15 June 2016

The city that never sleeps

New York City, NY

Fulton Station

We nearly didn't go to New York because a friend of ours missed the turn off and ended up driving his 5th wheel into Manhattan. Yikes! he still has nightmares about it. After some soothing, Lindsay reluctantly agreed as long as we made sure we knew where we were going.

The closest RV park to NYC is in Liberty Harbor in New Jersey. Basically it’s a carpark turned into an RV park, so no ambiance whatsoever. At $97 a night, it’s the most expensive place we have been to but at least we got a day free for staying 7 nights.

Inside the Oculus station

To say the train system in New Jersey or New York is unfriendly is an understatement. We needed two tickets, one for the PATH which took us across the river to the four billion dollar Oculus train station, then one for the New York subway. The subway is confusing, dirty, old and horrible. There are so many exits and entrances for the same station that you never know where you are going to end up. We took the subway to Central Park to get our feet wet and luckily found a kiosk at the destination station which had maps of the subway which became our bible.

New York is made up of districts.

Battery Park City

East Coast Memorial

All the soil and rubble from the underground was dumped around battery park and is landfill of what would otherwise be river. The ferry across to Staten Island goes past the statue of liberty and gives you a wonderful view of the city. This area is really pretty with lots of gardens and trees.

It is also home to Castle Clinton which was an immigration centre for 35 years from 1855. Eight thousand people, two out of every three immigrants came through here during those years. One in six Americans' descendants were processed here.

The Immigrants
Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France in 1886. The 152-foot-tall figure was sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi and erected around an iron skeleton engineered by Gustav Eiffel. We were able to get a close shot by taking the Staten Island ferry and using a long lens.

Financial District

Wall Street was indeed once a wall that the Dutch put up to protect themselves from the British. It didn’t work, as the British came up the Hudson River.

Did you know there are snipers on the buildings around the stock exchange? You should feel safe the lady said to us. Err, no I don’t; now I'm nervous.

We dropped into Federal Hall just in time to attend the National Parks ranger talk. We love these talks.

It used to be the City Hall where prisoners were held and trials were conducted. We also heard about the story of John Peter Zenger who published a newspaper which criticised the Royal Governor. The Governor didn't like this so he had Peter arrested and incarcerated here. To cut a long story short, he was acquitted and freedom of speech was born and thus the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution.

An impressive building, see the safe door open on the left

This was where George Washington was inaugurated in 1789 as the first president of the US. He wanted to use the bible for his swearing in, this being the first time this had been used, they didn't have one ready. So they borrowed one from the Masons up the road. If it's missing, then it means the Masons have borrowed it back. The National Parks keep it inside a sealed closed box. When the Masons have it, it's open on display and anyone can flick through it. That building was demolished and the new one became the Customs House.

The Customs House collected 97% of the revenue for the government from the ships that bought goods from overseas. There are dips in the floor where the tables were that collected the money. As a sub treasury millions of dollars in gold and silver were stored in the basement.

and this is what is inside

There are a few cracks in this building and the printed pamphlet says it happened from 9/11 but this isn't true, they were there before 9/11 and were more likely to be from the tunnelling of the subway.

The statue synonymous with Wall Street

Sculptor Arturo Di Modica left a surprise gift for N.Y.C. under the Christmas tree in front of the New York Stock Exchange—his 7,000-pound bronze Charging Bull statue. The bull quickly became the icon of Wall Street. It was moved from Wall Street to Bowling Green after police complained that it was blocking traffic, it still is. I couldn’t even get near the bull there were so many people hanging off it having their pictures taken. The hop on/hop off buses stop and drive the traffic behind them crazy.

Photo taken by Jeff Cable

Walking along the Brooklyn bridge, Lindsay starts talking to a guy who had a camera like mine. It turned out to be Jeff Cable who was to run the workshop for B&H the next day that we were enrolled in. I heard about the workshop a few months ago and changed the dates we would be in NYC to coincide so that we could attend. It was on portraiture, not something we take a lot of. We met at B&H, the photographers' mecca. Rumour has it that they sell about $3 billion of gear a year. Boy, could we put a hole in our visa card here. There are a few things that we want but will have them sent out of state as you don't have to pay the sales tax that way. Jeff is the only independent photographer for the US Olympic  team, plus he runs travel workshops and makes a living as a photographer with events such as bar mitzvahs.

The Brooklyn Bridge

We went back to B&H which is a photographer’s candy shop. So many things you could get but we just make a mental list. Anything you have sent out of the state over $40 gets free delivery and zero sales tax. We either buy from here or from Adorama, their rival and always have it delivered. I have looked at the Wacom Tablets on Youtube but it was better seeing one in person with someone who could show you how they worked.

