... in which I am verbose. I have pictures though! (*bribebribebribe*)
Day 5: Why Using a Crutch is A Good Thing(Tm)
Friday, September 30th
Henni and I matched!!! Now we really look like tourists ;-)
Henni and I were going to "do" 5th Avenue, so we wanted to get up early and get a head start with the queues at Empire State Building... yeah, that didn't happen ;) But fortunately it turned out to not be an issue at all. I have never met a nationality as considerate of people on crutches as in the US! Let me explain...
We arrived to the Empire State Building (hereafter ESB) at around 10:45am and were relieved to see that the line through security wasn't terribly long and it moved swiftly, so it took no more than 10-15 minutes before we were through the first hurdle. We'd bought a CityPass ahead of time, so that took us past the second hurdle without even having to stand in line! Third hurdle was standing in line to get to the lift that would take us to 80th floor - they took one look at my crutch and sent us through the "fast track lane" (which would ordinarily have been an extra $20-25). Interesting lift by the way - went directly from 2nd to 67th floor and counted in tens for that duration. Quite possibly the fastest elevator I've ever been on. Fourth hurdle was standing in line to get to the lift that would take us from the 80th to the 86th floor - once again they took one look at my crutch and sent us to the front of the line so we could just walk straight on!
Not that the others had to wait long - look at all these elevators!!! And those were just the ones on ONE side of the hall!
I think I've mentioned this before, but I do sometimes feel a bit of a fraud when I get all these perks based on my crutch. I don't view myself as handicapped, so it somehow feels wrong to accept privileges reserved for the handicapped. It wouldn't kill me to have to stand in line with all the "normal" folks. But then I stop being silly and start being awesome! (sorry! I couldn't resist. I do love HIMYM :-D Aaaanyway...) No, I might not need a crutch in my everyday life, but whether I like it or not, I am handicapped. My right ankle has only 10% of the flexibility it should have had. I've done city sightseeing with and without a crutch, and it makes an INCREDIBLE difference to have one. I'm actually able to walk around for more than just a couple of days, without ruining my leg in the process. Sure, it might be a privileged problem that I use the crutch for holidays rather than everyday life, but on those holidays I'm not just using the crutch for fun, I actually do need it. It makes the difference between going to a museum one day - resulting in being stuck in a hotel room or a Starbucks the next; and going to a museum one day, while still being able to walk across Brooklyn Bridge on the next! So yeah, looking at it objectively I'm definitely not a fraud for using a crutch. Looking at it subjectively though... Let's just say, I'm working on it ;-)
But I digress majorly! Henni and I finally made it all the way to the top, and immediately agreed that it was well worth the cost. The weather was nice, and the view absolutely amazing! I'll let these photos speak for themselves
The three antenna mark Times Square. The building to the left with the green roof is right next to our hotel :-)
I never really realized it before I went up the ESB, but lower Manhattan looks really cool! Block after block of "low" buildings (low for Manhattan standards anyway), and then suddenly - bam! Wall Street and the surrounding areas with its 90+ story buildings.
There were a few too many people for us to really be able to stand and take it all in (although I know it could have been much worse), so once we'd made it all the way around we figured we'd seen what we came for and made our way back down again (once again being sent to the front of the lines...) and were ready to head up 5th Ave to go SHOPPING! :-) I'm really glad I got to go up ESB though - it was one of the things that I never got around to doing last time, and which I'd pretty much regretted ever since, so yay for crossing something off my list :-)
Straight from ESB we went up 34th street as Henni had spotted an Esprit shop she wanted to have a look around. I wasn't counting on buying anything myself (I seldom buy clothes when off on my own) but stumbled across a gorgeous dress that was taken down from $90 to $23!!! The price was right, and once I tried it on, I knew I had to have it ;-) Henni and I also found some sweaters we really liked, and as they were 40% off if you bought three, that was a no-brainer also... especially when we knew that the prices were already almost 40% off what they would have been in Denmark! (Esprit is funny like that - it shows prices in several different currencies, so when shopping in Denmark you can really see how much cheaper it would be anywhere else... and when shopping in the US, we can see at a glance how much we save, and be more inclined to buy things that way ;-) ). So I got a gorgeous pink dress and a lovely red sweater and had to accept the fact that I'd now bought more clothes than I'd bought books!!!
In fact, I think having an ereader has seriously put a dampener on my book-spending! Even in the giant Barnes & Nobles on 5th, I ended up only buying a single book! (I know! I was shocked too! Especially because that's where I bought 6(!!) last time!) I was rather tempted by this Berenstein Bear display though :-)
Unfortunately I couldn't remember exactly which ones my parents already had, so I ended up not getting any of them. I love that they're still available though! I grew up with those! Dad went on frequent work trips to the US when we were young, and he'd always bring at least one Berenstein Bear book home for us :-)
Oh, I have to say I was less than impressed by their Nook salesperson though. I'd found a couple of books I wanted, which they didn't have as physical books, but only as e-books. Alright, I know the Nook app for the iPad isn't available outside the US, but perhaps they had a desktop app like the Kindle does? I went to ask, explaining my situation - asking if Nook ebooks could be bought outside the US and whether I'd be able to read them without a Nook e-reader.
