A Travellerspoint blog

USA

USA - NYC - going Brookly-in & out of Manhattan

by Kt

So, it was a while ago now since we returned to the UK but now that I have some time, I am determined to finish my trip blogs with 2 destinations to go NYC and Iceland.
If I don't get it all down then too many of the events, sights and experiences will be forgot to me and most definitely by Mark who has a sieve like memory. It might be erratic and in an odd sequence, as I have random notes of things that happened but hopefully it will coherent.
I can't remember the order of everything so the following is just general lists in various categories - mainly filled by restaurants and bars - sad but true!

New York, New York

So, let me start by telling you that New York is one of MY places. One of those places that I have some kind of strange affinity with. I love all the big sights and cliches but I'm also happy wandering about back streets on my own doing much of nothing.
I like going to unexplored neighbourhoods just to see what they are like. Up till now I have only stayed on Manhattan but partly because it is freakishly expensive and also because I wanted to discover Brooklyn, we stayed this time on Long island. The 3 week stay was probably the most expensive of our trip- on par with Hong Kong perhaps.
The location was good - in hipsterville itself Williamsburg, which kind of did my head in on the 'hipsterness' side of things but for convenience you can't beat it and is clearly why this was the first stop of people moving out of manhattan. You can walk over the Williamsburg bridge and be on the Lower East Side in a leisurely half an hour (a gorgeous walk in the sunshine). I'm sure a brisk walk or a bike would knock it to nearer 15 minutes.
Or the subway takes you straight across, first stop my beloved East Village and onto lots of central stops like Union Square etc.

Subway love
This brings me to an interesting (well to me) point. In other visits I only used the subway once. How I ever got around New York without using the subway is beyond me. Seriously - how did I? I can't even imagine as it is so ridiculous to get a cab and I never got a bus. It's quite easy to walk long distances but still. The subway is brilliant. The buskers in Bedford Avenue are world class. Even in hot, humid August, the trains are air conditioned beautifully. In fact sometimes I couldn't wait to get down there to cool off. It's great people watching and above all it's cheap and convenient. It's what the Tube should be and isn't?
Plus - you certainly get some interesting characters. Doesn't Mark look happy with his new friend?
There was one time that the people sat opposite me were like some kind of hyper Benetton add. There was a row of people of every colour, crede and style, but my fave was next to a skinny asian punky girl was an enormous Rabi. Seriously - he was huge. Not fat - just a grand stature. And best of all he kept chuckling to himself. He tried to engage in conversation with the girl but she was having none of it - it is New York for goodness sake ;) but that's how I learned he was from out of town. And he continued to chuckle for the whole journey. I will never forget the gigantic chuckling Rabi!

Mob_NYC_subway.jpg

An airbnb fai
So with NYC being what it is, budget accommodation was going to be tricky. Not knowing Brooklyn properly or New Jersey, it was difficult to judge what was a good area to stay in. Although New Jersey is a great and cheaper place to stay for popping into the city, I wanted somewhere with things going on first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I wanted a neighbourhood. Williamsburg was my ideal but I was doubtful we could get anything because of the price. I was looking on AirBnb which I love, will continue to use, but all in all found for New York was a bad experience and I don't think for going there I would use it again. First up, the search was a nightmare. Probably only 30% of the listings turned out to be proper, in that people had in the description that the dates available were for 2 weeks in May or something but didn't put the proper dates or removed when the time had passed in so it appeared in the calendar. This made trawling through very tedious. Secondly, a huge number of people put the listing up but never respond to your inquiries. This wasn't looking at short notice, I started looking about 6 months before. And because of how much someone in NYC can charge, the choices are not great. Tons of them are to sleep in the persons front room or behind a curtain, but you have to often look quite closely to notice that.
Anyhow, location wise the place we chose was undeniably great, everything else about it was not so great. The theory that just a room and a bed is all you need does not work out when you are staying somewhere for more than a few days (like 2 weeks!) and it is in the middle of the hottest month which no-one seems to be prepared for. I should have known when we turned up at the pre-arranged time to be told that the room wasn't ready, that this girl, in her mid 20s who I will call just H, was not the hostest with the mostest. It was no bother for us. We dropped our bags off and went off to drop our rental car at La Guardia.
When we got back we got shown to the room in the dark basement flat (no problem with this as our flat in Brighton is a dark basement) but we soon realised that pictures can lie. The picture on Airbnb wasn't wrong but gave the impression there was a front room. Not that we wanted to be sat around in the apartment all the time but somewhere to sit and have a drink and maybe eat when we were on our own is what we were expecting.
The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge but no work surface - on the few times we tried to even have take out food in there we ended up using the top of the washer.

Mob_NYC_bed.jpg

The room had just a bed and a drawless bedside table. Being used to living out of backpacks I managed to organise things but most things had to 'live' on the floor which was awkward. There was no ceiling light just a lamp which gave off a dull light you could barely read by. The sheets on the bed were a bit scratch, but so be it (I've since seen reviews that say that people thought she'd not even washed them for their stay).
On the 2nd night the bed fell to pieces. This probably had happened before as the slats were just lain across the bed/not nailed or screwed in. She was clueless about what to do. Fair enough. She was a young girl, these things can through you. We had some gaffer tape we carried around for emergencies that we looped around as best we could. It never felt v sturdy so in addition we positioned the backpacks across the room so they pushed against the bed, helping to keep the slats in place. This is how we stayed for the rest of the 3 weeks. Never any mention of dealing with it and with the next guest turning up not long after we left, I guess they had to deal with the same.

NYC_Sony_roomceiling.jpg

The linen wasn't changed the whole time which wouldn't normally bother me but the room was often like a sauna. She had an aircon unit which she liked to leave on when she was in, the problem being it pointed into the 'front room', opposite direction to our bedroom with the pipe that blows out the hot air going out of the kitchen window. But our one source of air was the bedroom window which backed onto a low courtyard bit next to the kitchen window so the hot air blew into our room heating it up. It was pretty unpleasant to spend time in this dark, hot humid bedroom so we tried to be out a lot of the time but that isn't what we wanted - it was exhausting. It wasn't an out and out dirty place but it wasn't clean in the way that you clean it if you have guests coming, let alone paying guests. One day we had a couple of unwelcome dark, shady visitors. Now let me tell you, having travelled in all these exotic and unusual places on our trip - New York has the largest cockroaches. Size of freakin rats!!! Even that we took in our stride. We're not complainy, fussy people and in the end we just wanted to leave. There would have been no point creating a fuss, if we ever did bring anything up with her it was usually met with a blank stare. We barely saw her which was a good thing, but that didn't mean it was because she wasn't there. She kept odd hours and we realised after a few days that where she slept was in an alcovy bit behind a curtain in the front room. We clearly had her bedroom. I'm not sure what she did for a living. She didn't seem like she was holding down any kind of proper job. So when she was in, if you were in the front room it always felt a bit uncomfortable and half the time you weren't sure if she was in or not so still felt uncomfortable. Not that we did anything in the rest of the house other than stand in the kitchen staring at each other wondering what to do. It was such a strange experience as I still can't work out for the life of me what was going on with her. Surely it's human nature that if someone comes to stay in your house you make sure the basics are there. There wasn't even enough crockery. There were 2 mugs as I recall so if she'd had a drink and left the washing up in the sink (as she did often) we had to do her washing up to get the mug and often plates. I mean you can pick up mugs and plates at ikea or a second hand store for a couple of dollars. She can't of exactly been poor living in Williamsburg in the first place and her expensive ready made vegan food that sat around in the fridge wasn't cheap. The fridge was fun - a huge thing but of course leaving one shelf for paying guests wouldn't be the thing to do would it. It was full of stuff - she wasn't sure what belonged to the previous guests she said. Some days we would come back to find her and her creepy boyfriend sat on the chez lounge watching things on the laptop. This was a tiny bit of furniture which was as much as a sofa as the flat had and was right inside the door so you'd walk straight in to find them draped over each other, him a shirtless, voiceless ape.
I mean this stuff isn't rocket science. You clean your house, give people basic but clean things to use and make the best of what you've got - even a hook on the back of the bedroom door would have helped! And most of all your are courteous and considerate. Fat chance here!
I mean it was cheap - working out at probably 45 quid a night but you could stay in a hostel for less and at least they'd have some level of hospitality.
I'm sure there are great NYC hosts out there but this was a serious dud. Even if you are just doing it for the money - if you have no interest in other people's need it's not the thing for you. I regret not leaving her a worse airbnb review but somehow I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt. If it was a couple of nights and wasn't in the middle of summer, the downsides would be ignorable. My feedback that goes to Airbnb rather than be published was honest though and I even sent H a direct, unpublished message talking about the issue with the heat and the air con and the cockroaches. She didn't bother replying and didn't leave any feedback on us. That pretty much sums her up. Oddly she was very communicative and chatty and helpful in communication before our stay. You can usually take that as a good indicator of who you are staying with but sadly not this time. Again, I think the place wouldn't have bothered us if it was a few nights and wasn't the height of humid summer. It was just as the days went on and you were hot and tired and uncomfortable, things start to get to you. She was a 'nice' person but just away with the fairies and I would say not suited to hosting.

