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Day 1 - 11th September 2008 - Journey to New York and first day there.

picture of a big apple

Day 1:1 United Kingdom to USA

To Heathrow from hotel in London. Flight to JFK airport. Taxi to hotel.

Day 1:2 Visit the Empire State Building

Take a trip to Empire State Building via the subway.

Personal Commentary

Day One

We stayed in a hotel near Heathrow airport - the Jurys Inn - to minimise our travelling time from home to the airport. With a 9.00am flight, and a three hour recommended arrival time, it made perfect sense. We has set the alarm for 4:30, but true to form we woke up before the alarm went off. (Why is it that we always try to beat the alarm?) In fact, dad's snoring woke me at 1.15am and I had to rush for my earplugs to guarantee at least a small amount of sleep!

Mum did her ritual 'I need to sit on the loo for 30 minutes before a journey' thing and then proceeded to drink her watery milk concoction which substituted for breakfast. Dad undertook his stretching exercises, already missing his exercise bike. I swear if we could have travelled with it somehow, he'd have packaged that up to take with us! I drank a decaf coffee whilst directing dad on the best way to exercise his hip joints. At about 5.00am I sent a text to my sister to say that we were in London and fine.

I have to say that the Jury Inn is a great hotel. We were all very comfortable there.

By 5.45am we were ready to leave the hotel. We took a taxi to the airport - a mere 10 minute drive and made our way to terminal 4.

Virgin Airways had employed a new automated check-in system which scanned passports and confirmed booking arrangements. Although this did speed up the whole boarding process, we had to be shown how to use it. It wasn't as simple as it looked. Dad was frisked while going through into the departures lounge.. his two stainless steel knee replacements set off the scanners. I suppose in retrospect it was amusing. In reality though it's quite an embarrassing experience, especially with everyone looking at you.

We got onto the plane with few difficulties - I did mislay my boarding pass and spent ten minutes looking for it!. We boarded the plane at 08:10am and were under way by 09:10am. Alas we did not get the breakfast we had expected. For some reason we were fed a series of snacks and drinks until more than half way into the which point we received a meal. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the seating arrangements on the plane. We had two aisle seats and one centre seat. The two aisle seats were set slightly back, so I had to twist my neck to talk to them. I suppose it could have been worse. We could have been on different flights!

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The cabin was actually quite cold for most of the journey. We sat with blankets wrapped around us, shivering. Having said that there were two films shown that I hadn't seen before - Indiana Jones and and Chronicles of Narnia. Mum watched half of the Narnia film and fast forwarded what she considered to be the boring parts of 'I am Legend'.I struck up a conversation with a fashion buyer, a woman called Sherry who was taking her husband for a long weekend in New York.

We arrived in New York with the temperature in the mid 70's, much to mums great joy. At customs we had to be finger printed and have our picture taken. I think mum was becoming a little paranoid at this point, wondering why they were taking 'our' pictures! To be honest, it's amazing how guilty they can make you feel during this process. I was ready to confess to ever crime ever committed, from the death of Kennedy to the framing of Rodger Rabbit! In mum's words: "All we are doing is visiting a friendly country and they make you feel like a criminal!" I suspect she won't be coming back to the States any time soon! We waited by the baggage unload area and spotted out bags instantly.

Placing fluorescent material around the handles made them stand out from the crowd. From there we passed the final part of customs, after being asked for our custom declaration forms. We were always confused about which forms we needed to present. There were just too many damn forms and documents to remember.... customs form ... visa form ... boarding pass ... E-ticket ... passport. We found it easier just to take out all the documents, hand them over and to let the officials return the ones they did not want!

Once out of the clutches of the officials we made our way out of the terminal, ignoring the taxi hawkers, all of whom apparently guaranteed good rates and money savings for using their services! We took a yellow cab instead. The journey to Manhattan with this cab driver was not what we expected. On the TV New York cab drivers are personable chatty, congenial.. This one was surely. He grunted a few words to us, needed active encouragement to put our bags in the back of the cab and drove like he was late for his own funeral! Alright.. so we may have arrived at the Beacon Hotel in one piece in the end... but I struggled to justify tipping him! In the end I gave him the $10.00 tip I had scrunched in my pocket. I 'think' he said thank you.

