New York City - Part Two

Rather than making one really loooooong post about my time in New York City, day 4 and onwards of our trip can be found right here! If you have ended up here and not already read part one, then click here.

Day 4 -

I was really looking forward to what we had planned today, as we were going to check out the site of One World Trade Centre, as well as hopefully taking a wander across the Brooklyn Bridge.

But, like the past couple of days, the morning had to be started off with some pancakes!

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After we had finished at breakfast, once again, trying to embrace the public transport system, we headed to Grand Central Terminal and caught a train to the nearest station to One World Trade Centre.

It was opening day for the New York Yankees against the Blue Jays, and the MTA New York City Transit sent a special “Nostalgia Special” non-stop from Grand Central-42 St to 161 St-Yankee Stadium. This was totally unexpected for us so it was cool to see the platform full of Yankees fans and then the train arriving.

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As we all know, the World Trade Centres were an iconic part of the New York City skyline, and New York City itself, but are sadly no longer there, however, where they once stood is a very impressive memorial, and within metres is now the One World Trade Centre.

If you do anything with your time, or have a few hours to spare in NYC, then please check out the World Trade Centre Memorial and Museum, it's an absolute must do.

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We spent a good few hours in the World Trade Centre museum, and I didn't use my camera here, just my iPhone, and in all honesty, I don't want to post too many pictures or spoil it for anyone as it really is just one of those things you need to check out in person.

You must remember that the World Trade Centre Museum is built underneath where the Twin Towers stood, and much of their foundations remain here, as well as staircases, and girders, etc.

So it is pretty damn eerie, and upsetting in some parts, but it's a must do, as for many, what happened on September 11th 2001 is firmly imprinted in our memories forever.

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After spending a few hours at the museum, and making our way around all the exhibits, we headed out and wanted to go to the Brooklyn Bridge next, but first, we took a detour down Wall Street.

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From here, I think we may have taken a few wrong turns as it turned out to be a bit of a detour to get to the Brooklyn Bridge but we eventually made it... after stopping at Dunkin' Donuts that is!

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Once we managed to navigate our way onto the pedestrian walkway, we took a wander across the bridge, but we definitely underestimated just how long it was!

We left my mum and sister at one end, but I was desperate to get to the other side and try and take some pictures looking back onto Manhattan. The sun was just starting to set also!

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The area just across the bridge is Dumbo, and I wish we had longer to check it out, and also stay and catch the sunset, but we just headed down to the riverfront to snap a few pics.

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Next time I make it back to NYC, I'll be sure to spend some more time this side of the river for sure!

Anyway, back across the bridge we went.

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As you might have realised by now, we planned very little in the evenings, and just left them as time to grab some food and chill, as by the time we were getting back to the hotel, it was 8pm or so anyway, and man, we were tired.

I'm sure we just grabbed something to eat from one of the Five Guys which was just a block or so away from our hotel, then my dad wanted to have a pint of Guinness at P.J. Clarke's on 3rd Avenue.

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DAY 5 -

In a lot of my posts about travel, you'll notice I've got a bit of a thing for sightseeing buses, and I get that from my mum and dad, so it was inevitable that there'd be some of that in NYC... I'm just surprised it took until the 5th day before we got on one!

If you don't already know about City Sightseeing, then click the link and check those guys out. There's a direct link to their NYC page here, where you can check out all the sightseeing tours they offer. I can't recommend them highly enough, and you can hop on and hop off the majority of tours which is perfect.

I developed a bit of an obsession for Snapple while in NYC, and that pink lemonade flavour is the one, so I stocked up for the day. Sadly, the Snapple in the UK isn't nearly as cheap, it's a bit of a rip off to be fair, and the flavour selection ain't great.

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The first tour that we went on with City Sightseeing was their Uptown Tour which visits Manhattan's northern region, and goes through Harlem also.

As you know, Central Park is huge and has a lot of crazy real estate around it, so the fact that these sightseeing buses go up either side of Central Park is great, definitely one of the best ways to check out how the rich and famous live, and also get a point of view which you wouldn't usually get if you were walking.

If I remember correctly, the tour was around 2 and a half hours long, but there's plenty of sights along the way, so here's some shots below -

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The tour ends in Times Square where you're able to hop on one of the other available tours.