There were two models for us to practice on in our workshop
One of the learnings I took from the workshop was to look for reflections. This is the Freedom Tower reflecting the sky and clouds

St Paul’s church is just near the PATH Oculus station. It’s only a few hundred metres from ground zero but was unharmed during 9/11. Remember American's write their dates back to front to the rest of the world (unless they are in the forces), so it's not the 9th of November. The Church stepped up to the cause and provided respite and food for the weary teams of people helping with the clean up. The Bell out the front is rung every year on the 11th September in memory of the people who died on that day back in 2001.

The bell is rung on the 11th September every year

Some people we met in Shenandoah NP suggested we go to Weehawken to take skyline photos of New York. It’s only 4 miles from where we are staying but takes us forever to drive there down narrow streets with parking on both sides – the houses are incredible old, all in the style of 2-storey red brick townhouse blocks with the front steps that we see on TV. Every now and then we go past a restaurant. Only locals could possible dine here, there is no parking, you would have to get there on foot. We had looked on google and Lindsay decided on a spot to start. It wasn’t ideal, there was a big building on our side to our left. We moved further down the coast and found a type of jetty. It was perfect until the lights came on. Then a security guard came to say he was locking up. There were high wrought iron gates that would keep us out. We went up to the restaurant, but without setting up amongst the diners, there was nowhere to get a good view. We settled for a spot on the walkway. There are a lot of boats going through our picture, which are streaking our long exposures.

NY Skyline from Weehawken

Wondering if there might be a better spot further along, we find a running track that allows us down to the water. We were told they would be closing at 9:45, so we had 15 minutes. 15 minutes goes very quickly. You can understand why people do photography workshops, you don’t have to do all this running around.

The Meatpacking District

The High Line

We waited until Saturday morning to visit the High Line as there was a guided walk which we thought would make it more interesting and we were so glad we did. The train that we took each day from New Jersey to New York was undertaking some work and they had cut the services down to three an hour so even though we had allocated an hour to get there, we wouldn’t have made it if they had left on time. You need to be there at the beginning as they give you a headset, otherwise it would be impossible to hear the guide. It was also very crowded and we would never have found them. Back in the 20’s the freight train went through the streets and there were many deaths. They thought they could make it safer by having a man on horseback riding in front of the train to warn walkers, but it didn’t work. So they built a rail line high above the streets. In a number of places you can see where the train line went through buildings that once used to be refrigeration warehouses. So this was never a passenger train line. The train line runs through the Meatpacking district. Where there were 250 slaughterhouses at the beginning of last century, now only eight exist. Along the overhangs were meat hooks where the meat was hung and there is still one place that you can see them.

These awnings used to have meat hooks for hanging the meat in the Meatpacking district

As it became unprofitable to run the railway as freight had moved to sea and road, the last train ran in the 80’s carting turkeys for Thanksgiving. For years it was shut away and mother nature took over and plants grew all over it. Most people wanted it gone. The city even went so far as having the demolition papers approved. Then two guys went up there and commissioned a photographer and started rallying to have it saved. The sections before and after what is remaining were removed for various developments.

There was a competition firstly for the uses it could be and then one for the architectural design. Everything had to be removed including the rail tracks during construction and then some of the tracks were put back in their original position, so they either run through garden beds or have been incorporated into the pathways.

Gardens on the High Line

There are over 100,000 plants and many seating areas. We walked through three sections. In the second one, they mounded the garden beds to create more room for the plant roots. The third has been left pretty much in it’s natural state, just the pathway has been added. There is a lot of construction going on in this section, so they are waiting until this is completed. In the beginning all the plants were hand watered but now some, but not all is on automatic irrigation. It now runs from Gansevoort to 30th Street. Part of it runs through Chelsea market, there is a section called the sun deck as it’s never in shade and the wooden benches are more like oversized sun lounges. The concrete planks run in the direction of the rail tracks.

The Smart Tree is one of many art pieces that stay up for a year, then they are replaced by new ones

When they were doing the second section, they asked the people what they wanted that hadn’t been done in the first section. They said some grass, so there is a little section of grass but it gets so trampled on that they have to shut it off for part of the week. All along the trail you will see art exhibits. They are allowed to stay for a year and then must be removed to make way for new ones.

The tracks were put back in the original positions

The Theater District

We just had enough time to grab some lunch and head over to Broadway. We had booked tickets for The Lion King. What a brilliant show. My favourite was the meerkat, not because of his costume as it was the only costume that didn't really look like the animal he was, but the guy who played him had fantastic facial expressions. On most of the other animals though, apart from the lions, you would only look at their costumes, not their people faces.

Times Square is full of tourists

Afterwards we went to Times Square where we saw a mime guy run after and capture a pickpocket. Too many people here for me.

