Well, it is now the 23rd of June and the last blog I wrote was on the 18th! This means I have 5 days of blog to catch up on! I have decided to do it all in one long, huge blog. The reason that I have not been keeping up is that I have gotten really sick. I will explain this in depth within. My memory of the first few days may be a little hazy as it is 5 days later but it should be fine. I hope you guys enjoy!
19th June – DC to NY.
An early contiki wake up for our what would sadly be our last day on tour. We got onto the bus and Braden played our day song for the final time. It was emotional. I don’t think I have yet described the day song. Well, we have a song that brings the group together. It has been played every single day on the bus and it will be a song that all of us will forever be reminded of this trip and of each other when we hear it. Ours is Dirty Heads – ‘That’s all I need.’ The first time that Braden played it for us, I wasn’t sold. This morning, I nearly cried when I heard it. Such an amazing song that will stay close to my heart forever. Braden also gave a really nice speech saying that he is so happy that we were such a great group and that he can feel proud of showing us the country that he loves. It was really nice.
Our first stop of the day was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philly is the home of my beloved Eagles. I asked Braden if we would have enough time for me to get over to Lincoln financial field, but we didn’t. I was pretty crushed. We pulled up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art which is the site of the steps that Rocky Balboa ran up at the end of his training montage in Rocky. All 54 of us sprinted up the stairs recreating the scene with the rocky music blasting over the speaker that Alex had. It was awesome. We snapped a few pics and then moved on.
We stopped at the convention centre in Philly for lunch. We had about an hour for lunch. Of course we were getting Philadelphia cheese steaks. A few of us legged it to some giant market that has a famous cheesesteak store that President Obama ate at. We got a cheesesteak there and fuckin god damn it was delicious. I loved it. Philadelphia cheesesteak definitely did not disappoint. I really enjoyed being in Philly. A lot of America seems kind of superficial to me, but Philly was so real. I wish we had a full day here. I will be back Philly, oh fuck yes I will be back.
We had to fill out our contiki evaluations forms and tip Braden and Alex, which we did as they deserved every cent + more. Honestly, couldn’t have asked for a better tour manager/driver team. Both these guys were fuckin amazing. We drove for another 2 hours then rolled into New York City. As we were rolling in we had a beautiful view of the city which was absolutely breathtaking. Just before we pulled up to Angela the bus’s final stop, the rain started coming down hurricane style. It was so sudden and wild, pretty cool though. We got out of the bus and said a kind of hurried goodbye to everyone which I now regret as I wanted to thank people more for the amazing experiences we have had with them. We were about a 20 minutes drive from our hotel. We were going to book at uber when we rocked up but we decided o wait as we were unsure how long it would take us to get off the bus. At this point it was $14. After the rain hit and we tried to book it again, the price had gone up to $55 for the same trip due to increased demand. Yeah well fuck that! We began walking with our heavy ass bags towards our hotel. We only made it a few blocks before the uber price went down so we booked that in and made it to our hotel. At this time it was nearly 7PM. We had planned to go to Times Square tonight but we knew we would be there other days so we decided to grab dinner at this diner nearby called Ritz Diner (so so much food). Then call it an early night for what would inevitably be a big day for our first day in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of.
20th June – NYC day 1
Our first day off contiki and it was definitely strange not to wake up and be faced with all of our new friends. It was nice because we could choose our own schedule, but it was sad because I know that it is likely that I won’t see any of them beautiful people again.
We started our day off by taking a walk through Central Park. Central Park is absolutely enormous by the way. As we had so much rain the day before it was real damp and kind of unpleasantly humid. It’s crazy that such a green and massive area exists right in the middle of this urban metropolis. They have a full zoo, a lake, an art museum and tons of other stuff inside here too. Anyway we weren’t there for long, we hope to explore it again for longer on another day.
