Trip to New York City - July 2004

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A short summary
Gard and Nikki on top of Empire State BuildingThis trip report will focus on the trip that my wife Nikki and I took to New York in the period from July 5th - 11th 2004. We spent the days in NYC sightseeing on Manhattan but as it is a big city and I guess we only scratched the surface on what the city has to offer during our 6 day visit. But I hope that this trip report and the links that we have included can be of some use to other first time visitors to New York City. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. Feel free to check out this interactive Google map of New York City that I have made. I have put on markers that shows attractions that we went to.


Note: Nikki and I went to NYC again in November/December 2007. Please click here for the new NYC travelogue.


We have been talking about visiting New York City for many years now and we finally got a chance to see it when we took a family trip to the USA. We decided to first go to my sister in Ohio and spend a few days there. After this we would go to NYC and then go home to Norway from there.


Chrysler Building seen from the top of Empire State BuildingLike most others we felt that we knew the city a bit even if we hadn’t been there before. After all, the city is portrayed in so many movies and TV series, it sort of feels like you are going back to a place you have been to before. When I was young I remember seeing TV shows about how kids grew up in NYC and it felt very distant from my own upbringing. I also remember seeing movies like “The Warriors” and of course I wondered if this gave a true impression of the city. Well, as I have gotten older I have of course come to learn and understand that there are a lot more to NYC than the negative things the press often focus on. We started planning our trip by buying a DK Eyewitness guide for the city from Amazon but there is also an amazing amount of stuff to be found on the web. The problem is of course trying to find which information that can be of use to you. It is possible to buy books which focus on certain stuff, e.g. if you just want to visit locations used in movies. So it should be possible to find all the information suitable for your needs.


Finding a hotel in New York
Hotel Thirty Thirty seen from 30th StreetNew York is obviously a huge city so hotels come in all price categories (but mainly in the upper ones :-) and are spread all over the city. So we had to decide which price class to go for and which area to stay in. We looked into quite a lot of different hotels and guesthouses but in the end we booked a room at Hotel Thirty Thirty. This hotel might not be the most exciting hotel but when we travel to big city destinations we don’t look for hotels that have a lot of different amenities. We just look for a hotel with a good location (near the city center or near transportation), with a clean and private bath and it is also quite nice if there is a TV in the room. Here is a review of Hotel Thirty Thirty based on our experience.


Before the trip we had searched the net and called travel agencies here in the area and the cheapest tickets that we could find for our trip (round trip from Stavanger to Columbus (Ohio) with a stop in NYC) was with KLM and Continental and we had to pay 7400 kroner per ticket (about 1050 US dollars with an exchange rate of 1$=7 kr).


The trip begins
Our plane from Amsterdam to NewarkWe started our trip early in the morning on Friday the 25th of June. After the short KLM flight from Stavanger to Amsterdam we had a few hours before our next flight to Newark. Due to this my brother Jone and I decided to go into Amsterdam to look around. Maybe it was not the best idea because my trusted Canon Powershot S30 was stolen without me even noticing it when we walked through the crowds at the flower market. This camera had been with me on trips to Thailand, Kilimanjaro, The Maldives, Venice etc and was a great camera.


We flew Continental from Amsterdam to Newark Liberty Airport and this is the first time I have used them. It is always hard to rate an airline based on just one flight (after all the experience varies with the crew, mood of the crew etc) but I was not very impressed with Continental. When we checked out their website it said that they had little TV screens in each seat and you could even play games on these screens. But when we came onboard the plane this didn’t work. And when I asked one of the flight attendants about this she looked like she was really fed up with getting just that question. She mumbled that she would try and reset the system for the rows that we were in to see if she could get it to work but it never did. One of the flight attendants also got into a big loud argument with a passenger that was complaining about the delay in take off. I guess passengers can be quite a challenge from time to time and I guess the flight attendant had a bad day because she got into a loud argument with the passenger saying that she would have the police waiting for him in Newark if he didn’t stop. I think that the flight lasted for about 7 hours and we got two meals during this time. When we got the last snack they also started handing out the forms for US immigrations and customs. But this was done rather late so before we had more or less finished filling out the forms we were told that we had to fold our tables etc. Why couldn’t these forms have been handed out in the middle of the flight?


We did reach Columbus, Ohio in the end and after visiting my sister in the period from June 26th to July 5th Nikki and I moved on to New York City.


Arriving in New York City
On the morning of July 5th we checked in at Port Columbus airport and got ready to take the Continental Express flight from Columbus to Newark. Due to safety rules you have to leave your luggage unlocked now in case they need to inspect it.


