Bright Lights, Big City

Saturday September 15, 2012

I don’t know what’s wrong with us, but when we woke up today and started moving around the cabin without any soreness to our legs we thought we had lucked out and the 20 miles we put on our feet yesterday had no lasting effect on us. Feeling so spry we thought today would be a good day to tackle the Museum of Natural History. That was number one on Matt’s list of things to do in New York City and I was quite interested in seeing it as well. Assuming we’d have another 80 degree day I threw on a dress and we were out the door. Before we could even get on shore to find out our legs had no in face recovered from the previous day I smashed my knee hard into the dinghy dock while jumping off to tie up. Not looking like a good start to the day. I wasn’t going to let it get me down though and I limped through the streets on our way to the museum. Having skipped breakfast though again we knew we needed to eat before wandering around a museum and I happened to ‘find’ $20 (took from my secret stash) that morning. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend that money than at Grays Papaya. With hot dogs and papaya juice in our stomachs we made our way to the Museum of Natural History and paid the suggested price, which I never understand because it makes it sound like a bartering process. Either way we had our tickets and went into see the animals from Africa first.

 Standing in front of the lions we were reading the plaque on the side when one of the security guards came over to ask if we had a camera on us. Even though the hundreds of other visitors next to us were snapping away on theirs we assumed for a moment you weren’t allowed to bring them in (which we did) and we were about to get in trouble. Shaking our heads no we thought he’d move on to the next people when he started saying, “Well that’s too bad because sometimes when I stand here I just see things that would work great in a photo. If you had a camera on you I’d be able to capture it”. Realizing we were not actually in trouble Matt turns to me and says, “Wait, don’t you have the camera on you somewhere?”. I handed it to him while the security guard instructed me to climb over the wooden partition meant to keep people away from the exhibits and told me to crouch down and put my hands up against the glass at certain angles. He’d snap a few photos and then move me to another area, reposition me, and take more. Then he passed the camera back and thanked us for our time. Matt told me that after we left the couple behind us started doing the same thing at every exhibit in the hall. Apparently we were the only people the security guard offered it for.

Not going in any kind of order we bounced from hall to hall, briefly finding maps and choosing exhibits based on that. It was sometime after learning the history of man in Asia and South America that we realized our legs could not handle all day here. So instead of reading every plaque at every display we started walking through and only looking at the objects and doing no reading. Seeing another map we pinned down about three more exhibits we really wanted to see that day and made our way towards them. On the way up a flight of stairs to the dinosaurs we passed the cafe with coffee aromas wafting through again. What has it been with my coffee cravings lately? Anything with an automatic drip will send me running toward it as our french press has not made morning coffee a ritual lately. More clean-up than I want to mess with on a daily basis, but the cravings are still there. I digress. Back to the dinosaurs, this was probably our favorite exhibit by far. In addition to many skeletons of extinct dinosaurs and other species it also contained skeletons of animals around today. This is the kind of stuff I love. The science and dissection of how things work, I was in heaven. My legs however were not. By this point they had basically given out and Matt was feeling the hurt too. Resting for a bit on a bench we wound our way down to the Rose Space Center and kept pushing ourselves on in the name of education. One note on this area, the heliosphere  in the center is pretty amazing…the information surrounding it…not so much. Either we were in the wrong area or this spot didn’t have much to offer because the only information we could find were things such as ‘if this heliosphere were the size of a blood cell, this ceramic replica in front of you would be the size of a bacteria attacking it’. Now that I read it again, it actually does sound a lot more interesting, I think we were just too tired to appreciate it at the time.