We were on our way to the American Museum of Natural History. Our walk took about 45 minutes. One thing I noticed on my first morning in New York City is that there are a shitload of dogs here. People be walking dogs everywhere. You don’t see that in Sydney or any city in Australia really. In a place like New York where you’d be hard pressed to find a yard for a dog to even exist in, there are shit tons of them. It’s pretty mind bending! I didn’t know what to think. Anyway, we got to the museum about half an hour early so we decided to grab some breakfast before we rolled in. There was a food cart nearby that Aimee follows on instagram called Waffles and Dinges. I dunno what the fuck a dinge is but I wanted some waffles. I ordered a waffle with some whipped cream and banana slices, it was fuckin awesome. Aimee ordered a waffle with ice cream and about half a jar of fuckin Nutella on it. I dunno how she ate that filth but she did. Solid breakfast.
The American museum of natural history is touted as being one of the best museums in the world. The movie, Night at the museum was based on this museum. It had the gigantic whale hanging from the ceiling, dinosaurs galore which were awesome, my favourite was the actual meteorite they had. It didn’t feel like what I expected it to feel like at all. I always, my whole live envisioned meteors to feel like big chunks of rock. That was not the case it was full on metal. It was most iron and felt like it, it was hard as all fuck. I was so impressed by it. I also liked looking at all of the other minerals. Though I got kind of over being in the museum after about 2 hours. We have been to about 20 museums on this trip and it is getting harder to keep learning and taking in so much information. This museum is 4 floors and takes up 4 blocks. It’s enormous and most definitely worth visiting. We had to cut it short as we had other things on our agenda.
We had to get down to Times Square before 2pm. It was about a 40 minutes walk. We decided that we would make our maiden voyage on the NYC subway. We bought a metro card which is $30 for unlimited subway rides for 7 days. We figure that we’re going to be using it a lot. Then we took a deep breath and braved it down there. It is pretty confusing at first. If you are on the wrong platform, you literally have to go back up onto the street, run across the road and get on the other train. I quite like the subway. It is busy and smelly and it’s crazy people galore but I think it has charm. We have encountered people raising money to feed homeless people, people singing, playing instruments, people dancing and doing flips and pole tricks, kids selling biscuits, homeless people begging for money. Who knows what we’ll come across next. That’s all a part of the subway hahaha
Anyway, we made it to Times Square. Times Square is crazier than the subway. There are so many people there. Thousands upon thousands of people. It is a moshpit of humans in the middle of the street. The lights are bright and there are billboards everywhere. Cops with machine guns, people trying to sell you shit and street performers everywhere. We went to a massive M&Ms store which was pretty cool. Literally three stories of M&Ms merchandise and create your own packs of M&Ms and all shit. It’s wild, I don’t like M&Ms though so I didn’t buy anything. The purpose of us being at Times Square was to lineup to purchase discount tickets for a broadway show later that evening. We lined up for a while til the booth opened and we got in and bought 2 tickets to Miss Saigon at the broadway theatre at half price. Fuckin sweet score. After getting there, we subwayed it back to the closest station to the hotel (15min walk).
It was at this point that I knew something was going wrong. My throats had started to get sore and I was feeling very cold even though it was a hella hot day. We got into the room and I was feeling unwell. I fell asleep in the bed almost immediately. We got up and I was feeling a little better so we got changed and we walked back up to the subway station and subwayed it over to broadway.
We got into the theatre and I needed to take a quick leak. I walked down the stairs and all of a sudden I got super dizzy and started sweating. This was not a good sign. I had already been sick on this trip, surely it wasn’t happening again. Anyway the show started and it was fucking great. The lead who played Kim (Eva Noblezada) had the voice of an angel. She was incredible and so powerful in her performance. I love musical in general and this one was no different. The set design that included a full helicopter was so professional and brilliantly done. It made for a great show. However, my enjoyment of the show was hindered because I was sweating and freezing at the same time. I had developed a cough and my nose was running. It was making life extremely difficult. When we got out of the theatre I told Aimee we needed to go. We stopped by a pharmacy and I picked up some cold and flu medication to assist with the symptoms. We got an uber back to the hotel and I took some pills and fell asleep instantly.