Taking the airtrain at Newark airportThe flight to Newark only took 1 ½ hours and soon we had all our luggage with us and ready to go into the city. It seems like there are various ways to get to the city. We went for the cheaper alternative and took the Airlink. This is a service from Amtrak and I think the ticket costs about 11$ per person for a one way ticket. To catch the train to NYC we took the airtrain at Newark Airport. The airtrain is the little train the links the terminals and train station together. We had already picked up train tickets from a machine in one of the terminals but I don’t think we would have known about this unless we had read about this in the guidebook. The tickets we bought were to Penn Station….the only problem is that there is one Penn Station in Newark and one Penn Station in New York. We managed to get tickets to the wrong Penn Station of course but it was not a big problem. But I can’t imagine that we are the first that have made this mistake.


There were many yellow cabs in New York CityI guess the air con on the train was out of order because it felt like we were in a sauna. And the train isn’t really made for travellers with big suitcases so we had to stand with our bags on the trip to Penn Station. The trip doesn’t take that long…I would guess it takes about 30 minutes. All of sudden we were standing on the street outside Penn Station and Madison Square Garden and the first impression was I guess just like we had expected it to be: lots of yellow cabs, skyscrapers, big billboards etc. We got in the taxi line and we got a cab pretty fast. The ride over to Hotel Thirty Thirty only took five minutes and cost us about 5 dollars including tip. Please check out this page for a review of the hotel itself.


Getting around in the city - Subway
Get out your MetroCard to get into the trainsAfter we had unpacked some of our stuff we were ready to start taking a look at the city. It was kinda strange to come out on the streets of New York. It was a bit eerie to be honest because the streets were more or less empty (or at least a lot less crowded than we thought it would be) and we could see steam coming up from a holes in the street. It was just like taken out of a movie :-) Well, I guess the streets were empty due to the fact that it was a public holiday for many. The first thing we did was to go down to the subway station on 28th street and Park Avenue to buy a subway pass. For 21 $ we got a one week unlimited travel pass (called MetroCard) that we used quite a lot during our stay in the city. In fact, Manhattan was not as big as we thought it would be. One of the many subway stations we visited :-)So during our stay there we walked a lot and used the subway over longer distances. There are a lot of yellow cabs but we never used these apart from getting to and from Penn Station. The subway was quite easy to use…we have previous training from cities like Paris and London :-). The only problem was that some trains are local trains and some are express trains and the last category doesn’t stop at all the stations. But once we figured that out we didn’t have any problems. It was just a matter of swiping the MetroCard at the entry gates and then get on the right train. So when you just figure out the concept of Uptown and Downtown you should be fine :-) The trains have air-con by the way but they stations can be pretty hot.


The subway is only a part of the transportation network covered by Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). You will find a pretty good subway map on their homepage . If you don’t by a MetroCard I think that the fare is about 2 $.


We took the 6 train quite a lot :-)The subway felt like a pretty safe transportation method even late in the evening. We saw quite a lot of MTA personnel on the subway trains and there was quite a lot of police around. From time to time we met people who were trying to make a living by performing (dancing, singing, playing an instrument) in the subway system. One night we met this guy who played a fiddle while he was singing…it was such a sad song. And the even sadder fact was that no one was really paying attention to his song. We saw all kinds of people on the subway…a homeless guy that were stinking so bad that no one wanted to sit around the guy, the young generation, people in suites going back from work etc. Some of the subway stations are quite small. And unlike Paris where you get down to the Metro station and then you deal with the question of which direction you are going, you have to make a decision if you are going uptown or downtown already on street level. On our first day we went down in one subway station and we were looking for a way to get to the other sides of the tracks. In the end we had to ask and the lady told us that we had to go back out of the station, cross the street and enter the subway there. I guess we should have thought about that :-) Granted it would have been easier to distinguish up from downtown if there were routing maps at the platform entrance – like in London.


A typical entrance to the subwayWith many of the streets of Manhattan being logically numbered and split into west side and east side, it was also quite easy to walk around in NYC. We did use the map in our guidebook because it also had indication on where the subway stations could be found. And I guess that if you do get totally lost, just get in a yellow cab :-) NYC may consider having larger subway signs – like the the big UNDERGROUND signs in London. And maybe also have electronically updated schedules on the platform – as a new comer to the city it’s kinda reassuring to know when the next train will be arriving.


Sightseeing in New York City


Empire State building - the aging beauty
New York's famous landmarkOne of the things that we wanted to do in NYC was to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a famous landmark and I don’t think that it needs further introduction. We went up there on the first day and we found it by “accident”. We walked around just checking out the neighbourhood around the hotel and we went into a Walgreen's to buy some water. Gard in the lobby of Empire State BuildingWell, I stuck my head out one of the side entrances to the store and I found myself in the lobby of Empire State Building. I think it is amazing to think about the fact that this building was built over 70 years ago! The lobby oozes tradition and history and it looks like they have kept it well. Once I had seen the lobby we decided to go to the observatory deck on the 86th floor. There used to be another observatory deck on the 102nd floor but this was closed of because of the increase in the number of visitors. We had to wait a few minutes to get tickets. If you buy the tickets separately they cost 12$ for adults. We went for the New York CityPass but I’ll get back to that later on. If you buy the combo of the observatory deck and New York Skyride I think that it will cost you about 22$.


