DM's New York 2016 Diary

Day 1 - Sydney to New York

Saturday, 11 June, 2016

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08:23. Los Angeles

We are sitting on a Qantas Boeing 747, waiting to take off for JFK Airport in New York. We left Sydney a bit after 10:00, also on Saturday, flying out on an Airbus A380. I thought we'd be on the same plane all the way to New York, as we had one boarding pass for the whole flight with the same seat number on both legs. But when we negotiated the maze of LAX, clearing customs and immigration to emerge on the groundside of the airport before re-entering through security to find our gate, we found ourselves boarding the 747 we'd seen next to us our incoming flight pulled into the terminal.

My view for the next 20 hours.
On board the Airbus A380.

We got up at 06:00 this morning, showering and having a quick breakfast before calling a taxi for the airport. The sun was rising over Sydney as we drove, painting the CBD a beautiful orange and marking the start of another lovely winter day.

At the airport, we were amazed by how much the terminal had changed since we'd last been there in February. Much of it was unfamiliar with the ongoing redevelopment work. M. got a coffee and an almond croissant for a snack before we boarded, and split the croissant with me. Our flight out was delayed a bit because the pilot had been caught in traffic getting to the airport!

The flight across the Pacific was smooth and uneventful. The lunch meal was a choice of three dishes, of which I had the pulled pork and coleslaw, which was really mostly a salad with a bit of pork on top, but it was decent. There was also a kingfish dish, or a pepper steak pie with potatoes and mashed peas. Then there was a spicy chicken toasted panini for a snack later on, and choice of bacon and eggs or fruit platter for breakfast before landing. The food was not bad, definitely an improvement over days of yore.

Written next day

Our flight to JFK was eventless, except for a dramatic approach to the airport involving a tightly banked turn low over rooftops that brought us into the runway almost immediately after levelling out. Leaving JFK for our hotel was somewhat eventful too.

We raced out past all the people collecting baggage and tried to locate a place where we could get a shuttle bus to our hotel. I spotted a sign that said "airport shuttle buses", followed by instructions to take the free AirTrain to Federal Circle station. So we did that, hopping on the train that runs around the various terminal buildings until it heads out away from the airport to a depot area where all the car hire places are, as well as a shuttle bus terminus. We approached the waiting buses and asked a worker there about getting one to a hotel in Manhattan. He said that the buses were free shuttles that only went to airport hotels. To get one going to Manhattan we had to return to the airport terminals!

So we retraced our steps, catching the next train back to the first terminal we stopped at. There we found a desk where a lady booked a shuttle bus for us, saying it would cost $43.50 and to pay the driver, and to take a seat and wait for our number to be called. We sat for a minute and then I noticed the estimated departure time printed on our ticket was 18:15. The current time was barely past 17:30. I went back and asked the lady if that was correct and she said yes, it would be a 40 minute wait! She said if we wanted to go sooner we should get a taxi. So we went outside and grabbed a yellow taxi straight away, and the driver said it was a fixed fare from JFK to Manhattan of $52, barely any more, really. And it turned out that we reached our hotel just a minute or two after 18:15, about the time our shuttle would have been picking us up at the airport!

We checked into The Hotel at Times Square, getting a room on the second floor, where much of the hallway was in the middle of being retiled, so we had to walk around some newly laid floor tiles. The room is pleasant enough, but clearly the building is quite old. After dropping our bags, we went out for a walk over to Times Square, which is just a block and a bit away.

Times Square day
Times Square in daylight.

It was crowded with people, though not quite so badly that it was difficult to move around. We took some photos, heading up the steps on the roof of the TKTS building (that sells cheap theatre tickets) to get a good view of the square. It is amazing, a huge space surrounded by giant colourful and bright billboard video screens. Among the tourists were local workers in various costumes offering to pose for photos in return for tips. A slightly belligerent Elvis impersonator took umbrage when I accidentally got him in the corner of a shot, claiming I was trying to sneak a photo of him without paying, but we waved him off.

Crab cake burger
Crab cake burger at Emmet O'Lunney's.

We walked north a bit in search of some place to eat dinner, but got distracted by the giant M&Ms World shop, which we looked around for a bit. Then across Broadway was a souvenir shop that M. checked out. Eventually, on 50th Street I looked left and spotted an Irish pub called Emmett O'Lunney's. Checking the menu in the window showed a veggie burger, which M. decided to try, so we went in and got a table right at the window facing the street. I got a Magners cider and a crab cake burger, which came with a spicy seafood dressing that really went well with both the burger and the chips that came with it. There was a choice of chips or coleslaw, but we both chose the chips. M.'s burger had a thick veggie patty and a whole giant grilled mushroom on it.

Character parade
Times Square after dark.

After eating we walked back through Times Square to check out the Levi's store, New York Yankees store, and the Hard Rock Cafe. We saw more costumed people, wearing costumes ranging from Elsa and Olaf from Frozen, through Chewbacca and Batman, to a couple of women wearing nothing but a g-string and some body paint. Then we walked back east along 43rd Street, intending to turn north at Sixth Avenue to go back to our hotel.

Evening in Bryant Park
Bryant Park, and the Empire State Building.

But at Sixth Avenue, we spotted Bryant Park a block to the south and M. was curious to see what was there, so we walked that way. On the first corner of the park was a Wafels & Dinges stall, which tempted M. into getting a mini waffle with Nutella on it as a dessert. She said it was really good, with the waffle thick and soft and chewy. I didn't get anything, even though it all looked delicious, as I was full from my burger and finishing some of hers too. We walked around the park, seeing that the grassed area in the centre was full of people sitting on the grass, having picnic dinners or just relaxing. A bank of floodlights mounted high up a building across Sixth Avenue was illuminating the entire park.

Reflection of the Empire State Building
Empire State Building, reflected in another building.

After completing a circuit, we walked back up to our hotel. There we finally showered off the stickiness of the flights and the horrible hot and humid evening. The weather outside really was a nasty combination of hot and humid, even as late as 10pm. I had a cold shower and enjoyed it a lot. Then we went to sleep.


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