June 21st – NYC Day 2
Woke up feeling like absolute shit this morning. Sore head, runny nose, cough, and a filthy fever. Though I knew I had to man up because I probably wouldn’t be in New York for many years to come so I had to make the most of it. We jumped on the subway and rode it down to Cortlandt street station to visit the 9/11 memorial and memorial museum.
I’ll start with the memorial. It is absolutely beautiful. The memorial is two gigantic holes in the ground where the twin towers stood. They have the names of all of the people who died in the 9/11 attacks around the side of the memorial. It has water flowing from the sides of the memorial. It is basically two massive water features. One thing that really annoys me is people taking smiling selfies at locations like this. It is so fuckin disrespectful and stupid. So many people were doing it too. Like there is a time and place for a selfie and it is not where nearly 3000 people died. People were also doing this at the site that JFK got shot. Running out onto the road and doing stupid poses…like seriously cunt, what is wrong with these people.
After looking at the memorials we went into the museum. I was still feeling like shit at this time but we rolled and and looked at all the exhibits. The main exhibit was one that detailed all of the events that occurred that day in sequential order using a timeline system that is on the wall. Plus there was lots of huge pieces of the tower like steel beams and lots of memorabilia from people who died and so much to look at. It was really powerful and such a massive tragedy. I can’t even imagine how New York would have been that day. It would’ve been the worst thing ever. We paid our respects and moved on.
We went into the shopping centre next door because Aimee wanted to go to this place called Eataly. It is a huge gourmet food court that is based on creating and cooking fresh Italian food. It is hard to explain but they had lots of different pasta, pasta making, pizzas, cheeses cheese making and a range of things. We sat down for a meal even though I wasn’t hungry at all, even though I hadn’t eaten. We got a fresh mozzarella, a Margherita pizza and a tagliatelle pasta. The pasta was fuckin magnificent. Freshly made pasta and the sauce was extremely delicious. The pizza and cheese were good too. That was during being the sickest I have been in years. I can’t even imagine how good they would’ve been had I been feeling my best.
We had a matinee broadway show to catch at 2pm so we subway’d it up to 42nd street and walked over to the theatre. Today we were seeing ‘Natasha, Pierre and the great comet of 1812.’ It is a new production that is based on the novel war and peace by Tolstoy. The stage was crazy. There were walkways in amongst the crowd and lots of the crowd had seating on the stage, it’s really hard to explain, definitely different. Anyway, the show was fucking amazing. Josh Groban starred as Pierre. He has a brilliant voice. The whole cast were fun and entertaining. There were lots of extremely energetic numbers including a strange nightclub scene that had some intense strobe lighting. The only downside was that my fever was hitting me really hard at this point. I was absolutely fuckin freezing. I had my arms tucked into my shirt. Everyone else was nice and warm but I was shivering. Great show though, if it ever comes to Australia – it is a must-see.
After this we caught an uber straight home. As soon as we got to the hotel (around 5:30pm) I went to sleep. Aimee woke me up at 8:30 with chicken soup for me for dinner which I ate and was yummy and then I went straight back to sleep. I woke up three times throughout the night in a pool of cold sweat. It was absolutely horrible. Anyway, I ended up getting about 15 hours sleep.
June 22nd – NYC Day 3
After a massive sleep last night, I woke up around 10am feeling considerably better. This was unexpected and a great plus. I had broken the fever which was the main thing. I mean, I was still sick but the fever was gone which was a step in the right direction. Luckily that was the case because we were in for a huge day.
