Nancy and I 'met' on Facebook. We have been e-mailing back and forth for about eighteen months but I have never met her in person. As excited as I was about the prospect of seeing the Big Apple I wondered if we would hit it off as well in person as we did in writing. The thought even crossed my mind, "What if we don't quite gel?" But then again, we had been chatting foreighteen months. Come one! The girl simply adores me! (*giggle*) I made up my mind that we weren't only going to be just fine, but we were going to have a blast - and we did!!
Initially when I found out that we were going to Pennsylvania I really wanted to make use of the opportunity to meet with Nancy but I didn't quite know what we should do for our memorable occasion. Initially I thought maybe just a simple meal at a restaurant or maybe just coffee. However, I have to be honest: those ideas were nothing compared to seeing New York!! Who would want to go for a breakfast if you can take a bite out of the Big Apple instead?!
Once I had mentioned the idea of NYC to Nancy she was in - boots and all! Within a day or two she had found opportunities for us to see as much as possible in the time we had available. We both knew that one day wasn't a lot of time and NYC is just too extravagant to fit everything in but she was determined and she did one hell of a job! Here's how it would go down:
We would take a bus into the city - a surprisingly short two and a half hour drive. That way we wouldn't have to be concerned with the stress of driving and traffic. Then we would have some free time to do whatever we wanted till our city tour started at 12:30pm. As part of the tour we would take a boat trip on the Hudson river - a very good vantage point for Lady Liberty herself. Afterwards, if we had enough time left, we would go for dinner, then back to the bus terminal and heading back to Pennsylvania. The best part: all for under $100!
So before I get into the pictures and stories of the day - thank you, Nancy, for going out of your way to make this day as memorable as it could be. I wish we had more time but it gives me a good reason to go back there for more, and when I do, who knows, maybe they'll mistake me for an old New Yorker (for all I got to learn and experience on this trip). And thank you Garett for allowing me to have this adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed it - most certainly a highlight of our road trip for me. I very much appreciate having had the awesome privilege.
So without any further ado - let's go for it!
Initially Nancy checked the weather before confirming our reservations. It would be pointless trying to explore the city in the rain. The forecast looked good (29*F / -1*C) even though somewhat overcast with a 40 % chance of rain. Even so, Nancy felt sure that it wouldn't be a problem. For once the forecast was pretty accurate.
Right: Meet my friend, Nancy and her husband Joe. The bus boarded at 7:20am. Nancy send me a few e-mails to confirm the details just so I would know what is going to happen. The last one had the crucial information highlighted in yellow with some larger font and bold print. One of it was that I could not afford to be late! The next bus would only leave for NYC at 10:30 and then we would miss our tour for sure. Well, guess what? I was on time! In fact, I was early enough for us to have some of our coffee before we had to board the bus. How's that?! (*big grin*)
The bus made about three stops on the way to NYC to pick up additional passengers. He was driving and we were chatting away. You can imagine that we had lots of catching up to do. During our roughly second stop the bus driver thought it was a good time to make some announcements. He announced that we were not aloud to talk as we were not considering the other passengers. Although he didn't point his finger at us perse but he didn't have to. Everyone knew that he was talking to Nancy and I. Maybe in a lame attempt to make it a little more general he also included that people should not use their mobile phones and they should turn the volume of music devices and laptops so that only they could hear it.
I couldn't believe it! Talk about a bucket of cold water... I thought that we were trying to be considerate even though I could understand that we might have gotten a little carried away in all of the excitement, but it was still not full volume. (This bus driver has clearly not heard me at my best!) But in the spirit of common courtesy we did taper it some, but then again... this was a public bus for goodness sake! If you want silence then a bus is not the ideal form of transportation for you. Now putthat in your pipe and smoke it! Or otherwise may I suggest you stick your iPod or MP3 in your ear and give me a break!!
Well, instead of getting all wound up about it like a cheap watch, we decided to take it in our stride. This bus driver was not going to rain on our parade. And besides: I packed my umbrella!
Right: Our buss was a Greyhound on the way in and a Martz on the way out. Those are the two major bus companies in this area. The Martz bus had some trouble and our bus driver pulled over to check that he was organized with help on the way.
Next we were going to head through the Lincoln tunnel, but before we get there we were going to drive on the open lane in the left side of this picture. Let me tell you: that is a narrow lane!
Left: So there we are in the Lincoln tunnel. Personally I don't even want to smell what it smells like in that tunnel with all the carbon dioxide even though there is a ventilation system. I'm sure that air is still not clean, I don't care who says what, I'm keeping my window wound shut!
The Lincoln tunnel cosists of three tubes - south, center and north - each consisting of two lanes.
Construction started on the first tube in March 1934 and the third tube was finally opened to the public in May 1957. All together the three tubes make for roughly 4.5 miles (7.2km) of road and carry approximately 120 000 vehicles per day, making it one of the busiest vehicular tunnels in the world. In addition a few bicycle tours and foot races also pass through it every year by special arrangement. (I wouldn't mind cycling through it - without the vehicles, of course. The road is as smooth as a baby's bottom. Toll fees well spent by the look of it.)
Yip! The weather forecast was spot on: overcast. The one good thing I have to say about it is that it made for wonderful pictures. Many of the buildings are so high that you shoot up at the sky and they still don't fit into the frame. Now imagine trying that with the sun shining right into the lens. Minus the rain and trying to keep camera equipment dry I think the weather was perfect. And - gratefully - I did pack my umbrella and it served me well!