Anyhow, you live and learn and to be honest it is difficult to judge these things and we'd been pretty lucky up till now. I'm sure there's a few similar places in London where people are just taking the money without putting much effort in. Each to their own!

Welcome to Williamsburg

So we were very close to the Bedford Avenue subway entrance which is the heart of the Williamsburg scene. It's a very funny place. It can get on your nerves sometimes with the amount of hipster-esque things and people but there is lots of nice things there and some bits of the old Brooklyn remain.
Mark used to walk around muttering 'everyone's different so they are the same' which sums up things quite nicely. There is almost a uniform - particularly for the men, they really do look the same. And everyone has a french bulldog. Go figure!

One of the first places we went to was the Surf bar. This place doesn't say much of anything. It's not particularly hip or New Yorky but it's just fun and nice to hang out in - especially in hot summer.
It was always going to appeal to me with it's kitschy, beachy aesthetics. Lot's of fairy lights, sand on the floor out in the large garden. Tasty seafood and good drinks. It was quite pricey but if you go to Williamsburg first time as a tourist and aren't quite sure where to go/what to eat I think it's a nice easy stop off.

NYC_Sony_Surfbar.jpgNYC_Sony_surfbar2.jpg

A bar which was possibly my favourite was on Bedford Avenue but as you moved further away from the 'heart'. It was a kind of old fashioned bar with a very 80s feel, a large area in the middle for late night dancing and as we discovered on a later trip, big old Brooklyn bouncers on the door, who weren't there to decide if you were cool enough to come in, but were good old fashioned bouncers, looking for trouble makers.
The first time we went in the lady behind the bar had me intrigued. She had the most fabulous Brooklyn accent and was telling us that they were having problems with the 'waaader' (read water) so would we mind using plastic cups. Us? Of course not. She seemed to take this as a sign that we were ok! We then pretended to talk to each other while really listening to her bitch about her parking ticket which she shouldn't have got as the funeral directors pass was clearly showing on the dashboard. There was a funeral directors across the street and I guess both that and the bar were her family business. I love this! I can't work out what this bar is called but it's on the corner of Bedford and 5th.

Other great things in Williamsburg, include the many Food Trucks - from vegan ice-cream to rendang. Great for cheap eats.
The local independent supermarket - I loved this place and would often pick up things to take home to eat. They had some vegan dumplings I was rather fond of.

The view from Williamsburg, a few streets back from Bedford Avenue is amazing and it is nice to just go down there and sit in the sun and look. We never got the ferry over but you could get it up to midtown and downtown somewhere as well.
On the weekend the famous vintage market is great but it's kind of too perfect. You won't 'find' cool things because everything is cool and priced as such. The food there is amazing as well. If you lived there you could kit out your place and your wardrobe quite nicely from here. It wasn't all expensive you could get some old T-shirts reasonably priced. Cheaper than the many amazing but stupidly priced vintage shops scattered around Williamsburg itself.

NYC_Sony_brooklynmisc9.jpgNYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc8.jpg

NYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc7.jpgNYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc6.jpg

NYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc5.jpgNYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc4.jpg

NYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc2.jpgNYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc1.jpg

Favourite things in Williamsburg

Pete's Place
The hero of the hour. I loved this place. It sold kind of southern food but without the slop.
The Sunday brunch was barely eatable if you included the free soup or salad - huge!! And what a bargain - the lunchtime special which involved quarter of a chicken with a couple of sides (and soup or salad if you wanted) with a corn muffin was something like $10.
This was kind of the neighbourhood ish place I'd hope for in Brooklyn that didn't cost much and have any pretentions. See the plate below - that's just the side order!

NYC_Sony_petesplace1.jpgNYC_Sony_petesplace2.jpg

Mob_NYC_petes.jpg

Cribs Hot dogs
Oh My God!!! I'd heard about this place but didn't think much of it before we went. You wouldn't think much could be said of a hot dog joint but lordy these are good hot dogs. The BLT is my recommendation. Yum!!

Mob_NYC_criff.jpg

Korean Mexican fusion?
That's the kind of thing you get in Brooklyn. Sometimes it seems fun and innovative but often you really think just why?

Samurai Mama
Oh you've got to love lunchtimes in the city - great deals to be had - especially in Williamsburg where lots of the monied are working in the daytime over on Manhattan. We had a great ramen at a quite famous Japanese place who's usual prices are rather high.

Charleston bar
Another great bar on Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
Free pizza with your beer? Yes please.
NYC_Sony_Charlston1.jpgNYC_Sony_Charlton2.jpg

Rosamundes - a bar that sells sausages - cooked and in a butchers stylee.
The first time we went they had Alf on the tvs constantly - what's not to love?

NYC_Sony_b..nsausagebar.jpg

Rosemary's
Another former neighbourhood bar which has hipstered up but still has a nice atmosphere.
We spent a great night there feeing the jukebox. NYC does lots of jukeboxes!

NYC_Sony_Rosemary1.jpgNYC_Sony_Rosemarys2.jpgNYC_Sony_rosemarys3.jpg

Mclaren park
The park at the far end of Bedford Avenue is interesting. It's a bit rough and ready and I'm not sure I'd hang out their at night but there's definitely some interesting goings on. They apparently have free open air cinema up there in the cinema too.
On our short stroll we saw one of the most interesting cars I've ever seen and a great posters for a lost tree:

NYC_Sony_Brooklynmisc3.jpg

I heart the East Village:

The East Village is somewhere I utterly love and we found ourselves, wherever we'd been, time and again gravitating back there (it helped that it was one stop on the L train). Here is a list of some of my fave things.

NYC_Sony_eastvillage3.jpg

Lucys
This is an old fashioned bar, graffitti and bars out the front. Basic inside, run by a Russian grandmother - no idea if she is Lucy or not, but I like her. No nonsense. It's always dark no matter what time of day and you can grab the local paper and get a good priced drink.

NYC_Sony_lucys1.jpgNYC_Sony_lucys2.jpgNYC_Sony_lucys3.jpg

Saigon shack
A diamond Vietnamese, on Mcdougal street.
The price of this place kept surprising me. Often with Vietnamese, the more kind of 'ruff and ready' a place looks, the better, but this one they've done in a kind of asian modern stylee which would make you think the prices are higher than they are. The food is just bloody amazing.

Sushi Lounge
On the corner of Tomkins Square park - this place was fantastic. Massive bowls of prawn tempura udon at a great price!!

Fabulous Fannys
I could only looking in longingly with my budget - but this place sells vintage specs and in the past I have gotten some fantastic bits that even in my 'sell everything to travel the world' moments, I haven't been able to part with.

