Before I get started I just want to wish everyone a very merry 2014!!
So since my last post we have had the small matter of Christmas and New Years. Christmas was pretty quiet without the family. On Christmas day I went with my landlords to visit Luc's family in Quebec. What I didn't realise was that I would get to meet ALL of Luc's family (40+ people). This made for a rather crazy atmosphere (especially as they were all French) and after a lovely dinner we played pool and just chilled out. On Boxing Day I was lucky to be invited to one of my client's house for dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed an evening of playing games, watching crazy hockey films and getting drunk.
Then on the 27th it was time to head to New York!! Our coach was at 10 pm so I had a few hours to get packed. The day went really slowly (as they always do when you have something to look forward to) so I watched a movie, had some dinner and organised some snacks for the journey (the small matter of 10 hours on the coach). Whilst I was not exactly looking forward to this journey, it actually went quite quickly, with only two stops; once at the border and a second rather annoying coach change in Syracuse. This was at about 3 pm and whilst the pictures of Syracuse on Google images look rather nice I didn't get the chance to have a look around the city. Nevertheless onto better and bigger (considerably) things. New York.
We arrived at about 8 am and we went straight into the thick of things. The city was already bustling with life and after a quick coffee in Times Square we decided to wonder to the apartment. We managed to book a small place in Lower Manhattan, near Little Italy and China Town. The walk from Times Square took just over an hour and we stopped off to take some pictures of the Empire State and a rather quaint Christmas Market. The weather was beautiful (although slightly nippy) and walking through the streets of NY brought back a lot of funny memories from my last trip. After walking down East Houston Street for about 10 minutes we came across our apartment. The number 283 was scrawled across the side of the building which was covered in rather unpleasant graffiti, 90% of the windows were boarded up and a small gathering of homeless people sat in what was supposed to be a front garden. Fair to say it didn't look exactly like the pictures.
However, (thankfully) this wasn't our apartment. After walking for another 20 minutes down the street (out of desperation) we came across another 283 East Houston Street, located above a bagel shop and looking worlds apart from the other building (not really difficult). The apartment was small but really well equipped and throughout the trip it did a grand job. After unpacking we got some food in from a local market store and waiting for Zoe's friend Marcus to arrive. That evening the three of us went to Ground Zero, which was packed with people paying their respects. The museum attached to the site was really moving and some of the stories about rescue workers really put things in perspective. We then headed out to catch the sunset over the Statue of Liberty. The view over the water was stunning and we were lucky to have timed it so perfectly. The evening was spent exploring Little Italy and China Town before heading back to the apartment for a home made (and rather tasty) risotto. By this time we were all knackered so headed to bed after what was a great first day in the Big Apple.
The next morning we woke up and it was raining. I mean really raining. So we watched the arsenal game (which we won!!) and had a cooked breakfast. Then by lunchtime we decided to brave the elements and head out. Within 10 minutes we were completely soaked. However, we made the most of it and headed to Grand Central Station, to get some pictures and chill out. We then explored some shops and got even more wet (we were practically swimming by this point) before deciding that we should head home before we drowned. It took quite a while to dry off but we watched a movie and relaxed and by 7 (ish) it finally stop raining...So we decided to head out to Brooklyn Bridge where we were treated to a fantastic view over the city. New York City at night really is spectacular, with it's jungle of towering skyscrapers and bright lights. The mist that captured some of the taller buildings only added to the stunning view and whilst the day had been a bit of a let down this view made it worthwhile. After walking the length of the bridge we headed to a Malaysian restaurant for some dinner (I had pineapple fried rice) we went back to the apartment and crashed.
We woke the next day to a much nicer morning and decided to head to Central Park for some breakfast. After a rather average omelette (overpriced of course) we spent an hour walking around the Park and were again treated to a fantastic view across the city. Having Central Park in the middle of New York really adds something to what is otherwise a crazy city and I would have loved to have spent some time relaxing in the park during the summer. However given that the temperature was below freezing this wasn't really an option. Instead we headed to the Rockefeller Centre to check out the big Christmas tree. The atmosphere in the plaza was really vibrant and unsurprisingly it was packed with people!! Next Stop - Top of the Rock!! We were really lucky with our tickets that we managed to book a viewing at around 4:30 which allowed us to catch New York in both the day and night, sandwiched between an amazing sunset. I remember the view from last time I was in New York and it certainly didn't disappoint...making the evening a definite highlight for the trip.
New Years Eve. New York. Fair to say I was pretty excited when I woke up the next morning. We enjoyed a very lazy morning in the flat, having breakfast and waiting for two of Marcus's friends from Boston to arrive. At about 2 pm we left the apartment and went for a quick bite to eat in China Town before heading to Times Square. I knew it would be busy but I didn't expect the millions of people that occupied Times Square and the surrounding streets this early. After speaking to a couple of NYPD guys we headed down to 47th Street where we were told that we could get across. However 47th Street was all barred off and we were told 50th Street. This continued until 53rd Street when we managed to beat the rush and sneak across the barriers (literally the last people). From here we were relocated into our pen. Before heading to Times Square I was told about how people were locked in pens (which you couldn't leave), however I wasn't really sure what to expect. We were indeed allocated a 'pen' a reasonably large area sectioned off by waist high barriers. The first two hours from 4 till 6 passed reasonably slowly - until disaster struck. I needed the toilet. The timing could not have been worse and I began to curse the cup of coffee that I had naively enjoyed that morning. By 6:15 I was desperate (thinking about it made it worse) and after jigging around for a bit (I pretended I was cold) I knew this was mission impossible. I made my way to the barrier hopped over and relieved myself in a local hotel. After speaking to the police, I explained how my family were all in the pen and they agreed to let me back in. Mission Complete!! After this there was very little excitement in the 6 remaining hours before the big countdown. Every hour they did do a small countdown (so I celebrated new year in England at 7 pm) but generally the time was spent chatting to Marcus, two German girls and a variety of people from New York. Everyone was really bored and so people were really talkative which made the time go quickly. As we approached the ball drop the atmosphere cranked up a few notches and the excitement throughout Times Square really began to grow. The countdown at midnight was intense and although there were not as many fireworks as I expected it was a great party atmosphere and something that I will never forget.
The next day we had to be out of the apartment by 10, so we got up early cleaned up and headed out. After having a quick brunch in Times Square we said goodbye to Marcus and Zoe and myself headed to the Natural History Museum to kill some time before our coach that evening. We also did some shopping in Times Square before giving up at around 7 (we were so tired) when we decided to just wait for the coach. After 13 hours on the coach we arrived in Ottawa to the frankly ridiculous temperature of -40. Welcome back to Canada!! The trip was a great success and it was a fantastic start to 2014. I met some great people, made new friends and witnessed the New Year countdown in Times Square. Definitely something off the bucket list...