Tha mast of Empire State BuildingWe followed the queue and had a bit of a wait to get into the elevators and on the 80th floor. On the 80th floor you change elevators to get to the 86th floor and they used the opportunity to take pictures of everyone hoping that someone would buy the pictures later on and you could also rent an audio guide there. I was just thrilled to see the views that were starting to appear from the windows on the 80th floor. As mentioned the building seems to have been well kept at least seen from outside and in the lobby.Lower Manhattan seen from Empire State Building On the 80th floor it is possible to see that this is an aging beauty. Finally we were at the top of the building and could get out on the observatory deck. There were quite a few people up there so it was not always easy to get to see the view. But the view was great even if it was a bit hazy that afternoon. From the various sides we had view to lower Manhattan, the rivers surrounding the island, the bridges, other famous buildings like the Chrysler building, Central Park etc. It was a great experience indeed :-)


View towards Central ParkAfter we had been on the top for a while we made our way down to ground level to take the New York Skyride since this was apart of the New York CityPass that we bought. The Skyride is simulated flight around New York City and the whole thing was narrated by Kevin Bacon. I don’t really think that it was worth the money and if you have been to larger amusement parks I’m sure that you have tried out better simulators. Well, you can get more details and info on the Skyride homepage.


We bought the New York CityPass because it included many of the attractions that we wanted to visit. When you buy the card you can get access to American Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises and of course the Empire State building. We paid 48$ per person for the CityPass.


Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum - all hands on deck for a Top Gun feeling
In front of USS IntrepidIt is always fascinating to see movies where there are planes, subs, aircraft carriers etc. Well, in New York City you can get to see everything up close more or less at the same time at the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. One morning we took the subway to Times Square and from there we just walked down towards Hudson River and we soon found the old aircraft carrier USS Intrepid. We got the tickets to enter the museum (by using the New York CityPass) and we also got boarding passes to the Concorde which has been docked up at the museum (it is on a barge). The museum itself is made up of the Intrepid, the submarine USS Growler and the Concorde.


The large collection of planes on the flight deckWe started on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier where we found lots and lots of planes including F-14 Tomcat, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Harrier and the amazing Blackbird. The amazing blackbirdMost of the planes and helicopters can be found on the flight deck but some are also displayed in the hangar inside the ship. In the hangar there are also displays about space, the technology behind an aircraft carrier, some simulators and some hands on exhibits. It is also possible to check out the bridge of the Intrepid (although Nikki was pretty peeved when she was told to keep her hands off all the buttons :-) and the mess deck…conveniently turned into a McDonald’s restaurant.


The Concorde seen from belowWe also lined up for a bit to get inside the Concorde. The Concorde is located on a barge and they let on board small groups at the time. We came in a door in the back and walked through the plane and out the front door. The seats in the plane were protected from curious visitors with plexi glass which runs all the length of the plane from where we entered to where we went out. One of the engines were also taken out of the plane and displayed under the aircraft itself. Walking though the plane was not really a big happening for me. On the other hand it would have been an amazing experience to have been on a Concorde when they where operative and in the air.


USS GrowlerThe last thing we visited was the USS Growler. After waiting for 20-30 minutes we got to see the inside of what they claim is the only intact strategic nuclear missile sub open people in the world. We were taken through the sub by a guide that told us a little bit about the different rooms. It is always fascinating to walk through submarines and see how much stuff they can squeeze into them. It must have been pretty challenging to serve onboard a tiny ship like this for weeks and weeks at sea.


The museum was fun at least if you are into history, planes etc. Check out their website on It is pretty good and has lots of information. The general admission to the museum is 14.5 $ but once again we used the New York CityPass that we bought at the Empire State building.


Times Square - Play that funky music white boy
Times Square in the day timeWe walked over to this famous intersection already the first night. It doesn’t take much to understand when you are there…large billboards where lights are flashing, people every where etc. The place is also on TV and movies quite a lot and every year they show pictures from the New Year celebration here. The Naked Cowboy of Times SquareWell, all of a sudden it was Nikki and me that were there and it was mesmerizing to see all the flashing adds blinking everywhere. There are lots of activities here both day and night. One landmark that I hadn’t heard about before is the Naked Cowboy (check out This guy is dressed up in his underwear (so he is not as naked as it may sound *grin*), cowboy hat and cowboy boots…and his guitar of course. He plays and poses for/with people and people tip him by sticking dollar bills in his boots. One lady that took us on a tour in the Times Square area said that he can make about 1000 dollars a day on this…and she added “Only in New York…and only on Times Square”. From what I could hear he should spend some money on guitar lessons *grin* But it is certainly a fun idea and people were lining up to get the pictures take with him.