Tompkins Square Park
I love this park. I always like to wander through and see what's going on and we always stop to watch the dog parks - one for small dogs, one for all dogs.
In the summer they have lots of events on and they were coming to the end of that season. We stumbled upon an open air screening of 'O brother where art thou' and before the film they had blue mountain style singers performing. Unfortunately it had poured that day so the ground was soaking so we decided not to stick around to watch the film.
There's something about this place though and I find wherever I am if I'm tired, or don't know what to do with myself, or even just want to have a think - I tend to head to the park and the streets surrounding it.

NYC_Sony_eastvillage1.jpg

Otto’s Shrunken Head
I do love a tiki bar so I headed over to find this one on the outer edges of the East Village. We didn't go there enough in the end - I really liked it. It's been around years and is a little bit divey and not 'trendy' so is full of interesting people. They have rockabilly and comedy nights and I can definitely recommend if you want an afternoon hideaway.

Yaffa cafe
This is somewhere I like mainly for the kitschy decor. You can't get enough leopardskin in your life can you?

NYC_Sony_Yaffa1.jpgNYC_Sony_yaffa2.jpg

Elsewhere in NYC...

Tick tock
It's the diner underneath the New Yorker hotel. We always go here and one of the few things in this crazy, busy centre I like.
They do good food. LOTS of it. It's often got a lot of NYPD in there too. One time we saw someone called 'Officer Squash' and this always amuses us to say in an over exaggerated New York accent.

Mob_NYC_tiktok.jpg

Art & MOMA
I've been to MOMA in other places but never got further than the museum shop at the New York one. It's not the cheapest thing in the world to do so we decided to be good backpackers and go on the free night. Wednesday night I think it was. Wow - that's popular. We joined a queue which looped right around the block. It actually didn't take long to get in once they opened the doors but actually I'm not sure if I'd recommend to go here as a freebie. It was so popular/so busy and it's kind of hard to enjoy a gallery with that many people about. Part of the experience should be to have a little peace and space to look at what you like. It's a cool place though, particularly the courtyard garden.

Mob_NYC_moma.jpgMob_NYC_moma2.jpg

Obviously just walking the streets you find a lot of art. Street art, galleries and unintentional art. One of the more interesting things we came across was a building who's front wall swung out onto the street to create the gallery.

NYC_Sony_manhattanmisc3.jpg

NYC_Sony_manhattanmisc1.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc6.jpg

NYC_Sony_manhattanmisc4.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc8.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc2.jpg

Freedom tower
This has gone up so quickly. I have never been to New York when the twin towers were there so I've never been able to imagine this site with something on it. It's always been a massive hole/construction site to me - one tinged with horror and sadness of course. But now the freedom tower is built I get how much the towers meant to people because you can see it almost every neighbourhood and direction you go. It's ever present, so I can only imagine how strange it must have been to live with those towers with such prominence on the street and building views from all over, to have that gone.
That said - I know there's a spike on the top to make it tall but there's something else - an antenna or something - which always looks messy and drove me a bit mad - felt it ruined the view that it should be - clean and standing tall. Not with some wonky wiring at the top.

NYC_Sony_freedom1.jpgNYC_Sony_freedomtower1.jpg

TriBeCa & Meat Packing District
I'd never been properly to these area before so I wanted to have a wander about. This is all about 'I' you notice. Well Mark does like New York but it's my obsession and I make the plans and drag him around. I got stuck on a crazy island for many months so he can traipse around New York with me for a couple of weeks!
Anyhow, I found the areas had some nice old character mixed in with a bit of sterility. I find Soho, though pretty, to be very sterile and it holds no interest for me and these places tinged on that. A bit too cleaned up with quite bland galleries and restaurants.
The architecture of the Meat Packing District is gorgeous though and you can think back to decades old movies or cop shows where they are interviewing someone hanging a whole pig in a freezer (it was always a pig wasn't it?) - they're still the same buildings - gorgeously restored. I just wished they filled it with things that were a little bit more eclectric. Sometimes I think part of New York will over stylise themself!

NYC_Sony_meatpack1.jpg

Highline
We got onto the highline, which is a park like walk setup on an old disused railway line which opened a few years back. I'd been dying to see it and it wasn't wildy exciting but is definitely worth a go. Certain points your walking through not so interesting buildings but then you get a view or a sight that makes it worth it. Particularly the further north you got.

NYC_Sony_Highline1.jpgNYC_Sony_Highline2.jpg
NYC_Sony_Highline5.jpgNYC_Sony_Highline6.jpg

NYC_Sony_Highline4.jpg

The Williamsburg bridge
Everyone raves about walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which I'm sure is great but frankly there's nothing much when you arrive there, other than the view back over and the point you go over on the Manhattan side isn't very interesting either. The Williamsburg bridge hooks up too more interesting places with a lot more going on. It's not only a nice walk if you fancy it but it's a convenient link.

NYC_Sony_W..surgbridge1.jpgNYC_Sony_W..surgbridge2.jpg

Mob_NYC_willbridge.jpgMob_NYC_willbridge2.jpg

It takes you to the lower east side where if you head north you find some of the best restaurants, bars and shops.

Schillers
After we'd walked the bridge, we were practically on the doorstep of one of another of my faves - Schillers lounge which has interiors to die for. Not sumptuous - but it has somehow been preserved in time and you have original tiles, mirrors and especially amazing is the bathrooms downstairs.

NYC_Sony_schillers1.jpgNYC_Sony_schillers2.jpgNYC_Sony_schillers3.jpgNYC_Sony_schillers4.jpg

And they do a very good bloody mary too!!

Central Park
You can't not love Central Park. This was the great advantage to going in the summer to be able to spend a long (if hot and tiring) time in the park. I wanted to go to areas I hadn't been to before so decided to start in the top eastern corner. This meant getting the subway to the edge of Harlem. This is a very different area to the bottom easter corner. Mark was a little disconcerted when we got out of the subway and I tried to find my barings to get to the park. He was even more concerned when we had a huge guy try to hustle us for some money as he'd just got out of hospital because he'd hit his head !?! He did act like he'd had a blow to the nonce!

Anyhow - it made us realise how huge the park is. It took for ever to make our way down but it was really interesting. The difference in the type of people and what they were doing as you made your way down was a surprise. And there's all kinds of little things to find along the way. The huge lake/pond in the middle is huge.

NYC_Sony_centralpark1.jpgNYC_Sony_centralpark4.jpg

Mob_NYC_skaters.jpgMob_NYC_skaters2.jpg

During this trip and another we made to spend a couple of hours here, we finally found the iconic poets walk, watched some baseball, watched some amazing roller skating which I think goes on every weekend in the summer. And people watched - a lot! Watching some of the portrait artists was funny - there was some great artists but the likeness to the person they were actuallly drawing? Way off - hilariously so!

McSorleys
It's a cliche, it's a tourist trap but it's also a great place with great beer and great atmosphere that is not to be missed.
The oldest bar in NYC - probably. The best - it's certainly up there. Sawdust on the floor and you can buy two beers at a time - go for a light and dark.
It is the best. It just is!!

NYC_Sony_mcsorleys3.jpg
NYC_Sony_mcsorleys.jpgNYC_Sony_mcsorleys2.jpg

Trailer Park Lounge
Mark gets dragged here everytime but I have to - it's like a place of workship for kitsch lovers. Buy your beer in a can, order some mac n cheese and just lok around you... heaven!!

NYC_Sony_trailerpark1.jpgNYC_Sony_trailerpark3.jpg
NYC_Sony_trailerpark5.jpg
NYC_Sony_trailerpark4.jpgNYC_Sony_trailerpark2.jpg

Peculiar Place
We were introduced to this on an east to west pub crawl we got taken on on our first visit together (thanks cousin Andrew) and I couldn't remember it's name but stumbled across it again in Greenwich village. It's a perfect bar. Little bit funky, but not too much - doing it's own thing.