Having spent only two and a half hours in the museum we knew we couldn’t make it any further and exited the building to relax on a bench outside. Although we were still hopeful that ‘we’d go back in an hour’, we both knew it wouldn’t happen. Accepting that fact we went back to the boat for some much needed R&R. Napping and just resting we got ourselves ready to go back out and experience the city at night. We knew we wanted to make to to Time Square again to see all the lights and night and we also wanted to eat out for once. As in, this would be our first time in a restaurant with a server since we left on this trip. Walking over to what we like to call our home corner now of 72nd & Broadway we headed south. Putting dinner first on our list we knew all day we wanted Mexican, but every place we researched on our phone was way out of our budget. Most of the early night went like this: Walk up to a restaurant, look at the menu sitting out front, shake our heads at each other and move on to the next place. It was getting to the point that if we could find a place with entrees starting under $20 we might consider it. After going to every place on the phone and failing we just started walking up to any random restaurant on the street and browsing their menu. $17 for a cheeseburger? No thanks. Just as we were about to give up and go inside the next place we found regardless of the menu items or price we walked around a corner and found a cute little Mexican restaurant sitting there; Arriba Arriba. Looking at the menu outside it appeared fairly cheap and we were sold. The atmosphere was nice, although a little dark and a bit loud. Not a place I’d recommend for a first date but it suited us just fine. The salsa they served was amazing and the portions were huge. Plus the server was very friendly and even got super excited when I randomly picked his favorite beer off the menu. I think we were headed toward BFF territory in his mind.

Getting back to Broadway we followed it until the streets opened up into lights again. There was so much activity going on, from the hundreds of other tourist just milling around to the street performers trying to make a buck. Taking a seat on this large staircase sitting in the middle we just sat for a few minutes, looking at all the billboards and watching the city pass us by. Then getting back to the main square in the center of the streets we could see all the people around us jumping around and moving their arms around like they were on camera. Looking up we saw a large screen displaying a male and female character for a dunk tank, and behind them was a camera showing the crowd in the square. Based on our proximity to all the people waving their arms we assumed we had to be near enough to be on the screen as well and kept searching out our faces. It was like a backwards round of Where’s Waldo. Almost ready to give up I finally spotted us at the edge and pulled Matt in closer so he could be in on the action as well. After being entertained by that for a good 5-10 minutes we went over to check out the street performers. There were lots of Statue of Liberties, silver and gold moving statues, and surprisingly three Elmos. Then while walking by one of the tv productions companies (I can’t remember which one) we spotted a large crowd gathered around someone all trying to take photos. Possible celebrity sighting? We inched in closer just as a young woman was thrown back out of the crowd yelling “You a liar!!, You a liar!!, You’s a fake!” and looked like she was seriously ready to kick some but. Really curious to see the imposter she was so upset at we kept moving forward although I couldn’t make anything out through the crowd. Finally moving our sight up to the cameras, iPhones, and iPads being held above this person we could see the image of supposedly Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion now) reflected on them. One glace and we could tell he didn’t look like the real thing either.

Making our way off the square my bum knee was acting up again and we started the walk back to our home corner. Although we still did considerably a lot today it feels like nothing compared to all the ground we covered yesterday (literally). Only one more day in Manhattan before we’re off to Jersey, hope we find a great way to spend it. Now back to the boat to pop some Aleve and pass out.

View from our mooring into the city.

Gotta love the security guard at the museum for taking these.

See any familiar faces off to the side?


Finding And Then Occupying Wall Street

Friday September 14, 2012

We’re on Wall Street!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we blew half our monthly budget for September by getting the mast put back up and all the things that went along with it. So you might be asking yourself How are they going to afford to stay in New York City? Marinas in the city are around $3/foot per night and even Jersey is at least $2. The only way we could afford it is because at the 79th St Boat Basin they offer transient mooring balls for $30/night. This we could squeeze into the budget. Our plans were set to stay three nights, but upon reading a friends blog (Maryl @ Water Music) the previous day she mentioned how they tired to get a ball but were kicked off and ended up having to pay the exorbitant fees for a slip at the marina. We were in a panic. There was no way afford that but also didn’t want to skip the city. Worst part about reading the blog as well is she didn’t mention why they were kicked off. In a fury I was typing a comment on her post to see if she could reply to us about what the issue was. There was no response that night. (They didn’t have internet at the time)