Nikki at Times Square at nightBe sure to visit the Times Square Information Center as they can provide you with access to mail (maybe only Yahoo mail), information on where and how to get cheaper tickets to Broadway shows and free walking tours. If you want to get cheaper tickets to show you should also check out the Tkts booth on Times Square ( Apparently you can show up here and get tickets for the evening shows to a reduced price…but remember to bring cash :-). We didn’t go to see any shows so I can’t really give much info about the subject. But we did go to the movies a couple of times in the Times Square area. We tried out both AMC25 and Loews Cineplex and they were both excellent movie theaters with great sound. The movie tickets cost about 10$ per person by the way.


We went for one free walking tour arranged by the Times Square Alliance. The tour lasted about 2 hours and the lady that took us around also did other tours that she informed us about during the walk. In this walk we were taken around in the Times Square area and we got information on how the theatre district has developed to what it is today, how Longacre Square has turned into Times Square, how the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin fits into the Times Square area etc. It was a pretty good tour but maybe a bit long (it lasted a bit more than 2 hours). It was at least clear to see that our guide enjoyed what she was doing and she was knowledgeable.


Guggenheim - let me see those hands
The Guggenheim seen from the outsideI’m not that much into art but the Guggenheim museum is pretty famous so we decided to visit it. I guess the building itself is as well known as the museum itself. We took the subway to 86th street if I’m not mistaken and we just walked over towards Central Park and Fifth Avenue. Soon the characteristic white rings appeared in front of us and it is such a cool building. And the interior of the buildingOf course there were some construction work going on (as usual in big cities) but that didn’t destroy the “experience”. The museum was a lot smaller than I had imagined it to be and it contained a lot more pictures than expected. Maybe it was because there was a special exhibition called “Speaking with hands”. We only spent about an hour in the museum. According to their web site the admission is about 15$ but we used the New York CityPass to get in. We were not allowed to take pictures above the first floor…one English guy tried to pull the old “I thought the first floor was the ground floor” and the guards didn’t seem to happy with that :-)


Central Park - A break from reality
A break from realityI once heard that there is more park area per person in New York City compared to e.g. Paris. It is hard to believe when you walk around the skyscrapers of Manhattan but easy to understand when you come to Central Park. We just took a walk in Central Park on our way from the Guggenheim museum to the Natural historic museum. You know it is a big park when it even has its own homepage *grin*. So if you want to find anything, look it up on :-) . We walked through the park at about noon and there were lots of people in and around the park. Follow the park rules!People were biking, jogging, using roller skates or just relaxing. We met dog-walkers (I’m not sure that is the political correct term), people playing softball etc. I’m sure that it would have been one of my favorite places if I had been living in New York. One thing that I find a bit amusing is of course all the signs and rules and regulation there is when it comes to the use of the parks. Like the path around the reservoir in Central Park…it seemed like it was only for jogging and it even seemed like they wanted everyone to go in the same direction. What happened to freedom of choice? :-) And do you really need a sign with a big list where one of the items is “Park rules prohibit littering”. Shouldn’t it be obvious to all that you shouldn’t litter? Central Park was lovely and it was such a contrast to be in the calm Great lawn compared to in the streets outside the park.


Washington ParkWe also stopped by some other parks on our walks around NYC. Union Square Park, Washington Park, Columbus Park etc. In all the places the kids were playing and people were relaxing in the sun or cooling down in the fountains. If I’m not mistaken, Columbus Park sits on the place where Leonard DiCaprio fights in “Gangs of New York”. According to the guidebook this park used to be the home of the Five Points slum in the early 1800s. It is hard to imagine that it was once like that when we walked past the park and saw kids playing.


American museum of Natural history - past meets future
The Hayden Planetarium - Rose Center for Earth and SpaceWe walked through Central Park and got to the American museum of Natural history. The building façade is huge and impressive and it is easy to see that this is a building with tradition and history. The lobby is also impressive with two big dinosaur skeletons right in the middle. We already had tickets for the museum through the New York CityPass but we had to pay extra to get into the Hayden Planetarium. I think that we had to pay 12$ per person for that.


This will show you how big a blue whale really is!We started out optimistic strolling slowly through the section of Asian mammals and hall of Asian people. I think we soon realized that this museum was HUGE :-). So we had to increase the pace a little bit if we were to cover it all in a day. Let me tell you that you need to plan your visit if you go there because it is more or less impossible to cover everything in a short period of time. I think you could spend a full day in the museum just looking at minerals for instant.The Tyrannosaurus Rex I guess :-) Check out their homepage and check out the floor plan and try to make up your mind of what you want to see. The Rose Center for Earth and Space was nice and it was interesting the way the scales of the universe was explained, the planetarium was also nice but the show was so short…not sure it was worth the extra 12 dollars we paid for it. But I think it was great that they had students in Rose Center that had some hands on experiments where they tried to explain different stuff to kids (and adults for that matter :-). The blue whale in the hall of ocean life was also an amazing sight. It is incredible to think that there are animals that big on our planet. The dinosaur section is of course also an interesting section :-). It is always great fun to look at the big eyes of children when they see the teeth on a skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.


