March 2012 Part 4 Day 5: Bus Tour / Grand Central Station The plan today was for us to visit Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. However, when we got up it was another damp and cold day. According to the weather forecast, the weather the following day (Saturday) was meant to be dry and sunny, so we decided to do Central Park tomorrow instead. This left us with nothing planned for today, so firstly, we decided to have some breakfast. I thought about having breakfast in our hotel, but the buffet was $35 each, so I decided to try elsewhere. I had noticed that there was an Applebees a block along from our hotel, so we decided to give that a go. We were seated straight away, and got orange juice brought to us first of all. I had scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes and toast, and Aidan had a cheese and ham omelette and potatoes. The food arrived quickly, it was fine, but nothing too exciting though. After we left the restaurant, we had a think about what to do that day. I suggested going on a bus tour, which Aidan was happy to do. There are people from the 2 main companies, City Sights and Gray Line, selling tickets for the bus tours on pretty much every street corner. The first sellers we came to were Gray Line, so we thought we might as well use them. I only really wanted to buy a 24 hour pass for each of us, but somehow, I managed to end up buying 48 hour passes – I think you have to be firm with the sellers and tell them you only want 24 hour passes (or failing that, tell them you only need a day’s pass as you’re are leaving the next day :grin: ) There are a few different tour loops available, we wanted to do the downtown one – there was a downtown bus waiting at the stop, but unfortunately, it was full. There was another one right behind it though, so we got on that one and made our way to the top deck. We were given earphones to listen to the guide and we were also given ponchos to use in case it started raining. The tour made its way down 7th avenue past Macy’s round Madison Square Gardens and past the Empire State Building (The damp and grey weather today made me glad again that we’d done that on the first day during the nice weather), then down through Greenwich, Little Italy and Chinatown, and to Battery Park. It unfortunately decided to start raining when we got to Battery Park, and we were soon the only 2 left upstairs! We were also stopped at Battery Park for 20 minutes or so, so we were a bit cold and wet by the time we started moving again, but at least the rain stopped after a while. Madison Square Gardens by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Macys by andrew.ellams, on Flickr The tour then went through the financial district (Wall Street), then up past South Street Seaport, through Chinatown again, then up past the United Nations, Rockefeller Plaza, Central Park and back to Times Square. The lady doing the commentary was OK, but I don’t think she could work her microphone very well, as a lot of the time all you could hear was crackling and buzzing. I think I’d prefer to visit the different places on my own if I go back – either by walking to them or getting the Subway. I might have enjoyed the bus tour a bit more if the weather had been better, but being cold and damp put a downer on it a bit for me. After we got off the bus, we walked back to our hotel for to warm up for a few minutes. The weather appeared to be improving (well, it had stopped raining anyhow), so we decided to walk to Grand Central Station and have a look round there. I read on a website that there was a transit museum there, so we thought we’d have a look at that while we were there. We walked up to Grand Central, as I’ve mentioned, once you’ve got your head around the street / avenue system, and you know where you’re going, it’s easy to navigate there. One thing I did start doing is if you’re heading in diagonal direction, whenever you get to a crossing, you’ve got a choice of 2 crossings, so take which ever turns green first – we saved a lot of time doing that :thumbs-up Anyhow, we arrived at Grand Central, which is a very impressive building, both inside and out. It has a load of restaurants inside (which we didn’t use). I think the inside was more impressive than the outside, with all the marble floors and big windows. Inside Grand Central Station by andrew.ellams, on Flickr It was very easy to get lost inside though – or maybe that was just me! We then decided to look for the transit museum, but I realised I’d made a bit of a mistake – there’s a transit museum gift shop and gallery in the station, but the actual museum itself was over in Brooklyn! So we had a look round the shop instead. As we headed out of the station, we took a few more pictures of the outside, and then I asked Aidan what he wanted to do next, he decided he’d like to go and visit the Apple Store on 5th Avenue, so we walked all the way up there. Outside Grand Central Station by andrew.ellams, on Flickr The Apple store is unusual as only the entrance is at ground level, in a big glass box, you have to go down the escalators underground to get into the shop itself. Unfortunately, when we got there, we realised that the iPad 3 had come out that day, so there were barriers everywhere and huge queues of people waiting to get into the shop – I dread to think how long they’d been waiting, bearing in mind that the store is open 24 hours, so presumably they started selling the iPad at midnight. 5th Avenue Apple Store by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Luckily, the Apple store is right next door to FAO Schwarz, so we had a look inside there instead. It was OK, but it just seemed to be a big toy shop, whereas Toys R Us seemed to be more a place you would visit anyhow. FAO Schwarz also had Marvel characters to have your photos taken with (I think there were Spider-man (again) and Captain America here)). We left the shop and walked back down towards Time Square. When we got to Rockefeller Plaza, we called into the Lego shop that was there and picked up a Lego Empire State Building for my niece who's a big fan of lego. We then headed back to our hotel to drop off our bags before heading out. Tonight, we’d decided on the Hard Rock Café for dinner, so we walked down 7th Avenue until we arrived. It was busier that the other places we’d eaten that week, but we still got in without a delay (well apart from having our pictures taken again – it seems very wasteful, as they print out all the pictures to bring to your table, and I would think most people are like me and don’t buy them). Anyhow, we were seated straight away, and the waiter brought some drinks over to us. For my meal today I decided on the shrimp fajitas (trying to be a tiny bit healthier ) and Aidan decided to have the barbequed chicken. When my fajitas arrived, they didn’t look very large, but after I got about half way through them, I began to think it might be a bit bigger than it looked – I managed to finish most of it, but not all. Aidan’s was a half chicken and came with coleslaw, beans and French fries. It looked nice, and he didn’t have any problem polishing it off. The menus at the Hard Rock Café all have the calories printed next to each of the choices, so you can feel extra guilty when you’re eating there. I asked Aidan if he wanted dessert, and he said yes straight away. It’s strange – at home he very rarely has pudding when we go out for a meal, but when we were in New York he wanted dessert at every opportunity! Aidan decided to have my usual choice – a hot fudge sundae, and I chose the Apple Cobbler. Mine was delicious; it was topped with walnuts and warm caramel sauce, and ice cream. You really don’t want to know how many calories were in it though Aidan enjoyed his as well, and managed to finish off the whole lot. After finishing our meal, we were going to have another look in the shops, we had another wander around Toys R Us, and also went into the Disney Store. I bought a present there for my Mum, and when I got to the counter, the lady serving commented on my T-Shirt (I was wearing an EPCOT shirt), she asked if I’d been to Disneyworld, and I told her that I had visited quite a few times over the years. After that we returned to our hotel and settled down for the evening – I think I fell asleep watching TV around 8pm and didn’t wake up until it was time to go to bed!