Trying to squeeze in as much as possible, we waited at one of the City Sightseeing bus stops just off Times Square and hopped on the Downtown Tour loop. We had already checked out most of Downtown over the previous couple of days, but once again wouldn't hurt anyone, right?

After all, sights such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, One World Trade Centre, Flatiron Building and so on are pretty special, but I'll try avoid posting those pictures below as there's plenty above and in my previous post.

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Day 6 -

Our last full day in NYC, and our tickets for the City Sightseeing tours were for 48 hours, so of course, after doing the Uptown and Downtown loops the previous day, we were going to do a couple more. Gotta get your moneys worth and that!

First up was the Bronx tour, as me and my dad wanted to see Yankee Stadium, and this seemed like an easy way to get to it.

However, to get to the Bronx tour, you needed to get to Grant's Tomb on 122nd Street, so we took the Uptown bus to get there.

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The above picture is of Grant's Tomb, which is where the Bronx tour bus dropped us off. No shame, but most of us were absolutely bursting for the toilet, and there was a church across the road so we went there in hope of finding a toilet.

Thankfully there was one, but moving on from the toilet scenario, the Riverside Church is pretty spectacular.

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I'm sure you'll agree, a pretty amazing spot, and one which we stumbled upon purely in sheer desperation for the toilet, I'll certainly take that.

In terms of pictures from my DSLR, that's pretty much where they ended, but I have some iPhone shots left over, so I'll be ending the post with those.

From the Riverside Church, we headed back by foot to the Natural History Museum because I've wanted to visit this since forever, and I still have NEVER been to the one in London.

I said we should walk from where we were to the museum, but I totally underestimated how far away it actually was. Apologies to my mum, dad and sisters, it was a distance, my bad! This meant we arrived quite late, and it was closing soon, but we started from the top, and rushed around as much as we could see, and grabbed a quick look at the HUGE blue whale there.

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Whenever I make it back to NYC, I'll definitely be coming back to the Natural History Museum and spending many hours here, so much amazing stuff in this place, feels like we only managed to check out a tiny amount!

We literally couldn't walk any further, so we hopped on the subway and headed back to Grand Central Station and then the hotel. After we grabbed some food, I had some plans to meet up with a bunch of guys I know through sneakers. It still amazes me that something like sneakers has given me the chance to meet so many great people, whether it's in the UK, Europe, or the US.

After getting lost on my way, I eventually made it to Brother Jimmy's where we grabbed some food, lots of beer, and spent a few hours chatting about everything and anything. A big shout out to Lou, Dennis, Adrian, Marcos, Nicky, and Doe for making the effort, you guys are the shit!

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The next day was our last, and we were flying back to London overnight, so we just done some last minute shopping, well, my dad and sisters did, I just got a long lie!

It was inevitable that our first trip to NYC would be filled with all the tourist things, but I can't wait to come back as there's still lots to check out. Need to visit all the stores I never got round to visiting, and also need to get to some sporting activities... Basketball, ice hockey, baseball NFL, need to experience it all!

Until next time New York City!

Florence - Italy Adventures

Utilising the Italian Train service once again, we hopped on a train and made our way to Florence from Pisa, a relatively short journey, gave me some time to try and edit pics too which is always good. Tried to take a chunk out of the inevitably large amount of images I'd have to go through when I got home. Arriving in Florence in the middle of the day probably wasn't the best idea though, as it was roasting, much hotter than it had been in both Rome and Pisa. With our screenshots of Apple Maps in hand, we made our way to the hotel, and had to wing it a little as I may have taken us up the wrong street, even with directions.

Anyway, we eventually made it to Hotel Pendini, which is where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. A lovely hotel sitting right on the Piazza della Repubblica, and next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, with Louis Vuitton across the road too if you fancied a spot of shopping.

DAY 1 -

So you can probably guess by now what we done once we got checked in, right? Of course, we went for a wander to get an idea of where everything was.

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Hotel Pendini on the right from Piazza della Repubblica.

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Palazzo Vecchio from Piazza della Signoria.

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Fountain of Neptune.

One thing I knew about was the Ponte Vecchio, so this is what we would search for first, and after going in the wrong direction originally, we eventually made it to the awesome Palazzo Vecchio which you can see above.

You'll notice a lot of people going in and out of a door at the front of this building, so make sure you do the same, it's worth it. Below are images of what you'll discover when you do!