Lots of different creatures to be seen at the museumWe walked around there for a few hours and in the end we had to get some new energy. Don’t worry..there are several places where you can eat and drink in the museum. We went to the food court and there was lots of stuff to choose from there. I think that our conclusion is that this is one of the best and extensive museums that we have been to. The problem is that it gets a bit much and you are in danger of exhausting yourself if you try to cover everything. Get a floor plan and plan your visit and be prepared by the fact that you might have to skip some of the sections of the place.

Brooklyn Bridge - walk all over it
Gard with a view to Brooklyn BridgeThis was also on the top of my list of “to do” things when we came to New York. Yes, I know it is kinda sad to go around half the world only to be fascinated by walking across a bridge :-) But hey, I’m an engineer and I get impressed by huge buildings and structures :-). I wonder if John Roebling (the designer of the bridge) had any idea how famous this bridge would become as the years has gone by. I’m just amazed that it was possible to build something like this back then. The bridge was opened as early as  1883!


Nikki on the elevated pathwayWe went there one afternoon and it looked like it was going to rain for sure. But as we were walking on the pathway the dark clouds blew away and we could walk across with the sun shining from a blue sky. It wasn’t hard to find the way to the bridge by the way. We took the subway to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and from there it was easy to find the access to the pathway. The bridge seems to be popular both amongst the tourist and the locals. Lots of people were biking, jogging and walking over the bridge. I kept staring up on the towers and Nikki had to keep reminding me to keep out of the bike lane :-). We only walked half way over and that gave us a great view of East River, buildings on lower Manhattan etc.


The elevated walkway on Brooklyn BridgeAfter we had walked on the bridge we walked back and over to the South Street Seaport area. This area has been turned in to quite a nice place and apart from the incredible stench of fish *grin* the area also offers a nice combinations of museums, shopping, restaurants etc. We stopped at Pier 17 to take a look at the bridge from there and we also stopped at Häagen-Dazs to grab some ice cream :-)


Staten Island ferry - the free ride
The Staten Island ferry seen from the Staten Island ferry :-)We decided to check out the Staten Island ferry one morning since we heard it was free and that it offers a pretty good view of Manhattan. We took one morning and we took the subway to Bowling Green and we walked the rest of the way. The ferry service operates between Whitehall street in Manhattan and St. George on Staten Island. There she is...the statue of libertyThe ferry terminal on the Manhattan side was a bit of a mess as they are expending it or maybe building a new. Well, it felt like we were waiting at a construction site before we could get on the boat. We grab a seat on the left side…excuse me…the port side of course :-) This didn’t give us that much of a view so when we came over to Staten Island we switched sides. Well, first everyone had to get of and then we could board again. Come to think of it we were also sitting on the port side when going towards Manhattan again :-) Anyway, this time we were facing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and the view was great. I think the trip took about 30 minutes each way.


Grey Line tours - a bus tour with linguistic problems
Empire State Building...getting closerWe like to take bus tours of different cities that we go to. We normally make this one of our first activities so that we can get to know the city a little bit. But this time we took the tour after we had stayed in the city a few days. We walked over to the Empire State Building to catch this bus tour and we went for the downtown loop with a company called Gray Line tours. The tickets cost us 37$ per person and you can hop on and of as the bus goes around the downtown area. We got a seat on the top floor of the double decker bus after a few minutes and we were ready to get some in depth information about New York. But we were a bit disappointed. Buses used by Grey Line tours in NYCThe first guide that we had didn’t speak English that well and we had trouble understanding what she said. On other buses it was hard to hear the guide at all. I was hoping to get something back for the 37$ but the guides did not give us that much information that we hadn’t already read in our guidebook. Well, the bus tour that we took went to places like Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, past Wall Street and the Financial District, Battery Park, South Street Seaport, Times Square etc. If you are going to take it, take it when you first come to NYC. Make sure to get on a bus that has seats on the top floor so that you can enjoy the view while you travel…remember to put some sunscreen on so that you don’t get fried in the sun…and hold on to your hats…the branches along the route can get pretty close :-)


UN building - peace in our time?
The UN buildingWe walked over to the UN building one afternoon and I think that we got there at about 5 pm. When we wanted to get in we were told that it was closed…so much of the “city that never sleeps” *grin*. We returned the following day and after the mandatory security check we got into the lobby of the UN building and we bought a guided tour for 10$ each. Our guide was from Italy but she spoke perfect English and she took us through the different rooms: the Security Council, the general assembly hall etc. The Security Council room...furnished by Norway :-)Our guide was knowledgeable and she told us a lot about the work of the UN and their operation around the world. We also got lots of general information…did you e.g. know that the interior in the Security Council is a gift from Norway? One of the strongest impressions comes from seeing artefacts taken from Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Due to the nuclear blast over these cities there were examples of cups and glasses that were melted due to the extreme heat. Let us hope that something like that doesn’t happen again.


