New York, Part 1

I was in New York last week for my first holiday in a while. I was staying at the Belvedere Hotel which is a couple minutes walk from Times Square, so nicely central. The hotel room was nice, although the complimentary wifi was a bit frustrating as you had to log in every time you came back to your room, and the signal was a little weak at times.

The Manhattan skyline is pretty nice from the plane. This is a shot as we approached the airport for landing:

20130816_001106By the time we got back to the hotel and were checked in it was getting dark so we had a little look around Times Square.

Times Square

It’s like Piccadilly Circus but bigger and better. Massive billboards, loads of flashing lights, and it’s *always* busy. Here in the UK we use our car horns conservatively. Around Times Square that’s all you can here, non stop, but you get used to it after a while

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The weather was great, mid 20’s mostly.

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Times SquareI did a Vine whilst I was having a walk around too:

I did a Vine whilst I was having a walk around too:

One evening I walked from Downtown Manhattan back to my hotel, which was about 5 miles. There was plenty to see so it wasn’t too much of a bother

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I liked the massive billboards they have out there though. Americans don’t do half measures that’s for sure! Go large!

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Harlem

I did a couple of bus tours, the first of which took us through Midtown Manhattan and out to Harlem. Every bus tour guide has their own style of doing things. This first one insisted on singing every 5-10mins cabaret style, much to the annoyance of one guy who told him he didn’t want any singing. This really pissed the guide off and he actually shouted at the guy and told him he could get off at the next stop if he wanted! He even went as far as stopping the bus, and for a moment it seemed we weren’t going anywhere until one of them calmed down. Eventually, after having a cigarette the guide got back on the bus and got on with the show, singing as usual, much to the pleasure of some of the other passengers!

It was great being in Harlem, seeing all those streets named after people i’ve read about, seen movies about, etc. Here’s Malcolm X Boulevard. I’ve read By Any Means Necessary, and i’ve read his autobiography a couple of times as well as watched the biopic by Spike Lee. So it was nice to be in and around the area he once was. 20130816_140918

I also spotted the Hotel Theresa, where Malcolm X set up office after he left the Nation of Islam. He also met up with Muhammad Ali there a few times:

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Hotel Theresa

Here’s Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard. I read up about Frederick Douglass many years ago. He used to be a slave but escaped and became an abolitionist. Well worth reading up on if you don’t know your black history!

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I stopped off for lunch at a spot called Sylvia’s which is meant to be well-known for it’s ‘soul food’. You could tell by the number of customers it had and all the old pictures on the walls that it had been around for some time. I had fried chicken and waffles. To be honest it didn’t really do it for me and there were probably much better meals on the menu I could have gone for.

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I walked past the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Many musicians, comedians, and actors performed here including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor.

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It took me a couple days to get my head round the whole avenues and blocks system, and up to now I still don’t know what a boulevard is! Once you get used to the system though it’s pretty easy to get around. I think the US is better than the UK for their street layouts.

Brooklyn

The tour guide for this tour really stuck out in my mind. I was looking forward to this tour as I knew Brooklyn it had a lot of history and was the home of Christopher Wallace (aka Notorious B.I.G). He mentioned Brooklyn a lot in his songs.

The tour guide started us off by laying down his credentials, and laying down the law. He had been a New York cabbie for about 35 years and had been doing bus tours for about 12. Ok so he knows his stuff. He then told us that whilst he was talking nobody else should talk, that we shouldn’t use our mobiles except to take pictures, and I think he said if we had questions we should raise our hand. Can you believe this guy!? Don’t get me wrong, he really knew his stuff; he was telling us about the history of numerous streets and buildings, but he was *really* arrogant and abrasive. He even had the nerve to ask for tips, not once but about two or three times!

When the tour was over and we were all getting off the bus one guy got off and told him what he thought!

Brooklyn was pretty cool though. We got there via the Manhattan Bridge:

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Going via bus tour meant that I got great views of the housing ‘projects’ on the way there and back.

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The tour guide explained that the reason we were heading into Brooklyn on the Manhattan Bridge is so that we’d be able to take pics of the Brooklyn Bridge:

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We drove past the Barclays Center, which the guide pointed out Barclays had kindly sponsored even though Barclays don’t operate banks in the US. A lot of major sports and music events take place there. I think Lionel Richie was due to perform there around the time I was out there.

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The Manhattan Bridge again at sunset

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If you do happen to be in Brooklyn, check out Grimaldi’s. I didn’t get a chance to whilst I was there, but apparently their pizzas are a held in high regard!

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