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From here, the Ponte Vecchio is an extremely short walk through the Piazzale degli Uffizi, which you can see below. A busy area both day and night!

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Due to the time of day, I couldn't get a good shot of the Ponte Vecchio from the front side, so of course, we'd come back a few times more, but we did take a wander over the bridge which is full of jewellers, and then head to one of the bridges behind it to get a better view.

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Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita.

 My parents had visited Florence last year, and I swear all they done for the next few months when they came back was just talk about how amazing it was, so this was one of the main reasons we chose to visit here.

In all honesty, although we'd only walked around for a couple of hours, we weren't too impressed with Florence, certainly not in comparison to how we felt about Rome. Maybe the travelling and walking around had eventually caught up with us, so we headed back to the hotel to unpack and get changed.

Some shots from the way back.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.

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Feeling a little drained, we just planned to head out for some food and of course gelato! We headed to Piazza della Signoria to grab some food at a restaurant we'd spotted during the day, and of course, it was busy, so they probably are doing something right.

How wrong could we have been? They weren't doing anything right. We waited an absolute day and age to just get drinks! I wish I could remember the name so you could avoid them, but I've forgotten.

So off the back of a shitty meal, all that could make up for it was the biggest tub of gelato I could find, and that's just what I got. (Photo not included as I absolutely demolished it!)

Back to the hotel it was!

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"Put that f*cking camera away!"

Day 2 -

One of Emma's friends had booked us on a walking tour as a birthday gift, I'll be sure to get the name for you off of Emma. Big shout to our guide Sylvia, in the middle of the day, in the scorching heat, she was great!

However, first, after demolishing some croissants with nutella, I said that I couldn't get a decent shot of the front of the Ponte Vecchio, so off to the bridge we headed as the sun would be at the opposite side.

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Now it was time for our walking tour, so meeting outside the Hard Rock Cafe, we got acquainted with our guide, and off we went. We basically toured the historic centre of Florence, while getting all the necessary information about each 'attraction', and trying to find any unoccupied spots of shade. Basically everything you'd expect from a walking tour, it was pretty spot on.

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Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

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Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze.

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Campanile di Giotto.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

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Museo Casa di Dante.

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Chiesa di San Carlo.

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Palazzo Vecchio.

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Now if you didn't know already (we didn't until my mate told me), Florence is pretty damn fashionable. Pretty much every street you walk down will have some form high fashion shop on it, or just a clothing shop in general, so it was time for me to get dragged around... for a little while at least.

We were struggling to find much to do at night to be honest, except for eat and drink, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but we wanted to be able to walk places and check out new things, but literally every thing was closed.

So once we grabbed food, we just headed to the Ponte Vecchio where there was a couple of guys singing and playing guitar, who were amazing, so we spent an hour or so chilling listening to them.

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Day 3 - 

So we pretty much had two days left in Florence, and it felt like we had done very little, so we figured out what we wanted to do and..... we came up with very little!

However, one thing we definitely wanted to do was visit the cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), it's dome and it's surrounding bell tower, and baptistry, but every day we had been there, it was queued all the way around.

The night before, we spent some time checking opening times, and what not. Also, we had failed to find a ticket office, as we knew we had to get tickets to climb to the top of the duomo, as well as the bell tower, and to enter the baptistry. The cathedral was free, provided you were respecting the religion and had your shoulders and top of your knees covered. This is pretty much standard in Italy, so please bare it in mind, just a simple shawl will suffice for the ladies!

A 7:30am wake up call, we took our bottles of water and baguettes that we had bought last night, made our way to the ticket office, paid 10e each for two tickets, and went to join the queue to climb the cathedral's dome. This was the largest queue, so figured it would be smart to do it first, and even though we arrived there about 9am, the queue was huge, and we spent two hours in it before we managed to enter. Thankfully it was only 11am, and the sun wasn't that strong yet, but we were in the shade for the majority of the time anyway.

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Now this cathedral and everything about it, located in Piazza del Duomo is just spectacular.... however, the climb wasn't, but this was mainly due to the poor organisation from staff who failed to stop people coming down various staircases while people were trying to go up. Therefore, you were stuck in these little claustrophobic humid staircases, feeling like there was very little air to breathe! Not a pleasant feeling.

463 steps later and inside the duomo...