Non violence monument at the UN buildingThe UN is an international area and they even have their own postal service. So if you go into the post office you can buy UN stamps but remember that you have to send the postcards from the UN building. We did get to take a look at the general assembly hall but we didn’t get to take any pictures. This was due to the shooting of a new film by the name of “The Interpreter” which stars Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. We were hoping to see some of the stars of course but we never ran into them :-)


Wall Street and Ground Zero
The bull of Wall StreetAfter we had taken the Staten Island ferry we walked over to Battery Park to see if we could take a trip out to Ellis Island. But we decided that we were fed up with lining up so we skipped this and walked through Castle Clinton and through Battery Park to get to rest of the downtown area to check that out. On the way we passed a monument that used to be located at the World Trade Center. After the attacks on September 11th this monument was reassembled and placed here and it is a strong reminder of the incident.The rebuilding continues... The downtown are is not that big because all of a sudden we saw the bronze statue of a bull (which is supposed to symbolize Wall Street) near the old Custom house. We did of course walk down Wall Street and took a look at the New York Stock Exchange but it wasn’t easy to get a closer look. The place looked pretty fortified with cops in full combat equipment. According to our guidebook it should be possible to get guided tours at the NYSE but it sure didn’t look like it when we were there. We also walked over to the so called Ground Zero where the Word Trade Center used to be.A decorated fence in Greenwich Village Right now it is just a gaping hole in the ground so there is not really much to see there. There is a lot of activity in the area because the buildings around the site are being refurbished and I guess they are preparing the site for the building of a new tower and to make a proper memorial. But there were some posters on the fence around the area which gave information about the WTC complex. There were many things that reminded us about the incident on September 11th. For instance we walked by a fence in Greenwich Village that had lots and lots of little drawings clearly inspired by the events.


Buildings of New York
The amazing main hall of Grand Central StationThere are of course many great buildings around New York that you see a lot on film and TV and I just want to mention a couple of them. The first is Grand Central Station. We walked past this on our way from Times Square to the UN building and we had to stop by of course :-) It is squeezed in between skyscrapers but when you get inside it you can see how beautiful it really is. The clock in the main hallAccording to some information inside the building it was refurbished in the end of the 90’s and they did a great job. It looks brand new but you can see that this is made with class in the old days. When you enter from 42nd Street you get into a large room which doesn’t really serve as much apart from being a “passing through” room. The main concourse has a high vaulted ceiling with beautiful decorations. Beneath this hall we found the “food court” and access to the different tracks. It is really amazing how much money they put into decorations of buildings in the old days. The Grand Central Station is certainly quite a contrast compared to the MetLife building near by :-)


The flatiron buildingOn our way to the UN building, we also walked by New York Public Library. It was last seen as a refugee camp in “The day after tomorrow) :-). We only stopped to look at the façade of the building and it is impressive. Another building with a striking uniqueness is of course the Flatiron building on Fifth Avenue. This building was the tallest in the world when it was completed in 1902 and even if it is old it stands out due to the strange shape and due to the amazing decorations on the building. On our walks around NYC we also stopped by Rockefeller Plaza. I guess this is most famous for the Christmas tree and the ice skating rink in the winter time. In the summer time there is a outside restaurant where the ice rink is normally located at the place is used as a venue for concerts and stuff.


A walk in the Village
The Gay StreetWe didn’t spend that much time in SoHo and Greenwich Village. We did take a little walk in the Sheridan Square area and it was strange to come out of the subway here because it is quite different from the financial district. The buildings were lower and it looked like it was primarily an area were people were living….I guess we understood that when we walked past a place were a couple had a loud argument about their relationship :-) We walked through Gay Street by the way. I guess this is a sign that Greenwich Village is home to a part of the gay community in NYC. After passing 75 ½ Bedford Street (which is supposed to be the narrowest home in NY) we eventually ended up in Washington Square. On our way we walked past many nice restaurant and we returned there a couple of nights to fins places to eat.


A walk in China townWe didn’t spend that much time in Chinatown and Little Italy either but we had to walk through the area of course. We started out by Columbus Park and we walked through parts of Mulberry Street. It was strange to come from the financial district with all the tall buildings to all of a sudden come into Chinatown. Here you’ll find lots of restaurants and shops and all the signs were in Chinese of course. It was also quite easy to see when we reached Little Italy. Many things (like parking meters etc) were painted in the colors of the Italian flag and there were of course lots of Italian restaurants. It is pretty cool to live in a city where you can “travel” through two countries just by walking for a few minutes.


