‘New York, just like I pictured it. Skyscrapers and ever’thang’ (Stevie Wonder, Living for the City)
My wife has many virtues. She also has the unfortunate power to cause rain where there has previously been sunshine. Used for the good of humanity this could be a great gift, but on holidays it’s maddening (New Zealand, Australia, Barcelona, Prague, Poland, now NYC). We woke to grey skies and as we boarded the bus to NYC, fortified by an excellent breakfast (praise to the DIY waffle maker!) the rain fell in sheets. Our first view of New York as we emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel was of very wet and grey skyscrapers.
Undeterred, we emerged blinking from the Port Authority Terminal (which is about the size of Livingston but has classical music playing througout) and waited for the Gray Line bus tour to get our bearings. Then after a while we asked someone and waited in the correct place, somewhere further along 42nd St called, er, Broadway. Getting on the bus we realised we’d never see anything downstairs so there was nothing for it but to struggle into the thin plastic ponchos provided and head up onto the open top floor. The tour took us downtown, past the Empire State Building (the top half hidden by clouds), the beautiful Flatiron Building, and down to the Financial area, where we got off. We spent some time in the beautiful little church that had been at the feet of the Twin Towers, and where the rescuers and survivors had been cared for, and saw the plans for the defiant new towers (or targets, as some call them). It was disturbing to think we were walking the streets that we’d so often seen people run along followed by the immense dust clouds of the collapse. We had to bring ourselves up to date with coffee and shopping. By now we were beginning to notice that customer service in the US seems to be much less about giving bored staff ‘customer care’ courses and more about hiring people who have a naturally friendly disposition and a sense of fun. Not everywhere but noticeably often. We walked down past the Wall Street Bull, seemingly untroubled by the number of tourists who just have to be photographed holding its balls, to Battery Park, where we saw the most photographed thing in the world, still rather beautiful it has to be said.
The Gray Line Tour is a hop-on, hop-off service, so we hopped back on, delighted to find we’d got the same guide as before, Jerry, who’d completed his loop and was back round again. Reviews had warned us that Gray Line was as good as the individual guide you got, and out of six hops over three days we had four excellent guides, all giving angles and information you didn’t get in the books. This took us uptown now and we got off at MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, whose main attraction, it has to be said, was that it had a roof. It was good, though, and included a good suggestion of what to do with old crockery. From there we searched for the nearest cafe to consult our maps and books, which turned out to be the in the basement of the golden gross-out of Trump Tower.
As it got dark we decided to take the Night Loop tour, but the rain intensified and it was a tour too far. Despite great views of Manhattan from Brooklyn and an excellent guide who knew just when to duck the suspended traffic lights, we were just too cold and wet to get the most from it, except for one great iPhone photo of the Empire State. We were soon on our way to our snug beds in Secaucus.