New York has the reputation of hosting the biggest and best St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world. With this in mind, I decided this year that I was going to be part of it. So I booked time off work, the cheapest flights I could find on the internet and a reasonable hotel not too far away from all the action.
The Drive To The Airport
I set off for Manchester Airport on a cold, wet and very windy Friday morning. It’s about a 3 hour drive so the roads were quiet but that’s probably for the best. If you’ve seen the movie Twister, the only thing missing was the Frisian cow hurtling past the car windscreen as I drove along.
The Flights To New York
The American Airlines flight to Chicago was fantastic although quite a bit of turbulence. There was loads of leg-room and the in-flight movie was Zoolander. The food wasn’t anything special but I’ve been on enough flights to know that it was better than most. The flight from the Windy City to the Big Apple was a lot shorter but also a lot more uncomfortable. Maybe it was because I’d been flying for about 8 hours already.
The Taxi-Ride To The Hotel
It was dark by the time I got out of La Guardia Airport so there really wasn’t much to see on the way over to Manhattan. The taxi-ride was mad and a little uncomfortable. He was driving far too fast, having to brake heavily quite a few times. He either knew exactly how wide the taxi was or he didn’t have a clue because several times it looked like he was going to side-swipe other cars but somehow managed to avoid them at the last second.
After grabbing a quick shower at the hotel, I was off exploring. I tried to have a look round Madison Square Gardens but Elton John was playing that night and security weren’t having any of it. There were loads of ticket-touts around and that was causing them a huge problem. The concert the following night had to be cancelled as Elton had the flu or something.
I had something to eat in a pizzeria just outside the Gardens and then and got drunk in 1 of the Irish bars off 5th Ave. Beer is relatively expensive over there – don’t expect much change from $5 for a bottled beer, even an American one.
The next morning, I was woken up at around 7am from car horns, etc. from the street below. I was staying on the 10th floor so I hate to imagine what it was like on the ground. I found out about an hour later but I think it had died down by then. All the morning deliveries had been made, etc. Brunch was a hot dog from 1 of the many outlets along 5th Avenue.
The police were starting to close off streets along 5th Ave. and re-direct people on the pavements too. An air of excitement was growing; people were milling around trying to find the best spot to watch the parade. I choose a spot outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral which was quiet at the time but it soon got very busy.
I watched the parade for a few hours; to be honest, toward the end it started to get boring. There were several tributes to the emergency services from 9/11. It seemed that any fire fighters or NYPD who weren’t on duty that day marched in the parade. New York’s ex-mayor, Rudolf Guliani did a walk-about, shaking hands with people – , .
A 12:04 precisely, everybody turned south to face where the twin towers would have been and observed a 2 minute silence. It was REALLY eerie; I’ve never known so many people to be so quite for so long.
I gave up watching the parade about 2:30 for 2 reasons – 1) there’s a limit to the number of marching pipe bands and firemen/police that anyone can watch; and 2) I was getting hungry. Getting something to eat wouldn’t be a problem. Getting back onto 5th Ave. afterwards just wouldn’t happen so I went looking for what else was going on. On the way back to the hotel, I came across these street performers.
Other Manhattan Landmarks
I spent Sunday visiting some of the other landmarks around Manhattan Island. The UN building was the most interesting. Security was tight and I had to leave my back-pack at the security cordon. They let me take my camera in but only after I showed them that it really was just a camera.
There are guided tours of the building including entry into the Security Council chambers. However, the lobby was the best bit for me. There are biographical details of all the Nobel Peace Prize winners since it was first awarded. There’s an exhibit of icons painted by children from around the world and a fantastic stain glass window.
Walking down the street, I found a huge mirror propped up against the wall. I took this picture of me.
Monday I spent packing and travelling back to the UK. The sunset from the airport terminal in Chicago was phenomenal.