Arriving At John F. Kennedy Airport
How do I say this? At first, I didn't know what to do when my Mum wished to visit Los Angeles for her 50th birthday. I've increasingly grown to understand LA is not the best place to visit for a family of introverts, thanks to different forms of media portraying it as a city of both annoying influencers and unfortinate poverty (post pandemic). Instead, New York was a more apt option, being advertised as a more familiar place to British residents, given it's design. Afterall, the park itself was apparently designed after a park from where I live! Of course, New York isn't devoid of weird people either, but at least the place appears more in order.
Being my second journey to America, but first time in 17 years, I didn't know what to expect (except for the fact a lot of things will be different in scope). I guess the first thing I expected was a difference in security within the airport. I was right to predict strictness the Brits are unfamiliar with. Out of the family, only 1 of us got scolded for bringing an *illegal* sandwich over the water, which I thought wasn't an issue at all (since it was willingly declared to the staff anyway). Scary stuff, but the matter of transport was also an issue, since the arranged taxi was a no show. However, this annoying issue was quickly rectified and we swiftly made our way through the night from Queens to Manhattan by yellow automobile.
Upon arriving at our luxorious hotel, we were tasked with unpacking then searching for a place to buy food (to take back). We aren't the ones to eat out often. Along the journey to find an open grocery store, there was an abundance of 'pleasant' looking Weed World busses. First impressions of New York were certainly interesting. More so a mix of awe and bewilderment, like a Pippin visiting Minas Tirith for the first time. I can't believe I just made that comparison, but y'know. The impressive lights of Times Square were teasing myself, calling me to approach, but I'd have to be patient and await the next day before I could enjoy the famous sights over there. For now, a bit of food and a night's sleep was much needed.
A Beautiful Introduction To The City That Never Sleeps
Our first main location of choice was to visit the top of the Rockefeller Center so we could capture some amazing pictures of the city from a high level. Thankfully, the weather was on our side this day, despite the cold temperature. I mean, look how clear the sky is! Perfect photo taking weather.
On top of this, the short walk to the building was honestly super chill and pleasant. This part of the city wasn't bustling really, which was a blessing really, since it would have made for an annoying introduction to the city otherwise. On the way, we'd walk by the Radio City building, The Rink, and the Channel Gardens. Each had their own quirks, and made for some great photo taking locations.
I have to admit, The Rink was a genuine surprise to come across and was not part of the plan. After seeing Marvel's Hawkeye and Spider-Man: No Way Home, it was definitely considered to be an additional treat adding this famous location to the journey. As a result, we spent some time here to soak in the atmosphere. Despite the early morning, tourists and fellow 'New Yorkians' enjoyed an enchanted glide over the ice as I watched from above in appreciation for such a joyful destination existing. It's only a small rink, but the design and care put into it adds to the luxory of visiting New York City. On top of that, there'd be so many awesome places to visit in it's viscinity, to which you'll get to read about coming up.
As you can see from the photo, the main Rockefeller Building is awe inspiring from below. Although it's far from being the largest building in the Big Apple, it is certainly on the top 20 of most iconic buildings the city has to offer. If I had to recommend visiting the top, I definitely would. As you'd probably expect, the views are simply sublime. I was very charmed to see the Empire State Building directly opposite me upon my first glance out of the 69th/70th floor, and on a sunny day the views are woundrously breathtaking. I'm not just saying that, but in person, to see the majority of New York from a high level just can't be beat.
Honestly, if I could, I'd have stayed there much longer. One thing I am ashamed about though; is how I didn't think to buy a real camera before the journey started. Currently, I own a Nikon B600, with 60x zoom, and it helped me greatly in capturing unique shots of Venice, Paris, Scotland, Geneva and the Alps in glorious 4K. Instead, I was limited to using my Samsung S20 in New York. Don't get me wrong, it's one of my favourite phones for taking pictures, but the zoom is not good enough for the pictures I wished I took. Would this warrant a return many years in the future? Yes, of course. But this time with a better camera and understanding of the city.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Along the trip, visiting this cathedral was one of the first things I wanted to do. I always enjoy a good visit to a church or cathedral after all. I can't confirm, but I think this cathedral was inspiration for the one seen in Grand Theft Auto IV. Be warned; I'll mention that game a lot in this post. But, I also think the cathedral has been used in multiple TV shows and films as well. I don't blame them for using it, since it's a rather awesome looking thing!
New York's Nintendo Store
Ahahaha, now this is my domain. Such a place existing so close to the hotel is... Perfect. Perfectly desired. Such beauty, such luxory, such... Hmmm, it's okay. The queue outside wasn't expected, I must say.
I mean, I was expecting a lot more form this store, but it's not all that big inside in all honesty. Everything was expensive there, which is to be expected, but I also expected more variety in stock. Like, come on... There was a section for each major franchise, like; Super Mario Bros, Pokémon and The Legend Of Zelda (along with Splatoon), but there wasn't a lot to see relating to Animal Crossing, Fire EMblem or some other side franchises. A dissapointment for sure, but I imagine the stock rotates every quarter (depending on the next hit game). At the time, Pokémon was the focus, so there was a lot of Pokémon Legends: Arceus plushes and clothing to appreciate.
Stock wise, not too impressive, but the presentation was awesome. Statues of our favourite characters were scattered about, along with a mini museum of every console and Amiibo figurine available at the time. There was even a Warp Pipe (with a microphone) to talk to a virtual Mario on a screen opposite. Shame it didn't work too well though. Also, some stupid kid ruined the experience by slapping the screen as we tried to use it.
