Halloween in NYC

Today, I got up with Andy to ride the train together downtown. I wanted to go on the rest of my tour with the tour bus. So I arrived and got on the double decker bus to start the Uptown loop of Manhattan. The first thing I was really happy about was what an incredibly beautiful day it was. The fall colors were awesome, and the cool breeze made it feel like true fall without being too cold. Yesterday I was uncomfortable with how cold it was, so it was a nice relief.

During the route uptown, we saw a lot of Central Park, and there were several famous people’s houses we went by. I didn’t enjoy our tour guide as she continuously asked for tips. That was really annoying, so I found myself tuning her out often and focusing on places that I wanted to return to. At the end of the tour, I got out and went to the NY Apple Store. It’s this beautiful glass cube that has a stairway that leads to an underground store. Very cool. I took some cool photos as well.

I then headed toward Andy’s office to see if he was available for lunch, but the hungrier I got, I decided I’d find a cafe down in Chelsea and do some more exploring in areas in the Lower West Side. I found a great little place called Elmo, that served Bison Burgers! The place was modern and I sat with my iPhone and read news, updated Facebook, looked up areas of interest, and maps to see where I’d go next. The iPhone proved to be the most convenient information provider as I had the train schedule, GPS/map, an application that would lead me to the nearest subway station, and tell me how to get places. Truly amazing.

After lunch, I wanted to go on the Brooklyn tour of the bus, so I headed down to the Ferry Terminal which was the origin for these tours. Arrived just in time for the 2:30 departure. We took the Manhattan bridge out of the city that gave us a great view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. The tour guide was perfect because he had spent his first 35 years in Brooklyn. There were only a handful of us on the bus, so it was a great way to ask questions, and interact with other tourists visiting. One of the guys from Holland came for the marathon. The tour guide asked what his time was, and he said 2:37. Isn’t that unbelieveable?! He was huge and thin, so it was amazing to think that he does this run often.

This part of the tours was the greatest–Brooklyn had a very interesting history, flavor, and landscape. At the end of the circle around Brooklyn, I opted to walk the Brooklyn bridge out. When I started crossing over, I had flashbacks of the video segments on CNN just after 9/11 with people walking over the bridge back home after the attack. Really scary and sad. I can’t imagine what the skyline would have looked like with those great towers standing in the distance.

After crossing the bridge, I got on the train back to meet up with Andy and get dressed for our night out. I brought my traditional kimono with me and donned it for the evening :) We went to a sushi restaurant, and I surprised everyone not only with my kimono, but with my ability to speak back in Japanese :) Always such a fun trick.

We then headed to Grand Central Station to go down to the Halloween parade. It was a huge crowd, and they were expecting over 2M people to be there! When we got out of the subway, we looked for Andy’s friends, but they were on the other side. Pedestrian control was underway, and we found that we could only go in one direction and not cross. After searching for a way across, we decided to just watch the parade from the sidelines. Then after a few more minutes, we got the bravery to jump the fence on into the parade to join! :) While we were walking, we saw lots of clever costumes. My favorite was a line of men dressed as mormon mothers who were chanting, we want our kids back!

After the parade, we headed for some clubs that were doing special Halloween parties, and met up with Andy’s friends there. We danced a while and chatted and then headed back to Andy’s house. I was in desperate need of changing my Japanese sandals for some regular tennis shoes :) We then went to Andy’s local hangout and danced some more!

Off to New York!

Tonight I’m heading off to New York to visit my friend Andy whom I met at grad school in Sydney. I visited New York once before in 2001 just after the terrible tragedy of 9/11. The city was definitely in a state of shock, and I’m sure I wasn’t able to enjoy the vibe of this awesome city as much as I could have, so I thought it would be a great chance to see New York again.

The trip started on a red-eye Virgin flight nonstop to JFK. It was a comfortable flight. I made my way from the airport to the subway to come into the city to meet Andy at his work place on 5th Avenue.  When I arrived, the whole front of the building was ‘for lease’ shops, so I thought I had gone to the wrong address. I called and found out that the ‘main entrances’ were on the side streets. I went in and got my visitor badge and went up to Andy’s office to see the floor and the views.

After a little tour, I left my luggage and headed out to see about one of those double decker bus tours that his colleague had suggested. Turns out that it was a pretty good deal, so I bought a pass that gave me unlimited use for 2 days, on all 3 tours that they give of Downtown, Uptown, and Brooklyn. I got on and did the downtown loop. I walked around the West Village because the bus was pretty crowded, and I wanted to be on the deck above so I could see better. I took the subway back to Andy to meet up for lunch at his cafeteria.

Once I got back, I was so hungry that probably anything tasted good, but this cafeteria was great. They had all sorts of foods, but the most appetizing thing to me was their fresh deli sandwiches made to order. The views from the cafeteria were incredible as well, and I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch.

I then headed back out to get back on the bus to do the downtown tour parts that I had missed. It was pretty cold so despite the great views on the upper deck, I was getting a bit cold. After taking some pictures and taking notes of some places I wanted to ‘revisit’, I headed back to Andy’s office so we could head home for dinner.

Once we got to Washington Heights, we headed out to a Dominican Steakhouse. We ordered two steaks to share, and I have never seen so much meat on a plate. It was overwhelming! We had a fun dinner catching up and talking about Andy’s experience so far in NY. We then met up with his roommate to go to Harlem to watch his friend John sing 80’s cover songs in a bar.