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USA | Friday, 1 July 2011 | Views [547]

Central Park, NYC

Central Park, NYC

Last vacation destination before coming home! I caught a morning flight today to Newark. I completely overestimated the amount of time that it would take me to get to the airport. It was a very smooth and beautiful morning in Boston. I walked out of the hotel and the doorman asked if I needed a taxi and then whistled it down, popped my luggage in the trunk and opened the door for me. I got to the airport 2 hours early and had an omelet breakfast at Legal Test Kitchen (a branch of Legal Sea Foods). Then I got on board my Elite Access first class seat (yep) for my ultra-short flight to Newark. Does first class really make a difference on a flight? God yes. If you have luggage it makes a lot of difference. I'm not going to go out of my way to pay for it, but it is so much more relaxing and quiet since almost all the other travelers are also flying solo. And the seats are so much roomier and people aren't fighting over the overhead compartments. And there's no line for the bathroom. Two of my four flights for this vacation have been on the higher non-economy class and it's been very much worth it. There was even Direct TV, so I watched almost all of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report before we landed.

It was also a gorgeous day in New York. 79 degrees and sunny. I opted for the cab from Newark instead of the air train just because I wanted to relax, and it was certainly a pricey cab ride. Once we got to Manhattan then the traffic and sirens started to kick in and the nightmare that is NYC commuting. It was a fixed-fee cab ride though so I didn't care about the detours and made sure he pulled up right in front of the hotel. I checked into the Double Tree Hilton Metropolitan, and it was a crowded lobby. It's a great location, right on 51st and Lexington and only 5 blocks away from Rockefeller Center. My room wasn't ready yet, so I collected my 2 free cookies from the hotel, dropped off my bags and decided to just walk around the city. Then I realized I had left my map in my luggage. My little pocket popup map of NYC I had bought before leaving for vacation, and carried through 3 different countries while keeping it in pristine condition – I had left in my computer bag. So I wandered NYC completely guide-free. I spent a long weekend here 4 years ago so I didn't feel completely out of my element. It wasn't a bad way to go about it, except I had intended to go to Rockefeller Center and thought it was north of me, so I started heading north and didn't see it so kept on walking and then I hit Central Park. Well I had intended to visit there too so I thought I might as well explore it now then. It was still a nice day after all. I had my Kindle with me, and what better way to spend a day at the park than to sit and read. But the Kindle didn't turn on. What? The battery lasts 3 weeks... oh wait, that's how long I've been on vacation already. So I decided to walk around and get lost around the park. I did stumble onto the Visitor Center where they sold maps for $4. Eh, too expensive. I just continued walking where I thought something looked interesting and passed by some very pretty areas. I even passed by the lake where they were racing tiny model sailboats. Adorable! It's a very gorgeous park but I can see why you wouldn't want to be there at night: too many hidden paths and crevices.

Finally I decided to wander back to the urban jungle and headed towards a skyscraper with the sun behind me and hit 5th and 79th street. I was over 30 blocks north of where I started, and I decided to walk the 30 blocks back as well. Since I've already been to NYC once, I did a lot of the touristy stuff on the first trip already (Empire State Building, Times Square, Statue of Liberty) so I'm not venturing far out of Midtown so I didn't use the subway today. I may use the subway tomorrow; I was actually kind of curious how New Yorkers are on the subway because during the week I spent on the Tube all the Londoners were dead quiet, briskly walking to their trains making no eye contact with anyone else, then sitting down and reading one of 4 items: 1) newspaper, 2) Kindle, 3) iPad, 4) Novel. I wasn't sure if this was just a culture thing or if because we have all this high-tech stuff in recent years that no one bothers to talk anymore.

So yes it was quite a bit of walking today. I will definitely feel it in my legs tomorrow. Then I did find Rockefeller Center (I got lazy and looked it up on my Blackberry) and walked around there for a bit before heading back to Times Square. Yes, Times Square is incredibly touristy and when you think about it why is going to the Starbucks there (or any of the many clothing stores) there better than any of the other 400 NYC locations? Because there are a bunch of flashy ads and neon signs? Nevertheless I still found myself drawn to it. I had to make a lemonade stop there because again I was super thirsty. Plus I was also heading to the Discovery Times Square, where I was planning to visit an exhibition on Pompei. Nah, I'm just kidding. I was heading to the Harry Potter Exhibition. I briefly considered visiting both exhibitions, but after visiting Iceland and walking on lava fields everywhere and seeing real-life volcanoes already, I think it's time to get a break from volcanoes.

The Harry Potter Exhibition amounted to mostly seeing props used across all the films: all the magical wands, wardrobes, significant items like the Marauders Map and the Triwizard Cup. I'll admit I geeked out when I saw the Invisibility Cloak and sword of Gryffindor up close. They actually gathered quite a lot of props from the films since all the films are finished and they won't be using those items anymore. I always find movie props fascinating since so much care and work is put into the items which you as a viewer will probably never see up close to notice all the fine details. There were a few interactive parts of the exhibit. The first room was the sorting into the houses, so volunteers got to sit on a stool while the worker placed the sorting hat over their heads and the speaker announced which house they should go in. Yes it was all for the kids again... with the speaker saying whichever house the kids preferred. Pshhh whatever, like I need a fake sorting heat to tell me I belong in Gryffindor. =) Then there was a section where you could pick up quaffles and throw them through these rings in Quidditch. Yeah I still think the game is just as boring as it is in the books and the movies.

The gift shop at the end of the exhibit contained overpriced souvenirs. Parents were buying their children replica wands for the low price of $50 each. For a stick that lights up?? Unless it's a life-sized light saber it's not worth it. After I left the exhibit I walked around for a little more around Times Square until the lack of sleep last night (packing my luggages again) kicked in and I got pretty tired. I got so lazy I grabbed dinner on the way back to the hotel at Chipotle and guess what? East Coast Chipotle kind of sucks. The ingredients aren't nearly as fresh and it was a small, pitiful burrito they handed me. Normally the meat should be bursting out but this was a clean meal. Sad, really. I don't know if I'm gonna try out any “nice” restaurants here.

Tomorrow I might do the Rockefeller Center view and NBC tour. I'm undecided about shopping here. I'd like to do Century 21 and H&M, but on the other hand I kind of hate shopping for clothes so we'll see. Maybe museums? I have my Broadway show tomorrow night for sure. I'm attending “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” starring none other than Mr. Harry Potter himself – Daniel Radcliffe - live and in person. At least I'll be sleeping in tomorrow!


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