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And to the top of the duomo...

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Now it was time to check out the interior of the cathedral, and once again, another queue... It would have been great if you could climb to the top of the dome, and then visit the inside of the cathedral, but you get shuffled out a door, and then have to queue again.

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Next on the agenda was the baptistry, which sadly was covered in scaffolding on the exterior, and this seemed to deter people from going inside, which is a real shame, as this was honestly one of the nicest interiors I'd see since we were away.

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Now before we were able to muster up the energy to climb the neighbouring Giotto's Campanile (bell tower), we had to stop for some lunch, in the form of lots of water, and two of the finest crepes with nutella known to man.

Conveniently the cafe was just across the road, in the shadow of the bell tower, almost taunting us while we rested.

But we were finished, and ready.... but oh wait, another queue, yes, you have to queue to climb the bell tower too. Only a half hour wait this time.

We said we wouldn't stop until we got to the top, and then we could stop at various levels on the way back down, so 414 steps later...

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Duomo, Cathedral, Baptistry and Bell Tower - Check.

Absolutely exhausted - Check.

One thing I always do is keep an eye on the sky when it is getting near sunset, and the sky was shaping up to be pretty lovely, and since we knew it set behind the Ponte Vecchio, we figured we would head there to see what we could capture!

Rightly so, the sunset was amazing!

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Day 4 - 

If you didn't know already, one of the main attractions in Florence is the statue of David, which is housed at the Accademia Gallery. We had walked by the gallery the day previous to get an idea where it was and what the queueing was like, but as expected, there were queues of 2+ hours, so we didn't bother.

We were going to check it out on our last day in Florence, but once again, queues queues and more queues, so we really just couldn't be bothered! So sorry for no images of the very famous David.

One of the best ways to see cities when you go away is to use the City Sightseeing Tours which you will find in many cities worldwide. These guys offer informative bus tours, with at least one line running in the city, but sometimes many others. I've used them in Iceland, New York, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and even in Glasgow and London. They also offer a hop on, hop off service, which is exceptionally useful when it comes to getting to certain places which may be a little bit out of the centre, or you just aren't keen on walking too far.

The City Sightseeing Tours in Florence begin at the Santa Maria Novella train station, so we headed there to buy ourselves a day ticket each, and hopped on the first line to do the full tour, which took around an hour.

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Buses can be a little bit of a nightmare to take pictures on, so we always just do the full tour first, and decide which spots we want to check out, then go round again and get off. We drove by Piazza de Michelangelo which provides stunning views over Florence centre, so we decided to come back here later on... for sunset, of course.

With the first tour over and done with, we got off at the station and waited until the next line came by which would take us out to the stunning little town of Fiesole, which is set up in the hills on the outskirts of Florence.

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The tour which goes up to Fiesole takes a little bit longer, so when we came back down, we grabbed a spot of lunch, and before we knew it, we were back on the first line and heading up to explore Piazza de Michelangelo.

When we were at the Ponte Vecchio the night before watching the sunset, you are able to see the Piazza de Michelangelo from here, and we could see all the camera flashes during sunset, so tonight was our turn to see what all the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, it was really cloudy all through the day, so we were hoping it would clear up a little for sunset coming around.

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First footwear shot of the holiday... couldn't go 10 days without one!

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While we were on the bus up to Piazza de Michelangelo, we spotted a basilica which was tucked away up some stairs, so of course, we were going to have a look.

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Not this basilica.. the next one.

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Sitting at the front of this basilica provided the most amazing views over Florence, and we were sure we had found the best spot for the sunrise tonight.

The front door to the basilica was open, so I went inside to be greeted with complete darkness, and only the sound of humming coming from the basement. So I walked over, and the below picture was what I was greeted with.

Easy one of the most eerie experiences of my life so far.

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I even had to take the above pictures with a flash, that's how dark it was.

After this eerie experience, we literally just spent the next couple of hours sitting on a wall out the front of the basilica, overlooking a graveyard in front of us, and Florence in the distance, watching the sunset unfold.

Sadly, the clouds hadn't disappeared at all, in fact, they'd probably gotten worse, so the below shots are the best I could muster.

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Our time was up in Florence, and our time on holiday was almost up too, so the next day, we headed to the train station, and headed back to Rome, as this is where our return flight was from on the Monday (it was cheaper that way).