Thursday, 2 December 2010

JFK Airport and Times Square

Times Square New York
We had landed in JFK Airport.  After a long flight we got in a queue, then in another queue, then in another queue... and we hadn't even left the grounds of the airport by this point. Luckily we did eventually make it into the core of the Big Apple to start our adventures and celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary. Our first outing that night was a brief trek around Times Square.

Leading on from our flight we finally made it out of a very long line in the immigration control at JFK International Airport then got our bags from a luggage reclaim conveyor belt that had long since either been turned off or that had just given up. I wouldn't blame it given the sheer weight and quantity of bags that were waiting on it. Like shopping in the supermarket we found our bags and with our bags in hand it was then another queue to hand over the customs declaration form before we were let loose into the wild. First stop was an ATM and a shop to get some refreshments and some change for tipping and what not, then we headed out into the car park.

As we made it outside, the sun was starting to set. We looked over and found the taxi rank and got in another queue, this time for a yellow cab. It had taken a fair bit of time, I believe the best part of two hours since we landed, but we were finally moving, well, that was until we got stuck in traffic. We sat in the back of the cab holding hands, excited to be on our travels and looking out of the window taking in unfamiliar sights and sounds. Due to TV and movies it was all quite familiar yet being there in person, all so new. The roads were like being in Sim City and we hadn't even reached Manhattan yet, we were still on the roads in Brooklyn. The first difference I wasn't expecting was the size of the vehicles some folks were driving with only them in it. I'd forgotten that in the US the vehicles tend to be a little bit bigger than their European equivalents. I don't really get the logic (especially in a huge city like New York) but that's the way it was, big cars and even bigger small trucks pretending to be big trucks with huge wheel bases and hardly any storage space on top, crazy. My pondering about how eco-friendly such transport may be was cut short when I started to wonder how likely we were to die when the cabby started using his cell phone whilst driving. Sure, now it made sense, it is probably best to be in a big car if the driver has a death-wish! It reminded me of Crazy Taxi a little except for the speed of the traffic, somehow the car in the game bounced off trucks but I doubted ours would, at least not with us still being conscious.

With the sight of the Manhattan skyline out of our windows by this point we could have been hit by Alien Spacecraft and we'd probably still not have noticed as my eyes at least were transfixed on what has to be up there as one of the prettiest man-made sights on Earth. Before long though the view was obscured and apart from taking in the view of that post-twilight New York skyline that had drifted away, we were both slightly intrigued by the sat nav type map with touch screen that we could play with in the back to see how far away we were.

We eventually made it into the heart of New York and it became increasingly hard to be able to see the tops of the buildings out of the taxi's windows. Our driver was adamant on making the most of the left turn through red lights thing even if it meant a battle of wills with any late comers crossing the road at the end of a flashing red. The pedestrians and cyclists seemed unconcerned even when oncoming moving vehicles were just a matter of meters away. It made for a quick introduction to a system we very soon got used to but it was quite a sight for the first time.

Before long we made it to our hotel in one piece and tipped the driver anyway for we were there and not yet acclimatised enough to criticise - for all we knew this was as good as taxi drivers get this side of the pond and the rules for the holiday were:

1. Don't get arrested
- Subsection A: Don't get sued
2. Don't get killed

Our hotel was great, they checked us in without any problems, our hotel room was brilliant and we were soon heading into the known-unknown. We walked the several streets up to Times Square and took in the sights of Seventh Avenue. We had a look in Madison Square Gardens on the way to make sure we knew where we were going to pick up the tickets we'd booked for New York Rangers V Boston Bruins for the next week. It was quite busy as there was a game on. The street was bustling and it reminded me of walking through London or Belfast on a Saturday close to Christmas. A bit mad but the buzz of being in the big city with the buildings towering over us all was quite exhilarating. As we got closer to Times Square we couldn't help but stare at the bright lights of the numerous jumbotrons and advertising looming over the crossroads filled with people.

Times Square New York

It was all quite a sight but we were already getting a little annoyed by the whole having to force your way through a crowd thing by the time we'd had a look around and taken some photos. We knew we'd need to be back to head to the Tkts booth for show tickets so we headed on back to the hotel via a Chinese restaurant. In the restaurant we picked up some take away to take back to our room. Tired from a long day of travelling we ate what turns out to real food in comparison to the 100% processed or cooked to death food you'd get out of similar food outlets in the UK, read our fortunes from our fortune cookies and headed to bed.

Tkts Times Square New York

As far as Times Sqaure goes though, we made it back those couple of times out of reason and bought our show tickets. We also ended up passing through the area a few other times too but in the end it became a place we didn't look forward to passing through as it was just too busy to be able to get anywhere. That is except oddly on the Tuesday afternoon and not to forget the quietest time of all that we passed through which was just after midnight in the pouring rain going into the morning of a Wednesday... even though it was pretty quiet then there were still people with cameras and video cameras taking their pictures and getting soaked! This shot was further down the Avenue a little earlier on the Tuesday:

Near Times Square in the rain

I'd say it is worth a visit once for the lights and to take in the atmosphere if you sit down on one of the tables and chairs; we managed this on our first night and it was nicer to be watching the busy rather than being a part of it.

Tkts was good value as always but the rest of the shopping around Times Square did seem a little expensive compared to other areas and shops. Oddly, not going to the place is seemingly harder than it sounds if you're heading to anything around the area.

Times Square New York We maybe caught the airport at a busy time and we certainly saw a busy Times Square but in hindsight being thrown into the deep end of the busy nature of a busy city was probably the best way to acclimatise. We were ready for day 1 proper and with our little taster I couldn't wait!

Here is Norngirls take on our first day.

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