After few weeks of planning and numerous calls to USA I managed to get a perfect gift for Veronika’s birthday. Luckily whole USA nation celebrates her birthday, so I didn’t have to worry about fireworks.
Our day started with a ride on a speed boat, again to the Lady Liberty. Seeing it for so many times almost lost some charm to it but the boat ride was fun nonetheless. The boat was fast, there were waves so in the end we were as wet as we would go swimming.
After franticly trying to dry up in half of hour (luckily weather was very hot) we had our main attraction ready – helicopter ride around Manhattan. After quick briefing we were equipped life jackets and escorted to the helipad. Veronika was seated in the front and I was at the left doors. We soon took off. It was a strange feeling flying in a helicopter, it felt like being on some kind of a rollercoaster, very loud a bit bumpy and very light.
Our first destination was nothing else but the Statue of Liberty. Despite seeing it so many times already I can say that from the air it was the best experience. We flew right over it and hovered around a bit before continuing up the Huston river up town. We were flying quite low, there were probably some buildings higher than us at some points but the views were amazing.
This truly had been one of the best experiences we had in NY albeit quite expensive.
In the evening we prepared, just as about 3M other people, to go see the fireworks from the Brooklyn bridge. It was only 9PM when the fireworks were supposed to happen, it’s weird, because in Slovenia I think we always have them at midnight, but it’s good for the children I think. The weather got quite bad toward the evening and there were some thunderstorms right at 9PM. Luckily they quickly went by and we could enjoy about 30 minutes of fireworks.
Third day started with a shopping in a giant electronic shop B&M where I bought 128GB SD card for my camera for less than half the price of the card in Slovenia. The store has an interesting concept. There are counters everywhere and you tell a guy what you want, he hen fetches the product and puts it on a conveyor belt that runs all over the store (multiple floors). You then proceed to play what you ordered and the items are already waiting for you.
After the store we went to visit a museum on the aircraft carrier from Second World War – Intrepid museum. It’s hard to imagine how huge the thing is, when you see it on TV or in a picture. Even the planes that seem so small are gigantic once you step beside them.
We visited the captain’s bridge, overlooking land stripe, and despite the huge ship the interior is small and crowded. It’s hard to imagine how it was being in here during the war.
The museum not only has an aircraft carrier but a submarine also and it was possible to go visit it. If the ship felt tight and cramped the submarine was nothing but claustrophobic. More often than not you had to be crouched and had to watch for your head, legs basically everything.
After the museum we took a boat around the Manhattan. We stopped at the Statue of Liberty again, this time really close and then continued under the Brooklyn Bridge up the river. Again it was interesting to see the city from the river and the guide had an interesting and funny way of convening information about the city. It felt like a movie.
Toward the evening we visited Top of the Rock – one of the landmarks in Manhattan, quite tall skyscraper with famous Christmas tree (during December) in front of it. New York is such an iconic site, almost every part of it was in at least one movie, Top of the Rock was in Home Alone 2.
After not so quick ride with an elevator we were at the top, it was crowded with tourists but with some help of the elbows we managed to fight our way to the edge of the terrace. The views were breath-taking. You could see whole Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey. Since we came in the evening the sky took nice shade of red.
Thanks to the time difference we woke up early and rested. We had a day full of sightseeing ahead of us.
Again we started the day with one of the free tours. This time we started at the Wall street stock exchange, 5 minutes from our hotel. Despite being early in the morning it was already packed with tourists. There is a statue of George Washington (I think) overlooking NYSE which is decorated with a gigantic american flag. (They really love their flags, I think I saw more flags while being in USA than in my whole life before).
After the Wall street we went by the WTC memorial and embarked on the new metro station they build in place of the old one. The metro is dark, dirty and very hot. I wonder if I’m ever going to see a better metro than the one in Hong Kong.
We came from the underground near the Chinatown. When approaching the district you begin to notice more and more Asians walking around. As we walked into a district you are greeted by old buildings no more than 5 floors high as opposed to 30+ just a block away.
Again we were surprised by the amount of people on the street. Just after the Chinatown there is district called Little Italy. The architecture is the same as in Chinatown small buildings out of brick and on the sides you can notice old rusted fire escape stairs. There were a lot of Italian restaurants on the street serving pasta and similar.
The tour ended after about 4 hours of walking. After it Veronika and I walked back through the south harbor. On the way back we decided to grab something to eat from one of the food truck that seem to be at every corner. After reality check on the prices we each took a piece of pizza (which is quite poor with ingredients compared to Slovenia) for about 5$.
In the southern docks you can take a free ferry to the Staten island that goes by the statue of Liberty. On the way there we saw, well at lest a bit of silhouette, a certain bull.
After the ferry we still had some time left and decided to go far up to the Central Park. We found a random electronic store there were I bought 2 TB external hard drive for 1/4 of the price in Slovenia. Electronic really are cheap there. We took a quick look at the central park and went toward Time Square. If I though there were a lot of people in the city before, I was speechless at time square. Place was so packed with people you could barely move, and not only that there were actually some drivers who though it was good idea to drive through it.
City streets are perpendicular to each other throughout the city. It just so happened that the time we were there each sunset aligned exactly in the middle of the streets.
Last year just after new’s years I was working hard on an article that was submitted to the IJCAI conference. The hard work paid off and the article was accepted, this meant only one thing: I was going to New York, USA. Moreover I was able to bring Veronika with me.
Early morning on July 1st we departed Ljubljana to catch a plane in Vienna. From Vienna we flew to Zürich, Switzerland where we had a short 2h layover. From Zürich we had a direct flight to New York, USA. The flight took about 8 hours and I have never felt sicker during the flight, luckily we landed just in time for me to get together. The customs were a breeze, nothing like what you would expect from TV, and we were in USA for the first time.
We landed at JFK airport and took train to the financial district in the heart of Manhattan. It was surreal watching endless american suburbs with the city rising from behind.
Because of the time difference we arrived to our hotel in the afternoon. We were super lucky and got very large room with kitchen in 16th floor just 1 block from WTC.
We took a quick nap and then went to a tour around WTC and Brooklyn bridge. The tour was organised by free tours. Its a great concept, a local guide, usually a student, tours you around part of the city at the end you pay him a tip, there is no extra charge. They operate all over the world, we also went on some in Valencia and Stockholm.
As soon as we got out it started to rain. Luckily it didn’t last for long and we were able to start our tour. We first visited the WTC memorial. The site is really large. It’s hard to believe there were two enormous buildings there just few years ago, but all that is left now are two giant holes.
After we continued past Trinity church toward City Hall. It’s funny how these old buildings look small and out of place compared to the modern skyscrapers around them.
The Brooklin bridge is just beside the City Hall and connects Brooklin with Manhattan. It was build in late 19th century and is almost 2km long. It is one of the most famous New York’s landmarks, despite being late and raining it was full of tourists.
After the tour it was already dark and late so Veronika and I walked toward our hotel. It was surreal walking through the streets, it felt like being in some of the old criminal movies.