone Pony, we went in for a moment just to have a look. As there was a benefit gig on with a "donation" of $20, we just settled for photos outside instead. D'ya know DK met his wife here?

Dennis & Brian outside The Stone Pony

We walked along the boardwalk, in the footsteps of Bruce, and almost paddled in the Atlantic, on the Jersey shore. If we'd jumped in and kept swimming we'd have landed on the beach at Saltcoats!

On the Jersey Shore - just look at those waves
Lunch was vegetable samosas in Langosta Lounge on Asbury Park's boardwalk. The service was not the best (DK asked at least 4 different people for the check (Note..getting into the venacular already) before anything turned up!).

There was some alcohol in this one! Cheers

Next on the agenda was cocktails and beer at Kelley a la Cranford, where we had the opportunity to experience the Kelley's tiki lounge where Dennis makes a mean and highly potent TikiDeke cocktail. 

We also saw the Studio where Dennis records his Heroes & Villiains shows for Luxuria. There were a few rare Beach Boys vinyls spun on the turntable.

Dennis in his studio
Time flew for sure and it felt like we had been there only minutes before we had to head to a train station and get the train back to Penn Station. The train was a huge double decker thing, and we had to go to the end of the platform and walk across the first set of tracks and then climb onto the train!

We jumped out at what we thought was Penn Station, but checked with a station worker who revealed that the train was in Newark Penn, and not New York Penn. Thankfully we had time to jump back on board before the doors closed!

So we were back in NYC and at the hotel around 8.30ish. We had dinner in a bar/restaurant on 5th Avenue, just by the Empire State Building. Not a great restaurant, but pleasant enough.

It had been a long day, and the time difference had caught up a bit so it was an early-ish night.

Saturday - Day 1 NYC

We arrived by a yellow cab (what other kind of cab is there in NYC!) at the Ace Hotel, on West 29th Street & Broadway. 10 mins in New York and already we're getting into the way the street names work.

It was a bit too early to check in, but we were able to ditch the luggage and we headed out into the bright, but cold, sunshiney afternoon.

We thought we were heading towards Times Square, but after about 30 minutes of walking, we checked the map and found we had headed in the opposite direction we had intended!!! By the time we had retraced our steps, it was almost 3pm and we were able to check in....But not before The Beeb being asked by the bellhop if he was a Celtic supporter. Turns out the guy was actually into football.

The record player and selected vinyls
Our room is quite cool. We have a  record player, with some vinyls thrown in for good measure (Visage, Crosby Stills & Nash among them), the mini bar is within a flight case, the iron and hairdryer are both really retro and you need to take a taxi to get from one end of the bed to the other!!!

There are quirky little notices all over, such as the "do not disturb" sign is a magnetic "NOT NOW" you stick on the outside of the door, and the notice in the bathroom re the towels.....

The notice in the bathroom
The only downside is the electric shocks you get everytime you touch the door, lift buttons..... you name it, if it's metal you get a shock!!!! And it's not just us... as we found out from another couple who selected their floor button with such trepidation we had to ask if they had been shocked too!!!!

The lobby is busy with visitors every night, with either DJ's or live music, and the queue for the coffee shop (Stumptown) is the longest we've ever seen and the baristas are really knowledgable about their trade, and make a rather nice leaf design on every cup of coffee they serve. Although, The Beeb got a loveheart on his first cup, from the girl that served him!

We headed out again to find a camera (we had inadvertently put our one in the overnight bag we left in the car after our park and fly hotel night in Heathrow!!). We found one, reasonably priced in Macys, so that ticked one sight to see off the list!

Back at the hotel, a quick shower and change of clothes and we were off to meet two Rats... Frank and Paul from a rather delightful garagy, Merseybeat band, The Beat Rats, we had met last year at Liverpool's IPO. We had a lovely dinner in Cowgirl (Hudson Street) in Greenwich Village. Our waitor was an Alan Alda lookalike, both in looks and humour!

The camera was handed to Alan Alda and we asked him to take a photo. So he did...he sat with the woman at the next table and took one of them both together! He was a funny guy though.

Paul and Frank from The Beat Rats
It was great to have the chance to meet up with the Rats, on their home turf, over a few beers and Margheritas. The conversation was about music and guitars (obviously).

We trundled back to the hotel in a cab, very sleepy having been up for almost 24 hours....

Saturday - the flight

Well, we tried to book in on-line and "the computer says no". Looked at our booking and it appeared we had been given an upgrade.... optimistic but a bit cautious, we sought assistance when we got to the airport and yes indeedy - we had been upgraded to Club World....Rock Star Status! So the sunglasses stayed on :-)

Free brekkie in the Club World lounge, and then we headed to the gate.... Fast track, past the poor people in the queue waiting to board.

What a different world Club is! Minty quaffed the free champagne the whole flight and took in two films (Harry Potter & RED) while The Beeb indulged in a double bill of Coen Bros and Jeff Bridges, with True Grit & The Big Lebowski.
He also took full advantage of the flatbed, complimentary ear plugs and eye mask.

The flight was quicker than expected.... 6 hours 40 mins and we landed ahead of schedule...... into terminal 7 at JFK.