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Michael’s Travel Diary

Monday, 18 Dec 2006

Location: New York City, USA

MapHey guys...

Well, this will basically be only for last Thursday and Friday morning, as that is when I left New York. I will update the start of the Chicago adventure (which has been just as, if not more, intoxicating as the rest of the trip to date!) in the next day or so.

So, Thursday morning we woke up early, well everything is relative, and were out the door of the hostel by 8am. We headed straight to the southern part of the island to get down to Wall Street. It's 120 blocks south, and the train ride took the best part of an hour due to a signal fault somewhere - and here I was thinking signal fault was a purely London term for train delay.

We actually got off the train at the World Train Centre station and walked a block around Ground Zero. It hasn't changed its appearance much since 2003 when I was there, and still looks essentially like a construction site. There are descriptions of the plans to build new towers and designs around the place, as well as plenty of photographs and the like, but it appears as though the mourning is slowly changing from a daily process to a mourning that occurs primarily on the anniversary. There were also much fewer tourists walking the boundary of the site than there were in 2003. However, I couldn't help but remember the gut wrenching feeling that I had in 2003 on the two year anniversary when the children of people who lost their lives were reading out the names of the victims - that is a memory, and a feeling, that will stay with me for life.

From there we wandered around lower Manhattan, past St James’s and Trinity Church and found ourselves on Wall Street. The security there was slightly for relaxed than it was in '03, but the entrance to the Stock Exchange was still fenced off, and had armed security guarding it. The chance of getting a vehicle within a block of the building was almost non-existent too with road blocks and bollards everywhere.

The front of the building is actually a pretty cool site with a bunch of roman style columns above the door ways. Last time I was there a MASSIVE American flag that hung over the columns. This time, there was no flag, instead the place was covered in Christmas lights. It actually took a couple of minute to realise though that the lights were actually set out in the pattern of the USA flag and I am sure it would have looked cool at night. After that we headed (via my somewhat sketchy memory) to the Wall Street Bull, and after a couple wrong turns, I led us to the statue. A massive bronze bull, whom by rubbing it's nuts you are supposed to experience good fortune in wealth! There were a few American tourist chicks that were really hoping for good fortune given how hard they were rubbing...

Next we high tailed it from there to the South Ferry terminal and caught a train all the way up to 161st street in the Bronx to go to Yankee Stadium. That train ride took maybe an hour, and we just made the tour. The stadium tour was really quite good, with a tour of the press gallery, which have fine seats, the locker room with all of the Yankee's uniforms and stuff, the Yankee's dugout, with heated seats and air conditioning, and the field itself. I got to walk on the field at Yankee Stadium... way too cool. Then, after walking around the warning track, we ducked behind the outfield fence and got to wander around the memorial park that has been set up to honour the greatest Yankee players and officials, as well as special events that have taken place at the stadium - like two papal visits. The tour only cost $14 and was really quite informative with info on the origins of the stadium, then Yankee name, logos and uniform, not to mention history and club records.

From there we headed straight back south to Midtown (so, yes, our day has been a yo-yo up and down Manhattan) to try and get to the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. The museum is housed on an aircraft carrier, and at the moment they have a Concord in the collection. Unfortunately, rocking up at the front gate we found that the museum looked shut, and asking security guard there, we found that it was shut till 2008 for refurb. Oh well, next time I guess. After a spot of souvenir hunting, we headed back to the hostel.

A quick relax, and we headed out for our last night in NYC, and given that we had to be up early for flights the next morning, we stayed close to the hostel. We found a dive bar a few blocks away and started drinking pitchers of beer there (after all getting carded) and talking crap. It wasn't long before the bar chick was buying us Kamikaze shots to share with her. A couple shots, and plenty of beer and we headed home to get some sleep before the flights.

Ash and Rich were flying out of La Guardia and left early in the morning, and I left a couple hours later, flying out of Newark. The trip the airport was good in the sense that I got to drive through the middle of Times Square, but the guy driving the shuttle was a maniac and hit the brakes like a NY Subway train - way too hard, too late. Once at the airport, it was a painful 25 minute wait on the tarmac before we got off the ground. I just kept thinking Richie was there for an hour so I shouldn't feel so unlucky - what his text failed to tell me was that he'd been bumped to 1st class... prick!

Anyway, finally got off the ground, and a couple hours later, I'm on the ground in Chicago. Big hugs for Mum and Dad when I met them at the airport and then the Chicago adventure started... more on that next time!