Saint Patrick's cathedralA big city journey is not complete without a visit to a church :-) Well, we didn’t really have any intention of looking for a church but one day when we were walking around we came across Saint Patrick’s cathedral. It looks out of place located on Fifth Avenue next to skyscrapers and shops. It sure does stand out when you walk past it because it is huge. It is supposed to be the largest Catholic church in the USA and we took a closer look inside. The bronze doors of Saint Patrick's cathedralWhen we got inside we ran into the usual problem…how do you browse around a church without interfering with the people that are there to worship? Well, it was possible for tourists to walk around in more or less the entire church and it was a nice looking church. I do find it a bit strange to find the American flag inside the church but that’s just me I guess. Our “problem” is that we have been to some pretty magnificent churches during our travels…like the Duomo in Milan and it is of course hard to surpass place like that. But Saint Patrick’s is nice and it has some very impressive bronze doors and a huge organ.


Eating and drinking in NYC - Super size me?
A Burger King joint in NYC
In the States and in NYC you can get…eh…I guess what we know as junk food on every street corner. We don’t really eat that often at places like McDonalds and Burger King here at home and we don’t even have stuff like KFC and Wendy’s. So I think that it is great to pig out on junk food when I’m traveling. And even if we did eat a lot at these places I hadn’t gained much weight when I got back home *phew*. We do try to not get too carried away and we order small portions (even if a small portion in the US is a large Norwegian portion :-). There seems to be more awareness about the…eh…junk food problem now because it is possible to get low carb meals in most places now and it seems like there is also a focus on salads to replace burgers and French fries. And you can also read up about nutrition facts in many of the fast food joints…I wonder how many people that actually reads these fact sheets. The toilet conditions were often bad in these joints. Many times there was only one rest room even if it was a pretty big restaurant and in others we went to there were no locks on the doors...well, when I think about it the fast food joints here at home don't really have great toilets either :-)


If I were to select a winner in the junk food category I would have to go for Burger King (the Whopper is great). KFC is also one of my favorites and I guess it is because we don’t have it here at home so I only eat it 2-3 times a year.


Gnocchi dish at Il BagattoBut we didn’t only eat junk food of course. We tried a couple of restaurants while we were there. On my birthday we went to Il Bagatto on 192 East 2nd in East Village. This is an Italian place which was recommended by our guidebook and by forums on the net. When we first got there we were not sure if we had found the right place. Veal dish at Il BagattoIt was a pretty dark place with lots of little lights strapped to the ceilings of the rooms. It was so dark that I had to use the candle on the table to read the menu :-) We went for both an appetizers and a main course by the way and it was a bit much because we got really full. I had a gnocchi starter with gorgonzola sauce and that was dish full of taste and it was great while Nikki had a bruschetta that was OK. The main course was veal with shavings of parmesan and spinach for me while Nikki went for the sea food tomato based penne. Both these main courses were OK but it is nothing that I will remember for a long time. The tiramisu that we shared for dessert was pretty good. I think we had to pay about 120$ and that included tipping and a bottle of wine.


Striphouse entranceWe also wanted to try out a steak house and we went to a place called Strip house located on 13 E. 12th St. in Greenwich Village. When we first walked in there they didn’t think that they had any tables available but they managed to squeeze us in. This place was a bit then we thought it would be but we decided to try it anyway. In fact it was so classy that we decided to not get out the camera and start taking pictures of everything like we normally do :-) The service was great in this place. Before the meal we got some great fresh bread on the table and we even got a small cocktail. I had a sirloin which was OK while Nikki had a lamb rack which was sooo tender and good. You can order different side dishes to go with the main meals but they cost extra of course. For dessert we had two cups of cappuccino (they tasted great) together with a piece of chocolate cake which was a little piece of art. Well, I’m not sure I can say “little” because we got a HUGE piece that we were going to share and we only managed to eat half of it. It was a pretty good meal and it cost us 170$. But you know you are in a classy place when a bottle of water cost 10$ :-)


We also wanted to try out a place called Otto Enoteca Pizzeria located on 1 Fifth Avenue. But when we got there it was crowded and we had to wait for 1 hour to get a table since we didn’t have a reservation and we were starving…so we ended up at Domino’s Pizza instead. But Otto might be worth checking out. The reviews have been good both when it comes to the pizza and the gelato dessert :-) If you want a cheaper meal you can go to an Applebee’s restaurant. I guess it is something in between a fast food joint and a…eh..proper restaurant. We went to one near Times Square before we went to a movie and the food tasted good, it came pretty fast and the meal cost us about 75 dollars.


Inside Suzi's kitchenWe had breakfast a various places around the hotel. We went to a place called Pax a few times. They served different sandwiches, eggs, salads etc and was a pretty good place. We also went to a place called Suzi’s kitchen a few times. They had lots of different stuff on the menu and we had to try the bagel of course. The bagel was good but I got so much cream cheese on it and it was just amazing. But most places we had to pay 10-15$ for a small breakfast for both of us.


