I’m back from the Big Apple, that crazy city on the island that thinks it’s the center of the universe. It was part two of my bi-yearly pilgrimage, brought on by a combination of Mandy’s asking to go, and cheap tickets on a bus chartered by a friend’s family. Not having to drive makes it much easier to get there, so what the hell, we boarded the party bus at 7am on Saturday and spent the whole day in Manhattan.
And you know what? It was a great trip. Apparently this whole city thing starts to get easier after you’ve done it a few times. I know my way around midtown a little bit now and, on foot, we covered a lot of ground. I even brought the E-M5 with me instead of a point & shoot. Didn’t shoot anything especially great, but it was still fun to have a real camera with me and get a few shots.
The City is a funny place. We hit the streets at 10 in the morning at Rockefeller Center and went up 5th Ave, hitting a few shops on the way. And the streets were empty, by New York standards. There was no sign of the Christmastime crowds I had feared. We went a few blocks up and got lunch at Le Sans Culottes, an out of the way French place recommended to us by Rob of Stinky’s Chili. Great lunch – the food was amazing and the cash-only lunch deal was only $11 each.
Sometime during our lunch hour, however, the floodgates opened and when we turned and headed back towards 30 Rock, the streets were mobbed. It was like someone flipped a switch and set the crowds free. I saw of hundreds people standing in line at FAO Schwartz – the line wrapped around three times before it reached the door.
Back at Rockefeller center, I shot a few more frames of the plaza, itself a flood of humanity now, before meeting up with my buddy Mike. Mike is a lifetime City-dweller, so he knows how to get around. He took us…well, I’m not really sure where we ended up exactly. But we started in Grand Central Station, which I’d never seen before.
The architecture and design in the Station is simply amazing. It’s over a century old and still looks as classy as ever. We were talking about it as we rode the subway; as a nation we probably couldn’t build something like that today. Not with the same commitment to quality and detail. With all the costs – permits, materials, design, constructions, special requirements – it would bankrupt the City to even try. Which is rather sad.
The subway dropped us off near our destination – McSorley’s Old Ale House. Another piece of history, McSorley’s is 158 years old and has hosted the like of Abe Lincoln on it’s long and distinguished list of patrons. It’s pretty cool to sit in a bar and think that you might be sharing the space that Abe used.
McSorley’s has two kinds of beer: light and dark. Mike got us 8 glasses and we shared them between us, managing to snag a table in the back. The place was packed – standing room only, and we actually had to wait a little while to get in. But it was worth it. Such a cool place. The way a bar should be; authentic, without all the themed crap that the new ones go for.
We wandered the neighborhoods in that area for a while, looking for a place to have dinner. Tons of neat-looking bars and eateries that I think fly under the tourist radar most of the time, since they’re somewhat out of the usual lanes of travel. We ended up getting cheesesteaks at 99 Miles to Philly. (I’ve never had a cheesesteak in Philly, but I imagine they’re as good as these were!) And we took a detour to see this:
This is the building from Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” album cover. ‘Cause this is the sort of thing you have to do when you visit the City and have a guide like Mike – you go out and see this stuff that you’d probably never know about otherwise.
A few more blocks on foot and two more subway stations and we were back near Times Square. I shot a few frames looking down the street into the neon-hazed madness, but we didn’t venture in. Gotta draw the tourist line somewhere. We said goodbye to Mike and climbed on the bus for the ride home – and promptly fell asleep.