Saturday, April 12, 2008

New York City

So we have finally arrived in New York! Luckily our flight this morning was on time and we checked into our hostel at 12:30. Unfortunately we've been charged for the night we missed, but things could have turned out worse. Time to test out this flight protection plan that we paid $25 each for!

Our flight to South Africa departs at 18:30 tomorrow evening so we have to leave for the airport at around 14:00. So we're trying to make the most of our limited time here, which we started off by going downtown.

We first visited the World Trade Center site. I was in New York in December 2004 so I knew exactly what it looked like then. In the three years since then it really hasn't changed much. The plans for the site seem to have been finalised at long last, but they're still working on the foundations. They've built a temporary subway station (the subway goes underneath the WTC) with the permanent one scheduled for completion next year. Then they have two water pools they're building where the two towers used to be and are engraving the names of all the victims of 9/11 and the prior bombing. The sole replacement WTC tower is scheduled for completion in 2012.

Then there's this giant electronics store nearby called J&R. I visited it my last time here and when I returned I was once again surprised at the sheer size. It appears to have expanded quite a bit since 2004, but either way it's enormous and the salesmen are very helpful and knowledgable. As the others were rather overwhelmed by the quantity of products they had they chose not to purchase anything as they couldn't decide what to pick. There was nothing in particular I was looking for either, but it's always fun visiting such a store nonetheless.

Ever heard of China Town? How about Little Italy? Well we visited both today. They're small areas of Chinese and Italian shops respectively. China Town is rather large actually -- it would take a couple hours to walk all its streets. They have some rather intrieging shops, especially those selling food. I finally got to see a durian, which we had some interesting discussions about at NVIDIA. Then the fish shops had some things I wish I had rather not seen, such as this strange fish in a bucket that was looked dead, but then opened its mouth when I looked closer. I bought some funky Chinese dried fruit and other stuff, which I hope customs won't confiscate.

Little Italy was awesome! Okay so it's not very authentic, but it's good enough being so far from the real deal. Most of the people don't even speak Italian and the restaurants try too hard to get you to eat there, which brings back memories of Tijuana. After putting our name down for one restaurant we thought we'd be a little naughty and go into another instead. We chose Il Palazzo as it looked so nice inside and the food wasn't a disappointment.

Earlier on when we first arrived in New York this morning we tried to look for a show we could go watch. Being New York and Broadway it's something that just can't be missed. We wanted to see the Phantom of the Opera as it's a classic, however, tickets were difficult to come by so we settled for Chicago. It recently started showing in Cape Town, however it's never the same. I thought it was very good, although perhaps not meeting all the buzz about the show.

After the show we took a bit of time to reflect on the amazing lights of Times Square, which although nowhere close to Las Vegas is still an amazing sight at night. Unfortunately it was rather misty, but the lights are so bright that you don't notice it much at night. And if you're wondering why the sky is still not pitch black, well that photo was taken at about 12:30 in the middle of the night!

The last time I was here in December 2004 one of the things I enjoyed the most was the horse and carriage ride. I remember the horse, Whitey, so well and how he was so exhausted as he was nearing the end of his stint that he tried pulling the carriage away when the rider got out! So I went for another trip, once again going through central park, but this time in the rain. I find it amazing how such a large park can be allowed to last for so long in an area where land is so sought after the buildings all reach for the sky. The ride was nice, although due to the rain we didn't get to speak much with the driver and we didn't see nearly as many cool sights I saw last time I was here.

After the carriage we walked through Central Park a bit more, but the rain was getting a bit much so we looked for the closest subway. I feel so embarrassed when I ask someone where the nearest subway and they point to one that's right across the street! The subway was unbelievably packed for this late at night, worse so than many cities get during rush hour!

So this is almost over. Tomorrow we take the final leg back to Cape Town, arriving home on Sunday evening. I hope I recover from the jetlag quickly!

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