Over the next couple of months we didn’t take any big trips, we just explored locally, going here and there around New York City, seeing what was on offer close to home. We actually arrived back from Mexico on the 4th of July, a very big holiday here in the USA, which celebrates its independence from the British Empire. Lots of parties get thrown, lots of drinks get drunk and lots of fireworks get lit! Since being here we’ve noticed that Americans do holidays in a BIG way. Whether it be July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other, they go all out! There are events, festivals, parties, full calendars, and all the shops seem to go under complete refits with everything on their shelves themed toward the relevant holiday. Personally, I love this, I think it can really break up monotonous day to day life by providing something to celebrate and look forward to. I was more than happy to join in any and all celebrations while we were over here!
We’d heard that the department store “Macy’s” put on a huge firework celebration each year, on several barges out on the east river and so we planned to go and watch this. Apparently so did everyone else in New York judging by the crowds of people out in the street making their way in that direction. This didn’t really bother us because it added to the excitement by confirming that what we were doing was well worth it. As we got closer to the Brooklyn waterfront, just under the Brooklyn Bridge, the pace started to slow as people were bottle necked to an entrance guarded by the NYDP who were checking bags etc. Once we’d squeezed through we tried making our way closer to the edge of the riverbank but kept getting ushered further south by Police due to the sheer number of people. Finally we found a spot we thought would offer a good view as we could see one of the barges pretty well. We’d arrived an hour early because we’d anticipated the crowds, and so we sat down on the floor along with everyone else who had done the same. Almost as soon as we sat down and began chatting with some people next to us it started to drizzle slightly. 2 minutes later it was raining a lot harder and people began abandoning their chosen viewing spots in search of some shelter. With there no longer being a threat of losing our ‘good position’ we too moved off to stand under a nearby overpass. Luckily by the time the fireworks actually started the rain had all but finished and so we’d all returned to the river’s edge to watch the show. The fireworks were spectacular and went on for an impressive amount of time. We were definitely glad we’d gone to watch them. We did however find out later that Macy’s had used 5 barges in total, and had all but one of them lined up in close formation firing explosions into the air in close proximity of each other which provided a truly spectacular performance. Then there was the one lonely barge all by itself, separated by the rest and much further down the river. Guess which we were at………..yup. Despite this, it was still definitely worth seeing.
A few weeks later my parents visited us for a few days on their way from New Zealand to the UK. It was great to see them again and be able to show them around our new City. Taking them around New York actually made us realize how much we’ve learnt since being here. Even simple things that we now take for granted such as the subway. When we first came to New York the subway was something we’d had to tackle and figure out. We had no idea what a “local” train was or how to figure out which train we needed to catch to get from A to B. With an abundance of lines (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,A,B,C,D,E,F,G,J,L,M,N,Q,R,S,Z) we were initially overwhelmed. But taking my parents all over the city on the subway pointed out how comfortable and familiar we’d become with it and how we could work out which line we needed to catch to get anywhere off the top of our heads. It was nice showing them around because I think that experiences are so much better when they get to be shared with people. It’s nice to be able to reminisce on fond moments or places WITH someone, as to me it somehow makes it more real. Being able to say “hey, do you remember when…” and then both staring off into the distance with glazed expressions, is somehow so much better. Anyway, they’d heard us tell them about places so we showed them around all the little food spots and locations we liked to visit putting “faces to the names”. They were more interested in seeing our favorite spots than they were in seeing all the typical touristy things as it gave them a glimpse of what ‘real life’ in New York was as opposed to your average NYC holiday experience. Sadly, in what seemed like no time at all however, they were back on the plane and on to their next location.
In August I came across a free photography tour in Soho provided by the Apple store only 2 blocks down from where I work. The whole point of the tour was to teach people how to best use their iPhones for photography. They offer you various lenses to clip onto your camera (wide angle, zoom, fisheye etc), and then take you on a walking tour around the neighborhood, pointing out apartments of celebrities, movie shooting locations, decent photograph opportunities etc. It was pretty interesting and something different to do on a Saturday afternoon that costed absolutely nothing.
A few weeks later, on a nice sunny Sunday, Tammy and I decided to go out for a walk around the West Village. We stopped at a little cafe for some brunch before continuing on. We’d been watching old episodes of the tv show Friends recently and thought it would be cool to see where they supposedly lived. We tracked down their building (Monica and Chandler’s) online and went to snap a few pictures. The show often showed this building between scenes before moving on to shots within the apartment (actually filmed in a movie studio). Although it was just the outside of a building and not the “real” apartment, it was still fun to do. Strangely enough, a couple of weeks later we were in Macy’s on the lower level when we came across a display of the actual orange couch they used to sit on in the coffee shop (Central Perk) in most episodes. This was also pretty cool to see.