NYC_Sony_peculiarpub2.jpgNYC_Sony_peculiarpub.jpg

Washington square
Fabulously central to all things good and great people watching. There was an eccentrically dressed crazy guy who looked like he was about to beat on people but actually was chasing after people who were dropping litter and shaming them. Good for him!!
You always have to end up at Washington Square park!

West side story
We hit the Hudson on the west side for the first time. It's funny to see Jersey sat over the other side. It always seems to much further away than Brooklyn - like it's another world almost. A walk north, ending up by Chelsea pier, was interesting having never been there before and nice and quiet but unless I was after some peace and space I probably wouldn't rush to go back over there again. Though I can see it's appeal for the owners of upscale homes in the West Village - somewhere to go chill or run, with few tourists.

Brooklyn

I'd wanted to stay in Brooklyn and explore it for the first time but actually I found it quite difficult to suss out what to do at certain times and often ended up just heading to Manhattan. I probably would have just ticked off each neighbourhood to walk around aimlessly, but I was driving Mark mad with having no real 'end destination' on such excursions. Here's some of the things we did/places we discovered in Brooklyn, outside of our local Williamsburg.

Coney Island
I have always wanted to go to Coney Island but I've never been around in the summer. It's so icon for it's retro funfair - there's a soundtrack in my head whenever I see pictures. It's a bit of hike down there on a pretty slow train, but going mid week it was pretty quiet. This was good so as to avoid hoards of kids and the noise that brings, but it did mean there wasn't a lot going on there.
I guess to compare Coney Island to somewhere in the UK it would be Blackpool or Brighton pier. Old fashioned beachside fun.
We started our trip rather badly as it was lunchtime and we'd not eaten so hastily made a stop at Applebee's. I've never been to one before and it's unlikely I will again. The first person you see as you walk in is ..... first impression officer. The food was not great and not cheap either. I think if you went with their ridiculous 'stuff your face' type deals it would work out cheaper. I was gutted we didn't hold out and go to somewhere with a bit more characters.

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland18.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland12.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland11.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland10.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland7.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland6.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland5.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland3.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland2.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland1.jpg

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland4.jpg

The fair area is separated into a couple of areas, the larger rides and an area for smaller kids with cuter rides. It's got a proper old skool style and is a visual treat for sure.
I, of course, had a go on Zoltar (as per Big), but unfortunately (or fortunately probably more likely) I have remained in my 30s.

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland16.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland19.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland17.jpg

There's some icon structures such as the parachute, the Cyclone and big wheel. The cyclone is still shut from the storms but even without storm damage i don't think i'd have the guts to go on it - it is proper ricketty!!

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland14.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland13.jpg

The take away food looked great - wish we hadn't eaten in god awful Applebees first. We did partake of rather amazing ice creams before we left though.

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland21.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland20.jpg

NYC_SLR_ConeyIsland9.jpgNYC_SLR_ConeyIsland8.jpg

Brighton Beach
We went down to Brighton beach (well we had to didn't we) in the Russian area known as little odessa. It was a funny place. Quite a lot of angry russian drunks hanging about and then some interesting bars/restaurants.

We hung for a little bit in Tatianas - a large seafront restaurant with a nightclub downstairs which looked very interesting. I think it's the kind of club were you really don't want to mess with the management!!

NYC_Sony_brightonbeach1.jpgNYC_Sony_brightonbeach3.jpg

NYC_Sony_brightonbeach2.jpg

The Transit Museum
This was something I fancied as I've always found the idea of old tube/subway stations interesting. I'd love to see some of the abandoned ones, but this is the closest I can get as the museum is set in a disused station - Court station.

NYC_Sony_Transportmuseum1.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum2.jpg

I flippin loved this place. I don't know what this says about me, but I thought it was fab. There's tons of old carriages from the different eras - complete with posters and ads from the time which were quite fascinating.

NYC_Sony_Transportmuseum3.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum4.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum5.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum6.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum7.jpgNYC_Sony_Transportmuseum8.jpgNYC_Sony_T..ortmuseum10.jpgNYC_Sony_T..ortmuseum11.jpgNYC_Sony_T..ortmuseum12.jpg

We also got to pretend to drive things and go through turnstiles rather pointlessly.

NYC_Sony_Transportmuseum9.jpgNYC_Sony_T..ortmuseum13.jpg

There was a video room which was showing the full Michael Jackson 'Bad' video and a short doco as it was filmed at the subway station that we'd come into the area in.

Brooklyn heights
Brooklyn heights isn't really a destination in itself but it's nice to have a wonder around. The buildings are so iconic and have a host of amazing former residents. We had a very NYC moment when we were approached by a Rabi asking for directions as we stood outside the apartment block that was home to Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe. Just up the road was Truman Capote's former home and Moonstruck was filmed around there.
Mark didn't know what Moonstruck was. WTF?
On the river side of the area it of course has great views of manhattan. It is very quite and I can imagine it's ideal for (rich) families for convenience as well as style.

NYC_Sony_brooklynheights.jpgNYC_Sony_brookbridge5.jpg

Caroll gardens/the canal ways
Caroll gardens is a really nice, pretty area. It kind of reminded me of parts of Hove. It's quite and nice but still with plenty of things around.
The strangest thing was the canal - a very quite place to go that you can imagine only a few short years ago, before restoration, it being dodgy as!
I think if I stayed again for a while, I'd like to be based here.

NYC_Sony_Brooklyncanal.jpg

Cobble Hill
This is another semi gentrified area which has some nice restaurants and bars - a good stop off if you've been to the Transport museum as otherwise there's not much nice around that area. I can recommend the Thai food at HopHap.

Under the Brooklyn Bridge
There is a park under the brooklyn bridge which in the summer shows outdoor screenings of various movies.
The weather wasn't great the day we were there. We had a wander around the area known as Dumbo but there's not really anything there.
There's a restaurant around there which we had a few drinks in which was full of character. The Old Fulton restaurant was once italian owned I think and is now russian owned I think. The decor is luxurious and a bit barmy and it has a fab atmosphere and mix of clientelle. Rich beautiful kids, bikers, old geezers. So if you are round there and not sure where to go, I'd give it a go.

NYC_Sony_brookbridge3.jpg

There was less open than prob previously I think - the famous river cafe is closed due to damage from the storm.

NYC_Sony_brookbridge6.jpg

We got to watch a latino band filming a music video which was v funny as they were dancing to no music!!

NYC_Sony_brookbridge4.jpg

The film on that night was Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Many people's idea of heaven but I'm not keen and add to that the bad view and poor weather we didn't make it the whole way though and left early.

NYC_Sony_brookbridge7.jpgNYC_Sony_brookbridge1.jpg

It was dark by then and we did manage to get lost trying to find the nearest subway. Brooklyn isn't really the most fun place to get lost. I didn't admit to Mark that I was a little concerned (I never do when this kind of thing happens!).
But we found our way in the end thanks to some helpful students!

It's a great view day and night over to manhattan and looking at the bridge so worth going over there but the lack of nearby subway means needing a little planning.

NYC_Sony_brookbridge2.jpg

NYC Budget Traveler Tips:

Ferry cross the Hudson
It's a classic tip on any budget NYC itinerary but it's a good one. The Staten Island Ferry is free and you get great views not only of the Status of Liberty but also of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the newly resurgent Staten Island. I also found the journey itself was interesting in terms of people watching. This is people's commute. It's a funny old, oddly relaxing experience.

NYC_Sony_statferry1.jpg
NYC_Sony_statferry2.jpg

Cheap eats
NYC is amazing for the best, most expensive food in the world but also for cheap eats. You just need to be careful and think about where you are/what you are having but it's all there. I thought we'd eat mainly street food and eat at home but eating out was quite easy if you plan - just keep your eye on resturants/cafes as you pass them so u can come back if they are a bargain.

