Feeling a little jet lagged we were up at 6.00 am so we helped ourselves to complimentary cappuccinos in the hotel’s Club Lounge. Sipping our drinks, we chatted with some flight crews staying in the hotel, from both American Airlines and Jet Blue. It was interesting to hear how they spent their free time between flights in the city.
Stepping outdoors, it was raining heavily so we dashed along to Denny’s diner, a ten minute walk away for breakfast. We both ordered bacon and eggs followed by a short stack of pancakes. We hadn’t anticipated the pancakes being so large and thick, and although delicious, I think we will need to scale down our breakfast orders on future mornings.
Located nearby was Brooklyn Bridge Subway Station so we each bought a 7 day unlimited metro card ($32 each incl. $1 for the card). This is excellent value as it’s possible to travel on the entire network as well as using buses if needed. Unlike London, everywhere is included in the same zone so passengers only need to swipe in and then just exit through the turnstiles on leaving stations. The New York subway doesn’t use cards such as London’s Oyster or Hong Kong’s Octopus to tap in and out of stations, instead passengers need to swipe the metal strip of their metro card through the reader which is also a skill to be mastered. Swipe it too fast or too slow and you will have to repeat the process until it let’s you through!. Subway maps can be picked up from ticket kiosks but they are very large so we found it easier to use the online journey planner at mta.info as free wi-fi is available at the majority of stations.
Having bought our metro pass, we took the subway along to Grand Central Station which was absolutely beautiful and how stations still should be today. We arrived just before 9.00 am and at that time on a Sunday morning it was very quiet and perfect for taking photos. We explored the lower level food court, the minimalist Apple Store on the upper balcony, and found a glass sided squash court in one corner where an international tournament was being staged.
The rain had eased as we left the station, making our way towards Bryant Park where the ice rink resembled a paddling pool due to the mild weather and overnight heavy downpours. The Christmas lights outside the Lord & Taylor department store twinkled brightly as we walked along towards Times Square.
The rainfall increased so we caught the subway over to the Rockefeller Centre where we could shelter from the rain whilst exploring the opulent interior. Visiting the Lego store was fun and when the rain eased off, we paused to watch skaters on the ice rink. Retracing our steps back to Times Square we marvelled at the huge electronic billboards and the electronic ticker machines mounted on every available surface. It was just as I had imagined it to be and I was happy to be a part of it. Our photos were captured on one of the huge screens so we had our five seconds of fame too!
Retracing our steps to Bryant Park we visited the New York Public Library which is housed in a beautiful Beaux Arts marble structure building. Unfortunately the huge, wood panelled Rose Main Reading Room was closed for long term renovation so we were unable to look in and admire this but we did have access to all other areas which we enjoyed. Returning to Grand Central Station, we visited the Model Rail Exhibition in the Transit Museum annexe. It’s held here each year over the extended festive period and admission is free. Model trains pass alongside scale size replicas of the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Station etc. and both adults and children gazed in wonderment as the engines moved along the tracks.
We then hopped onto the subway to 79th Street (Upper West Side) where we had refreshing pots of tea in the Amsterdam Cafe before walking into Central Park. Unfortunately, this was bad timing as torrential rain started to fall. So, a quick change of plan resulted in a visit to the nearby American Museum of Natural History where we spent an enjoyable couple of hours viewing the Air and Space and Animal galleries, the Dinosaur galleries probably being our favourite There are no set entrance fees to this museum, instead visitors pay what they wish.
On leaving the museum we were feeling very hungry so we decided to eat at a branch of Shake Shack that was nearby. We’d heard good reports about this upscale burger bar and we had to agree, the food was delicious and just what we needed. I had a Shake Stack (burger with portobello mushroom) whilst my travelling companion opted for the Smoke Stack (burger with smoked bacon).
Feeling tired, we returned to the hotel sitting awhile in the Club Lounge sipping coffee and watching television before bed.
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