Our arrival at the hotel was about 1 hour too early. Our rooms were not still being prepared. We could have left the bags with the concierge but to be honest we just wanted to freshen up before venturing out into the big apple; so we opted to sit in the lounge while they cleaned the room. 1 hour later we were in the room. I have to say that the room did live up to expectations. There was a single bedroom with two double beds. In addition, there was a kitchenette with all the mod cons! We quickly freshened up and made our way out towards the subway.

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picture of a metro card

Our hotel was situated on 75th Street and Columbus Avenue. We had to walk three blocks to 72nd Street to get the nearest subway. Once there I bought a metrocard for all of us to enable us to get on and off the subway as we pleased. However we had endless problems with the card. You have to swipe the card to get past the turnstile and onto the platform. I swiped mine without difficulty but my parents struggled to do the same. So I swiped it again to get back to their position and assist them with their cards, only to find that there was a time delay built into the card. I could not go through again. So we had to seek assistance. The was the pattern throughout the holiday with regard to the use of the metro-card!

ticket for empire state building

The subway platform was incredibly hot! We began perspiring immediately and praying that the train would come quickly. I am informed that the heat is a direct consequence of having air-conditioned trains... the heat, after all, needs to be expelled somewhere. The train could not come quickly enough for any of us.

Luckily we had planned the route. We got on, sat down and got off again at Penn Station. From there it was a short walk to the Empire State Building.  And then with a degree of excitement we proceeded to follow the crowd. We were guided by uniformed employees past a large bronze plaque in the lobby with a bronze replica of the empire state building.  I personally would have taken a better look at this but there were too many tourists wanting to get a picture of themselves standing beside it. I contented myself with a quick shot of it, and moved on. We were guided towards a set of escalators which in turn led to a ticket booth. We bought three adult tickets for $19.00 each, which I actually thought was a reasonable price. We received a complimentary information sheet, declining the slightly more expensive booklet. The uniformed staff members guided us to the first of the high speed lifts (or should I say elevators) that took us with speed 1050 feet up to the 86th Floor Observatory, an glass enclosed area where we had fantastic views of Manhattan. I have to say that the day was almost perfect for viewing the sights. We peered at our complimentary map, excited at being able to identify buildings described there. After about 40 minutes we proceeded inside again, bypassing the snack bar and the souvenir counters to make our way to the secondary lift. This lift took us a further 200 feet to the 102nd Floor Observatory.

We wondered around this observatory, gazing at the amazing scene that is New York City.  Another 30 minutes later we made our way back down via the lifts and escalators and into the bustling streets below. It was time to eat!  We took a short walk to 22 West 34th Street and had a simple meal at a fast food restaurant called Sbarro, before making our way back to the hotel via the subway. We were tired but not exhausted I'd say.

That evening we planned the next days events and took pictures from outside our hotel window. I know it sounds pathetic but there was something glorious about apartment buildings, office blocks and hotels lit up against the night sky.

Useful information

Info 1: Plan to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight. This will cover you in case problems.

Info 2: Ensure you know your airline's luggage limitations. It will save a lot of problems.

Info 3: At JFK avoid the taxi hawkers who promise you good deals. Take a yellow cab outside the airport, which will usually have a fixed prices from JFK to Manhattan.

Info 4: Grab a map of the metro-system from your concierge once in the hotel. This will prove invaluable. 

Info 5: Buy a metro card for travelling on the subway. Use of the subway is a cost effective way to travel around the city and the metro card can also be used on buses.


Holiday pictures (28)

Some of the pictures are labelled East View, South View, West View and North View. More details of what can be seen from each view is provided here:

01: (link)  Parents on plane looking out at the airport.

02: (link)  First City View from Taxi.

03: (link)  Empire State Building.

04: (link)  Observation Deck

05: (link)  Parents on Observation Deck.

06: (link)  Observation Deck

07: (link)  Mum and Dad.

08: (link)  City Street from on High.

09: (link)  East View.

10: (link)  East View.

11: (link)  North View.

12: (link)  North View.

13: (link)  North View.

14: (link)  South View.

15: (link)  South View.

16: (link)  South View.

17: (link)  West View.

18: (link)  West View.

19: (link)  West View

20: (link)  West View.

21: (link)  Night View outside Hotel.

22: (link)  Nigh View outside Hotel.

23: (link)  Night View outside Hotel.

24: (link)  Night View ouside Hotel.

25: (link)  Night View outside Hotel.

26: (link)  Ariel view of mini-mart opposite hotel.

27: (link)  Hotel Room.

28: (link)  Hotel Room.

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