Just Wander
You can go looking for things in New York but more often than not the most interesting things you will stumble upon.
Just walk the streets - try out different neighbourhoods - it's amazing the things you find. Impromptu hug givers, tree huggers (yes I have seen both), street parties, exhibitions and hidden treasures.
You also often stumble on tv or movie sets. I don't thik I've ever been to NYC without coming across some tv/movie trailers. This time around they were filming in 2 places I like - Mc Sorleys - famously the oldest pub in NYC and a tourist trap to an extent but such a great place non-the-less. I'll talk about it more later on.
They were completely closed for filming which we were rather miffed about as we were headed there. The other place was the Borgeous Pig which is a great, atmospheric fondue restaurant which was out of our budget this time around. Who knows what they were filming in there - a cozy couple restaurant scene I would imagine - it's deep reds and twinkling lights would work well for that.

You always come across the most interesting things by accident - it is the NYC law!

Mob_NYC_brooklyn.jpgMob_NYC_brooklyn2.jpg

The Good

My mini Law and Order tour
I love the series Law and Order - be it original, SVU, Criminal Intent, LA, UK - all of them. And there's barely an episode I haven't watched because if it's on I'll put it on. I like it as background and I find it oddly relaxing. What I found on the trip that apart from poss Cuba -every country seems to shows Law & Order. I guess because there's so many of them and they sell them cheaply - but I've never been far away when we've had TVs. Anyhow, I wanted to go to a few places related to it - the famous court steps, police plaza and the street named after Jerry Orbach from the original (RIP!). So I dragged Mark around some more but didn't go too far afield in my quest. Both the court (easter lower manhattan) and the road (on the upper west side) took me to areas I've never been to before.

NYC_Sony_lawandorder1.jpgNYC_Sony_lawandorder2.jpg

Cool riders
The subway between Williamsburg and East Village is a cool ride.
You get the most amazing buskers on this route (we met an incredible english guy who told us he made a good amount of money there).
You also get the kids who do kind of break-ish dancing involving hanging of the train poles and doing various acrobatics who then just politely hand the hat around.

Riverside park
This is a very peaceful park on the upper west side which goes on forever and mainly has locals so a different kind of people watching.
For people who like cheesy movies - the bit at the end of 'You've got mail' was filmed here.
NYC_Sony_park.jpg

Bwwoooklyn
On the subway in Brooklyn, you'd get the drivers talking to you about the journey and the stops. Mark and I were gleefully on our journey one time to have the most fabulously shouty female train driver with the epitomy of Brooklyn accents. It really is the little things.

The Bad

See the (grim) sites
You probably can't spend a lot of time in NYC without seeing some gross things.
There was the guy on a kind of wheelchair who was also an alcoholic or druggy and his 'lovely' mates clearly couldn't be bothered to help him pull his pants back on after he last went to the toilet. That arse was on show for all to see and they were all oblivious.

There was another delightful lady we encountered, who we smelled before we saw. A very hot, humid day on the subway and the smell hit us and as we turned to see what it was we saw an opened shopping bag laid on the floor with large chunks of faeces falling out onto the platform. She was particularly special. Obviously she has a hideous life but it was puzzling that someone who lives in the subway could be so huge. I guess the excess in NYC allows even the homeless to be obese. Sad stories all round.

Alice's empty tea cup
Alice's tea cup on the upper west side. It should have worked but apart form a bit of interesting decco and chirpy 'boy' staff, it was over priced and underwhelming. Everything that NY can get wrong sometimes. Go full on or don't bother!

NYC_Sony_alicecafe1.jpgNYC_Sony_alicecafe2.jpg

Where not to go
Brooklyn can definitely change block by block and after getting off at one subway station we went in the wrong direction and not so much ended up in a rough location, more one were you offered a bit of a shocking insight. This area had a bunch of buildings grouped near each other which meant there were some interesting characters hanging around. The US equivalent of the job centre and social services (whatever they are called over there). And just up the road was a tower block detention centre. Bit of an eye opener, just from going a couple of blocks in the wrong direction.

Say what now?
Why does everyone have to shout their conversations? Why? Why!?!?

The Ugly but inevitable

Everything changes and you've got to wait
First time into the East Village and I was looking forward to brunch, bloody mary and all at Life, on the corner at Tompkins Square Park.
This is the cafe that features in the musical/movie Rent as is was frequented by the writer back in the 80s when the East Village was a grim, yet arty haunt. We had ended up going here not because of it's association but because it was a couple of blocks from where we had stayed in New York on a previous trip (now there's a place I can highly recommend the New York Bed and Coffee (http://www.bedandcoffee.com/) has arty room and shares bathrooms with a few other people on each floor. It's fantastic! Anyhow, the brunch at this place was amazing and we were gutted to have found it had gone. Asking in the uber trendy coffee house next door, apparently one day it just shut unexpectedly and that was that. It is the nature of New York, ever changing, but it is a bit gutting. You don't want the less fancy places to go but nowhere is safe. The great bar Nice Guy Eddy (or something like that) which used to be opposite Katz Deli on the lower east side is now literally a trendy wine bar. New York does character well but it also does bland well and I noticed walking around that a lot of some of my favourite areas have gotten quite boring.
My biggest annoyance - bars or restaurants that had no sign with their name on the front as they are too cool for school and if you want to know you will find out. Their interiors are taken back to brick with the dippest lighting they can manage so you can't even see in to try to work out who they are and what they do.

http://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2014/apr/03/new-york-storefronts-what-a-difference-a-decade-makes

As for the queuing thing that is so loved in New York. Forget it. I don't care how good your food is, I'm not queuing and especially not if there's a chance I can't get in and if I do it's over crowded. The queuing itself is half the being seen and I really can't think of any bigger waste of your life.
I might have really, really wanted to try a Cronut (a fancy bakery in Greenwich Village have created this which is a cross breed of a croissant and a donut), but I'm not going to go there at 8am and queue for an hour. I went in at 3pm and they'd sold out 6 hours previously.
There's tons of good food to be had in the world. It shouldn't involve hype.

Time Square
I tend to tick Time Square off once per trip but it's not somewhere I really like to go. I'm not into shows so other than that it holds no interest to me. Mark does love a bit of Ripleys but we've done that one before. There's a two headed cow from Wiveliscombe, Devon in the entrance and I remember on a previous trip, the guy outside trying to get people in told me it was from 'Wivel-scom' until I corrected him about the pronunciation. Obnoxious? Moi?

Falling into a festival
We turned down a street on 5th Avenue and saw there was a little Brazilian festival going on, so we walked through it only to find at the far end it was actually a full on celebration with people like sardines trying to watch something on stage. The crowd was huge and intense and we literally got trapped and struggled to make it out together. I can handle crowds but I think when you're not expecting it, it can be a tad full on.
But then falling upon things randomly occurring is what makes NYC so exciting.

NYC_Sony_manhattanmisc5.jpg

Alcohol and a jukebox brings people together
We had a very odd but definitely fun night in the East Village one day when we decide to partake of the jukebox as is our like and due to our choices got chatting to a couple who were on their first date. They were really nice but I think they weren't into each other in a romantic way so we had a more fun the 4 of us putting on some 'interesting' tunes. Lot's of guilty pleasures - oh yes - even Celine Dion. Then another guy who was with his friends, cottoned on to this and applauding are good bad taste, joined in by putting on Jennifer Rush 'I am your lady'. Epic!!

Too cool for skool
Williamsburg was v funny as the staff in half the places were away with the fairies. Obviously none of them were waiters - they would all be artists, in a band, directors, photographers or whatever. But in a city that prides itself on service, it could be hilariously bad here. We didn't care as we were in a rush and had been in countries where service isn't a big deal ever! I think bad burger was a prime example. Food was fine but the guy working there was a total space cadet. But I kind of liked it. It added to the vibe. Reminded me of the film Clerks.

Mob_NYC_badburger.jpg

The End

So that's it really. Not a blog that makes much sense but I had to get all those memories and moments down and as it's one of the most photographable places in the world, we got some great shots.