Still departing this morning as we normally would have we got a message back about where they had their problem. It turns out there are only about 10 transient balls, all yellow, and the rest were for permanent owners. At the time they had grabbed a white one and since all the yellow balls were taken they were forced into a slip if they wanted to stay. We were praying there would be at least one yellow ball open when we got there. Armed with this new knowledge we were only an hour from the basin when we saw a few boats begin to come up behind us in the river. What if they were going to the basin? What if they beat us and stole the only open ball? We were not going to let that happen. Throwing all of our power behind the engine we zoomed ahead and left them in our dust. Getting close enough to the basin now to start making out some of the moorings I was sent to the bow with a boat hook and a pair of binoculars to keep an eye out for anything open. At first all I could see were white ones, and then a little further down I could start to see yellow ones here and there. All of them had boats attached and I was getting a little discouraged . Suddenly one of the boat attached to a transient ball swung to the side and revealed an open one behind it. Matt saw it at the same time I did and kept going at it with full power even though there were no boats near us anymore. Coming up behind it I swung the boat hook in the water and grabbed the lines and attached them to our bow. I was so excited that I started jumping on the deck and pumping my fists into the air. We had managed to get the only open mooring.

Coming up on the George Washington Bridge. Very beautiful architectural design.

Calling into the marina office we let them know we had arrived and quickly got ready so we could go in to pay them and tour the city. As we were standing in the office to fill out paper work and check in I looked at a small map on the wall with the vicinity of the basin to areas in the city. Looking a little closer I realized that we were only a few blocks from Central Park. Let me tell you right now, I can be a little blonde sometimes and my geography can way off. In my head I was thinking that Streets and Avenues in NYC were the same thing and that 5th Ave would be prime real estate. So with that logic and being on 79th I figured we’d be waaaay out in a dodgy section of town. Not the case at all, we were sitting on the Upper West Side. Once we got out and started walking the third street in we hit was Broadway. Also sitting on the corner there (of 72nd & Broadway) was Gray’s Papaya, on the list of seriously three things I wanted to hit up while in the city, one of the others being Central Park. Since it was lunch time and we had not eaten all day I figured it was fate…except one thing. Due to an issue with our debit card we haven’t been able to take out cash since we left, and had literally $5 in our pockets. We assumed everything but street vendors would take credit but that is not the case. Sadly Grays Papaya would only happen if we found a way to get more cash.

Continuing our walk down 72nd St we went a few more blocks down and dead ended into Central Park West Ave. with a convenient entrance right into the park. We must have looked like tourist to the guys sitting on rickshaws who wanted to take us around the park and pounced on us as soon as we walked up, but may have passed for natives as a group of tourist asked us how to get to Strawberry Fields. We took a walk all the way around the pond while I searched for The Boat House which happened to be in a completely different area, and while walking narrow paths and ducking under trees it sort of had a zoo atmosphere complete with exhibits such as squirrels mating. Wanting to get out into the concrete jungle we left the park and figured we’d still have plenty of time to see it. Stepping back on to CPW we walked further south while keeping an eye out for anyone famous. No sightings in the Central Park area.

Our mooring was directly on the opposite side of this building.

When the park and the avenue ended we were dropped out right by Broadway and figured that would be a good street to continue on. Part of it was wandering and taking in sights and the other part was a search for food. I was hungry enough that I wanted food NOW, I didn’t care if it was McDonald’s or Burger King. Matt was stuck on the idea that we needed to eat somewhere we didn’t have back at home. And it still had to take credit and still be inexpensive. The search was on. We’d look up and down streets for anything new and abruptly the sidewalks opened and there were crowds of people in the middle of the street. We had just stumbled into Times Square. Neither of us had searched it beforehand or knew where it was, so it was a fun little bit of serendipity that we happened upon it. It was the middle of a bright sunny day, but the lights from billboards were still blazing in every direction. Standing around and taking it all in we promised we’d have to see it again at night. But right now food was still a top priority on my mind. Going just a few block further from Times Square we found a Potbelly Sandwich Shop and since neither of us has been to one we rushed in the door.

