This is a collection of stories of things that I experience, use, collect, review or just feel to talk about here in Trinidad or other places I visit. If you like what you see please comment or share it with others.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
New York for Christmas 2009
I went to New York City for the Christmas Season 2009 with one of my friends and I had a great time.
I did not reach to check in at the counter early enough to get an emergency exit row or the bulkhead or first row seat which had amore leg room than normal so I was stuck with the window seat I chose from web check-in. The emergency row seats were not available to choose online, they are only given at the counter. The first seats in economy were already chosen online, I assume by other people using the same system. I'm not sure if those are only given at the counter also. Caribbean Airlines uses a Sabre based system which is pretty decent.
I flew there on a Caribbean Airlines flight which uses a Boeing 737. That plane has three rows on either side of the aisle in the middle. This particular plane had (faux?) leather seats and seemed to be a little more spacious than the polyester seats. The headphones jack was at the front of the armrest instead of the regular position on the side which would make it stick into your leg. The flight did have more turbulance than I ever experienced before but it was not severe, just for long durations during the second half of the trip. They give out headphones for free on their flights for you to listen to a variety of stations which you can select from the armrest. There is also a movie which is shown during the trip and this time it was '4 Christmases'.
A friend met us at the airport and brought us jackets to use for our stay. Looking outside through the glass walls I could see people with thick jackets on, walking around in the bright sunlight with small heaps of snow spotting the area. I was still in the controlled air of the airport terminal. When I stepped out of the airport building into the cold air for the first time it was interesting. The freezing air made the water vapour in my warm breath condense so I had a big cloud in my face while I was breathing and walking. The dry icy air seemed to burn my face and hands which is where had exposed skin, it was not a very bad feeling but one I'm not sure I ever felt before. I sat in the front passenger seat and it was not strange sitting on the 'wrong'(right) side because I was desensitised as I have done it before I think.
During the trip I went to most of the tourist hotspots. The malls, the buildings, the food places. I stayed in Forest Hills and not too far from a subway stop. The subway system is well done and easy to use. I used a 7 day unlimited ride pass (for a little under $30usd) which worked out very well. Once I entered the subway gates and exited at any point of the system, I had two hours to go onto a bus and get a free ride. Yes, I know I said I had unlimited rides, but you get an automatic transfer from the subway to bus also with a pay-per-ride fee. I definitely depended on the public transport system and with busses and trains passing every few minutes it was all a comfortable experience. The hardest part was one night having to wait in the freezing cold at the bus stop. Eventually the bus was taking too long so I got home in a taxi from right around the corner.
I took over 1100 pictures and I will include of them here. Yes many of the are repeats but I did take over 1100 pictures in 12 days! I could have taken alot more but sometimes it was too much to have the camera and shopping bags and try to look for a good shot and watch where I was going along crowded pavements or in the cold air with my right hand out of my glove to use the camera properly. The seams on my leather gloves made it hard to find the buttons and controls on my camera so I took my glove off.
Sometimes after walking outside and going into a store was funny because I could not speak properly because my face was numb and/or stiff from the cold. The only exposed skin was my full face and sometimes hands. The leather gloves did not work well as my fingers still felt very cold but putting my hands in my jacket pockets halped keep them warm. My ears got numb without my hood so I got used to wearing it outside. The hod does narrow my field of view so I had to get accustomed to turning my whole body to look at something instead of turning my head only. I usually had on either 4 or 5 layers of tops and 2 layers of long pants. One pair of socks was sufficient with my high top steel tip boots. Once I wore my low cut leather dress shoes for a 45 minute car ride and at the end my feet were very cold. The heat was on inside the car but it never really got warm enough to take my jacket off in the back seat of the car. I always went outside with a scarf on my neck and this helped me stay warm alot. I was always comfortable breathing inside or outside. My nose was runny most of the time and I am told that is normal for everybody. The first night I slept next to a radiator I woke up with a very dry throat and nose and the next night this was remedied by putting a bowl of water on the radiator. This reduced the efficiency of the heater but kept me happier. Sometimes when I went outside at night I saw halos or something similar around lights and I think that was from the cold air frosting my tears.
The first time I went into Times Square was a real thrill because it was at night (its got dark around 4.30pm) so I had the full blast of the shower of colours and noise and crowds there. There was free wifi (sponsored by Yahoo!, according to all the signs) that I was able to use with my smartphone. All the stores and food places around were always busy with people going to see what freebies they could get. The times I went back I was not in as much awe and amazement but it was still impressive. I had a meal with friends at The Olive Garden there one evening and it was not fantastic, just a good time. We eneded up paying $40usd each after having a meal and dessert.
