Friday, August 29, 2008

Thoughts and notes from NYC

A few observations from our time in Der Big Apple:

- Recycling: where is it? I only recall seeing one recycling bin during our whole stateside trip, and that was at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge. We drank pop ("soda") and juice and water and had nowhere sensible to dispose of the bottles and cans other than the garbage. It seemed very wasteful!

- Drinks: not so cold? It could be my imagination, my heat tolerance or something else, but it seemed to me that every time I got a cold beverage, it wasn't nearly as cold as I'd expected. Do Americans set their refrigerators to a different temperature than we do up here?

- Empire State Building vs. Top Of The Rock: Rockefeller Center wins by a long shot. ESB wins the SMB award for this trip. The prices were comparable, but the Rock was by far the better trip. They had timed tickets so you knew when you'd be going up, and you got there fast in a speedy elevator with cool special effects. Staff were courteous and helpful, and the walls were adorned with historical information about the building. The view was fantastic. The observation decks were spacious and beautiful. Contrast that with the ESB which was crowded, aesthetically unpleasant, under renovations, with imponderably long lines, crowded elevators, unsmiling and abrupt staff, and ... well, generally, lame. Lame. Lame. Nice view if you can get to the railing to actually see -- and this was fairly late at night. I hear it's much worse during the day. And they want to charge even more to go to the even-higher-up deck. We chose to walk up a few flights of stairs instead of waiting another 20 minute for the last elevator to the lower-level deck ... seven flights of exhaustion.

- In case you missed the message of the previous paragraph: choose Top Of The Rock instead of the Empire State Building. Yes, I read plenty of opinions online that told me exactly the same thing before we went on the trip, and yes, you'd feel like a sucker for going to NYC and *not* hitting the Empire State Building. But really, you want to feel like a sucker or a chump? You can feel like both if you choose ESB. ESB -- SMB!

- Hotels: good deal! Morning editor Ruth recommended the Hotel Saint James, just off Times Square. Ruth is not the type to put up with bad deals or poor conditions. The price was right -- $170/night -- and the location was perfect. The hotel was livable, with a shower (often with hot water available!) and a toilet (that smelled like a TTC subway bathroom) and a (stiff) bed. All in all, we were very satisfied.

- Hotel: gooder deal! We extended our NYC stay by a night, so needed another hotel. Expedia found me one-night special at the Best Western Convention Centre hotel in Hell's Kitchen for $140. A typical chain hotel with super-comfy beds and everything but a fridge. Location aside, it was a fabulous deal.

- Don't trust Google blindly: we stomped around Manhattan looking for Bath & Body Works. Google via Blackberry pointed us to one on Broadway above Canal. After walking on tired, sore feet to the location found -- we found an Old Navy. Okay, next to the Old Navy was a small B&BW plaque. Yup, we'd found their corporate offices. Crrrrap.

- Mike and Mike, the father-son photo-videographer team who captured the proposal, pointed us to what is said to be the best New York pizza in New York, John's on Bleecker Street. You can't get a slice -- whole pie only, please. We ordered one with roasted garlic, and yesh, it was good.

- Research pays off: printing off information beforehand let us take the most sensible, speedy and economical routes to and from the airport. From LGA, the taxi was the ticket. To Newark, the train did it best. And the Top-Ten guide picked up at the bookstore served us as well on this trip as the same line of books did when we went to Europe.

- Naked cowboy: couldn't find him.

- Panhandlers: remarkably friendly.

- Graffiti: Halifax has more of it.

- Shout-out to the Dunhill Cafe & Catering, right next door to the Hotel Saint James. Great service, great food, great prices. Super-handy to have an excellent short-order joint next to where we were staying.

- The Museum of Television & Radio is no longer the Museum of Television & Radio. Don't go there if you're expecting a museum. I didn't mind paying $10 to see artistic interpretations of Family Guy and watch an old episode of the Muppet Show, but you might.

- A good pair of stay-dry underwear is worth its weight in gold. Possibly more, since it doesn't weigh much at all.

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