We left later than planned on Friday (my brother was trapped by obligations at work) and the hotel wasn't exactly easy to locate even with the help of a GPS (which didn't even have the right address to begin with and took us first to some random building in Newark then another hotel of the same name in the other side of town), so by the time we arrived it was past 5 A.M.
Predictably we didn't make it in time to enjoy the free breakfast offered by the hotel, but because we woke up so late we also missed the drop-off time for discounted parking when we finally drove into the city. We ended up dropping the car off at a parking garage that charged us over $40 for a day's parking - way off from the expected $12+tax parking. We walked up Wall Street and saw the famous Bull surround by a huge crowd of tourists lining up to take pictures. It was impossible to snap a shot without somebody else on the other side of the Bull -
We wandered up Wall Street and found the Trinity Church with beautiful stained glass windows and a secret chapel at the back for actual prayers and meditations because the main hall was full of tourists too occupied with sight-seeing to be considerate with their noise level (like me, for one).
We were starving since we skipped breakfast, so we hopped into the closest restaurant we saw, and it turned out really good.
We had a great prosciutto panini sandwich, a juicy burger topped with portobello mushroom and a delicious pasta with loads of sun-dried tomatoes, chicken and vodka sauce. We then devoured this little critter, which was actually made up of rich and velvety chocolate mousse flavored with Cognac.
As we were coming out of the restaurant which happened to be just blocks away from Ground Zero, we saw cop car after cop car after more cop cars, all speeding towards the site of the tragedy 10 years ago with flashing lights and full-on sirens. It turned out to be quite a spectacle as tourists start taking photos of the cop cars in action.
We, on the other hand, figured that we have seen Ground Zero close enough and decided that it's probably best if we moved away from where there might be trouble, so we went towards Battery Park instead.
After skipping the lines with the CityPass (but not escaping the airport-style security check), we boarded the ferry that took us to the Island where the Statue of Liberty stands - but alas, we didn't quite get up close and personal with her because tickets to the crown had been sold out long ago, especially since the Statue was scheduled to close for renovation starting October.
We circumvented the island in about an hour then boarded the ferry towards Ellis Island to get back to Manhattan. There were 2 Coast Guards speedboats with guns at the ready that followed our ferry all the way to Ellis Island but We still haven't figured out what's so special about it (compared to the Statue of Liberty).
The next destination on the CityPass we wanted to check out was the Empire State Building, and coming out from Battery Park we passed by the NYSE:
We decided to take the infamous subway up to the Empire State Building, just because we have never rode in it before.
Surprisingly, it was much much cleaner than what we've seen in the movies - but the conductor at the ticket booth was unexpectedly rude.
We got off at Grand Central Station (which I found amazing but B wasn't impressed because it looked just like Union Station in Toronto) to checked out the ceiling painted with constellations
and the dome-shaped hallway where a conversation could be between opposite corners by talking into the wall - we probably looked like a bunch of crazies while we were at it, but it was still really cool to hear B's voice coming from the wall, knowing that he's standing at least 10 feet behind me facing into the opposite wall.
From Grand Central Station it was only a few blocks to the Empire State building, and we passed by the Central Library where we wondered if we'd get to see Ghost Busters running out.
We thought we could get lucky and skip the line-up again with the CityPass. It didn't work that way - we still went through spiraling lines in room after room after room - the only line we skipped was the one where other tourists had to buy tickets.
It took an hour and a half to finally get to the last line where we waited for the elevator that took us up. The breath-taking night view of the city almost made it worth the wait.
The audio tour was included in our CityPass, and it was great to have the audio guide pointing out what's what we were looking at. Empire State building wasn't the romantic kind of place like I had imagined it to be though - it was way too crowded and we kept getting pushed and bumped into in the narrow walkway between the building and the fence. Maybe at another time when there are less tourists around it could be romantic, but definitely not when we were there.
We couldn't pass by Times Square as planned because it took so much longer to get up the Empire State - our parking had a time limit that expired at midnight, kind of like Cinderella - so we went to pick up the car and my brother drove around to show us Chinatown. It was eerily similar to Hong Kong - I don't know if it's the humidity, the tight spaces and tall buildings - but for a moment I had the illusion of being back in Kennedy Town where our grandparents lived. We were exhausted though and with my brother at the wheel, I fell asleep even before we had a chance to grab dinner - which my brother wasn't quite happy about...
- End of Day 1 in NYC