After all of our travelling having a whole night of sleep in a comfortable queen bed felt like a tiny slice of heaven. We awoke to a dull grey morning with views over to Manhattan and the Empire State Building. Absolute bliss.
Breakfast was an interesting experience to say the least. The hotel – The Quality Inn, Woodside has a sort of balcony section with 3 tables overlooking reception and a breakfast buffet. However, with about 10 rooms over 4 floors there is a slight problem with the availability of seating. As we rounded the corner onto the breakfast balcony it was like watching a pack of vultures all fighting over a carcass. About 30 people were jostling for prime position at the toaster and juice sections with everyone packed in as tight as sardines. We joined the queue and after stepping over quite a few individuals managed to fill a tray with pastries, bagels, juice and coffee and disappear back to our lovely large room. We only had one mishap with assuming our room had a kettle so had to go back for that, it does however, have a lovely fresh coffee machine.
After our breakfast we decided to head via the subway to Time Square. The 7 line was a 5 minute walk from our hotel and the views of Manhattan were amazing. Plus, we were defying the forecasted rain by just having an overcast sky. We purchased our 7 day unlimited subway passes and hopped on the train. The subway system is by no means the most modern I have used but in terms of value and functionality I could not fault it.
I had purchased the NY Explorer Pass prior to coming out and so we decided to get acquainted with the city to take the Downtown hop-on-hop-off tour in the morning. We got off the subway after a short 20 min journey and picked up our tickets from Madam Tussauds. After sleeping in a little we had timed the tour at peak hour so had to wait for a couple of buses who were full to pass. Luckily it wasn’t long at all and in no time at all we were heading off from Time Square to explore some of the city.
The one thing that really struck me about New York was how interesting the architecture is. We were passing beautifully carved old buildings of stone right next to shiny new skyscraper, but it all seemed to fit. We went past the Empire State Building then the famous New Yorker hotel. Our guide was great at getting a balance of history, what all the buildings were and sharing some funs stories from films and television. After passing Macy’s we came to the beautiful Marble Collegiate Church one of the oldest churches in North America. Passing through the districts was a great way to get a glimpse of what Chelsea, Soho and Tribeca all had to offer before we stopped half way in the Financial District.
We were keen to see the 9/11 sight so we headed for the new One World Trade Centre sight. En-route we stopped off at another beautiful church – St Paul’s Chapel we just happened to stumble across. This was used by the injured survivors of 9/11 as it was so close to the Towers. We took in the new One World Trade Centre which is by far the prettiest of the tall towers we have seen so far then headed round to the Twin Tower memorial. There are huge fountains set on the sight of both the North and South Towers with rippling water flowing down into a void. The names of each of the victims are etched into the marble surrounds and there was a white rose on one of the names to symbolise it being their birthday.
As part of our pass we could enter the 9/11 Tribute Centre which is a smaller version of the huge new 9/11 memorial museum which is built underground. The centre had a few artefacts from the day to show the impact the attack had such as forks bent out of shape as well as a section with photos of the victims. The most interesting part for me was listening to one of the survivors telling her story in a sort of small room in the basement. The survivor was Cheryl who had been working on the 65th floor of the South Tower and she detailed the events of the day as well as how she had dealt with the aftermath of the attack. It was extremely moving and nice to have personally listened to someone’s experience and been able to ask questions rather than hearing a pre-recorded taped version.
We then had a walking tour of the Memorial Square with 2 other volunteers from the centre – Elliot a man who had lived in an apartment right next door to the Towers and Paul a firefighter who was involved in the rescue aftermath. Having already wandered around the sight it was great to have a more detailed view of it from someone so closely affected by the tragedy. They took us around the firefighter memorial, the memorial fountains and also to a tree that had managed to survive the attack. This was really put into perspective when they explained how little survived the Tower’s collapsing – the tree and one individual survived.
We were completely famished after the tour and so headed to Ruben’s Empanadas for a quick snack. We both had the empanada, rice and beans deal, mine with spicy chicken and my mum’s with beef chilli. They were pretty fantastic.
After re-joining the tour we took in Wall Street, Chinatown, Little Italy, Greenwich Village and the Manhattan Bridge before seeing the famous Pepsi sign from Queens. These areas are much less developed than the morning part of the bus tour but still full of intrigue and lots of amazing eating places. Every two minutes our guide would point out somewhere for another cuisine – New York does have some fantastic eating options. We finished the tour by checking out some more of the NYU campus and the UN Buildings as well as the famous Waldorf Astoria and Saks. It had started to rain by this point and although the scratched plastic roof had hampered my photographic abilities I was thankful for it keeping us dry.
We got off at the Rockefeller Centre and did some shopping while wandering back up to Times Square. I managed to find an amazing shop called ‘Dress Barn’ where got some lovely new work dresses including a gorgeous Calvin Klein number! Times Square was lovely to see lit up by night – a real contrast from during the day and much busier. We checked out the Disney Store for touristy NY Mickey tops and then made our way back to the subway station just as the skies opened. We got soaked in the downpour but it didn’t dampen our spirits after a pretty fantastic first day in the city.
We headed home to Queens which has one of the biggest China towns in the world and so of course we got Chinese for dinner. It would have been rude not to really. Egg rolls, fried wontons and Singapore noodles all for the bargain price of $15!! There is something to be said for chilling out in bed with a take-away.