Wednesday, 17 October 2007

New York, New York! (3rd – 7th October 2007)

Wednesday, 3rd October 2007: Was up at 6am to check out and walked to the bus stop to catch my ride to New York. I bought my ticket with Apexbus which was located in what looked like a dodgy Chinese/Asian neighbourhood basement shop. Should I have flown to NY instead?? I wonder…Photos this morning taken before rush hour in DC:


































































The bus left around 8am non-stop to NY. It was actually comfortable, more so than the buses I took in Perth and Malaysia. I guess having the footrest nearer helps. Would give you the green light if you plan to travel by bus to NY with this company. Another photo taken during my ride somewhere between DC and NY:

4.5 hours later, I arrived in Chinatown, New York. Antonio had previously given me contact details of one of his close friends from university, Mercedes, who lives in NY, and I’ve been in touch with her last week (she’ll be my host during my stay at her apartment). I'm excited to meet her in person – she sounded lovely in her emails and on the phone :) She even had her fiancé, Jorge, come pick me up in Chinatown! And he’s a real gentleman, I must say. You don’t get many guys who walk over to the passenger side and open the door for you these days...hehe...Jorge was so nice and shouted me lunch at Metro Diner (a typical American diner that serves pancakes, waffles, burgers and unlimited amounts of coffee like those you see in movies - I had pancakes and boy was I so full as the serving was massive!!) nearby Merce’s place (Merce is short for Mercedes) before dropping me off at Merce’s place and gave me his keys so I could go out if I wished to. Aw, thanks guys - I already feel very at home and welcomed :)

New York City is the most populous city in the United States, with its metropolitan area ranking among the largest urban areas in the world. For more than a century, it has been one of the world's major centres of commerce and finance. It is also known for its global influences in media, politics, education, entertainment, fashion and arts. This is the city which I'll be spending the rest of the week in - I have only ever dreamed of coming here and I can't believe I am ACTUALLY here!

Merce lives in a lovely basement apartment in Harlem. Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, long known as a major African-American cultural and business centre but also crime and poverty though it is going through a social and economic renaissance. First impressions made me think Harlem is poor, messy, dirty and unsafe – there were people just hanging out or sleeping on the streets! But the brownstone (brown Triassic sandstone which was once a popular building material) buildings here is beautiful and makes Harlem very unique in architecture. And I feel pretty unique being in the neighbourhood too because I stand out in the crowd!

Dropped off my bags and had a quick freshen up before leaving home at 2.30pm and headed to the New York Visitor Centre in Times Square via the subway. Wow, and I thought it was confusing enough figuring out the subway lines in DC – the one in NY was even more confusing with the different numbers and colours for the different routes. Headache!

Times Square is a major intersection in Manhattan at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. Times Square has achieved the status of an iconic world landmark and has become a symbol of its city, principally defined by its animated, digital advertisements.

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! Did I just land myself in a busy Asian city like Tokyo or something???! There were SO MANY PEOPLE in Times Square!!! I was bumped and ushered among the crowd as I walked along the streets and looking up at all the huge billboards – full of colour, lights and sound. And tourists everywhere! So this is what Times Square is all about...WOW.

Went to the visitor information centre on 810 Seventh Avenue, between 52nd & 53rd Streets and took lots of brochures. Lots of homework to do when I get home tonight to plan my itinerary for the next few days. Oh, by the way, here in New York, to get to a certain location, you need to mention if it's Uptown or Downtown and what cross streets it is on.

I need to pee…why aren’t there any public toilets around here?? Thought I could find one in M&M's World. Not one to be seen in the shop but it was a cool shop - heaven for chocolate lovers :P Photos taken this afternoon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603868908129/detail/

Ah, finally found a toilet at the Times Square Information Center. Phew, what a relief! Now I can concentrate on looking for something to do around Times Square. Hmm, I remember seeing Madame Tussauds on one of the streets I passed earlier. Where was it....