Probably the most noticeable visual difference between New York City and Jo'burg for me is the use of electronic media and lighting. If SA used this much electricity for advertising Eskom would probably declare a permanent power outage to the rest of the country. The lights add a certain energy to the city though. It is a big part of the atmosphere on the street. The second difference is the absence of minibus taxis.
There are countless billboards and signs up of famous people, for e.g. this larger-than-life board with Brad Pit. As we found our way from the terminal to the place where our tour was bound to start I made little mental notes for myself so we could easily find our way back later on. So here's how it goes: you walk one block south and turn right by Brad Pit. Then walk for two more blocks and make a left at Julia Roberts. Continue for half a block - if you've reached Madonna then you've gone too far - and you should find it on the left. lol
Just a busy sidewalk in New York City. I read in the New York Times not too long ago that they were trying to control more of the pollution by - among other things - encouraging people to cycle in the city. One of the ways in which they are doing it was to create the bicycle lanes to make it safer for cyclists. Hmm, I like that, however here are some of my thoughts:
At first I read it and thought, "WHAT!? Do they realize that it is NEW YORK CITY we're talking about here... Cyclists in that traffic..? Are they mad?" But then I've had an enlightening experience or two since then. One: I have cycled in Jo'burg City - also something that mostly everyone else would say is ludicrous. I realized that if you've driven in the city before it is not half as scary to cycle in it. If you don't know a city though I would advise you to get to know it first, ok? Don't go and get hit by a bus and blame me for it.
When I was in New York I didn't feel afraid of the streets at all. I think I would cycle there, but I would familiarize myself with the best route to wherever I'm heading.
Two: Creating a bike lane is good for (attempted) safety but it does not stop you from perspiring from the exercise. So unless you are able to shower and clean up when you get to the office, or before your meeting, I'm not sure if it will work too well. Plus, hauling a bag with a fresh change of clothes and toiletries will make for a heavier load, making for a tougher workout and ultimately more perspiration.
On a different note: I don't think I'd feel comfortable pulling luggage down the street in Jo'burg like that. It was odd to see people do so without (seemingly) worrying about something happening to it.
One of the many, many entrances/exits to the subway - underground railway system. I didn't think we had time then but I should have taken a walk onto the platform just to see what it is like. It would have been even nicer if we could ride the subway from one place to another but unfortunately time did not allow for such an experience. I would have nonetheless liked to have seen an actual subway train. Tsk, tsk.
I really did not see much of this the whole day. I don't know whether it was because it was raining and wet or whether that is the norm. Even Nancy commented that it is the least beggars that she has encountered on any of her trips to the city.
The reality is though, poverty is everywhere. On the one hand I think it is just the way life is.
Parking space tends to be a problem in NYC. Someone has invented a contraption that would have gotten him killed if either of the two cars in the back belonged to me. I'd say that is a valid reason for concern. I wonder if the owners of those vehicles were aware of what was going on?
Here's how it works. It is operated with hydraulics and can move up and down, as well as sideways.
The light on the top of this taxi is not lit. That means it is occupied. If the "Off duty" inscriptions are lit the cab is just that - off duty - and will not accept passengers. If the middle light showing the medallion number is lit the cab is empty and available and can be hailed by raising your hand or standing by a taxi stand. A driver must pick up the first or closest passenger that he sees and he is not allowed to refuse a trip to
The New York Taxicab Company was started in 1907 by a man who was rich enough to be fed up with the horsedrawn cabs of the day - Harry N. Allen. The last straw was when he was charged $5 (or R80 in 2015) for a 0.75 mile (1.21km) journey. He would charge $5 per mile. Later the same year he imported 65 gasoline-powered vehicles from France. They were origianlly painted red and green but he changed it to yellow to make it visible from a distance. The next year the number of taxis was at 700.
The Checker Taxi was an infamous New York icon. It took a long time to phase them out due to their durability. The last one retired in July 1999 after more than 20 years of service with nearly 1 million miles (1,609,344km) on the odometer. Aaaah... those were the days when cars were still built to last.
In 2005 a decision was made to change to more fuel efficient hybrid vehicles as a way of reducing greenhouse emissions. However, it made for a smaller cabin, a bumpier ride and also high maintenance costs compared to the saving on gas. Thus they let that one go. So that is where this Ford Escape Hybrid comes from (pic above). I suppose what matters most is that it's yellow, right? (Go here for a little more on the history of the yellow taxicab.)
Right: It rained probably for around two hours after we arrived in the city. Luckily by the time the tour started it basically stopped for the most part and then a few drops blew on us again on the boat. This was manageable even though I still needed to use one hand to hold the umbrella to keep the camera dry.
New York has a vibrant cultural calendar. The Winter Garden theatre is just one of many more theatres in the city - this one currently shows Mamma Mia!
An overcast glimpse of Time Square. Football is probably as big in America as rugby is in South Africa - kick off was 8 September. People were counting the days. (This almost looks like an evening picture but it was around 11am. It poured down for a while just before our tour started. At that point the tour guide explained that we might not even get off the bus as they didn't want to risk anyone getting wet and sick. Gratefully the rain had almost completely stopped by the time we made our first of six stops for the day. At this point hurricane Irene was on the news everywhere and the tours for the weekend has been cancelled because of it. Our timing was perfect.)
Right: Here's a good picture of both kinds that we mostly saw. The one in front is how I know it from the movies, and then there's the hybrid in the back.
That's it for today. You'll have to keep coming back here for more - it was a long and very interesting day indeed. It would be humanly impossible for a Liane to squeeze it into just one or two posts. Those who know me will know what I mean!