NYC_Sony_manhattanmisc7.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc9.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc10.jpgNYC_Sony_manhattanmisc11.jpg

Posted by KtandMark 06:58 Archived in USA Comments (0)

USA - A New York State of mind

by Kt

The journey from Canada

We took the train from Montreal to the US and it was a pretty straightforeward, if slow, trip. The train was well over an hour late and no message of apology ever came. This seems to be a given. This, I would imagine, is why people don't take the train in the US.
A couple of tips for anyone taking the train from Canada to the US (this train was the New York city train):
- When you arrive at Montreal there are some porters hanging about who for a tiny amount (I can't remember exactly what it was but as backpackers we didn't bat an eyelid) will look after your luggage when you arrive at Montreal station so you can wander about and then take it down to load on the train so you get on first (seat aren't allocated). This is apparently due to the recent rules since the Boston bombings - people have to get on with their luggage so if your luggage is looked after and put on - you have to go with it. It was all kind of odd and a bit unofficial seeming but it all worked perfectly and we got great seats nice and early.
- Your ESTA form is not valid for travelling overland into the US. We had to cough up some more money to pay for our VISA entry into the USA. We were a bit p'd off at this as it had not been mentioned anywhere when we'd looked up travelling in by train. The reason seemingly is because the passport check seemed to use no technology whatsoever. Our passports were manually checked over by someone who came to each passenger. If they though you'd have to pay of there was anything that needed talking about - you went and sat in the buffet carriage and waited for someone else to come around to chat to you. This process took forever - we must have been there a good hour and a half. It just seemed bizarrely disorganised and as is too often the case, some of the passport control guys had attitude problems. Our's seemed very annoyed that he had to look through our very full and disorganised passports and even more grumpy at the concept we'd been travelling. But we didn't get it bad at all compared to anyone who was hispanic or asian. Jeez. I guess you don't often witness the questioning of people so close at hand but downright rude seemed to be the order of the day and if they didn't speak English well, then just loudly, aggressively, impatient repeating seemed to be the order of the day. This wasn't all the staff to be fair but the bad ones are the ones you remember aren't they? This experience definitely put me off getting into the country this way again. It was undeniably good value but turning up with a bad taste in your mouth and super late, is never a fun start.

Experiencing the real US of A

So, my main reason for visiting upper New York state was to visit family so I won't go into the personal details of my utterly delightful stay but will just talk about some of the things we did/places we went, because as well as loving being with my family and getting huge crushes on my gorgeous nieces and nephew - we also got a bit of a crush on this lovely area.

We were staying at my sister Patty's, in a place just outside of Maine, Broome County with the largest big city being Binghamton and the postal code being Johnson City. The signs as you drove through said Johnson City Village - all this was rather confusing to say the least! My other sister, Shani, lives in Harpursville - a 45ish minute car ride away which in these parts is considered close by. Being such a vast country, it's such a long journey to get anywhere, however, the roads and quick, the traffic, quiet by UK standards (VERY quiet by south east england standards), so the journeys tend to be smooth so not a big deal. Patty and my niece Kim picked us up from Schenectady (we never worked out how to pronounce this) which was a couple of hours drive each way for her (not to mention the wait for our delayed train) but she was cool about it as she is so used to such distances. When drives to relatives and dentists and such like are that kind of distance, it's not such a big deal. We definitely found that the journeys weren't remotely arduous - as compared to travelling the relatively short distance from say London to Devon - the whole thing a blood pressure inducing crawl, these smooth, big roads, in big comfy cars were a doddle. On the way back from the station we got to stop at a proper diner too which was cool.

We were staying properly out in the country but you could be in the centre of Binghamton super quickly - everything was super convenient but of course you have to drive! We were fine of course as we were ferried about by long suffering relatives but you definitely see how much of the US gets missed out by anyone travelling/back-packing as it's not so easy to get about and explore unless you have a car. I definitely want to do a huge road trip at some point. The landscape around here was lush, green and pretty epic. There's lots of wildlife - large deer are particularly common and we saw some hanging about out front of the house one time. You can also tempt them in with apple cores apparently.
Deciding to get a bit of exercise and explore one day we walked to the end of the road and back. My niece Kim does this walk regularly so we thought this would be a lovely idea. Wow that was a hike - especially the large uphill bit on the way back - Kim is clearly way, way fitter than us two layabouts. Despite knackering ourselves out - it was a lovely walk - nice to check out the local properties - huge houses - mansion like to people from England - manicures lawns, out-buildings and barns the size of a Brighton apartment block!

NYstate_mob_barn.jpg

Much of our stay was spent hanging around with family and I was lucky enough to go out and about to do a bit of girl shopping without a moaning Mark in the background.I had my first real 'shopping mall' experience. I've obviously been to them in cities, but never a kind of everyday out of town one. Could have knocked me down with a feather at the price I paid for some jeans and a top - you'd be lucky to pay that in a charity shop at home. I was also quite bewildered by all the sch-peal from the shop assistants - your rounded up change going to charity and doing surveys online and yada yada. It quite bewildered me. I cottoned on soon enough and by the time I hit NYC I was no longer a rabbit in the headlight at cut them off pretty sharpish.

I was also sadly excited by the supermarkets. Wegmans is a great store. I was impressed that they had special attention on things that were in season - peaches were big time while we were there. And not only that the produce tasted so good. This being an area with lots of farms, they clearly aren't going to accept fruit and veg that tastes of nothing that we get so used to in the UK from supermarkets. And also - in the kids sweets section, they had an overhead model train - how can you not love that????
We also sourced some yorkshire tea here and lots of cheese. I was being proper spoiled!

The local farm shop was obviously a delight. Corn from their cornfields growing right next door (with dried corn cobs decorating the wooden building that holds the shop). Freshly baked pies. The hugest, juiciest peaches and lot's of other interesting bits and pieces.

NYstate_mob_food4.jpgNYstate_mob_food3.jpg
NYstate_mob_food.jpgNYstate_mob_food2.jpg

Diggin it

My brother in law, Steve, runs a construction company and has a bunch of trucks, diggers and the like. Mark and I were like little kids climbing into the driving seats of things and pretending to drive. Yep, we made broom, broom noises and everything. It was ace!!

Check out the big shed that houses a load of stuff which uses old lorry bodies as walls:

NYState_slr_lorryshed.jpg

I noticed in this picture also, that you can see the kind of landscape of the area too.

NYState_slr_lorryshed2.jpg

NYstate_mob_tractor.jpgNYstate_mob_truck1.jpg

NYState_slr_truck1.jpgNYState_slr_tractor.jpg

Our biggest thrill (who needs theme parks when you live round here!) was getting to have a go on the big excavator type thing - we went out with my nephew, Ryan, and the three of had a bit of a go at excavating rubble. I went first and was a little gun-ho and swirled the cab round at quite a speed that gave Mark a bit of a heart attack. It hadn't occurred to me to check that the digger arm was hanging higher than the rubble. Luckily I was clear by a few inches - may have rocked the cradle somewhat if it hadn't been. I think my brother in law had given me a little more credit for having common sense, than I deserved!! Once you get the hang of the controls it's actually a super enjoyable, almost meditational thing - picking up the rubble on one side and swing round and position it on the other. Sounds odd but I could do it all day. Apparently it's not quite so enjoyable in smaller vehicles that are a lot less sturdy and therefore produce a bumpy ride.

NYstate_sony_dig.jpg


Riding high (and low and in a ditch)

Other countryside toys included the atvs (quad bikes). They owned a couple of fields a little way up the road which were perfect for bombing about in.

NYstate_sony_field.jpg

Mark was keen to have a go and my teenage niece Jenna basically gave me no choice. We were sensibly helmet-ted up (don't let the photos/vids of Mark fool you - he took the helmet off to look cool (which is the least cool thing ever, right?).