Walked around Times Square in search of the wax museum and saw Ripley's Believe It or Not located next door so decided to visit it first. It is a franchise which deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims. Costed me USD22.70 to marvel at the hundreds of weird and unusual artifacts displayed in over 20 galleries spanning 2 floors. It would be heaps of fun for the whole family - you've got to check it out when you visit NY! Photos at Ripley's: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603868974171/detail/

Hopped along next door to Madame Tussauds New York. This is a must-see if you happen to visit a country that has a Madame Tussauds wax museum. Imagine standing side-by-side with A-list celebrities, world leaders, politicians and icons (though sorry to say, not all the wax figures resemble the actual famous people - some just look 'fake'). Costed me about USD23 for this visit. Photos at Madame Tussauds: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603869841703/detail/

Headed back to Harlem at 6.30pm. Okay, I think this is a really bad time to catch the subway because it was packed like sardines in a can. And just because I didn’t want to push in (hey, I’m very nice, you know) meant that I had to wait for the next train. Sheesh!

Finally met Merce in person and she’s lovelier than what I imagined she would be (like a big sister). We stayed home for pasta dinner that she cooked for us and chatted lots. Good food and company, what else could I ask for? :) I do feel bad that I’m invading in her life for the week – sleeping on her couch and poor Jorge can’t visit her as he pleases since I’ve got his set of keys. Sorry!


Thursday, 4th October 2007: I left home at 9.15am to Times Square Information Center to buy a New York Pass. Spent a few hours last night going through the brochures looking at places of interest in NY and worked out that it would save me money if I had the pass rather than pay as I go. The pass allows admission to over 40 of NY's top attractions and museums for a low price. I bought the 3-day pass for USD120 and worked out that if I went to at least 3 of the 40-something places listed in the book, that’s enough to cover the cost of my 3-day pass. Oh yeah, entrance fees are not cheap around here...

I think it’s the city hectic lifestyle here that makes New Yorkers somewhat edgy. The lady at the information centre counter spoke to me as if I didn’t understand English, repeating the same sentence louder each time I ask for further clarification. And she still didn’t answer my question in the end – I give up!

Headed towards the Rockefeller Center next to check out the Top of the Rock on 30 Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings located in the centre of Midtown Manhattan. The centrepiece of Rockefeller Center is the 70-floor, 266 metre GE Building (also known as "30 Rock") where their newly renovated observation deck (Top of the Rock) is located. Costed me USD16.80 to visit the place (unfortunately not covered in my pass). The panels of fully transparent safety glass allows completely unobstructed, open-air views of the entire city from 70 stories, including Central Park, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Woah...feeling a bit giddy standing near the safety glass and looking down...On the 70th floor, reached by both stairs and elevator, there is a 20-foot wide viewing area, allowing visitors a unique 360-degree panoramic view of New York City. It was a little foggy today at the top. Photos taken this morning: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603869023678/detail/

Hmm, what else could I do around here? Was casually walking by and found Radio City Music Hall. Decided to go for the Radio City Stage Door Tour at 12 o'clock - that leaves me a gap hour to walk around this side of Manhattan. Cool! Popped my head into St Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue just opposite the Rockefeller Center, the largest decorated Neo-Gothic-style Catholic cathedral in North America. It was kind of odd to have a cathedral in the middle of an urban area where everyone seems to be a walking fashion statement. I suddenly felt rather under dressed for New York!

At 12pm, I headed back for the Radio City Stage Door Tour, an interesting one-hour walking excursion behind the scenes of Radio City Music Hall, located in the heart of Rockefeller Center. The hall has a beautiful art-deco interior and masterfully restored to the original 1932 grandeur. This is also where lavish theatrical productions, concerts and award shows are performed, including performances by the world-famous Rockettes, the most celebrated women's precision dance company. Photos taken at Radio City Music Hall: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603875037757/detail/

I'm so tired from all the walking! Stopped by some food place in town and had sushi for lunch then continued walking to the Empire State Building. You know, NY is very fast-paced (yep, I could actually feel it even as a tourist) and people seemed to always be in a hurry. They are edgy and sorry to say, rude even, and in effect makes me behave like them too - sheesh!

After a long series of security checks some 30 minutes later, I finally got into the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is a 102-storey art deco skyscraper in New York City and stood as the world's tallest building for more than forty years until the completed construction of the World Trade Center's North Tower in 1972. Following the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001, the Empire State Building became for the second time, the tallest building in New York City. After the 9/11 incident, most places of visit I've been in the US required stringent checks before you can enter. A real pain in the butt but I guess safety comes first.

I started off with the NY skyride at the Empire State Building on the 2nd floor. It is New York’s only aerial virtual tour simulator filled with adventure of movie, motion and sights. To be honest, unless you have time and money to spare, don't bother. I was fortunate that it was included in my pass but wouldn't suggest it. Yeah, it was fun for a bit getting tossed around in your seat but still not worth the money (not interesting or exciting to me).

