2-Oct-2015 : Had an early wake up call. We were still half asleep, but we were to leave by 6:00 am and if we missed the bus, we would be stuck in the hotel only :). We quickly got ready, had breakfast at room only and went down to the lobby for the tour bus to arrive. We were waiting there for long time and someone asked us did you guys had complimentary breakfast? Now we didn’t knew about that, so I went there and got few goodies for us :). Bus came in bit late but we were not complaining after having a nice breakfast. It was still raining and was quite chilly. We were in a part of the world at a time of the year when it’s neither warm or snowing, but had to do with this chilly rainy weather :(.
The bus was going to drop us to China Town like yesterday and as we had opted for self tour we were on our own from then on till the evening pick up time. After more than an a hour’s drive, reached there around 8:00 am. After showing up at tour’s office, they told us to be back there by 6:00 pm for the bus back to the hotel. We picked up some maps and subway routes fliers and immediately started our tour, I being the guide as I had been to NYC before :). We had decided to use subway and NYC cab a lot today to cover the places. Not only we wanted to experience these iconic modes of transport, but they also were the best thing to use to get around NYC.
We first found the near by subway station and got the tickets. I had used NYC subway before so had some idea about the different routes and how they operate. It can be bit overwhelming for someone new to this city, but for a Mumbai guy like me it was no big deal to figure it out quickly. There are different routes like A, B and C and once you figure which route covers which part of the city and in which direction you want to go i.e. up/down its simple. We traveled a lot by this mode of transport and by end of the day we were loving it. It was Ar’s 1st train ride and she enjoyed it a lot. In some instances we took wrong train or stopped after or before our station, but that’s what is called the journey 🙂
Now to give you some idea about this city, NYC is divided into 5 areas, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten island. Each area is divided into streets and avenues, where former runs east-west and later north-south and they are numbered. So say you have to go to 10th st, 5th ave, you have to just following the directions, so simple. Why can’t we have this everywhere :). Also where street and avenue meet its called intersection. On most of these intersections you have a subway station, majority of them being underground and some of them along with rail lines run multiple levels below ground. Off course many of them pass below the streets and while walking on them you will feel the vibrations of the trains passing literally below your feet 🙂 I wonder what are the experiences of people leaving in homes just above the subway lines:)
While at home, we had already booked few attractions, which included Statue of Liberty cruise and ours was scheduled at 12:30 pm. So we had to cover few attractions in the north of the city and head south to catch the cruise. Our first stop was going to be Central park. Central park is a huge park in the middle of NYC and it can be accessed through multiple entry points. So we got off the subway at a station we thought was the right one, but it turned out to be couple of stations too soon. As we were running against time, we just got out of the station and picked the yellow cab. The iconic yellow cab of NYC. Ar’s first. She still remembers the ride. It dropped us at the gate of the park and we walked around a bit, It was raining and very cold and so this place which is normally crowded was almost empty. We also wrapped it up quickly and decided to move to the next one, though we would have loved to spend more time there.
Next stop was National history museum. We wanted to show Ar the dinosaur displays they have. From Central park, we took a cab, which we had difficult time finding and consumed our valuable time. We already had booked the tickets online and had to pick the real tickets from the counter. We had less time and were on the run. We had to reach Battery park before 12:00 pm to be on time for 12:30 pm cruise. Museum opens at 10:00 am and we were among the first ones to arrive :). We directly went towards Dinosaur section. Ar didn’t like those big reptiles, maybe she is bit too young for them now. We had a look at few geo displays and were already over time. There’s so much to see and explore there, may be even a day might not be enough and so we were bit sad to have to move so early.
We hopped out of the museum and looking at the watch knew that we have to take the cab. We spent much time in finding one and to no avail. I spotted a subway station and we took the sub. We had to get to the Battery park station and were not sure which line to pick. I picked the line which I thought is the right one and after boarding it realized it does not go to batter park. So we got off it at a station where it takes the detour and rushed outside and took the cab. After much anxiety, we reached just in time. I still remember the cab guy telling us, you would make it in time, don’t worry😁.
