New York & New England Trip 2005 Main
Mon 6th June - The Flight, Arrival in New York City
Next morning we were up early, and hungry. Unfortunately, I'd spent most of our UK pocket money on the over-priced drinks the night before. Breakfast was £6.95, so I came down first and asked if they accepted Switch at the breakfast counter, which they did. So we all came down and went into breakfast, while I paid at the till. For one horrible moment, the Switch refused, and I wondered if I'd taken the bank account so close to the bone with all the holiday bookings that we didn't even have the price of a breakfast left in there! Surely not? But on the second try, it went through, so we had a very nice buffet style full English breakfast before we went back upstairs to get the cases. Then downstairs for a bit of a frantic wait for the shuttle bus. When it eventually arrived, there was a rush for the doors, and Karen had a small argument with a fat American woman who was complaining that she'd been there first. There were plenty of seats though. and we all got on, and it let us off at Terminal 3, where we'd been the previous evening.
The check-in was very quiet, only one of the many zig-zag queues was full of people and we got to the check-in desk within about 10 minutes. The e-tickets were not required, and she gave me them back. Everything went well, we didn't need any special visas, the seats we'd pre-booked were all correct, and we got our boarding passes. The shuttle bus being later than we'd planned meant that we only had an hour to kill before the gate opened, so we went and found ourselves a seat in the departure lounge. Ten minutes before the gate opened, we went through security, which was the usual metal detector and bag and coat search. We then walked the miles and miles to the correct gate, where there was a bunch of people hanging around outside. We waited for a minute before deciding that since the door was open, why didn't we go inside. The gate lounge was open, seems the other people waiting outside had just not bothered to look inside and had assumed it wasn't open yet. Once they saw us going in, they queued up behind us. Once inside, Connor started complaining about being thirsty, which was a complete coincidence, since there was a big coke machine right beside us. Funny that, eh? Karen got angry and eventually went up to the machine, and in her usual techno jinx way, it stole her money. She came back livid, so I went to try, and came back with a bottle, which enraged her even more.
The plane boarded, and we made our way to the big silver American Airlines Boeing 777. We found our seats, and to our delight, they were the ones with the integrated TVs in the seat backs. We settled the kids in the seats in front of us, and got ourselves relaxed for the flight. There were no delays, and take off was very good for me, the nervous take-off person. The big Rolls Royce engines hardly seemed to make any effort as the jet sailed into the air - none of that edge-of-seat screaming you get from lesser planes. You got the feeling that the plane hardly noticed it was even in the air. The kids immediately set about fiddling with all the available controls on the TV, and Connor wanted to make a phone call from the seat phone. They soon settled once the cartoon channel stated up, and the headphones were free. We watched movies while the kids flicked backwards and forwards through all the channels, amusing the old people sitting beside them. There was one full meal and one snack meal during the flight, which were very good by airline standards (no ciabattas), and the flight touched down at JFK slightly ahead of schedule.
Immigration went smoothly, I'd filled out all the green forms perfectly, having been round this loop a few times. The only new thing for us was the eye scan and electronic fingerprinting, very futuristic, and it means we're now on the USA records, so if we ever rob a 7-11, they'll know it was us. We emerged from the terminal into the New York sunshine and stood with our cases a bit dazed before crossing the street to the yellow cab stand. The dispatcher gave us a ticket, and circled the $45 fixed fee with a pen just so we wouldn't complain later. We all squeezed into a yellow cab and were off, travelling through Queens and Brooklyn on the way up to Manhattan. Soon, we saw the skyscrapers of Manhattan approach us through the haze, and we were all suitably impressed at our first sight of the Big Apple, from the romantic setting of the back of a yellow cab. We went through a tunnel and soon the cab was nearing our hotel on 34th Street. We looked out at all the New York streets, and for the first time we felt as if we were in New York City. What with the $45 taxi fee, and the $5 toll for the bridge, we ended up giving the driver three $20 bills to cover his tip, which seemed to please him, as he helped us out with the cases.
The hotel entrance was right on the street, the Howard Johnson At Penn Station, on 34th street. As we got out of the taxi, I pointed out the Empire State Building to the kids, which was only a couple of blocks away. We went into the hotel and checked in. Our room was on the 6th floor, but the lift wasn't operating, so we went along to the other lift in the west wing and went up to the 6th floor with the cases. We couldn't find the room. The 6th floor on the west wing looked a bit dilapidated, it reminded us of one of the hotels from the computer game Silent Hill. Eventually we asked one of the cleaning ladies where our room was, and she said we were in the wrong wing (obviously!) and she let us out through the open fire escape which separated the two wings, and into the East wing, and there was our room.
It turned out that when the rooms were being cleaned around 3pm, the cleaning ladies shut off the lifts in that wing so they could could move easily between floors, and we were not bothered by the lifts being off for the rest of our stay - as long as you avoid 3pm in the hotel! The room itself was small, almost completely filled by the two enormous king sized beds, but it had a large TV, and a small bathroom which was very film noir. The decor of the hotel was humorously out of date, with brown floral carpets and brown woodwork, but the room was clean and smelled good, and the bedding was pristine, which is all I ever worry about in a hotel. We had a quick rest on the beds, since in our jetlagged state it felt more like 9pm than mid afternoon. soon hunger got the better of us, and we decided to go out in search of food and our first hit of New York streets.
We walked along 34th street, past the famous Macy's Department Store, and turned up 7th Avenue towards Times Square, which was about 10 blocks north. About three blocks from Times Square we noticed the sky getting very dark, and suddenly it started raining. Really hard. We hid under some scaffolding for a minute, but it wasn't going off, and we were a long way from the hotel, and out with no jackets. We'd passed a Subway sandwich shop down 7th Avenue, so we decided to try to make our way to that. We crossed over the street, and tried to run between shelters through the rain, which is not easy when the traffic is heavy and the puddles are huge. Also, every person on two feet in NYC seemed to be trying to do exactly the same thing. At one point we passed someone who was selling cheap umbrellas at $5 apiece, so we bought a couple. They didn't really help, and by the time we reached Subway we were pretty much soaked. But we were inside and hungry, so we ordered some hot sandwiches for us, but the kids didn't like anything, so they only had drinks and crisps. The rain had gone off and our clothes had dried a bit by the time we came out of Subway. If only we'd waited for 20 minutes under the scaffolding we'd have been OK, but we didn't know that at the time. We also didn't know that the scoundrel who sold us the umbrellas was selling $2 brollies for $5 apiece :) We did wonder if this foul weather was going to be our fate for the rest of the trip.
Damp, we decided to return to the hotel room for a change of clothes before coming out again. We were also getting tired by then, so we didn't make it any farther than Macy's Department Store when we came out again. We searched the entire store for the toy department, having been fooled by the movie 'Miracle on 34th Street'. After seeing all 10 floors, and marvelling at their wooden escalators, we had to admit that there was no toy department in Macys. We did find a McDonalds inside the store, where we were able to get the kids something to eat that we knew they'd like. Afterwards, we wandered back to the hotel room, and at 8.30 NY time, we went to bed. We took the bed beside the A/C!