After the skyride, I did a quick trip up to the Empire State Building Observatory located on the 86th floor. It is 320 metres high and you get a panaromic view of New York City from the observation deck. Too many people to squeeze past to get some photos or use the viewing telescope. It was still quite foggy though. Could have paid extra to go up to the 102nd floor but couldn't be bothered with the long queues.

Gee, I don't get the construction of toilet cubicles in the States - they are cramp and small and to make matters worse, the doors open inwards i.e. into the cubicle. How very annoying...

Opsie, late for my meeting with Erik! Erik and I had agreed to meet up in NY to visit the Museum of Sex (Mosex) after we missed each other at the Washington National Cathedral. The poor guy had been waiting for me for 10 minutes - sorry, got stuck at the Empire State Building!

I have to say, the museum wasn't what I had expected it to be - I had thought there would be exhibits that one could touch and hold (maybe even try - ha!) but mostly only for one to see. You would have to have quite an open mind to explore the world of kink, fetish and fantasy - there are people out there who use whips, balloons, masks, saddles etc to 'spice up' their sex lives! And for those who don't have a partner but still want to the sexual experience at the convenience of your own home, consider getting yourself tools like a life-sized doll made to your liking and feels almost like the real thing (I had touched the 'fake' vagina on display, ok?). Personally, I would like to get a copy of that DVD they had playing in the museum. It was about 45 minutes of unadulterated and uncensored instructional sex video clips of normal day couples having sex in all sorts of positions and ways of penetration. OH MY GOD. That's some serious education you don't get anywhere, ever! You had better go with your partner so you can try the stuff out after your museum visit...hehe...Photos from the rest of the afternoon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603875303903/detail/

It was fun visiting the museum with Erik and discussing the exhibits openly. Haha, I wouldn't suggest to anyone to use this place for a first date - a bit too bold a move. We said our goodbyes here, agreeing to keep in touch. It was a pleasure to meet you, Erik, and I look forward to visit you in Paris or you visiting me in NZ in the near future!

Headed home around 5.30pm and had McDonald’s for dinner – oh, why do I always do this? Urge to eat it but always feel yuck after I had it. Urgh...The rest of the night was spent planning my itinerary for tomorrow and swapping stories with Merce about our day.


Friday, 5th October 2007: Woke up around 7.30am today to get ready for my day out. Merce was up as well and made us Colombian scrambled eggs on toast – yum! She's so nice :)

Left at 8.30am and took the subway from East Harlem towards Battery Park where the ferry leaves for Liberty Island (that's where the Statue of Liberty is). East Harlem is known for its large Latino community home to Spanish Harlem, also known as El Barrio, a neighbourhood in this area. My walk to the subway was an eye-opener - there were people hanging out and homeless people sleeping on the streets. Dirty and not appealing. I wouldn't recommend you using this subway at night. My suspicions is that it is quite a rough neighbourhood given many NYPD roaming the streets during the day...

Battery Park is a public park located at the Battery, the southern tip of the Manhattan. Along the waterfront, ferries depart for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. I was walking towards the waterfront and taking photos in the park when I was stopped by a busker donned up like the Statue of Liberty - he gestured me to come close for a photo (the 'statue' did not speak, just mimed). Ah, the trickster! After the photo was taken, he whispered in my ear that I now owed him 5 bucks!! Ok, you can say it was my own fault if there was a notice stating the price or something but there was NOTHING written ANYWHERE! Sheesh!! I couldn't believe this is how one does business...felt somewhat cheated...

Went to Castle Clinton to collect a Statue of Liberty National Monument Pass (it's free but limited numbers daily) but there were no more passes for the day (and it's not even 10am yet). Oh well, since I'm already here, might as well take a ride to the island and back. It was another foggy day today with some drizzle but thankfully is was a smooth ferry ride. Did I mention to you that I had to go through a security check before getting on the ferry? Oh yeah, another long queue of visitors ushered through the checkpoints...

The first stop was at Liberty Island, a small uninhabited island best known as the location of the Statue of Liberty. The statue is of a robed female figure wearing a crown with seven spiked rays representing a nimbus (halo), who is holding a stone tablet close to her body in her left hand and a flaming torch high in her right hand. Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable icons of the United States, and more generally, represents liberty and escape from oppression.