NYstate_mob_markhelmet.jpg

I went out on the back with Jenna (trying not to cling on too hard to the poor girl) and she was, I believe, quite enjoying herself as we went over big dips and she charged a group of cows, only to turn at the last minute while I screamed. "You're such a baby" I seem to recall her shouting, gleefully!!! But I have to confess it was great fun and I did, just about, trust her not to kill me. Mark was in his element and thought he was Evil Knievel or some such hero.
I did have a go in 'the easy field'. It was quite fun but I think I enjoyed being the passenger as I don't trust myself. I was hurtling at quite a speed (read very slowly and tentatively) when I heard "mind the fence" - there was a low wire fence which I hadn't noticed at all. After realising I couldn't trust my senses at all I went off the idea a bit. Plus my hands had seized up where I'd been clinging onto the handles so hard!!

NYstate_sony_atv2.jpgNYstate_sony_atv.jpg

My second fail was trying to climb Jenna's favourite tree. It had a few helping notches but I couldn't pull my weight up onto the leg that was sprawled out into the air. And when my hip nearly seized up, I realised I was also the least cool person around - along with Mark. Though he did manage to get up the tree - where they both sat, looking down laughing at me!!!

NYstate_sony_tree1.jpgNYstate_sony_tree2.jpg

Mark had a second atv experience with my nephew Ryan. They live much more out in the sticks, surrounded by woodland and so that was a bit more of an adventurous, rough, ready and wet ride, as of course, 16 year olds have no fear.

And his third go was going out one evening with Steve. This was apparently quite a hard core experience - going right into the woods through terrain he didn't think a bike could go. He was quite pale when he came back. "I thought I was going to die" he whispered to me. Though he was also exhilarated and you bet, given the chance, he would have gone out again the next day. I was ok with it - he's quite well insured after all!!

Woodland, waterfalls and wine

We went out on day out with my sister Shani and brother-in-law Bill where we headed up to Ithaca, home of Cornell university and the finger lakes.

On the way we went to an open bird sanctuary area connected to a college, I can't remember which. This was a gorgeous hideaway - though not many birds about, wrong time of year, maybe, it was a magical little place. Lush and green, ponds covered with lilly pads - a really peaceful ambiance.
I got quite excited by seeing a bit of word that had been gnawed by a beaver.

NYstate_mob_pond.jpgNYstate_mob_pond2.jpg

Sounds sad I know, but when you see it and you haven't seen it before, it's kind of cool because it looks just like you'd imagine or how you'd see beaver gnawed wood appear in cartoons. We also, while looking over the huge pond area, saw 2 large red deer with white tails having a drink by the waters edge.

NYState_slr_pond.jpg

NYState_slr_pond2.jpg

This is where Mark had his first bout of camera envy. Bill's had amazing lenses and he was getting great shots of things we could barely see if we took on our SLR.

We headed further south up to Ithaca itself which had lots of big, interesting houses and seemed an interesting, vibrant place.
We went to Walmart which I was chuffed about as I've never been to the infamous Walmart. We got ourselves a lovely little picnic and went to go eat by the massive, gorgeous lake at the Allan H. Treman State Marine Park. This is kind of the beach for people living round here, it being so far from the coast. People have their leisure boats moored up here, some simple, some very grand and swish. The water is clear and the scenery is breath taking.

NYstate_mob_fingerlake1.jpgNYstate_mob_fingerlake2.jpg

NYState_slr_marinecopboat.jpgNYState_sl..gerlakepark.jpg

After our picnic and walk around the edge of the lake (and Mark becoming dr doolittle trying to befriend some ducks) - we headed north to go to Taughannock Falls. I was super happy as with all our travelling we'd not really seen a proper scale waterfall anywhere. We'd not seen one at all since Fiji, getting on for 2 years ago. And this waterfall is definitely impressive. There was what seemed to be a wedding that had gone on there which was must have made for some great wedding shots. Mark and I both actually had an intake of breath when we rounded the corner of the viewing steps and saw the waterfall for the first time. Wow! Impressive to say the least. This is where Mark almost gave up trying to take photos when he could see the great ones Bill was setting up.

NYstate_mob_waterfall.jpg

NYState_slr_waterfall.jpg

Next stop was for a wine tasting. Not too shabby for Katie :) Believe it or not, wine lover that I am, I have never done a wine tasting and it's something I'd really wanted to do on this trip. After not doing it in Oz I thought I wouldn't get the chance after Napa got knocked off our list of places to visit so this was a great bonus for me. A waterfall and wine tasting in one day :) Yey!!! And the place was a gorgeous. A vineyard looking out over the lake and the mountains beyond. Talk about giving any view in Tuscany a run for it's money.

We did a panoramic photo of the view but it really does no justice.
NYstate_sony_wineview.jpg

So, we did a tasting of 4 wines. It said which each one was and the price and it was interesting to find your preference and how the preference changed slightly as time went on. I was surprised just how much wine you got. Shani was designated driver that day and for sure, you couldn't get away with driving and having one tasting - it's a lot, not just a sip. Beautiful wines. Would have loved to have gotten one but wouldn't have been able to carry such fragile cargo - all the room is taken up carrying Mark's fragile ego - boom boom!

NYstate_sony_wine.jpg

It was quite a drive back but a great chance for a girlie gossip as the boys in the back both fell asleep. Luckily we only did the one tasting - tempting as it was to go on, because if we had we'd have been in no state to enjoy the evenings festivities.

A little bit of country baby

This Tim McGraw gig had come up before we went so we knew my sister had gotten the tickets which I was proper excited about.
I don't know a lot of artists but have experienced a few road trips in the US and more surprisingly, Australia, where the only music radio stations we could get were country and predominantly I always think of country as fun. The words to the songs are amazing and quite often tongue-in-cheek. One of the songs that popped on the radio when we were on the way to the concert was legendary - it was all about getting his red neck on. I LOVE this and decided then and there that was what I was going to do that evening - get MY redneck on.
The concert was put on by Dick's Sporting Good - how all american does that sound for a star - and was setup in the grounds of a golf course. It drew a pretty impressive crowd and we traipsed through armed with our foldup chairs. How prepared is that - I am terribly unprepared for such things normally and it was so worth it to have a nice seat while we waited for proceedings to begin. They weren't going to pussy foot about with a support act (super pleased about that - it so drags out an evening) and pretty much bang on time Tim came on. For those of you who doesn't know who he is (I did know of him but not really any of his music), he is famous for wearing a black cowboy hat and is married to Faith Hill, who is a little more famous in the UK. We'd lined up our chairs in 2 rows and during the wait, my nieces Heather and Jenna amused themselves taking photos. I shouldn't have pulled those funny faces as those photos have come back to haunt me on facebook, let me tell you!!!
There was a bit of a problem with the sound, so people sitting on one side of the stage - us for instance - weren't able to hear the words very well. This actually ended up being a blessing as lots of picky, not used to things being spot on, type people didn't like it and left. So - we had loads more room around us - result!! I didn't need to hear the words from Tim because either the crowd were singing them loudly or my sister Patty (who is a fun drunk without the drinking!). There was some real hum-dinging tunes I can tell you (see I have my redneck on).

There's Something like that with the lines "I had a BBQ stain on my white T-shirt, She was killing me in that mini-skirt". Then there was Truck Yeah - with the song title being the heavily chanted chorus, Mark decided to change the words to other vehicles in honour of our fun trip "atv, yeah" "digger, yeah", "excavator, yeah" and so on. Mark also knew all the words to one of the songs, as he'd recorded in his music studio, unknowing it as a Tim McGraw song. Shani said she was surprised when all of a sudden she heard someone belting out the song from behind her, to turn and see it was Mark ;) I think the fact that for some reason, I guess as people had driven and it was quite a family event, the line to the beer and wine stand was pretty much always non-existent, aided his newly found enthusiasm. Yes people of Britain - you didn't have to queue to get a drink at a gig - utopia?!?! I was personally rather partial to 'Live like you were dying'. I can't remember the others - I must get my family to write me up a playlist.
We'd been lucky enough to get to park nearby in a friend of Shani's yard. This says it all about the size of houses etc round here - this was a town house but he'd fitted 80-90 cars in the back garden. We hung about on the street for a while waiting for the traffic to clear but once we got out it was 15 minutes home. Patty thought this was terrible traffic - I've had worse on a work commute! Really seeing the appeal of living up round here.
Especially after being entertained on the way home by my super talented niece Jenna.