After getting back on the street it was 3:30 in the afternoon and we still didn’t have any real plans for the day. Matt really wanted to see Wall Street and searched on his phone to see how far it was, about 4 miles. My legs were already a little tired but I couldn’t think of another time we’d be this far through midtown and resolved that we may as well keep going. When the street numbers began to fall off I assumed that meant we were getting close. Nope, gotta keep walking through Tribeca and Greenwich Village and a bunch of other places that I originally had no idea where they were located. Today was a lesson in New York geography for sure. Still not exactly sure where we were going we dead ended into a construction zone for the new Freedom Towers being constructed. I remember coming here with my parents 14 years ago when the Twin Towers were around and I’ll stare up to the top of them getting dizzy. I’m really glad something so beautiful is being raised as a memorial.

One of the new Freedom Towers going up.

Crossing a freeway and then realizing it was taking us in the opposite direction we wanted to be in we crossed back and landed at the World Financial Center. Trying to get our bearing on the Google Map on our phone we decided to take a short cut through the building. Even though it was extremely hot out and I had just been wishing for a cold beer the smell of Starbucks wafted through the area and I could not have been craving anything more at the moment. I miss easy coffee. Passing the Starbucks by we exited the double doors and found ourselves in front of a marina. A very fancy one. It was The North Cove, the most exclusive mega yacht marina in Manhattan located in Batter City Park. Also one of the things I had wanted to see in NYC, although I originally had no idea where it was (again). Another bit of serendipity for the day. Taking a few minutes to amble through the area we took in all the mega yachts that we’d probably be seeing again in the Caribbean, although just like now, will probably have no association with the owners or even the crew. Then walking out to the waterfront you could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. If I could have spent the rest of the day here I would have but Matt was pointing at his watch and reminding me we needed to get a move on. We hand’t found Wall Street yet, and there was still the walk back of about 8 miles.

North Cove Marina at Battery Park (no mega yachts shown, although there were a few).

On a real mission now just to get to Wall Street we became those tourist with map in our hand, matching street names and pointing in the direction we needed to go. One thing I did not want to do while in the city was stand out as a tourist, but at this point I didn’t care anymore. The sooner we found Wall Street the sooner we could start the long walk back and rest again. Leaving The North Cove we were on a street that housed the 9/11 Memorial and there were people lined up around the block. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that we were there only three days after the anniversary. Again, if we had time it’s something we really would have liked to do, but it was so late in the afternoon I doubt we could have still gotten in that day anyway. Continuing on with our map we managed to get turned around about five more times but eventually made it to Wall Street. Speaking of anniversaries, we were there almost exactly one year after the Occupy Wall Street movement. We wandered around for a little bit and took note of the sights, and also how 90% of the men leaving the buildings seemed to owned a nice suit that fit them right. Come on guys, you’re supposed to be the creme de la creme!! Next thing to do on the list was find the Charging Bull. We knew it had to be in the area but still managed to get turned down about three wrong streets before finding our way according to Google Maps. But even when they said we were right on top of it we couldn’t see anything. Just as we were about to get really frustrated with the map a truck pulled out of the way and presented the bull right behind it. As things always are in movies, we thought it would be a lot bigger but were still excited to see it. There was a large area fenced off around it which allowed people to line up and then stand in front of the bull to have their photo taken. We didn’t want to go through that process and just took a few photos of ourselves with swarms of people behind us. Oh well, still proof we were there!