As visitors were disembarking the ferry, I had a chat with one of the ferry crew to find out if it was worth me getting off the ferry since I have no pass into the Statue of Liberty. "How big is your party?" he asked me. Party?? I guessed he meant people in my group. Told him it was just me and he said to wait for him (he went somewhere). About a minute later, he turned up with a pass for me!! Oh, thank you! Now I can go inside the statue - yay!

What the??! Another long queue to get inside with more security checks, this time including a bomb check. I had to stand in a machine that was like a huge air-blowing cubicle (apparently that was a bomb detector). Exciting...No backpacks, food or liquids permitted in the monument. After 45 minutes standing in line, I FINALLY was inside. Took the elevator to the 10th floor pedestal and climb 24 steps to reach the observation deck, which was just the bottom part of the statue i.e. under the skirt. Hmm...nothing impressive, really. Just spent about 10 minutes there and left to catch the connecting ferry to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island was at one time the main entry facility for immigrants entering the United States. There is a museum on this island that you can visit which I didn't - I just stayed on the ferry and returned to Battery Park (I think the ferry arrives every 10-15 minutes at each stop). Photos taken this morning: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603883139943/detail/

About 12.45pm, I arrived back at the waterfront and made my way to Wall Street. Ah, the sky is clearing up - fabulous! Wall Street is a thoroughfare in lower Manhattan island that runs east from Broadway downhill to South Street on the East River, through the historical centre of the Financial District. I took a walk around the street where the famous New York Stock Exchange (the largest stock exchange in the world) is located and back up before heading to the World Trade Center site.
Wow...there was just NOTHING in the World Trade Center site but rubbles and lots of construction going on. I can imagine the devastation of New Yorkers on September 11th, 2001 and how much damage had been done. Felt a pang of sadness just standing there looking at the empty site. In need of a hug right now...

Next on my list of places to go to today was the Brooklyn Bridge. It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States and stretches 5,989 feet over the East River connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway open to walkers and cyclists in the centre of the bridge and higher than the automobile lanes. I only walked half of it (my legs were sore from all the walking earlier today - should have gotten myself a bike!). Photos taken from Wall Street to Brooklyn Bridge: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603883243465/detail/

I've a feeling that my day of walking has not yet come to an end...Took the subway and went to Chinatown – always very busy and lots of people. Chinatown has the largest Chinese community in the Western hemisphere with smaller clusters of Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian and Hispanic residents living in this neighbourhood. Along these narrow, crooked streets are fish markets, shops selling everything from jade carvings to birds’ nests and hundreds of eateries.

I continued walking on and found Little Italy, a neighbourhood in Manhattan once known for its large population of Italians. This is the part of town you want to be when you crave a good cappuccino - it is crowded with al fresco restaurants and cafes. A bit further west lies SoHo, where galleries show the works of avant-garde artists, chic boutiques sell cutting-edge fashions and busy streets flaunting open-air cafes, buzzing bistros, bars and an aura of hipness. The name is a blend of "South" and "Houston", from "south of Houston Street", and has no relation to the district called Soho in London, England. I could feel and see the obvious change in neighbourhoods as I walked past these 3 places. Very interesting!

Around 4pm, I went near Astor Place to get a ticket to the show "STOMP" for Sunday. Walked down St Mark's Place looking for a subway station to get to Grand Central but instead found a street that hosts alternative retailers (think tattooist, piercings, punk clothing). This street also has several authentic Japanese restaurants.

Grand Central Terminal it is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms - 44 with 67 tracks along them. They are on two levels, both below ground, with 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 on the lower. Being there was like a flashback of my first day at Times Square - too many people! Oh, but it was very cool to be in this famous movie location and just take in the sound and sight of this busy place :)

Started to head back home around 5.30pm to meet up with Jorge and Merce for dinner. Merce shouted us to dinner at a Carribean restaurant nearby her place called Native. Hmm, the food there was yum! Tagged along with Jorge and Merce to do some grocery shopping (Jorge's making pancakes for breakfast tomorrow) and stopped by Settepani Bakery on the way back for coffee and dessert. Ooo, if you come to Harlem, do drop by this shop. They make lovely tiramisu and chocolate cakes to die for and the staff are very friendly too! Thanks Merce for the wonderful treat! Photos taken the rest of the afternoon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603889513021/detail/

The 3 of us decided to check out this salsa place called Columbus 72 later at night. Photos of us before we went out:




































There was a band playing salsa music when we arrived. Interestingly, this place seems to cater for the older crowd i.e. not many young 20-somethings around. I had fun dancing salsa, meringue and bachata with the older men who treated me like a lady :P Even had a dance with Jorge too (though I've a bad habit of trying to lead him - Jorge doesn't know much salsa yet). Hehe...Oh, and I danced meringue with this Chinese man who would dip me as we grooved and that caught a lot of stares and a small audience around us! He gave me his business card asking me to keep in touch so he can come visit me in NZ. Right...that was random...