"The Nook color is a brilliant e-reader..."
"I'm sure it is, but I'm not interested in purchasing a Nook, I want to know if I can purchase the books even though I don't have a Nook?" (In other words - I want to spend money here! Perhaps not as much as you'd like, but I still want to spend money in your store!)
"You can't read Nook books on the Kindle - you'll need a Nook e-reader."
"I know I can't read them on the Kindle, but I'm not interested in buying a Nook. Is there an app I can download so I can read it on my computer?"
"There is an app for the iPad."
"I know, but it's not available outside the US. Is there any other way I can read the e-books?"
"The Nook can be purchased anywhere in the world with a credit card with a US billing address."
(GAH! I don't HAVE a US billing address, and besides I DON'T WANT A NOOK!!!)
"Does that go for the books as well? Do I have to have a US billing address to buy those off the website?"
(A question that couldn't be answered with "you need a Nook" - he literally paused for a bit.)
"I.... don't.... know... I can recommend buying the Nook color here in store though."
*SIGH* I'm sure Nooks are fine, but I already have two e-readers (three if you count the iPad), and am really just interested in the BOOKS rather than another gadget. I've since discovered that Nook books are in epub format, so it should be fine, but after this run-around I can't be bothered to even register - besides, they might still require the credit card with an US billing address :-/ Guess B&N isn't terribly interested in becoming an international chain. That's fine... turns out that Amazon has the books too, and cheaper! But if they start lamenting the fact that they're loosing customers to Amazon... well, I can give them a clear example of why!
But enough about that. I wasn't seriously bothered at the time, so Henni and I just shared a laugh at his expense and moved on. Next stop - Rockefeller Center and the Swarovski store there! :-) Both Henni and I had been saving up for a nice figuring, so we were both stunned and rather disappointed to discover that their selection was surprisingly small for such a large store, and they had nothing either of us were even remotely tempted by :-( Unfortunately, that went for all the Swarovski stores we visited, so for the first time in ages, I didn't get a new Swarovski figurine for my collection :-( Fortunately that doesn't mean I didn't still get a Swarovski souvenier from NYC, but more about that later ;-)
Our trip up 5th Avenue also included a visit to New York Public Library (loved the Rose Room and found heaps of books to check out in the gift shop ;-) ), a delicious lunch from a street vendor (much better food and greater variety than what you'd find in Denmark! A lot more of them, too) which we ate in Bryant Park, and a quick walk through F.A.O. Swartz (unfortunately they didn't have the things I was looking for, so I didn't buy anything there).
By this time my legs were yelling at me pretty loudly to GO SIT DOWN ALREADY!!!! so Henni and I decided to walk over to Central Park and find a place to sit down and enjoy an ice cream and our books :)
I have decided that if I ever spend any length of time in NYC, I'm going to rent a bike and spend at least a couple of hours biking around Central Park. I'm sure it's a lovely place, but my visits there have mainly been tainted with frustration, because I can't find my way around! The maps are few and far between, so though we knew exactly what we wanted to see (the carousel, the fountain, Belvedere Castle, Cleopatra's Needle, H.C. Andersen and Strawberry Fields), our guidebooks were less than useless in showing us where to go, and as time was short, we ended up giving up after having seen the first two - vowing to return on a later date to look again. We wanted to cross over to the west side to catch the train back to the hotel, but it turned out that that was a lot easier said than done, because the main access road was blocked in both directions! We finally found somebody who could tell us that we could cross the barrier down by 72nd street, but for a while there we'd started to worry that we'd have to backtrack all the way back to 5th and be terribly late in getting back to the hotel! We got rather curious by all the people walking on the other side of the barrier though, and finally couldn't stand it any longer, so we walked up to them and asked what was going on - there was a Black Eyed Peas concert in the northern end of Central Park that evening, and the barriers were to lead the audience in the right direction and keep everybody else away ;-)
Finally we managed to get out on the street and find the nearest subway to get home - fortunately we didn't end up being late, and we even beat Lars getting home!
That morning we had told him all about our experiences at "Ellen's" the day before, and had told him that we'd like to go back, but whether that was for lunch or dinner was completely up to him - we realized it might not be his cup of tea as he's not really into musicals and showtunes. He'd thought it over during the day, and now said that since we'd promised him they had good food, he'd like to go! :-)
So after having rested for a bit, we headed out again to what ended up being my favourite dinner of the entire trip! :-) The food was terrific (I had a lovely Mexican salad with beans, tomatoes, pico de gallo and guacamole, Lars had the biggest steak I've ever seen), the atmosphere just as good as on the previous day, and best of all - they had a birthday party for a group of pre-teen girls, who kept requesting songs by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, so there was music Lars could enjoy as well! Although, I will have to admit I can never think of "Telephone" exactly the same way any longer, after having seen it done there :-D
But a great time was had by all. I asked Lars afterwards if we'd been right in telling him the food was good, and he basically moaned "Yeeees!", so we were all good there ;-)