What did I buy? Well, I bought a collection of pin badges, a Zelda cap and (of course) a hoody advertising the very store I was purchasing from. At the time, Covid was still a thing, so everyone was told to wear masks inside, as a consequence, hearing each other was difficult. One staff member either couldn't understand my accent or couldn't hear me in general, and yet he was still patient with me and helped me out with my purchases. A satisfying sacrifice to my funds, and yet I smile. :)
Yup, moving on.
Not so much a traditional park, but more-so an urban square of cafés, restaurants and an ice rink. In the winter at least, that's how I'd describe the park, but the green space returns once the rink is made redundant (closer to spring). From what I've seen in photos uploaded to Google Maps, the park looks colourful outside of the winter season, whereas I witnessed a grey-toned haven for leisure. Nothing wrong with that, but I found it to be one of the least memorable locations of the adventure.
One thing I did really appreciate though; was the Empire State Building looming over, like the White-Gold Tower does over Imperial City in The Elder Scrolls series. It acted as a tease for what was to come the very next day. You see, that's what I love about walking around the city. When I thought I was already experiencing something awesome, all I'd have to do was look behind me and see another towering landmark watching over me. Just around the corner from this park was the Chrysler Building and Avenger's Tower... I mean, The MetLife Building.
MetLife Building & Grand Central Station
The actual building itself I care little about, except for the fact it's placement is used to feature the Avengers Tower in many Marvel Studios films and that's how I will always see this building. Along the way, I'd pester my sister (constantly) reminding her of the fact that is meant to be Avengers Tower. Surprisingly, it was only on the 40th reminder she started getting annoyed. Such wonderful patience she has with me, considering how annoying I am.
The building is best viewed from certain angles, but I found some of the best shots can be taken up close (with Grand Central Station in the foreground), or from a distance with many buildings in the foreground. Simply put, I like other buildings in the shot to add something interesting to the shot, otherwise the building doesn't look interesting. If only it was actually the elegantly built Avengers Tower.
"A man can dream though. A man can dream" - Professor Hubert Farnsworth
I only remembered afterwards, but there was a deleted scene in the first Avengers film which featured a shot of the building from a realistically achievable angle. Understandably, I wanted to recreate this very scene, but was so distracted by the setting itself that I forgot to take the picture... DELIBERATELY at least! You see, I accidentally captured it without even realising! Compare the first image to the clip below.
Directed in front of the Avenge- MetLife Building, another famous New York destination can be found. Gran Central Station is one of the most famous transport hubs in the world. The very station can be found in many movies from over the years, and features as a marvelous level in Playstation's Spider-Man game. I'll be posting comparisons between that game and real life in the near future.
When walking inside, it's clear the architecture was made to impress. I mean, that 4 faced clock is so iconic, as is the grand scale of the station itself. Unyielding columns hold up the exquisite, verdant ceiling (with constelation inspired design) just as the sizable windows help light up the room with natural light. Although, I'd argue the station favours being lit artificially nowadays, as skyscrapers often block most of the natural light from coming in.
I love the overall design of Grand Central Station. I wish I had more time to explore it, but I am grateful I was even given the chance to enter it briefly. To enter it at a time of the large pandemic certainly made for an interesting venture.
I wouldn't say it was busy inside (at the time), but I'd happily say there was a lot of security there. There was likely a rule about filming inside, and I'd imagine I'd stick out if I looked as if I was purposely taking creative photos within. After seeing how scary the police can be in New York, I chose to be quick and enjoy the majority of it with my own eyes. This is how I'll likely act when visiting Copenhagen's Christiania later on in the future. Not sure why? Look it up.
New Amsterdam Theatre
Later that day, our next mission was to find this very theatre for the purpose of watching Aladdin performed live. Now, I must say I am a big fan of the original Disney Aladdin film, since I grew up watching it repetitively whenever I was dropped off at my Nan's house while Mum went to work. Good times, and I also got to play the SNES game a lot too.
My sister also loves theatre, having watched a million times more performances than me, and was equally as excited too. She was having the time of her life, in fact. Honestly, I think watching this stellar performance was the highlight of the adventure for her, and a near top contender for me.
No filming (or photography) was allowed during the 2 hour performance, so sadly I cannot display anything relating to the performance itself, but I got a chance to take a few interior shots before it started. I've never been in a theatre so large before. At least a few thousand people were there to share in the experience.
The play itself was amazingly acted and the musical moments were incredible. Awesome effects, detailed props and magnificent performances from everyone on stage made for a really memorable experience. I'd HIGHLY recommend booking a ticket for thsi if you ever visit New York. On the flight back, one of my thoughts linked to how the theatre visit hightened the sense of luxorious leisure New York offered as a city of grand presentation. So yeah, go book a ticket, fool.
One Times Square
At last, this was perhaps the main attraction I was anticipating the most from the adventure. At last, I get to talk about it! It's... It's... I mean, it's really cool at first. The cascading conflict of billboard lights fighting for dominance is certainly mesmorising and attractive at night. Heck, I'd even say the forever lasting moving crowds of people add to the awesome atmosphere (and that's coming from a fellow introvert). It's all great and definitely memorable, and in my head I had a 'main character movie moment' when I spun slowly on the spot to take it all in. My sister gave me weird looks, as I'm sure many other people did, but the fantasy is lost over time when the large crowds were constantly moving in a direction, like a current, and we were expected to follow it with no stops. Can be a bit overwhelming at first, but ultimately it was really positive first experience. Thankfully, the hotel was just around the corner from the square, so we'd be walking through it every day.