In preparation for our big trip to the Big Apple, New York City connoisseur and general oddball, Jarlath Coady, provides us with some guidelines for how to survive and make to most of our trip abroad.
So you’re going to New York? First bit of advice: Don’t eat the gum on subway handrails. Or anywhere else for that matter. Buy your own (said in New York accent).
New York is often described as the perfect city. Its public transportation is so efficient, it makes you think that maybe the Red Setter from Bus Eireann should be put down. If you want to shop, it’s got that. Concerts? Even a deaf person would have a great choice. Food? Only everywhere. Coffee? Starbucks on every corner. ‘Coz you might need a caffeine top-up in the 30-yard trek from one street-corner to the next.
It’s got everything that any city could have AND even has beaches. Who knew? I did. And now you do. Which may be an option since heading into May is the beginning of ‘fan oven’ season in New York. For those daunted by being NYC first-timers, it has some comparable characteristics in common with Mayo. If you like Main Street Castlebar, then you’ll love Times Square. It’s Hudson River is the absolute spit of Carrowbeg river in Westport. Its beaches just like Clew Bay.
However, one thing is very different in New York. Things do not stand still. No train or bus is ever a minute late, and don’t expect one to even stop for you if you are on Irish time of being a minute late. So with that, may I introduce you to the New York public transport. Before going over, make sure you have downloaded one of the many subway apps and try getting yourself familiar with it. The subway can be a daunting experience if you’re unfamiliar with it but is so easy to navigate once you do get used to it. Rule of thumb: you’re either going Uptown(North), Downtown(South), Manhattan-bound(West) or Queens/Brooklyn-bound(East). It might sound obvious, but know where you are and where you’re going. If you find yourself on the right train but going in the wrong direction, don’t panic. Just get off at the next stop. If the wrong direction is southbound, then just get the northbound which is often in the same underground station, or at worst across the street. Make sure that any app you do have for the subway can be used offline as any app that relies on data connection either won’t work or you will encounter your first mugging experience in the city. Data roaming charges are ridiculous in America. Before heading over, make sure you notify your network operator that you are going to America and research if there is any add-on you can buy which will allow you to use some data over there. 1MB of data can cost nearly €5. Google Maps simply tracking your location is a shocking €10 gone. If you’re disciplined enough to not obsess about needing constant Facebook access, then Starbucks will be your new best friend with its free (if somewhat slow) Wi-Fi. Also, you should notify your bank that you are going over as any debit/credit transactions may be seen as suspicious activity and your card could be frozen until you contact them anyways.
So you have your app downloaded, your Genfitt Mayo jersey on. What the hell is the next step from JFK? Again, do your research before you arrive, but if you are staying in Manhattan then it’s very easy. Get the Airtain from JFK to Howard Beach. Buy the €5 Airtrain ticket at Howard Beach and get the Manhattan-bound A or E trains which will bring you straight into Manhattan. It takes about an hour and a half so don’t be worried thinking that you’re on your way to LA. If you plan on using the subway regularly (which you will), then it would be wise to buy a 7-day unlimited metrocard for $31, even if you’re only in NYC for a few days. You’ll be using it daily a number of times. The metrocard can be bought from any of the kiosks available in all underground stations.
To distract yourself from the potential Sam decider with New York, you may have an interest in other sports. New York doesn’t do small or understated. In Ireland, the difficulty of wondering if a pub is “showing the match” is about as alien to New York as Sting. The two best sports bars in NYC are The Irish Pub between 53rd and 54th street on 7th avenue approximately a five minute walk from Times Square and Legends on W 33rd Street. These places have more TV’s than you could shake a hurley stick at and regularly show Premier League/Champions League games amongst others. It would be pointless mentioning other pubs in NYC as there are too many to mention. Looking for an Irish Pub? Here’s a tip. Open your bloody eyes. They’re everywhere. And for those new to the pub culture there, it’s customary to tip a dollar for every drink. Prices for drinks are roughly similar or slightly cheaper than cities in Ireland, depending a bit on the strength of the euro to the dollar. At the moment, the euro has strengthened over the last year from a low in 2012 and so surprisingly New York prices aren’t astronomical (clearly not talking about accommodation here). After every third drink, the bar man will give a free round. That’s the norm. For those wanting to try out some trendy bars in New York, google Overtime NYC. They often have a number of events on every week, usually with Open Vodka bars on open rooftop bars overlooking the city. Maybe the best option if you have no intentions of leaving the pub during your holiday but wouldn’t mind getting a bit of sun.
For those who aren’t going to set up camp in a bar/pub in NYC then why not do what all the tourists do. No, not get mugged. Unless you wear a bum bag, or socks in sandals. Then yes. You’re getting mugged. And it might even be me that does it. There are plenty of tourist traps in New York. There are two options for seeing really what NYC looks like. The Empire State Building and just ‘down the road’ (in Manhattan terms) ‘The Rock’ at Rockefeller Square has awesome views of the entire city including Central Park. The new World Trade Centre is looking mighty impressive and is an obvious stop for sightseeing. Plus, could people stop feeding the pigeons around WTC? THEY ARE MASSIVE.
And some are downright dangerous.
It’s near the very southern tip of Manhattan island and not too far from Wall Street. One recommendation: Statue of Liberty isn’t as impressive up-close as it is in the movies. Although, only in recent months have they opened up the oul’ hat on herself so people can look out from it. Something that’s been closed off since 9/11. 5th avenue is not too bad for the gawk but you’d be better off saving your shopping for other places. Head to Union Square for some good stores at decent prices. If you want super bargains, then Woodbury Common is the place to go. This is upstate and so is a bit of a bus journey. Tickets for the buses can be bought from Port Authority on 42nd Street and 8th avenue. The buses leave from here regularly and it’s worth the trek. Some interesting film spots might include the Ghostbusters firehouse at 14 N Moore Street or Monica’s apartment from Friends which is above The Little Owl Restaurant (just the outside obviously, don’t go harassing some elderly couple because you want to see the inside of Monica’s apartment) on the corner of Grove and Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, 90 Bedford Street to be exact. There are too many other great spots to visit in NYC but this is a blog, not a new Lord of the Rings book.
There are two types of people to be weary of when in Times Square. Those selling their homemade music CD’s and those selling tickets for stand-up comedy shows. Fine if you want to listen to a struggling hip-hop artist or want to go to a comedy show. But if you don’t, these guys will hound you if you look anywhere in their direction. So just look straight ahead and keep on walking. Do not talk to them.
If you feel like being a bit fancy, Broadway is a good experience with plenty of shows to cater for whatever taste. There are plenty of sharp, edgy plays, it isn’t just musicals that Broadway does. You can go directly to box offices of theatres. Most of the Broadway theatres are located just off Times Square in the streets from 41st to 49st Street roughly. If you’re not sure what to go see, then cut out the walking and just show up at the tkts booth situated directly below the steps on Times Square. This is open in the morning and afternoon and tickets can be discounted from 20-50%. This can be a little deceptive though as a ticket might be 50% off but could be an expensive seat as you find out the discount at the area but not the price until you get to a kiosk. Generally speaking, no matter where you sit in any of the theatres you will see the stage so don’t go buying premium seats if you don’t need to.
Finally, make sure that in getting lost in the energy of New York you don’t forget to get the plane back. Horan will be looking for you come September!
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