We started the day with a subway trip all the way down to lower manhattan to get catch the Staten Island Ferry. Though before we got to the ferry we decided to have a crack at a dirty street cart hot dog. It was pretty excellent I must say. Though, Australian hot dogs are superior to American ones. The ferry is a free boat that leaves from manhattan to Staten Island every half an hour and if you sit on the right side of the boat, the boat sails right by the Statue of Liberty. This is the reason we took it. We weren’t interested in spending money and time taking a boat to liberty island to stand next to the statue, it was free for us to get a great view of it from our ferry. We did this and it was great. The statue is beautiful and one of those iconic monuments that you just have to witness when you’re in New York City. We got off the ferry and rode the next one right back to Manhattan. Wall Street was nearby so we decided to stroll through there and check out the charging bull statue as well as a statue that I prefer which is facing the bull which is a little girl standing strong in front of him. I really like the message of this little girl and the statue is fierce. We walked past the New York Stock Exchange and Trinity church before jumping onto the subway to head back to the TKTS booth for more broadway tix.
As it was our second time to the booth, we were able to fastpass the long ass line and go straight to the front so that was awesome. We decided on the Phantom of the Opera. This is just one of them classic iconic broadway shows that you just have to see at least once in your life. We would do this tonight. As we were leaving Times Square we came across a Kellogg’s store and thought what the fuck is this? We went in and it was seriously awesome. Get this right – it’s a cereal restaurant. You pick what cereal you want and you can pick extras to have in the cereal and the type of milk. I chose corn pops (fuckin miss them) with banana slices and whole milk. Aimee got Coco Pops with hazelnuts and marshmallows. I tell ya, this was a fuckin awesome meal. It felt good to eat semi-normal food again plus it was just sweet smashing a bowl of cereal in a restaurant haha
We then subway’d it over to west manhattan. Our first stop here was The High Line. The high line is an old elevated railway track that runs over Westside. It has been transformed into parkland and a city viewing walkway. It is really pretty. They have grass for people to chill on, viewing spots, benches for people to sit. It’s so nice. We bought some gourmet popsicles from a little vendor. I had coconut flavoured and aimee had pineapple mint. They were both really good. Then we got off the high line to our next stop which was only up the road – Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market is a little food shopping centre. It has a heap of little eateries and little shops kind of like markets but in an actual shopping centre type building. They had an Aussie pie shop there, I asked the bloke if the pies were as Aussie as me, he didn’t even speak English so there was no way these pies were authentic. Did not buy. Aimee bought a Nutella crepe. The way he made it was cool. He noticed that I was carrying my GoPro and he wanted me to film his madskills hahaha it was really cool how they made it, but they put half a fuckin jar of Nutella on it. I like crepes but Nutella, not so much. I had a little bit but Aimee enjoyed it. We had already eaten a lot today so we were pretty damn full at this point. That didn’t stop us from dinner being our next stop hahaha
We caught the subway back to Times Square to get dinner at Guy Fieri’s restaurant. He wasn’t there, which is kind of a good thing because I reckon he is a bit of a fuckwit. It’s a real American food restaurant though. We got three appetisers to share, they were garlic fries, fried calamari and BBQ chicken wings. All three of these dishes were top quality and delicious. We were so full at the end of it. The main reason we ate at this restaurant wasn’t Guy fieri, but the theatre was directly across the road. We rolled straight in after our meal.
Phantom of the opera is one of them classic shows that everyone has to see on broadway. It did not disappoint. I knew every word to every song thanks o my buds Katie and Adam playing it many, many, many, many times when we were hanging out a lot back in the day. Them two are super fans and I owed it to them to see it. I wished they were here with me at this time. They would’ve absolutely loved it. The theatre was pretty squashy though, I accidentally kneed the girl in front of me in the head at one point. I very much enjoyed the show, the guy who played the phantom had a really great and booming voice. The whole cast was good though. By this point I had started to feel pretty sick again as we had a massive day and no rest. We ubered back to the hotel and hit the hay.