At this point we were finally allowed to move in a direction closer to the boat instead of away from it. We didn’t take the same street down as we took up, but for the life of me I can not remember which one it was (and I think it was Broadway we took almost all the way down). Luckily at this point my legs were starting to go numb and the walk back wasn’t feeling as bad. At some point we jumped on 5th Ave and went through a more trendy area than we had come down on. There were also signs on the street advertising two slices of pizza and a pop for $5 and my mouth was watering. Cash only though….. of course. A few more streets down we were waiting at a light to cross the road and I looked over and saw a booth that was in the same shape as the Flatiron building. Then I looked further over and saw the intersection was in a Y shape, which tipped me off and I looked up. Yup, we had stumbled across the Flatiron building itself, one of the things that would have been cool to see but wasn’t in my list of must haves. This was turning into the best day ever.

Flatiron Building

Remaining on a northerly course we took a quick side trip to give a call to our bank (cash issue should be resolved in 3-5 days) and then hopped back on 5th. A few more streets up and we floundered onto yet another New York landmark, Rockefeller Center. This was a very fun stop for both of us as we are completely in love with the NBC series, 30 Rock. We wandered around the area looking as touristy as possible and even went inside 30 Rockefeller Center for a better look. I kept waiting for Tina Fey to walk through the lobby so I could be that annoying fan that jumps out and tells her how much I loved her book and her show but she never appeared.

Rockefeller Center

Really ready to start getting back we followed 5th Ave until it hit Central Park. Stopping into a restaurant really quick we grabbed a few slices of pizza and a beer before hitting the road again. We had been walking for at least six hours at this point (I’ve taken out the time we used sitting for lunch and dinner) and I just wanted to crawl on the boat and into bed. Matt had other ideas though and wanted to walk down the East side of Central Park so he could get a look at the Guggenheim. I don’t know how he talked me into it but I agreed to follow him, my feet trudging every step of the day. Before we could even get 10 blocks up I was starting to think my body would fail me and contemplated walking through the park to get back home. We hadn’t felt any sense of danger at all yet through the day, but looking into the dark shady area, neither of us wanted to chance it. I thought I had resigned myself to at least five more miles of walking when we came up to what looked like a well lit path through the park. I looked at Matt but he still shook his head no. Getting only 10 steps further we heard loud music coming from that area and turned to see what I was. I begged Matt to let us go in, stating that the music probably had a large crowd around it and there was a very small chance we’d get mugged. He finally caved and we headed into the park. There were people scattered here and there on blankets on the ground, enjoying the weekend with their friends. It was a beautiful night out, clear and in the low 70’s now, and I could see why they’d want to be out. With the music getting louder we followed the path and could start to see what looked like an outdoor concert hall. Remembering posters we had seen all around town that day we realized that it was a Ben’s Fold Five concert. Right out in the park. Although we couldn’t see the stage we could still hear everything perfectly and took a seat on the cement next to a grassy knoll where others came out to enjoy the music. What were the odds that we would find something like this? We must have gotten there really late because after sitting through two songs (didn’t hear Brick) the concert ended and people started milling out of the area. Following their lead we made our way through the rest of the park full of crowds and feeling completely safe.

Forgetting what street we had originally come out on that morning we just went down 79th Street all the way to the Hudson to try and get back to the basin. After crossing over a loop in the street that didn’t have any sidewalk we found stairs going down and were dropped right into the middle of a very busy restaurant housed in front of the basin. Weaving our way through the patrons we made our way out of the outdoor area the only way we knew how, and that was walking through the middle of it to get to the pedestrian road lining the river. Jumping in the dinghy we made it back to the boat just after 10:00. Wanting to celebrate the occasion of making it to the city we pulled some seats up to the bow and I cracked open our Kraken to enjoy a nite cap while taking in the city lights from the boat. We had been gone nine hours overall and walked over 20 miles. In addition to the areas listed we also saw Parsons School for Design, NYU, and so many others that I can’t even remember anymore. There were a few celebrity sightings that day, Russel Simmons for me and I think we took in so many sights in one day that we could leave in the morning and I’d be satisfied. All I can say is I love you New York City. I love you, I love you, I love you.