We’ve slept terribly tonight. The hotel room was draughty and the bed was more than usually squeaky. You only had to breath for it to complain. After a long and late journey from D.C. in a very cold bus this was absolutely not what we needed. However, the hotel staff have been really helpful and offered us a new room – one where the bed is not directly under the window. Thankfully that also meant that we left behind the brown tartar wall paper which made me feel claustrophobic.
I don’t know if their willingness to help had anything to do with me standing in the foyer crying at 8 in the morning. I’d pretty much lost it after that night. We were both feeling sick and the very idea that we had to spend one more second in that room made me close to hysterical.
I was so eager to get a new room that I misunderstood the guy at the reception desk when he said we could switch rooms. I thought he meant right now and fifteen minutes later with luggage and a grumpy boyfriend I was eagerly waiting for a new room. However, a room with no window by the bed would not be available until someone checked out.
I must have looked wild. Absolutely out of it by the idea that we had to return to our draughty room.
After settling back in the room we took our time to get ready for a day of sightseeing in Gramercy and the Flatiron District as well as Chelsea and the High Line.
We began by fuelling up at the nearby Gramercy Café – a sleazy but well maintained diner. I can’t emphasise how much I needed to get my wits together somewhere outside that hideous room.
I love how in New York every establishment has its regulars filling up the place and how you nearly never see an empty restaurant or drinking hole. Gramercy was one of those places filled with regulars and people who were on first name with the waiters.
The prices were reasonably compared to what we’d come to expect from New York and we ended up with a serving of pancakes, oatmeal and coffee. Lots of coffee.
Yet again we were reminded that service was not part of the bill. It seems a standard that waiters tell European tourists, and it is pretty tiring to constantly to reminded that they expect for you to find their overcrowding service welcoming and to pay for it. However, these guys had been friendly and were not sitting like hawks checking up on us. Which was a welcome change from our experience at Harry’s in D.C.
I will never get comfortable with the tipping system. I like to pay a pre-defined amount for both food and service and not have to reflect on how much I might give, feeling bad since I’d constantly find myself between wanting to give a lot and not having the money – thus leaving the restaurant feeling guilty and not really wanting to come back. And I’d prefer the waiters to leave me alone, since I will never feel comfortable with someone chatting with me or serving me for the hope of a large tip.
But while here I’ll tip by the standards and cringe on the inside, while telling myself it is a cultural experience.
Gramercy and the Flatiron District
We left the diner and had a pleasant walk through Gramercy and past Gramercy Park before reaching Union Square where we sat for a while people watching and baking in the autumn sun. Gramercy is a beautiful area and we have been absolutely fortunate to keep the brilliant weather from Philadelphia and D.C.
Not soon after leaving behind Union Square we found ourselves soaking up the sun in Madison Square Park. With Flatiron in the background we got to enjoy the buzz of the lunch crowd, people dressed in ties and suits, briefcases and hot-dogs. We’d attempted to take a photo of Flatiron, but it had proven difficult as a photo shoot was in full swing in front of it.
As so many other things in life, I was surprised that it was not larger. I vividly remember it from watching Spin City during my childhood and back then it seemed enormous. But size doesn’t matter! The building is beautiful and I can understand why it has become an icon in Manhattan.
After enjoying the buzzing Madison Square Park we came across the SONY building next door, where we got a chance to test their latest in Virtual Reality.
It is pretty amazing how far they’ve come and though it is still pretty difficult to imagine all of us sitting in the coach with these heavy white helmets on, while thinking we are somewhere else, it is probably not that far in to the future.
I got to explore the depths of the sea and get attacked by a shark, which the guys at the show room found hilarious, since apparently I was very apparent in my fear of the shark.
Returning to Madison Square Park, we once again joined the remaining lunch crowds. I love how the parks are used by New Yorkers. How they are an integrated part of the business life.
Empire State and Macy’s
While the business people left for their offices, we moved further up 5th Avenue to the Empire State building. I’d confused it with the Crystler Building ad was certain that the tall skyscraper in the distance was not Empire State. It wasn’t until we exited Wallgreen, where we’d stocked up on anything to use against the common cold, that we realised that Wallgreen was situated in the Empire State Building.
I guess, I can say that I have been inside though not up the Empire State Building.
We continued up 5th to Macy’s at Herald Square since we’d seen a commercial advertising that Macy’s was readying for Halloween. Our disappointed was pretty great when we realised that their Halloween section was nearly the size of a stamp, while their holiday section was all about Christmas.
The idea that Americans overdue it with decorating for the holidays and that the department stores were crazy felt nothing more than a stereotypical prejudice. Hopefully they got more crazy when Halloween got closer, because that was sad.
After another break at Herald Square where I realised that pretzels are just as boring in the US as in Germany, we headed off towards the High Line.
The High Line
While the Halloween decorations at Macy’s and the pretzel at Herald Square had disappointed, the High Line lived up to everything we’d imagined.
It was so unbelievably fresh to walk the extent of the High Line. A breath of fresh air in the middle of the concrete jungle. With the amazing weather people were relaxing on benches and chairs amidst the greenery. Some spots offered marvellous views of the streets below, where traffic was jammed and people in a hurry. Up here it was peaceful.
At some spot we were warned that naked sunbathers were at large while at others we passed small cafés and souvenir shops. Fortunately, these were limited and did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the High Line.
We passed between modern buildings built to encapsulate the High Line as well as older and crumbled buildings which stood as testament to the industrial area that it used to be.
If ever I return to New York, it will not seem complete with out a walk on the High Line. From this time around, I decided to create a gallery with some of the shoots from the High Line.
After a long day exploring the areas Gramercy, Flatiron and Chelsea, we spent the evening with a slice of a real and greasy New Yorker pizza and a night time walk before returning to our hotel, where we had been moved to a new and much more comfortable room.