The hunt continues
Testing the caffe moccha at Dean & DelucaWe have become a bit addicted to Caffe Moccha lately here in Norway. For those who are not familiar with this I can inform you that it is a mixture between espresso, steamed milk and chocolate…preferably served with whipped cream on top. We decided to make it a “mission” to try out Caffe Mocca on different locations in New York to see if they could match the one we get at a place called Charlie Brown here in Stavanger….but to summarize it pretty quickly: we were disappointed. We tried it at Starbucks coffee, Dean & Deluca, New World Coffee, Au bon pain etc but we were not impressed. So it was nice to get back home again and taste a “real” Caffe Mocca :-)


Shopping - get out your credit card
The entrance to Tiffany & Co.I’m not that big on shopping but there are certain things that I like to look at :-) Sports stores can be fun and we found one great shop that I have to mention: Paragorn Sports located near Union Park (on Broadway). We went in there the first day and we also went in a few days later. They had several floors of all kinds of stuff ranging from squash rackets, bikes, all kinds of running/training/hiking shoes, rollerblades…well, you name it. This is one of the best sports stores that I have been to for several years so it was fun :-)  We also took a look at places like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s but I was not thrilled. Macy’s might be the largest department store in the world but is it the best? They did have some good sales but they focused a lot on clothing which can be pretty boring if you ask me. Fifth Avenue had a lot of high end and price stores and I only did some window shopping. I did walk into a watch store called Wempe. The service was great but the prices were quite ridiculous at least if you look at the start price.


I wish I had a bike like this when I was a kidWe walked over to the famous toy store F.A.O Schwartz but it looked a bit closed. On the bus tour they did mention something about the store having economic difficulties. We did go into Toys’R’Us on Times Square and that was open and full of entertainment. They had even squeezed in a Ferris wheel into the shop! They had a pretty good selection of lots of stuff…they even had a big Tyrannosaurus Rex that were moving and making some scary noises :-)


Head on home
Going back home is always a shared emotion: on the one hand we were sad to leave and on the other hand we were looking forward to getting back home. We stored our luggage at the hotel until it was time to leave. Once again we took a taxi over to Pennsylvania Station and from there we took the train out to Newark Liberty Airport. The check in took some time but we were there early so it wasn’t a problem at all. We also flew Continental home and apart from a 1 hour delay (which caused us to miss our connecting flight in Amsterdam) the flight went fine. We came home to Stavanger in Norway on July 12th about 6 hour later than expected due to the delay in Amsterdam.


Chrysler building seen from the streetI guess I can start with the bottom line: we had a great time in New York City! It was great to finally experience the city that pops up in so many movies, TV shows (hey, we walked by Hunan…Seinfeld’s favourite Chinese restaurant on Fifth Avenue), pictures etc. We felt pretty safe during our walks around town…and let me tell you that we walked a lot :-) Even at night it wasn’t a problem taking the subway. I guess a contributing factor to this feeling is that you run into cops more or less where ever you go. According to one of the guides on the bus tours there are 40.000 cops in New York! Rebuilt monument that used to be located at WTCWe had great weather in New York and on most days the temperature went up to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). Yes, it is a bit hot for sightseeing but with enough cold water everything is possible :-). I thought it was great just to walk around looking at people. Lots of people were walking around with MP3 players in an attempt to shut out the noise of all the traffic. We saw people in suits using rollerblades to get from and to work…I guess it beats sitting in a traffic jam. We saw posh girls one moment and then a homeless person with a big trolley the next. We saw religious groups protesting with pictures of unborn children outside a women’s clinic next to our hotel and I guess it was an attempt to prevent someone from getting an abortion.


Foreigners who come to Norway often complain about how expensive stuff is here. Well, I think my standard comment from now on will be: go to New York and see if that is any cheaper :-) Yes, NYC is pricy. The hotel will cost you a pretty penny and eating out will cost you.


Brooklyn Bridge towerSo will we go back to New York City? Yes, if we get a chance I think that we would go there again because there are still lots to see and do. There are a few things that were on our list that we weren’t able to squeeze in. I would have liked to take a tour with Big Apple Greeter because I think that the concept is great. We enjoy our food and I think that it would have been great to take a food tasting tour. And I guess if we go there again we will try to catch a Broadway show, a baseball game etc. I think that the list could go on forever. One thing I do regret is not finding a place where I could have a proper New York cheesecake. Well, I do make a pretty excellent cheesecake myself (honestly) but it would have been great to taste New York’s best cheesecake :-)


I hope that this trip report will be of some use to other people that are going to New York City for the first time. Please get in touch with me if you have any questions and I'll do my very best to answer :-)




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