Saturday, 6th October 2007: Thought I should show you my lovely bed:

Don't be put off by it - that's one very comfortable couch to sleep on!

Jorge and Merce convinced me to join them for breakfast before heading out (eee, me playing gooseberry...). Jorge made us all pancakes this morning - yum, I love pancakes on a weekend! Hey Merce, can I clone myself another Jorge? Or perhaps tell me where I could pick up another man like him? He's so sweet, kind-hearted and a total romantic :) They make such a lovely pair - I'm so glad they found each other!

Left home around 9.15am and headed to Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the largest cathedral in the world. It is the seat of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. I did a free self-tour of the cathedral and it was huge (and I only did part of it as some renovations were going on)! The Statue of Liberty would fit comfortably under its central dome!! Photos taken at the cathedral: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603890023135/detail/

Next was a brief stop at Columbus Circle, a major landmark and point of attraction in Manhattan to take some photos and then was off to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). The museum is a preeminent art museum located in Midtown Manhattan on 53rd Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. It has been singularly important in developing and collecting modernist art, and is often identified as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. It normally cost USD20 to visit the place but I got in with my NY pass at no additional cost. Spent about 45 minutes walking inside the museum and taking photos of a few art pieces of interest (I still find it odd that you are allowed to take photographs in museums here in the States). I don't understand much of contemporary art but I do like Pablo Picasso's work :)

Immersing myself in more modern art, I went in search of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, another modern art museum located on the Upper East Side in New York city. Ah-ha, finally a museum that DOES NOT allow me to take photos! It has a rotunda gallery that spirals up 6 floors. Paintings are displayed along the walls of the spiral and also in viewing rooms found at stages along the way. I think it would be quite fun if one could rollerblade down the rotunda from the 6th floor (don't thinkthe museum security guards would be too happy about that).

Around 2pm, I walked from the museum across the street into Central Park. Central Park is a large public, urban park in Manhattan and is the most visited city park in the United States where many movies and television shows are filmed. There were lots of people running around the reservoir as I walked on the grounds of the huge park. Whoever decided to create/build this park is a genius - this is the only place I've been in New York so far that I felt peace and tranquility, as if everything has slowed down and people are more relaxed. I believe this is where New Yorkers come to chill out, having picnics or sporting/family events, some even having a tan in swimming trunks and bikinis at the Great Lawn! Photos taken today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603890125839/detail/

The last museum to visit on my list was The Metropolitan Museum of Arts (aka 'The Met'), one of the world's largest and most important art museums. The main building is located on the eastern edge of Central Park along what is known as Museum Mile (the Guggenheim was also on this street). The Met's permanent collection contains more than two million works of art, divided into nineteen curatorial departments including The American Wing, Arms and Armor, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, Egyptian Art, European Decorative Arts, European Scuplture, Greek and Roman Art, Medieval Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Roof Garden, Ancient Near Eastern Art, Cypriot Art, European Paintings, Musical Instruments, South and Southeast Asian Art.

I didn't quite understand the admission fee - I was told that the recommended payment for adults is USD20. Does that mean I can opt to not pay??? By the way, admission to the Met is not included in the NY Pass.

The museum was very huge with lots of visitors. You would be able to spend a full day in the museum (and you would be lucky if you manage to go to all the curatorial departments within your day). I had to be selective and picked a few departments of interest - by now, you should realise that I like Greek, Roman and Eyptian art...hehe...After 1 hour dragging my feet around the first floor and taking photos, I had to take a break from all the walking. Stopped for a coffee and corn muffin at Balcony Cafe and continued on to the 2nd floor. Photos taken at The Met: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603892902160/detail/

I left The Met at 5pm and hurried to catch a tram ride to Roosevelt Island at the tram station on 59th Street and 2nd Avenue. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial tramway in New York City that spans the East River and connects Roosevelt Island to Manhattan. Each cabin has a capacity of up to 125 people and makes approximately 115 trips per day. It was a 4-minute trip at 16kmph, rising to 250 feet above the East River. Quite interesting to be in the tram even though it was packed and very hot inside. Photos taken on my tram ride: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603892923148/detail/