The Soho neighborhood has lots of “pop-up” stores where I guess companies rent the stores for short periods of time in order to gain exposure to lots of people without signing longterm leases. One of these popups was a Magnum Ice Cream store where we got to design our very own. We selected what flavor ice cream we wanted, then what type of chocolate coating/shell we wanted (chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate). Our ice cream (on a stick) was then dunked into this and decorated with a selection of edible items of our choosing. There was only a short window to decorate the shell as the coating froze/dried pretty quickly after being removed from tub of liquid chocolate. This ‘set’ all the decorations in place. For my masterpiece I used vanilla ice cream, a milk chocolate shell, and decorated it with cookie crumbs, mint chocolate chips and gold flakes. Tammy chose vanilla ice cream, a white chocolate shell, and decorated it with marshmallow pieces, sugar rose petals, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. The store had various little ‘booths’ to place your creations in and take photos of them. Each booth was different providing various themes for the shots. It was sad to destroy what we’d just stood there creating, but it was also delicious and so this feeling quickly passed.
In early September we went and watched the movie “Hotel Budapest” on a rooftop in Brooklyn. It was a pretty cool setup with a big projector screen set up in front of rows and rows of comfy beach chairs. Everyone was given a pair of headphones which were tuned in specifically to the movie. You can buy some popcorn and drinks there or you can order your own food and have it delivered there. It’s run by The Rooftop Cinema Club and they show a number of movies over spring and summer in several locations. It was a unique experience, sitting on a roof watching a movie with a fantastic view of the New York skyline in the background. What made this even more special was the date. It was a few days out from September the 11th and in memory of those who lost their lives in the attack on the twin towers, there is a “tribute in light”; 88 searchlights are arranged next to the World Trade Center creating two vertical square columns of light that extend 4 miles into the sky! This looks amazing from any angle and can be seen from up to 60 miles away on a clear night.
I was walking home from work one day in September when I stumbled across a street in Little Italy full of vendors selling a variety of delicious looking (and smelling) food. I looked into this and discovered that it was called the ‘Feast of San Gennaro’ which celebrates Saint Januarius, the Patron Saint of Naples and continues for just under 2 weeks. That weekend we headed into the city to have look and a little taste of some treats. The streets were jam packed and it was a slow process to move along but we managed to have a good look around and try some nice food. We ate some sort of meat kebab which was juicy and delicious, as well as an Italian sausage roll with peppers and onions, before moving on to New York cream mini donuts and Oreo flavored zeppoles. Most of the stalls long the street offered similar sort of options with not a lot of variety, but it was nice to see so many Italian Americans proudly cooking and sharing their favorite foods with anyone who fancied a taste.
I’d seen a few adverts here and there for Oktoberfest and being in New York I figured they would go all out as usual, so one Saturday we got tickets and headed over to the pier it was being held at. I suppose I expected a crowd of people and servers with pigtails wearing those authentic German ‘beer outfits’. Instead it was rather small with a few benches arranged at the end of the pier where people could sit down, one food stall to buy pretzels and sausages, and one table to buy some beer. After the initial surprise at how small it was and how few people were there, we actually had quite an enjoyable afternoon. We sat there in the sun, enjoyed a little food and I bought myself a souvenir 1 liter stein (which I filled with some beer then and there).
A final highlight was the day we decided to go to the Bronx Zoo. We’d been to the zoo in Central Park when we first arrived and we’d really enjoyed it, especially considering its small size, but we’d also heard that the Bronx Zoo was pretty special. So midway through October Tam and I caught the train up to the Bronx to see what we thought. We got there bright and early as soon as the zoo opened their gates because we reeeeally wanted to ride the camels and figuring everyone else would to, we tried to be first in line. We were very happy to end up being third in line to ride the camels, but felt a little odd being the only ones over the age of 8 years old doing so! After a very quick lap of a very small enclosure, which only emphasized the age of its target audience, we happily disembarked the humps of our camels and moved on to the next attraction. The Bronx Zoo is actually spectacular. It has a lot of animals (good for a zoo, right?!) and even a pretty cool monorail that runs around one side of the park, through various enclosures offering close views of the animals. You sit facing out of the side of the car and each bench is elevated behind the one in front so everyone can have a good view. There’s also a shuttle that runs around the park helping you get to various attractions and saving you time in getting there. If I had to pick a favorite animal at that zoo I’d actually have to say the camels. I can’t remember ever seeing camels at any of the zoos I’ve been to so that was a first for me, and not only that but I got to ride one which was amazing! They’re a lot bigger than I imagined!
So there are some more highlights in effort to get this blog up to date, almost there now. Just a few more entries!