Two middle-class white English guys in the Bronx. No this is not the start of a joke but my reality for the last two weeks – and what a fortnight it was!
I could write a thesis on the trip on how much I loved the Big Apple but this is a blog so I will keep it short and sweet and if you wish for any particular details please do drop me an email.
First question then: why were myself and my housemate from London in The Bronx? A
valid question as when most people think New York, they think Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium and the seemingly ever-present yellow cabs. You will find none of these where we were living.
I must apoligise for the more America savvy amongst you but for those who fall under the former category of ignorance as I did, these lovely touristy things are only in the borough of Manhattan.
New York is made up of four other lesser-known boroughs (outside of the hip-hop and Ross Kemp gang world) called Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and The Bronx.
Whilst Queens, Brooklyn & S.I. are not exactly bathed in wealth like Manhatten, they are sub-urban in appearance with nothing particularly exciting happening.
The Bronx on the other hand could be the ignored, angry and unloved sibling where poverty is clear and depending who you talk to is intended this way to keep America’s wealthy, just that.
However The Bronx is also home to the very nice Fordham University where a friend of ours from New York attends “School”. I call Fordham very nice despite is surroundings as it is a private university making the most out of cheap land and building fantastic facilities within their walls using the extortionate fees they charge their students.
So it was back to the college lifestyle in the spacious apartment our 4 new roommates lived in. Revisiting the hedonistic lifestyle of a student (remember, I was at Newcastle…) was fun but took a toll on us both that even at 24, we are no longer able to withstand.
I got a pathetic cold from the constant battering we were taking in the evening after hot and humid days of sightseeing.
So what were my Manhatten highlights?
We went to see James Corden’s play One man, Two Guvnorsand it was side-splittingly
hilarious. Easily the best $69 (roughly £42) I have ever spent. We knew of its popularity whilst the play was in London and thought it would be the perfect end to a day of sightseeing and we were correct.
There was a very Beatles-esque four-piece band that serve as narrators from time to time, sauntering onto the stage from different parts of the audience and inject some class and order into the chaotic proceedings.
The individual characters are all amazingly well thought out and all occupy a decent portion of the spot-light without ever becoming dull.
As expected Corden is the real star of the show and was so energetic in his performance that back sweat was visible through his waistcoat.
But the real genius of the show is how Corden interacts with the audience and performs off the cusp with their material – giving the impression that each show will be very unique and a one-off experience. Which it was.
With lines such as “I smell like a doctor’s finger” and “love runs through marriage faster than shit through a small dog” it is crude in parts but always in a very light-hearted manner.
I insist that my meager words have not done it nearly enough justice but I urge everyone to go and see the show if in New York, but I hear the new cast in London’s version are still brilliant also.
As soon as we had landed and dumped our bags we were off to see what is described as the world’s greatest sporting rivalry: The New York Yankees versus Boston Red Sox baseball.
The atmosphere was like nothing I had ever seen at St. James’ Park or Stanford Bridge. This is mainly due to the fact that it was warm but the crowd was amazing in its relentless, but light-hearted maligning of the opposition players and fans.
The game itself is fairly long (around two-and-a-half hours) and as such off the field exploits such as dancing for crowd cameras are commonplace.
Everywhere you go in New York you see the famous Yankees sign on caps and shirts and as one of the most successful franchises in sports history, it is no wonder why they are so proud.
Located at the heart of Manhattan It was the largest private building project ever
undertaken in modern times.
It consists of 14 buildings including the plaza (which is turned into an ice-rink at Christmas time), an underground concourse, the Radio City Music Hall which houses NBC and the GE building.
The GE building is at the centre of the Rockefeller complex and is a 70-floor, 872 foot building known as “the Rock”. At the top of the Rock there is an observation deck from where beautiful 360-degree views of the city can be seen (see photos).
The famous park served as our sanctuary from the madness of our Bronx party house and the weather was so good that we managed to gain a couple of hours kip there on more than one occasion such is the tranquility of the area.
The park is amazing on several levels. The thing I found most amazing was that whilst you were in the middle of a park big enough to accommodate climbing boulders, baseball parks, lakes, a zoo and the Metropolitan Museum, the dramatic NYC skyline forever surrounded you with all its skyscrapers.
You will gain a rough impression of the park from the photos but in reality it is a magical place full of horse carriages, roller bladders, and straight-up chillers.
Considering how expensive real estate is in Manhattan it is a testament to the city that it has remained at its current size and is an amazing feet of time and maintenance.
Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero and Empire State Building
I bunch the last three things together mainly as they are the one people tend to know most
about and I am trying to keep it brief.
The statue included a fun ferry ride to the aptly named Liberty Island from where headphones and a cassette with a guided tour take you around the big statue.
The history behind it are impressive and can be easily Googled but you do get a certain sense of awe when you think back to how the immigrants arriving on ships after treacherous journeys would have felt after seeing the statue that signaled their arrival in the land of the free.
Ground Zero is the place the Twin Towers stood before they fell victim to the tragic events
of 9-11. We were lucky enough to receive a guided tour from a policeman our host’s father knew and he had some great personal stories of the events that would change America forever.
The two huge fountains that stand where the towers did are surrounded by trees and knew building work signaling regeneration. The fountains themselves have the names of all of those that died in those days inscribed around them, organised by flight and department of their employment.
It was a humbling experience and again, one that should not be missed.
The Empire State building hosted an impressive viewing deck from it’s 1, 454 ft top. It was
the world’s tallest building until the World Trade Centre took over in 1972. However I personally enjoyed the view from Rockefeller more as you gained a better view of Central Park.