29 May 2017

Five days in NYC: Cruising on the Hudson, around Brooklyn Bridge and an Ice Hockey Match

Mark took advantage of a fine Sunday morning to run 10km around Central Park. He was impressed with how safe and serene the park felt at that time of the morning. Just lots of dog walkers and runners out doing exactly the same as him. When he got home, we headed out to the B&H Photo/Video superstore, something I’d been wanting to see with my own eyes. It was a tad overwhelming even finding the camera area and I was very restrained not buying anything I thought. At this point, we had to make our way to a pier a few blocks up for the 2 hour harbour cruise we’d booked. Little legs again were aching, so with all the walking later in the day still to come, we opted for our first taxi cab experience of the holiday. It was cheap as chips, but saved us about 20 minutes of walking - very handy.

The cruise we picked was for 2 hours heading south past the financial district and getting up close to the Statue of Liberty before heading towards Brooklyn and up past the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The gentlemen who took the tour was very knowledgeable and worth listening to, though I spent most of my time out front of the boat taking photos so it wasn’t terribly easy to hear the running commentary. It was a beautiful day for the cruise with blue skies and high wispy clouds and gave us a great perspective on the city we couldn’t see from up close walking up and down the streets.

After the cruise we made a quick trip to back to the hotel to switch up some gear before catching the subway down to City Hall to make the walk over Brooklyn Bridge. I couldn’t comment on how busy it was walking over the bridge compared with a normal day, but being a super sunny and nice New York afternoon it wasn’t surprising that every man and his dog had the same idea. It was like moving against a sea of people in both directions - probably not as pleasant as it could have been but another thing to tick off the list.

Once we made it to the other side, I parted ways with Mark and the boys. They were off to the ice hockey - New York Islanders vs Ottawa Senators - it had been a big dream for Mark to attend an ice hockey game while in NYC and he managed to get super cheap tickets for the game. This meant of course they were up in the heavens miles from the pitch but an awesome atmosphere nonetheless. The evening was made even more special by Mark finally getting a photo with some NYPD officers - that in itself was amazing, but even more so when the officers pulled out real life NYPD badges and gave these to the boys to keep!

Meanwhile I was kept entertained by the lovely surrounds of photo opportunities down at Brooklyn Bridge - in the end I was here for nearly 4 hours waiting for sunset and just soaking up the last night in the Big Apple. I’d been on somewhat of a photographic mission to try and get a good New York by night shot for our bedroom wall at home - and the night didn’t disappoint. It’ll be a hard choice between some of these shots but I'm sure I have a winner amongst them.

And so ended our last full day in the city. It had been a crazy five days of full-on activity from dawn to dusk  but we really felt as if we'd seen the best New York had to offer and had filled our adventure cups right to the brim. 

The following day we'd be flying to Canada on our actual birthdays - my 40th and Mark's 39th!

22 May 2017

Five Days in NYC: The Highline, a Doors-off Heli Flight and Coney Island

Saturday dawned fine and sunny - a nice change after the past 2 days. The wind was still chilly though. We headed back to the Doughnut Plant for coffee on our way to walk the Highline - it was much busier here on a Saturday morning than it had been the day before. 

The Highline opened in sections between 2009 and 2014, an initiative of 2 locals who didn’t want to waste the opportunity of the disused railway line running above NYC. The High Line was originally built in 1934 to lift train traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s. The freight trains carried mostly food and agricultural goods to the upper stories of factories and warehouses. But train traffic began to decrease in the 1950s and stopped altogether in 1980.

The Highline fell into disuse and would have been demolished were it not for the foresight of these 2 locals who decided to bring the Highline back to life. The walk starts at the Hudson Yards and ends down near the Chelsea Markets - about 1.5 miles long. There’s plenty to see along the way - even some cool railway beams and peep throughs at one end for the kids. 


We’d timed our walk to finish at Chelsea Markets so we could try the famous Los Tacos - rated No 1 on Trip Advisor. There was quite a queue for food but it moved fast - and boy was it flavoursome, particularly the pork and pineapple one. From here we headed for Dylan’s Candy Bar - a massive candy store with enough sugar inside to sink a battleship. Mylo was getting SUPER tired by this point - a sign of the kilometres we had already racked up walking these past few days - lots of cajoling and eventually  we made it to the shop - somehow he managed to talk us into buying a lollipop that was almost as big as his head - ridiculously expensive and he hardly ate more than a tenth. 

I was getting rather nervous by this stage as I knew I had my helicopter flight that evening. I’m not sure if I was more nervous of the idea of the flight or how I was going to get to the arse end of New Jersey on my own. It turned out to be easier than I thought though as I caught a PATH train to New Jersey and then a taxi out to Kearney (which wasn’t cheap but the only option). I arrived nice and early to the hangar where FlyNYON was based with butterflies building. There were 5 of us on our flight and once we’d decided where to sit and listened to the safety briefing, it was time to harness up for the doors-off flight. I’d booked this flight months ago as a 40th birthday present to myself - what better spot to experience my first helicopter flight. 

 I’d chosen a time close to sunset to get that lovely golden hour light but I knew it would be more challenging to get shots with the helicopter vibrations and fading light. We were so lucky to get a lovely golden glow in the sky and after take off headed straight for the lower end of Manhattan for close up shots of One World Trade and the Statue of Liberty. 

From here we flew up the East River over the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges before flying back over the city right in front of the Empire State building and on over Central Park. By this time the sun had set and I really had to crank up the ISO on my shots to get the sharpness needed with a fast shutter speed. It was amazing to see the park from this perspective though - it really is massive! 

All too soon the flight was over and we headed back for New Jersey - I was amped but also sad it was over so soon - half an hour in the air literally felt like 5 minutes. I could have done it all over again! I shared an Uber back with the other people on my flight - we had a very entertaining driver who couldn’t believe we’d all just been on a doors off helicopter flight! After being dropped at 50th street, I walked all the way back to 35th street - partly as I was looking for something to eat and also to soak up the atmosphere of a Saturday night in the city - wandering through Times Square on my way. 

Meanwhile, the boys had been having the time of their lives - Mark took them out to Luna Park in  Coney Island for opening night. They were super stoked to go to this iconic spot to see all the fairground rides - well timed as the park had been closed for the winter. Mark made sure that he visited Zoltare and got his fortune (like Tom Hanks did on the movie Big). 

The boys also played several games like Whack-a-mole and pop the balloon and managed to win a dolphin and taco stuffed toy - which of course took up more space in the bags! We all arrived home happy with our evening’s adventures, looking forward to our last full day in NYC.


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