It was still raining but was more of a drizzle. We boarded the ferry and were on the way to see the most iconic attraction in the US. I had been to Statue of Liberty ferry before (after lot of running and bit of luck, will tell that story some day), but that time we had only seen the statue from a distance and had not visited the island and also had not been on top of it. But finally we were here and we had booked the pedestal access as well (crown has been closed). The 15-20 minutes to the statue is just an amazing journey, not only you see great view of the harbor and the Statue itself, but you also realize that this was the first thing many immigrants saw when they reached the shores of US after long and turbulent travel in early days.
The view of SOL when you approach it is just amazing and Ar liked it much (she has been talking about going to SOL many times since then). Ferry docked at the island and we got off and went straight towards the pedestal. You have to keep all your belongings in the lockers before you enter. Now the lockers were so small and we had bag full of lot of stuff. Somehow we cramped all that into a locker. The locker is bit tricky and in the first instance we closed an empty one (The door is spring controlled and once you close, its locked and someone (not sure who ;), released the door just as we opened it ). In fact all the time we spent on the island I was bit tensed about the locker :). Once you enter the gate, you can either take a lift or go by staircase. Seeing a long line at the lift we decided to take the stairs, little did we know it would be 8 floors climb. Huffing, puffing we reached the pedestal of the statue and the view from there is worth all that. But now it was raining heavily and was very windy and cold out there. We hardly spent time there before we started our descent.
It was again a long way down and we went and picked out stuff from locker which was relief. We went to a restaurant nearby and had coffee. Then we decided to head back to mainland. But instead of going back to mainland directly we decided to go to Ellis island which was the original port of entry from where immigrants entered US and now houses an immigration museum. Its around 10-15 mins ride by ferry and the old world charm of the island is instantly welcoming.The museum had lot of old artifacts of that time in the building which used to house the customs. It has lots of old pictures along with information. If I would have had time, would have spent the whole day there, but we were short on time and so we wrapped the trip and took the ferry back to NYC. It was great being there exploring the history. We reached back by around 3:00 pm. It was raining heavily now and it was so windy that the umbrella was of little use, we were all wet and shivering. We were also very hungry now, but could not see any eating joint around. So decided to head to Times square and go to the Bombay restaurant 🙂 We waited for a long time for a cab, but due to rains all were full and couldn’t get hold of any. Just then I realized a subway station was just besides where we were standing :). So we took the sub and went straight to Times Square.
At Times Square, I got really confused and couldn’t find the restaurant, which doesn’t happen normally with me. While searching, had seen a pizza joint and in the end we just gave up and decided to go there after long and unfruitful search. We had the famous thin crust NYC pizza and in that weather it tasted even better. Ar as always loved pizza. We had spent lot of time finding restaurant as well as spent more time than we should have in this pizza joint. It was 5:00 pm and the tour bus pickup time from China Town was 6:00 pm We tried to find a cab all around but no luck Then decided to take a sub and went to station purchased the ticket only to realize that line does not go to China town. After much efforts and running around found the right station, but I was sure we would be late and to add to it the tour office was some walking distance from China town station. It was bit of a panicky situation. Luckily, just then found a cab, after getting in told him we had only 20 mins to reach the destination and he said we might just make it, that was relieving:). He was a friendly guy and dropped us right on time, arriving at the last minute!!
We rushed towards the office. Almost all other people had arrived and were waiting for the bus to come, which then turned to be more than 30 mins of wait :(. Finally they started boarding at around 6:30 pm. Then a sad thing happened. One of the guest (who were an Indian mom and daughter duo) had an asthma attack and she was motionless. Among the tour operators there was lot of back and forth about what to do, like to call emergency or they would board the bus. Finally she was able to walk and they decided to go to hotel with us. We reached the hotel by around 9:00 pm. We helped the auntie to her room which incidentally was just opposite ours. After a long day we just had some snacks and decided to call it a day. Tomorrow we were again going to explore NYC but with our guide. I had been feeling bit unwell (slight cough and cold) and went to bed immediately. Wake up call being the same, at 6:00 am :).