Tuesday, 1 June 2010


No trouble out of the car on our final leg from Asbury Park to JFK. I always drop the car at the airport as there is no point in trying to even take a car into Manhattan; the traffic is appalling and what parking there is cripplingly expensive.

Handed the car back and the woman at the rental check--in looked it over, asked if there were any problems and then struggled to input the mileage into her computer. Seems above a certain mileage per rental the software melts down. I will give you all the stats in the final AA3 blog.

Cab into the city and was we crested a rise and saw the skyline I noticed the Dark Lady had gone very quiet. She has always wanted to visit New York but has never managed it before. Her eyes were glistening.

It is always a heart-stopping moment. I have only visited four times now over a period of 20 years and the sight of all those skyscrapers never fails to affect me.

Some friends had recommended the Roosevelt Hotel midtown on 45th street. Tried to get in last time I was here but it was booked up. This time I had made reservations a week or so in advance.

It has the easiest telephone number of any place to remember given its name.

888- Teddy- NY! No idea why we don’t adopt this method of numbering. Saw a Gamblers anonymous type helpline advertised a few times as I crossed the U.S which was “888-Admit it”

Just think of the fun we could have and so much easier if all we had to do was dial 888 followed by what we wanted:




Hmm that last one may be a bit difficult to explain if your partner notices you have that on speed dial.

We were so early we had to postpone check-in and leave our luggage in a special room. This is where the soul-sapping, crushing weight of the tipping system came to the fore.

We had to follow the Bellhop to a left luggage room. Then tip him a couple of dollars. Then when we were able to check in properly later that day. We tipped him another couple of dollars to get our stuff back.

There is always the temptation when people have visited a place before to try and show it to someone who hasn’t. This is fraught with danger.

I still remember being in Barcelona with someone who’s friend ordered a drink for us in Spanish..or was it Catalan?

“You MUST try this it’s a wonderful sherry they make locally. It is a well-kept secret that only a few of us know about,” she opined.

Moments later the waiter returned and carefully placed a tray on the table containing three cups and saucers. Milk sugar and a pot of tea.

“What’s this???” Demanded our “knowledgeable” friend.

“What you ordered madam” said the Waiter.

Moments later we heard a commotion from the street outside. Mainly car horns.

“Oh divine, a wedding. You MUST see this” Said our friend trying to deflect from the drinks

We trooped outside to witness a traffic jam!

So The Dark Lady and I set out on an aimless walk round Manhattan.

We needed something to eat and the thought of a proper Seinfeld-like Diner was uppermost in our minds. Could we find one? It was difficult.

We walked south and I think slightly west until we hit Tribeca and there was a Greek one although it did the U.S dishes you would expect.

We sat at the counter and ordered Corned Beef hash and eggs.

It was fabulous.

After that we headed towards the Empire State Building. In my four short visits I have never been up any tall building which meant that I never experienced the World Trade Centre as my first visit was in 1989. Not been up the Rockefeller centre to the “Top of the Rock”. Nor the Empire State Building.

We kept getting side-tracked. We ended up at Grand Central Station which I had never been to before although I have seen it a thousand times in films. It is spectacular. We toyed with the idea of a future visit getting a train to Asbury Park. Seems the trains from this station head north so we could go but not from here.

By this time we had walked a fair few miles down as far as Wall Street and back up to the hotel.

After a brief freshen up, I needed to do some blogging and Tweeting which I discovered - to my horror - was going to cost $15 for 24hrs. Why it is with the most expensive hotels nothing is free?

By the time we left the Hotel it was dark and I had consulted the street plan, so was able to surprise the DL when we rounded a corner and found ourselves in Times Square.

Her face was a picture. Actually so was mine. No idea how often they change the lights and the advertising. It was totally different to two years ago and seemed 100% brighter and brasher. Even the Police station had a flashing sign.

The authorities have also built a grandstand for an even better view.

We were hungry and thirsty by this time as the city is hot and humid so found a branch of Applebee’s that I have waxed lyrical about before.