Come on baby light my fire

Now I love a good fire. Burning things is so satisfying no? It's not something you get to do much these days. In fact, you don't even get many bonfires on Guy Fawkes night - it's all about the fireworks, which I love, but fires have become few and far between in our over packed with people, health and safety conscious britain. Well probably not in the country, but I didn't hang out there much these days. Anyway, one night we had a massive fire. It was huge and Mark and I's eye boggled. This was just burning general waste from the woods and construction sites etc. And we only burnt about a quarter of it. And by all accounts this was an incy fire compared to the one they had at my niece Kim's graduation. I'd totally forgotten how relaxing and lovely it is to sit around a fire. Well, sit for a while - then realise your face is melting so back up a bit, only to 10 minutes later realise your eyelashes are singing so move back further, until 20 mins later as the fire calms, you shuffle forward again. Add to the lovely ambiance of a fire and family - what's that we hear in the difference - only bloomin kayotes, that's what??? How cool is that? Howlingly cool! I was feeling a bit Dances with Wolves. Of course if anyone had left me out there in the dark, on my own with the howling, I would have been howling myself, like a baby, in about 30 seconds.

NYstate_sony_fire2.jpgNYstate_sony_fire1.jpg

We also got to try Smores. This is, if I can remember it correctly, Graham crackers (remember Brit's it's not pronounced as we would (*coughs* properly) but as 'Gram', with chocolate and marshmallows sandwiched in the middle and then put on a stick and stuck in the fire. Yum! The dark choc one was definitely the way to go.

Food

Our first big family meal with all my nieces and nephews would have been great regardless of the food but let's say that the mac n cheese cooked by my nephews own fair hands - for the first time - was pretty darned good. The second batch he did a few days later was even better (Heather was right - it did need a little bit more cheese!). I could eat that all day everyday - best comfort food in the world.

Patty doesn't much like cooking but she dropped herself in it by rusling up a peach and blueberry cobbler which was so bloddy tastey that we badgered her until she agreed to do another one before we left.

Spiedies

This is a locally loved thing which is essentially marinated chicken pieces. The key is in the marinade. I first got a whiff of it at the concert and then having had it a couple of time on the bbq, I see what the fuss it about.

Pie

I'd never had an american pie so was keen to try one. It was yummy but was surprisingly sweet. I think it's when I have had pie as desert in the UK - probably back a few decades - it as usually quite tart - rhubarb, apple etc.

NYstate_mob_food5.jpg

We went out for breakfast at a nearby farm. It had a few animals including a friendly (and hungry goat) who wondered freely about the place and who Mark was quite taken with until the goat ditched him with no bye or leave, for someone else with a handful of food.

NYstate_mob_goat.jpg

As part of the breakfast I had a side of sloppy, cheesy potato heaven-ness. I had small pancakes which were pretty big in my eyes and it was proper lovely. Luckily we had my nephew, with hollow legs, with us to finish up what we couldn't manage.

Jelly Babies

This was a big treat for me, brought over my some of my sister's relatives, also from the UK - very much to my delight. The american contingent hadn't heard of them/tried them before and I can confirm they went down VERY well indeed! I of course instructed that you need to bite the head of first.

NYstate_mob_jellybabies.jpg

Wildlife

There's lot of interesting wildlife in them there woods - most of which we never got to see. Mark was dying to see a woodchuck but it just never happened. At Shani's house which is in a lovely location - even more out in the sticks and surrounded by woodland - they have some even wilder animals - bob cats and fisher cats - no I hadn't heard of them either - check them out on google- they are rather weird looking - kind of like a large weasel. Unfortunately the downside to all this wildlife is there's a lot to watch out for on the roads. A few days after I left a day trip was ruined for Shani & Bill after they hit a deer. Those big deer do a lot of damage!

Things that made me smile

- I learned that referring to the Boondocks is similar to saying 'the back of beyond' and love to use this now!

- The announcement of the lost girl at the Tim McGraw gig described her as a young girl wearing tight blue jeans - she was 11, so this sounded kind of creepy, bless him!!

- The snow mobile that Steve has tucked away in the garage awaiting action - I sooo want to go on this one day!

- There is a very old lady who lives down the road who is a bit of a character. She's pretty deaf and pretty blind but is certainly an independent old chicken. She collects her mail from her mail box by driving down her drive way, parking her large car straight across the road - covering it so no-one can get by. Then slowly (for she is elderly) getting out and getting her mail. Which she goes through. Slowly. Then gets back into her car and either drives back up to the house or goes off into town . It's best to go the other direction as, as I say her eye sight ain't too great.
We'd heard about her as folk lore and then we got to see if for ourselves. While we were waiting (quite a while) for her to finish up, we got the opportunity to take a snap.

NYstate_sony_ladydrive.jpg

Trip down to NYC

I had decided to break our journey to New York City down by stopping at Lazy Meadow motel, in the catskills on the way. The stopped proved to be pretty un-necessary as the drive was really easy and quick - great American highways again. But it did give us the chance to explore the area a little.
On the way we went through some cute touristy towns where we picked up some food for the evening in our cabin.

NYstate_mob_trip1.jpg
NYstate_sony_drive1.jpgNYstate_sony_drive2.jpg

Lazy Meadow

I had always wanted to go to the Lazy Meadow - which is a motel that was brought by Kate from the band the B52s. She had then set about decorating it in a kitschy retro stylee - hence my desire to visit. There's a few suite rooms, a couple of cabins and even an airstream. It wasn't quite out in the sticks as I'd thought and was in fact set back off a main road but it did back onto a rather amazing creek.
The room was very cool, but I'm not sure they'd made the most of the site. It felt a bit like the enthusiasm for looking after the place had waned over the years which was a shame - especially as the prices are pretty high!!

NYstate_sony_lazymeadow5.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow1.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow2.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow4.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow6.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow7.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow8.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow9.jpgNYstate_sony_lazymeadow10.jpg

The suite rooms had vcrs (how retro is that!) and a range of cult movies to choose from. They had great furniture and each one had it's own themed. I'd opted for the one that had gnomes white water rafting. There was a kitchenette so we'd decided to enjoy having our own place for the night before we went to an airbnb apartment in NYC.

NYstate_sony_lazymeadow3.jpgNYstate_mob_lazymeadow2.jpg

NYstate_mob_lazymeadow1.jpgNYstate_mob_lazymeadow3.jpg

There was a cute chipmunk who pottered around outside our suite. He looked just like chip and dale!!

Down by the creek, for whatever reason, there were little piles of rocks - so we added our own. I'd gone exploring with a glass of wine in hand - hence the red glass.

Woodstock

Woodstock is a funny old place. It definitely has the feel of what it is - a nice, rural liberal town full of ex New York City folk. Incredibly right on with expensive tastes!!

NYstate_sony_woodstock1.jpgNYstate_sony_woodstock2.jpg
NYstate_sony_woodstock5.jpgNYstate_sony_woodstock4.jpg

NYstate_sony_woodstock3.jpgNYstate_sony_woodstock7.jpg

Check out Janis who was interestingly juxtaposed behind the virgin mary!!

NYstate_sony_woodstock6.jpg

They had these big blue signs all over the town - standing up against the unjust!

NYstate_mob_woodstock1.jpgNYstate_sony_woodstock8.jpg

We finished off our mini roadtrip the next morning with the quintisential diner experience. A nice old fashioned one - not in the chrome 50s diner style - but in a brown, 70s, seen better days style with characterful people - an old lady waitress, a grumpy chef and some crazy russian locals moaning about their health issues.

C7D169512219AC68170590B9420B3FE8.jpg

Posted by KtandMark 10:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]