June 22nd – NYC Day 4
Well I was paying for that huge day yesterday. I woke up again today feeling like absolute dogshit. It was also pissing down rain. At this point, I am so over being sick it is really putting a damper on my NYC experience. We decided it would e a good day to have a small day and get some decent rest. We stayed in until about 10 and we caught an uber to the Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller centre is the home of NBC where they film The tonight show starring Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock plus others. It also happens to be one of the tallest buildings in New York. We bought a ticket to ride the elevator to the top floor to get a view over all of New York City. There are three observation towers in New York City that have the best views. They are the Empire State Building, one world trade and Rockefeller. One world trade is the tallest, Empire State is the most iconic and Rockefeller has the best views giving you a view of Central Park and the Empire State Building. We made our choice. We rode the elevator up which was pretty expensive $35USD each. It was raining at the top but it wasn’t very foggy so we were able to still get great views. After spending a little bit of time taking in the view we took the elevator back down, grabbed some Starbucks and ubered it back to the hotel where we spent the rest of the night watching the new season of orange is the new black and ordered New York style pizza delivery. Honestly, I don’t like New York style pizza. It’s too cheesy and greasy for me. You would think that would make it good, but it really doesn’t. The slices are enormous but the cheese is overwhelming. I am definitely a believer of less is more when it comes to cheese on pizza. We had originally planned to do Coney Island on this day too but the weather was shit, I was really sick and it was over an hour and a half on the subway – no thanks.
June 23rd – NYC Day 5
I woke up feeling slightly better this morning. Though I knew this would not last due to what we had planned today.
We caught an uber over to Brooklyn for a guided bike tour of Brooklyn by a company called Get Up & Ride. The dickhead uber driver got lost and tried asking us for directions, ha! As if. He ended up finding his way there. We were in a group of about 10 and we set off on our bike tour.
We rolled through several neighbourhoods having a look, one in particular was interesting. It was a neighbourhood in Williamsburg that has a massive Hasidic Jew population. It was heaps weird. They were all rolling around with these huge coats, massive furry hats and they long curly hair on the sides of their heads. It tripped me out heavily. The guide said that on Saturdays they aren’t allowed to interact with any technology so they were all walking around in force. It was hectic, they look ridiculous and there was so many of them!
Our first stop was at a food market called smorgasburg. This is something we had planned to do, we didn’t know it was on the tour but we were happy it was. It’s a mad outside food market that was shown on Master of None. I got some Duck bacon poutine and some Mediterranean ice cream. It was awesome. We kept riding around Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn bridge, around the parks taking in the nice views til we got to a place called The Grange. It is a produce farm on a rooftop in the middle of the city. It was strange to see but so cool. They grow the produce for local restaurants. It’s pretty great. It is an acre big on the rooftop of the building. After that we visited a coffee shop for some actual decent coffee and then rode back. The important thing to take in account here is that I was still really sick and this was a 15 mile bike ride. I was fucked by the end of it. Then we had to walk about a kilometre to the subway station which we caught onto Times Square for one last time.
We did a bit of souvenir and gift shopping in Times Square. We also grabbed some cereal from the Kellogg’s shop again for dinner, it was pretty much the only thing I could stomach.we took one last look at Times Square before we ubered it back to the hotel. I was still feeling rubbish but we had a lot of packing up to do so we did that and called it a night.
This was our last day in NYC. My final thought of New York is that it is kind of dirty and it is really ridiculously busy. At Times Square it is literally like a moshpit. People absolutely everywhere. I don’t know how people drive in this city, it’s fuckin crazy. Road rules are out the window, cunts be honking the horn all the time. It’s constant. New York drivers are so rude too. Though, I do believe I owe New York a re-do. I couldn’t fully enjoy and appreciate it because of how I have been feeling which is a real shame. I think with the right group of people and feeling better that I would have enjoyed it more. I just couldn’t enjoy it. I love broadway shows and would go to one every night of the week, they were definitely my highlight of New York. I am happy to be leaving because New York is not a great place for someone who is sick. We are heading to Hawaii tomorrow which is a total of 11 hours in flights. Not keen for that.
Apologies for the lateness of this blog. I have found it so difficult to try and write while I have been sick. I hope that it is informative and enjoyable. Thanks for your continued support.