Friday, 3 December 2010

Journey's end lies over the Brooklyn Bridge - Day 5

We started our Monday in New York with a cheap but good breakfast at Austin’s Café again: another BLT and iced tea for the Yorkshireman and I had French toast with bacon and syrup and my new Manhattan drink of choice, a white chocolate mocha. Then it was off to the subway to make our way to High Street in Brooklyn for the start of our walk over the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge – the architecture of the Bridge itself is so interesting and the views were amazing, even though it was a little hazy that morning. After the requisite “look I’m on the Brooklyn Bridge!” photo and one of the Yorkshireman “holding up” the Empire State Building (yes, we are “those people”, sorry!), our Bridge walk was over all too soon and we found ourselves in downtown Manhattan.

The first stop on my list was Starbucks (sorry I’m an addict!) where I had a skinny white chocolate mocha (yes, another one) and a pumpkin and cream cheese muffin (so yummy) while the Yorkshireman had a scone (apparently less like our scones and more like a cupcake without frosting). Next, with the Yorkshireman itching to see all the photos he’d been taking on a bigger screen, we stopped into an electronics store to buy a memory card reader for like $3.99 + tax, which was a complete bargain.

Then suddenly we found ourselves walking past St Paul’s Chapel. Ever since it happened back in 2001, I’ve found myself tuning in to lots of the documentaries and movies made about what happened on 11th September. It’s a sort of sick fascination, partly because it’s interesting to see just how events unfolded throughout that day and also because you have to wonder just how zealous one would have to be to commit such an atrocity against fellow human beings.

While planning for our trip to New York, I’d read about St Paul’s Chapel and its moving tribute displays for the World Trade Center and so, feeling a bit like I was trespassing but still wanting to see what was there, we read the timeline outside (what happened when in relation to 11th September) and then went into the Chapel to look at the tribute displays. Having watched so many documentaries about what happened at the World Trade Center, I thought I had a good grasp on the horrific events of that day but somehow those displays of personal tributes really bring it home just how devastating it was on a human level.

I insisted on taking a few photos (I felt a bit insensitive but I figured the displays are there to be seen and shared so I don’t think it was wrong) and then we walked out into the Chapel’s churchyard. Straight ahead of us was the World Trade Center site itself. I knew it was very nearby but I hadn’t realised it was literally across the street, so the unexpectedness of seeing this massive construction site right in front of me, having just looked at all the tributes inside about the lives lost right there, made it all the more harrowing.

There were signs up around the construction site telling passersby to check out the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, so we thought we would go and visit since it was just across the street anyway. I thought the plans for the Memorial Site were very interesting - I especially like the idea of the memorial pools on the sites of the two towers – but it was so strange to be in what is effectively a shop selling souvenirs and memorabilia about a tragedy. I didn’t really like it and we left before too long.

Sad part of the day over, we decided to stretch our nerves even further and so off we went to Century 21 Department Store. It seemed like a bigger, slightly posher version of TK Maxx (or TJ Maxx as it is in the USA) and it was a little overwhelming, with stuff everywhere, but some of the stuff was admittedly very cute. Unfortunately I had hardly any spending money so the cute stuff remained unpurchased and we found our way gratefully back on to the street.

We wandered around looking for somewhere nice for lunch but the noodle bars and markets we passed weren’t really inspiring the Yorkshireman’s appetite, so we actually ended up in Subway of all places. I have to say, I think our Subway sandwiches are actually better than these ones were – I couldn’t even finish my Meatball Marinara and usually I’m a big fan of the balls o’ meat!

Mediocre lunch over, we decided to walk uptown along Broadway a little. We did a bit of window shopping en route but it was all a little expensive for us, especially in Soho, so we bought nothing. We were pretty tired from all the walking we’d done on our trip so far and our legs finally gave up at Prince Street, where we gratefully jumped on the subway up to 34th Street. When we got there, we had a quick look at Macy’s Christmas tree and their holiday windows and vowed to come back and take a few photos later in the week. I’ve always loved Miracle on 34th Street, so the big “Believe” sign and the “Believe-meter” underneath the tree made me feel like shouting “I believe in Santa Claus!” repeatedly. I didn’t though. Just thought I should clear that up.

Before we left Belfast, requests had been made from family and friends for specific types of American confectionery and, in the absence of a Walmart in Manhattan, our next stop was Kmart. We spent some time checking out their NY sports teams stuff (Yankees, Giants, Rangers, etc) and then it was down to the bottom floor to gawk at all their Christmas stuff and buy some of the aforementioned confectionery. I ended up buying a NY Rangers scarf and some Twinkies (which we’d never tried before – they taste horrifyingly unnatural but strangely nice) and we decided to come back for some more stuff another time.

It was quite late by then and we were exhausted so we decided to head back to our room to watch some late night TV and order dinner online again. We also took an urge for some wine and so wandered the streets trying to find a liquor store that was open. Eventually, after buying some lovely fruit salads in Whole Foods but still not finding any wine, we gave up and went back to the hotel to do a Google search. We quickly revealed that there was in fact one on the street behind us, where we had been looking in the couple of streets on the other side of our hotel - oops. We dragged our tired feet back out, obtained a couple of bottles of wine and were told by the cashier at the liquor store that they deliver (what an amazing idea!). Then we returned to our room to search online for dinner.

This time we originally tried to order from Grubhub but it wouldn’t accept a British postcode in the zipcode field and nothing else we tried worked, so we ended up back at SeamlessWeb and ordered from the Hollywood Diner. The portions we received were absolutely huge and you get a choice of soup or salad with your main meal, which made it even bigger! The Yorkshireman had chicken noodle soup and chicken pasta primavera, which he enjoyed so much that he retrospectively “deducted a point” from the pasta primavera he’d had the night before. I had a chilli burger that was delicious (and which I dropped on the crisp white bedding – oops!) and I’d also ordered a slice of strawberry shortcake for us to share for dessert, since I’d never had it before. Turns out I had had it before, since it’s basically strawberry gateaux, but it was yummy anyway. The wine was also delicious.

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