Exploring NYC

My first week at work was fairly quiet — we had some fun breaking computers (and then fixing them again) but there was some dull admin to fill the evenings too. My fellow trainees and I have explored a couple of bars near work — they’re not bad, if a little expensive (and we haven’t been paid yet!) but we found a good one with happy hour on Friday! Later in the evening most of the trainees went en masse to a club called “Mission” near SoHo as apparently a friend of a friend of one of the other trainees was organising a party there so we got free entry (I’m still hanging onto my student ways… 🙂 ) With so many of the training class there it was a fun night, but I can’t say I’d go back as the music wasn’t brilliant and it was so jammed it took forever to get served at the bar, etc.

After a busy week it was really nice to just chill out on Saturday, but Sunday I woke fairly early and was keen to get out and explore the city a little, especially since thunderstorms were again forecast. Once again, I found there was something unexpected around almost every corner, for example there was a market selling lots of tasty looking fruit smoothies and other yummy foods on Sixth Avenue, and that the normally very busy Fifth Ave becomes a posh-looking, leafy residential area just north of Greenwich Village.

Sort-of by accident I found myself in Downtown where I was reminded just how amazing the buildings are here: there is the Italian-style City hall, the beautiful Woolworth Tower and a whole host of others along and around Wall St. I also visited St. Paul’s chapel, just across from the site of the WTC, miraculously unharmed in the September 11th attacks, and now a moving memorial to the rescue workers who worked day and night in the aftermath of the attack. As well as being a beautiful chapel, it is steeped in history, also being the chapel George Washington attended directly after his inauguration as the First US President.

I think I’ve realised that one of the problems with NY is that there is so much to do and see, I’m really not sure where to start! I might try to be a little more organised next weekend and perhaps “do” something rather than just do more meandering (as enjoyable as that is!). I’ve been checking out places to play Ultimate too as I really need some more exercise than just walking to work, and although the prospect of running around in blazing 30 degree sunshine isn’t that appealing I think I shall just have to put the sun block on and get out and do it!

White earbuds everywhere

I walked to work for the first time today. Although it’s about a 30 minute walk, it’s actually a lot more pleasant than taking the subway as it wasn’t too hot on the streets, and while subway trains are air-conditioned, the subway stations are not and often suffocatingly hot. There also seemed to be many coffee & bagel places en route that called out to be sampled. 🙂

It was interesting to see just how many people were listening to iPods (a lot!). On a related note, I was intrigued to see in iTunes that the BBC have begun podcasting, including my morning favourite, the Today programme! I hadn’t found the podcasting concept particularly interesting until now, but the thought of being able to listen to ‘Today’ programme while I walked to work in a foreign country was very appealing. Unfortunately further investigation shows that only the “the 8:10 interview” is available rather than the whole programme, so I guess I shall have to stick with CNN on TV for now — I hope the BBC extend their offerings soon.

A Day in New York

Today really reminded me how New York is so fantastic. It started with a group of us having lunch in a classic 50’s style diner featuring singing waiting staff who were very entertaining. To get an idea of how long it was going to take to walk to work, I wandered down Seventh Ave back to the apartment and then Broadway through Greenwich Village towards SoHo and the Apple store. I love walking around New York: the shops, the people, and the buildings are all fascinatingly varied and interesting.

Unfortunately, just north of Houston Street the promised thunderstorm hit hard—the rain was falling just like it does in films when the romantic protagonists must have their dramatic life-changing conversation/chase/etc. I managed to take shelter in a small Ben & Jerrys on Bleeker St — fantastic ice-cream, but alas all 10 seats were taken. So as I was standing there watching the rain pour down like a tropical storm, I realised the guy sat in the window with his girlfriend and (presumably) parents, looked like Zach Braff of Scrubs and Garden State, fame. At first I was sceptical, but as I caught snatches of their conversation about scripts and films I began to suspect he was the genuine article!

Anyway, eventually the rain stopped and I was able to make it to SoHo. The shops here were of the highly fashionable type, a noticeable change from the characterful Greenwich Village. The Apple store was nearly identical to the London one, although if anything it felt less spacious and less well-organised, but still a lot of fun to browse around and give new products a thorough test drive (I’m really tempted by the very cool ‘Mighty Mouse‘!). A walk up 6th Ave took me back home just in time as a another mighty storm moved in — hopefully all this rain will mean tomorrow will be somewhat cooler than today’s 90-odd degrees Fahrenheit and 80% humidity.

Arrival in New York

A quick post to confirm my aliveness, and location as being currently New York, NY, USA. The appartment is lovely (it has a coffee machine and broadband Internet)[1] and the location is fantastic. Although my Australasian adventure is over, I hope I am just setting off on a whole new one so I shall endeavour to continue to keep this blog up to date with details of what I’m up to in NY — so don’t go away!!

[1] And the ‘supermarket’/grocery store across the street is even a ‘gourmet/organic’ one. I only note this as Rosie recently informed me that eating non-organic food gives one brain cancer. Unfortunately, given the amount I eat, I can’t afford organic food in the quantities I need to live, so I guess my fate is sealed… 😉

Some photos of the appartment, taken using my phone (so very poor quality sorry): lounge, kitchen, bedroom.

Hong Kong for the Weekend

(Apologies for the lateness of this post: life has been very busy since I returned to the UK.)

After the endurance test that was my flight from London to Sydney, I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to break the return journey and spend a weekend in Hong Kong. Departing my Auckland hotel at 5am, followed by a 12 hour flight and a 4 hour time difference still made for a very long day though, so Saturday evening was spent with a quick bit of shopping (I’d been told that HK was a good place to buy tailored suits very cheaply) and a very nice dinner in Kowloon.

Sunday was my only full day for sight-seeing so I started early, first exploring the bustling streets of Hong Kong island, then taking the historic tram to Victoria Peak to admire the fantastic views of the harbour and the gleaming spires of the Region’s many impressive skyscrapers. Walking back down this very steep hill in the mid-afternoon heat I began to appreciate the covered usefulness of the ‘mid-level escalator’ system that makes getting up the hill from the waterfront CBD to ‘mid-level’ homes much more pleasant!

Overall I found Hong Kong to be a fascinating place: on the one hand it felt very alien, but the double-decker buses and familiar shops gave it a very British feel. Getting around was very easy: the underground was fast, efficient, clean and with clear information provided in English and Chinese. It’s definitely a city of ‘contrasts’ — from the areas where not a single English word could be seen on a shop or street sign, to the utterly westernised, sprawling air-conditioned shopping malls where there was no sign of the Chinese language. The stunning natural scenery seen from the bus on the way to the airport also suggested that there were further visual contrasts available if one was able to get away from the hustle and bustle and gleaming spires of the city.

I’d definitely recommend HK as a fantastic place to stopover and visit for a few days, I really feel I only scratched the surface in my very brief visit, but personally I would be wary of planning an extended stay there as the heat and very pushy street vendors were a little off-putting.