Exploring New York and San Francisco

You may have noticed the light posting around these parts for the last month or so, largely explained by my current (yet sadly short-lived) ‘jet-set’ lifestyle. A few weeks after my stay in Montréal, I spent ten days touring New York and my home town of San Francisco with my good friend Ellen, who braved the long flight over the Atlantic to come see me in America.

New York City

We spent the first four days in New York City, a city I had only briefly encountered last November. During our time there we walked around Greenwich Village, took in the sights and sounds of Times Square, Wall Street, Fifth Avenue and Central Park, sailed on the Staten Island Ferry, watched a Broadway show (the excellent Frost/Nixon) and spent an afternoon in MoMA.

Me and Ellen in Times Square

We didn’t just want to do all the touristy things, so for our penultimate day in the ‘Big Apple’, we took the subway over to Coney Island, a part of Brooklyn famed for it’s boardwalk and fairground appeal. We quickly became disorientated as this seaside town felt a thousand miles away from the rest of New York.

After exiting the subway tunnel, we looked over a landscape much like that of North London, but as we got closer to Coney Island, it started to look more like a country from the former Eastern Block. Perceptions were skewed still as we walked down the boardwalk. On the one end you had the roller-coasters, Ferris wheels and of course ‘Shoot the Freak’, but as you moved east, these changed into nice apartment blocks supposedly home to the Russian Mafia - and I think we bumped into a few of the them!

A touching moment during our time in New York, was meeting a real New Yorker, who chatted to us whilst we sat next to the John Lennon memorial in Central Park. This pleasant old man, told us about how he had met Yoko Ono (and that she is really quite a nice person, happy to talk to visitors of the memorial), his time spent in Wales where he was stationed before the D-Day landings, and how he had used to go for breakfast in the World Trade Center. This was a guy who had seen it all, and was absolutely fascinating listen to him talk about all these events and more.

Other notable mentions - finding ourselves on the set of The Happening (M. Night Shyamalan’s next film), a lovely Korean meal with David and Susannah, the funny old man in Esa-bagel (comedy in a bottle), and the school kid on the Coney Island boardwalk, who happily told his friends that seagulls were vultures, that not only eat humans, but also their own kind.

I was surprised by just how hot it is in New York around this time of year. Unlike San Francisco, there is no breeze in Manhatten, and so the heat just clinged tight and it all felt very sticky. Whilst it was great visiting New York again, it has a certain aggressiveness to it, which we were happy to leave behind as we travelled on to the more relaxed west coast.

San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco Wednesday night, where I was able to introduce Ellen to my two flatmates, Tom and Gerir who were very gracious in allowing Ellen to stay.

Just as we had in New York, we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time - the Golden Gate Bridge and Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square and the mission district, practically using every method of public transport available to do so.

Thanks to Nancy, we were able to visit Monterey, Carmel and Santa Cruz, and thanks to Dan and Liz, Sonoma for a little wine-tasting on the Sunday. I was afraid we might not be able to escape the confines of the city, but thanks to these guys, Ellen was able to see far more of what California has to offer (and I was able to get a tan!).

On our last day in the city, we took a tour of Alcatraz and Angel Island. Alcatraz is a really fascinating place, although I’m not sure I was able to take it all in during the one hour we had to spend there, before we set of for Angel Island. This large island in the San Francisco Bay is not that well known, and feels miles away from the rest of the city, almost like a tropical paradise.

In fact, I discovered a lot of new places and experiences in this city I’ve lived in for 6 months now, and I’m grateful for that. Having said that, in the 6 days Ellen spent in California, we practically visited all of the places I had seen in the previous year, so not bad going!

It was great to spend some quality time with such a great friend, so a big thank-you to Ellen for making the trip over.

A good year for travel

Anyway, with Montreal, New York and San Francisco under my belt, I now just have a week back in the UK at the beginning of September to enjoy (although it will be spent mainly working from home). Looking back at my other travels this year (Austin, Texas and Las Vegas), I’m amazed at how much I’ve accomplished. This has certainly been a year of discovery and exploration - long may it continue.


5 responses so far. Go on, add yours!

 Gravatar#1 On August 19, 2007 10:58 AM, Stuart Maynard-Keene said...

Sounds like you had a good time. Ever since I first saw The Warriors Coney Island is one place I’ll visit when I go to NY

 Gravatar#2 On August 20, 2007 1:29 AM, Mark said...

Show off!

 Gravatar#3 On August 20, 2007 2:21 AM, Paul said...

@Stuart: I'd be quick! The one reason we decided to check it out was because we were told they are going to knock it all down next year :-(

@Mark: Always ;-)

 Gravatar#4 On September 24, 2007 1:13 PM, IanG said...

Paul, Are you putting on a little weight!

Lucky to have a friend like Ellen that is willing to travel a long way to see you. Glad you had a good time and are enjoying seeing new places. I've travelled to many places with work but never managed to get to New York.

 Gravatar#5 On September 24, 2007 5:07 PM, Paul said...

@IanG: No sadly, I have been like that for quite a while, it's just a very unflattering jumper! I may have to have a little tinkering done in PhotoShop. I am going to the gym more these days if that's any consolation…

I do love New York, it has a nice vibe to it, not sure I could live there though, but I'm not really the city type anyway.

Good to hear from you on here again too!

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