The Concrete Jungle – New York City

Our second day in New York City we decided to brave the streets of New York City on our bicycles. Leaving artsy Bushwick in Brooklyn we wrestled the bikes over the subway turnstiles as there was no gates to walk them through. A few funny looks later we made it to north Manhattan and whilst once again trying to pass the bikes over the turnstiles we were stopped by a friendly laughing New Yorker who pointed out that we could use the emergency exit gate without setting off an alarm. If only we’d known that to begin with! With bellies rumbling we hit up the touristy yet famous Tom’s Restaurant. You’ll all recognise this place from Seinfeld, hence why it’s so touristy, but the fry up was cheap, the coffee was bottomless and the people watching was engrossing.

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Something that we definitely didn’t find talked up in any guidebook was the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine just up the road from Tom’s. Once again we were struck by the allure of free entry/by donation (ie. a $10 per person entry fee). We opted for a $5 combined donation and were looked upon snobbishly when we had to present our ticket to the cathedral officer as we were channelled towards them by barriers. Free entry we think not. We ventured here as we’d read about an art installation by Chinese artist Xu Bing currently on show of two phoenix’s made entirely from construction waste materials from across Beijing. The installation consisted of two birds, one male and one female, measuring 90 and 100 ft and weighing a combined 12 tonnes, not an easy task to hang from an old cathedral ceiling!

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The high ceilings combined with the length of the cathedral gave a more than worthy setting for the two imposing phoenixes suspended from the roof, and we could not think of a more fitting setting to house such beautiful pieces of art. Walking past the second phoenix you approach what appears to be a dark unfinished section, and upon reading the history, and realising this place is the biggest cathedral in the world, 120  years old and remains unfinished (partly due to the approaching war and Pearl Harbour bombing) you quickly realise this place should be on everybody’s NYC hit list (see the link above for some history). This only adds to the atmosphere of the slightly sinister looking birds behind you. You won’t find many tourists here and the exhibitions are always changing so be sure to check the website before you make the journey up, however we both agreed it was worth it.

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We’d like to recommend a visit to the extremely popular Metropolitan Art Museum which is also noted as being free, but unfortunately the recommended donation of $25 is actually almost forced upon you, and you’re not able to enter the museum without a ticket. Which you can’t get without making a $25 donation. If you’re game just walk up to the ticket counter and tell them you don’t want to make a donation and see what happens. We dare you to make it past the security guards. They will make you pay. Being art fans but on a paupers budget we took off again cruising the bikes down posh 5th Avenue to the Guggenheim for some photos of the famous curved architectural exterior.

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We’d packed our swimmers for a dip in the free pool on the north-east corner of Central Park, so we rocked up to the gate only to be refused by the power-hungry gate master who refused us entry because we hadn’t brought our own lock and Matt’s boardshorts didn’t have the required liner in it, even though he was wearing a pair of speedos underneath. She was prepared to let him in as long as dropped is strides and walked in  in the speedos and if you know Matt you know he’s about three inches short of parading himself around in a pair of speedos. From our position on the outside in the middle of summer the pool looks very inviting…just be sure to pack your own lock and a pair of boardshorts with a liner…even though we noticed many people inside who were blatantly wearing shorts without any liner in them. So we had to ride off hot and sweaty without our planned cooling off. Not happy.

Manoeuvring Central Parks one way road system, we finally made it to Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon memorial, which is absolutely bustling with Beatles memorabilia and wanna be John Lennon’s strumming horrendous renditions of ‘Imagine’. The memorial is located in this area of the park as John Lennon was shot just across the street outside Dakota Apartments where he lived with Yoko Ono at the time. A sad day in history so it’s fitting there is a memorial here for people to show their respects at such a great loss.

Another free site just up the road that you movie fans will appreciate is the apartment building used in the original Ghostbusters movie (address). Whilst not as tall as in the film, it still  has a kooky enough look and if you’re lucky like we were the doormen will strike an entertaining pose for your photos. While on the subject of Ghostbusters, who wouldn’t want to visit the iconic fire station so recognisable from the film (address). The still working fire station Hook & Ladderxxx have a Ghostbusters logo on the pavement outside and even have the original logo from Ghostbusters two inside the station.  The guys are even happy to come and chat to the tourists when they’re not out Ghostbusting (fire fighting).

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The afternoon we spent catching up with an old London friend sitting in the park by Colombus Circle and admiring Trump Tower, before taking a long stroll down xxx and retiring at Rudy’s dive bar for the night. Having previously explained to our friend Zaid how Matt’s dreadlocks and tattoos seem to attract conversation, we took the only table left right in the middle of the beer garden and were soon the centre of cross beer garden banter, much to Zaid’s amusements, which started with the memorable comment of a random ‘Are your tattoos based on the Street Fighter game?’. Our evening ended here with good laughs, hazy memories and revelry with the locals.

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For more photos of New York click here

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