The Toys R Us store at times square was impressive with a real ferris wheel in the middle of the store. The store had three levels. You walk in at street level and are on the middle level with toys and some people demoing toys, like a giant frisbee disk, or a RC helicopter. Downstairs was toys, electronics etc and the line for the ride. UPstairs was - more toys and some figures hanging from the ceiling. There was Superman stopping a trailer truck from hitting the ground and Spider-man was swinging along. Optimus was waiting for you to take a pic with him. The best part was a 15 foot (BIG) T-Rex dinosaur that moved its head and roared. Do I sound like I enjoyed it? :-) Then the lego display had the Empire state building and the Statue of liberty in bricked models.
The trip to Staton Island was nice. It uses a free from Manhattan to go to the Island. It is about a 30 minute ride one way. The ferry passes the front side of Liberty Island so you get a nice view of the Statue of Liberty. I went during daylight and came back after sunset. The view of the city lights from the island was amazing. The was a road on a hill in front the ferry terminal which gave a full view of the city from Staton Island. The stay on the island was only for about an hour but was enjoyable.
Grand Central Station was a little smaller than I was expecting, but it IS a large area. When I went there was a laser show on the ceiling. There lasers traced and made the drawings of the different horoscopes come alive and run around the ceiling while music was played. Definitely a show for the tourists because it could have made you miss your train if you were not careful. The show ran for a few minutes but I could not watch the whole thing as my neck started hurting looking up for so long... maybe that is what people complain about when they talk to me face to urm, face.
When snow fell early one morning it was a nice sight. An even layer of frost all over. Apparantly it is warmer when it snows though I was always comfortable outside. The coldest place I visited was the top of the Empire State building at night. The cheapest ticket to enter was a little under $25 usd which gets you to the the 'lower' viewing area on the 86th floor. The elevator ride up was pretty rapid, the numbers started going coonsecutively, then went up skipping numbers, pretty shocking if you were taking note. Your ears popped on the ride up too. After the elevator ride you get a photo taken in front of a green screen. The building is CGI'd (daz a word?) in behind after you come back down and you can purchase a print if you are happy with how it comes out. You can stay inside the center of the viewing floor which is enclosed and kept warm or go outside and get a better view and feel of the wind. It was roller coaster hurricane force winds I'm sure, it was hard to stay standing sometimes, and VERY cold. That was the worst my hands felt outside of the gloves. The view was spectacular with lights all around. I do not think it would have looked much different from the 102nd floor, I was quite satisfied with what I got. On the way out you are channeled through the gift shop which had the regular overpriced goods, most of which you could get outside for less.
At the American Museum of Natural History we were not there in time to get tickets for the IMAX show so we just went throught the museum. Tickets were about $20 usd. There were too many exhibits for one day (or evening in my case) so I chose what looked interesting. The dinosaurs were something else, my neck hurt watching some of them too. I would avdise anyone going here to reach early in the day, there is lots to see. It closed at either 7 or 8, I can't remember, although the site says earlier.
There was sometimes many of the same stores in a small area, like two Radio Shack stores across the road from each other. I suppose that is the typical thing in US and Canadian cities. One advantage is they may be closed different times so you have more convenience. In a 2 minute drive you may pass a few of the same stores, like groceries, or pharmacies, and they all have people loaded in them.
The trip to New Jersey was easy, about a half hour train ride west of Manhattan. My unlimited ride ticket was no use on the train ride to get there as I had to use another card where credit could be taked out. I used change for the bus also, I am not sure if the Metro cad would have worked. I spent one day there visiting one of the malls and a couple parks. It is more laid back, slower, not as busy from what I saw. I did not check what attractions there were to check out. I know the big Colgate Clock is one but I saw it close enough from Manhattan.
At Central Park you can take a horse ride in a carriage but I preferred to walk. The lakes had a thin layer of ice on the. There were ducks and squirrels running around. You can spend the day there relaxing and exploring the differnt scenes of statues and people. This was where I saw one man eating an ice cream treat from a vendor. Yes, it would not melt as fast, but can you really enjoy it if you are cold on the outside already?
Chinatown and Little are close to each other in Manhattan. In Chinatown all you need are a few $20 bills because most items cost - $20. If they say $25 walk around a bit, think about it, then start looking at the neighbours showcase and you will be offered a few dollars off. You can get the best brands here *wink *wink, but only in the rooms at the back of the stores, you get imitation everything for only ,yes - $20. There are vendors selling food and accesories for phones and clothes on the pavement also. I got my name painted on a banner with the skyline in the background from an artist on the sidewalk. I can't remember the price but it was probably about $15 usd and it had a hard paper border on the front and put in a plastic bag to keep it clean.
New York was definitely one of the besy trips I have had and I recommend it to everyone.