Surprise surprise it was time for another steak and a Caesar Salad for her and we watched the basketball on several vast TV screens. We are quite getting in to this game due its speed and skill. We marvelled as Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns was able to hurl the ball from miles away and still pop it in the basket.

I know this isn’t exactly the correct language but the sound is always turned down so we haven’t learned the jargon yet.

One downside is that over several days we have managed to watch Nash get accidentally head-butted, needing about 6 stitches. Then, in full 48 inch HD colour, we watched him in another collision which broke his nose.

If that wasn’t bad enough the camera swooped in for a close up of him manually resetting his hooter. Even though the bar was noisy and the sound was down I think we could hear the “crunch grind click” as he pulled it back into shape. Don’t think this is a game for softies.

In the morning we headed out and set off for Ground Zero on the subway. First time I went to NY I was too terrified to travel on the tube. Since the city has been cleaned up it is far nicer. Although I still find it a little baffling and can often spend some minutes staring at the map. Every time I have done that someone will come up and ask you where you want to go.

Muggers? Confidence men? Murderers? No, just friendly New Yorkers who are proud of their city and want to help.

The World Trade Centre is still the name of the station and a lot of work has been done since my last visit two years ago. There is still a lot of hole in the ground to fill though. In slightly dubious taste are street vendors selling books full of photos of the atrocity.

Food time again and we found a Deli with seating close by. Meatloaf Hero Sandwich. Not sure why they call them that. Perhaps it’s because you are a Hero if you can eat it all.

We then caught the subway uptown to the north entrance of Central Park. The park is over two miles long and we walked the whole way. Something that many would not have dared to do a few years back. Kids ran around and played. Joggers jogged and others walked their dogs.

Buskers busked including a gospel choir and drummers and street dancers. Intoxicating stuff.

We have been spoiled for music on this trip with New Orleans and Nashville. Into a bar which had a band on. It brought back memories of the Tracy Byrd song “Ten Rounds of Jose Cuervo”

“I walked in and the band had just started. The singer couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket”.

Still we had witnessed some amazing musicians.

A few drinks and some bar food and the song progressed:

“After one round with Jose Cuervo. I caught my boots (sandals) tapping along with the beat. And after two rounds with Jose Cuervo the band was sounding pretty darn good to me.”

Don’t think I have ever heard a covers band tackle “Baker Street” before.

Also bearing in mind my inherent meanness and the exchange rate luckily we had had enough and so left before the later verses kicked in:

“After round seven or was it eight. I bought a round for the whole damn place”.

We had most of the day to kill before our evening flight so once we had paid to put our bags back in the storage room and knowing we had to pay to get them out again and pay for the doorman to hail a cab. Would we find another authentic diner?

Well not exactly but an experience that we would not have missed for the world.

A quick internet search and sneaky look at the map.



“Let’s walk down here”

“Ooh look, Ellen’s Stardust Diner”

Phew! found it first try.

In we went. Hot dogs, fries and a singing waiting staff.

All desperate to be on the Broadway stage but needing a job.

They did everything: There were even chorus numbers. Singing atop the furniture and some extreme campery. In a word:


Which is pretty much what you can say about New York really.

To see a map of my travels across the States, click here, and to hear my Audioboos click here.


  1. Four words for you. Dark lady very pretty.

  2. oh a photo at last, you both look very happy together!

  3. That last blog was great pictures of all the land marks you read about and a nice picture of THe Dark Lord with his Lady you make a great couple thanks for sharing the last month with us Alex

  4. Brilliant blog for the whole time - thanks for sharing your ups and downs and life !!! but its also good to have you back

  5. Awww...shiny, happy photo. Loving the beard.

  6. Alex,

    I have so enjoyed following your AA3 blog, tweets and audioboo.

    You're right - New York is a fabulous city and memories of my visits are all very vivid. I was enthralled by Times Square last November, the technology is amazing!

    The photos have been great all the way and I see that you saved the best until last! It's lovely to see you both together, looking so happy and relaxed.

    It's been a great journey.

  7. I have enjoyed following your adventure across America.

    You look very happy in that photo, and so you should - but with that beard you look a bit like Willie Rushton. Can't decide whether that's a good thing or not.