You can take a bus ride around Roosevelt Island if you wish but I had to take off early as I had planned to return to Times Square to check it out during the night. Around 6.15pm, I took the subway to Times Square. Boy was it busier than during the day! And looks different too with the colourful and bright billboards illuminating into the sky. Photos taken tonight: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603892962596/detail/

You know those yellow New York cabs? My god are they insane drivers! I saw a lady put up her hand signalling for a cab and the cab swerved made a U-turn and zipped 3 lanes across on a very busy street!!
Was searching around for an internet cafe (hmm, I don't recall seeing any during my travels in US). Went to Times Square Information Center to find out if there was one located nearby and I was told to find Kinko's (they had some PC with internet access but the queue was too long).

Found a Kinko's sign outside a Fedex shop and I went in to ask if I was at the right place. Apparently Fedex in the States provide not only courier and copying services but internet services too (of course, you'll have to pay for it).

Started heading back to Merce's place by 8pm and just chilled out in the lounge with Jorge and Merce, watching TV and chatting over a cup of tea.

Some interesting facts about New York city you might like to know:
1) Fifth Avenue divides Manhattan into the east side and west side
2) When getting directions, always ask for the cross streets i.e. 810 Seventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets
3) In Manhattan, if you walk 20 blocks north or south, you have walked 1 mile
4) If the number on top of the taxicab is lit, it means the cab is available
5) It is customary to tip 15-20% to waitstaff, bartenders and taxi drivers
6) MetroCards work on both buses and subways, and transfers between the two are free


Sunday, 7th October 2007: Stayed in today to help Merce and Jorge prepare brunch. They were having some friends over this afternoon and made huevos rancheros (translates to "eggs ranch-style", a salsa stew with poached eggs) eaten as it is or with tortilla or bread. Yummy!! I bought them a tiramisu cheesecake from Settepani Bakery on my way back from getting some last minute shopping for them at the nearby grocery store.

Wow, that was a lot of food guys! Met some of Merce's work colleagues who were also South Americans (from Spain and Uruguay). Lovely people :) I wished I could stay longer to chat but had to leave before 2pm for the 'STOMP' show at the Orpheum Theatre on 2nd Ave and 8th St.

The subway didn't stop at Astor Place as it should!!!! I had to run 7 blocks in 10 mins to the theatre and got there just in time for the show. I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the entrance. Crazy!
The show costed me USD35 and was well worth the money (and my run). STOMP is a unique combination of percussion, movement and visual comedy. Explosive, provocative, sophisticated, sexy, utterly unique and appeals to audiences of all ages. They are an international sensation and I've seen their show on TV several times and leaves me at awe with their musical creativity. The eight-member troupe uses everything but conventional percussion instruments – matchboxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters, plastic water containers, plungers, sinks – to fill the stage with magnificent rhythms. Very funny and entertaining. The audience was also included in a few of the rhythms! Go get yourself a ticket to the show - you MUST see what all the noise is about!

2 hours later, I walked back to St Mark's Place, this time stopping to check out Waga African & Ethnic Gift Shop. Bought myself a pair of bronze earrings from the lovely shopkeeper who asked me many questions about life in NZ. He told me that he has never met anyone from NZ before!

I seem to be back tracking a lot today...I returned to Central Park, this time starting from the south side at The Pond. Hmm, too many couples here...probably this area is the 'romantic' side :P I won't be able to cover the whole of Central Park on this visit in NY - have to come back to finish up the other sections! I would have taken a carriage horse ride around the park but had promised to take Jorge and Merce out for dinner tonight as this was my last night in NY. Photos taken today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157603892993038/detail/

The two were still feeling full from brunch by the time I met up with them at home so we decided to skip dinner and went to Union Square for drinks and nibbles instead. Union Square is a popular meeting place, given its central location in Manhattan and its many subway lines. There are many bars and restaurants on the periphery of the square, and the surrounding streets have some of the city's most renowned and expensive restaurants.

We ended up at Coffee Shop New York where I shouted Jorge and Merce drinks and nibbles. Oh, I'm feeling tearful because I'm leaving my wonderful friends tomorrow!

There are lots more you can do and visit in New York. 5 days is too rushed and definitely not enough! I will have to make another trip back here in the near future :)

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