On the immigration trail.

On Saturday we got the subway down to financial district on the lower end of the island. The Century 21 store is in this district. We walked in, took one look around at the total chaos of the place and promptly left again. For British people, think TK Maxx but on a much larger, more chaotic scale- that is what the shop is like. Not my idea of a good time and definitely not Fraser’s. Outside the skyline is dominated by high rises and skyscrapers. 5 new ones are currently being built, essentially I think they are to be the replacements for the twin towers.
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We made our way down to Battery Park to catch the Liberty and Ellis Island ferry. After airport security checks we made it on to the boat and set off for photo opportunities of arguably the most famous woman in the world. She is very much as you expect, exactly as you see her in every photo or film that has a shot of her in it. Currently closed for renovations there was no opportunity to go up to the top of the statue so we didn’t bother getting off the ferry at Liberty Island, we had all the pictures we wanted from on board the ferry.
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The next stop was Ellis Island, the museum of the old immigration centre. The building itself is quite beautiful and the inside shows the story of how the USA was populated. Now I am no historian but the exhibits do seem to be quite biased against the Brits (and most other settlers), I don’t know, maybe we were/are just terrible people. There is also a walk through of the system used for immigrants on their way into the country which was interesting to read about and view pictures of.
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The ferry returned us to Manhattan Island and we strolled through the financial district making our way toward Wall Street. As it was the weekend it was fairly quiet which was slightly disappointing as it would have been interesting to see the hustle of the world’s most famous financial centre, but it did mean we weren’t in the way of the workers trying to get about when we were stopping to take pictures- swings and roundabouts! On the way up to Wall Street we passed the Charging Bull statue. I don’t know much about it (why is it there?!?) but there was a reasonable queue to have your picture taken with it so we snuck in at the side and just had a photo with the barriers in the way. There is a similar statue in Birmingham so if I ever have a strong and desperate urge for a photo with a bull statue I’ll just go there to have it done to be honest so I don’t have to queue.
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We had dinner that evening at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse (just behind the exchange on Wall Street). My parents had recommended it to us as they said it had a great atmosphere with lots of locals up at the bar. When we got there it was very quiet and incredibly expensive. We had made 2 fundamental errors. 1) It was the weekend so none of the business men were around to give it the atmosphere, 2) we went at dinner time which made it far more expensive than the lunch time menu. I should add that the food was lovely; really well cooked steak and a sharing plate of chips that we barely made an impact upon between the 2 of us. It was just the price that put a dampener on it.

As our dinner was quite early we decided to go for a drink after. A short subway ride away in the East Village was McSorelys Bar , one of the oldest pubs in Manhattan. It had an old-style feel to it but the clientele were a variety of ages. The one thing that really hits you about the place is the noise; not from the music, but from the customers. It seems to be the case that when in a pub Americans have to shout at each other even when sat a foot apart. It is quite overwhelming if you’re not used to it but still, it gave us an experience of the local culture and provided cheap beer.
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The following day, Sunday, we were up early to get on a tour to Coney Island that was available on the NYP. We got to the meeting point outside Battery Park as was stated in the guidebook but could not see anyone involved around so decided to ring the number provided. To cut a long story short the meeting point had change to somewhere in Midtown that we would not be able to get to in time. Apparently it said this in the new guidebook which must have been released within the week we were there, but that was the end of that idea. The moral of the story is always ring tours ahead to check the details!!

By this time we had our blood up for going to Coney Island so we made our own, slightly long-winded way there. This started by getting the water taxi from Battery Park to Pier 17 at South Street Seaport. Big and yellow these boats are hard to miss. I wish we had more time to go further on the taxi route as it allowed great views of the city from the water and the guide on there gave us good information about the landmarks we were passing.

Alighting at the seaport we then walked inland to reach the start of the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian pathway. The walkway was busy on the Manhattan end and we had to walk between large metal walls that blocked any views. Thankfully these opened up to allow views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn on the far side. It was a nice little walk across (or cycle as many people were doing) . On the far side we found the subway to take us down to Coney Island (allow time for this as it is a local train meaning there are a lot of stops).
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When we reached our destination it was packed with people using their weekend to find a beach to soak up the sun or taking their children on the rollercoasters and other rides within the amusement park. The beach was pleasant with much nicer sand than at Atlantic City and the sea was unsurprisingly still cold. Other than that I don’t have too much to say about Coney Island; it would be great if you want a beach day or to go on the rides but for sightseers it was just a case of walking along the beach and then back along the boardwalk in the other direction.
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Our next stop along the subway was the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. This was a treat as a getaway from city life. It displays pretty much any plant you can think of with specialised areas such as the rock garden and the Japanese garden. The greenhouse had sections for tropical, desert and temperate vegetation. I really enjoyed how relaxing it was to get away from the constant streams of taxis whooshing past you. It was something I would never have thought of if it weren’t for the NYP but I am glad that we did stop there.
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Our dinner that evening was in Midtown at a place called La Bonne Soupe. Fraser had been itching for a fondue all week so we found this place in a guide book and headed there. This was possibly my favourite meal of the week, all French style food (although don’t try and order it in a French accent, they just won’t understand you). We shared a huge plate of pate for starter and then whilst Fraser had his cheese fondue, I had moules mariniere- very yummy!!
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In the evening we planned on going to a hidden little bar called Please Don’t Tell. We had phoned at 3pm when booking opened and had to retry a few times before getting through to anyone to be allocated a time slot at 11pm. We headed to St Marks Place in the East Village at our allotted time and went into the hot dog place where the bar is hidden. To get in you have to phone through from the telephone box within the hot dog shop and then they let you in. We were glad we had booked as there were loads of people being turned away. Inside it was small with an intimate feel to it. The major downside I had was that I did not like any of the drinks they offered which were all experimental cocktails. However I had great fun overall and I think Fraser really enjoyed it too, it is probably better for people who are not insanely fussy like me though.
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NYP savings- Liberty and Ellis Island ferry: $13, Water taxi: $25, Brooklyn Botanic Garden: $8.

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