Greenwich Village

I didn't want to eat dinner in the area around Times Square, it just felt too touristy nor did it have a nice vibe. So we jumped on a train thinking we'd go to Chelsea and got off at W4st station after talking to one of the locals. Once there we spoke to some local coppers who interested in talking to Lindsay about our gun laws; as in did they work. We assured them that they did and still do. They would have chatted for ages if I hadn't pulled him away. We love Indian food and found a modern place to eat and the food was good. After dinner we were walking passed Washington Square park. All around New York are these lovely parks where people can sit, with trees and gardens. This one has an Arch de Triomphe replica and a fountain. A man had somehow brought in a grand piano and was playing. Throughout the park people were playing their guitars and a few people were singing.

Not a great photo as the shutter speed was too slow, but had to put it in or you might not have believed me.
how did he get this here?

Little Italy and Chinatown Districts

How could we go to New York and not have a pizza in Little Italy? Many of the restaurants have tables outside so you can watch the world go by. A glass of wine, a yummy pizza, what else is there to ask for? Apparently Chinatown is encroaching on Little Italy which is a pity because Chinatown is dirty with rubbish in the streets. We didn't like it at all.

Summer in Little Italy

We met a number of Australians in New York that makes me wonder sometimes - is there anyone left at home? As a nation, we are great travellers. The first couple we met on our way home on Saturday night in the street. They both work in London and were just in NYC for the weekend - how lucky is that! Melinda told us that we must go and have a red velvet cupcake at Magnolia. They have a shop in Grand Central, so we had one with coffee there the next morning. And yes it was delicious but sooo rich. We chatted to a group of Tasmanians who were on the train and were travelling for 5 weeks on holiday. Brandon, Tracey and Bondi were staying only 3 sites up from us and live and work here. Brandon can work anywhere so they tend to stay in one place so that Bondi can go to school, then when summer hits, they take to the road in their Toy Hauler which is enormous, before finding the next place to settle down into a house for the school year. We only meet them two days before we left and caught up for drinks with both them and Charlie and Carol from Texas. The next day Charlie and Carol left and Brandon went to Memphis for a meeting. So the timing was perfect.

Grand Central Station

Apart from Magnolia, there is an Apple store there that looks directly down onto the concourse. One day I will go from an 11" screen to a 27" one, now that's an incentive to go home.

More of the station

On our last day Lindsay was worn out as we had done so much walking. So he stayed home, filled the truck up with fuel and did some washing while I went back into town by myself. I wanted to see the Flatiron building, the Farmers markets near Union station and more of Central Park. By the time I found a visitor centre, I thought I was a fair way south in the park, but I had only walked from the north west corner to the north east corner! After walking down to the dam I decided that there was no way I could see all of this park in one go, so got a train a few stops down and came in again near Belvedere castle. Then I knew I had to keep some energy for later on that night as I wanted to photograph the city skyline from Brooklyn Heights. So many people use this park, there were many playgrounds for kids, tennis courts, baseball pitches, fields where tiny tots were practicing hitting a ball and another group was learning to catch it. People were walking, sun baking, sleeping or just resting.

Kids playing in the water in a playground in Central Park 

I had seen a few pictures of the New York skyline which I liked. One is from the Top of the Rock, but you can't use a tripod. The other was from somewhere in DUMBO, so we went in search of some pylons along the water's edge. We eventually found them and I took a few photos to see what would look best and came back on our last night. There were about ten photographer's already there at 8pm but no one was in the spot I wanted.

NYC Skyline from Brooklyn Heights

On the way back I took a night version of the shot I had taken during the day of the Empire State building through the Manhattan Bridge pylons. There were a couple of ambulances down there who had blocked off the traffic from behind us, and I thought their lights would ruin my shot, but they didn't. When you are shooting at 30 seconds, it's a lot of time for unexpected people and cars with bright headlights to come into your frame, which they did.

Looking at the Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge down in DUMBO

Liberty Harbor RV, NJ


  1. Wow, you got some quite fantastic night shots of the city. As much as we loved visiting San Francisco with our RV, New York is a whole other ballgame. Sounds as though the subway is just as awful as it was 20 years ago when I last visited. You certainly covered a lot of territory in your week there!

  2. Thank you Laurel, I decided down in Mexico that night shots would be my goal for this trip and I'm really happy with what I achieved. Poor Lindsay is still getting over all the walking we did in NY.

  3. Good job with your story. B&H ..my fav store in the world...
    Any visit to Utah?

  4. Who would have guessed that taking picture of the skyline would take so much effort. Especially love that one from Brooklyn Heights, so beautiful. When we were thinking of taking our camper to New York (never made it that far) I emailed that RV park to ask the price. Never got a reply, wow, that is expensive for parking!

  5. You had an amazing trip and got great photos. My favorites are the nights shots. I didn't go out at night because Jerry stayed in working and I didn't want to be out by myself. I learned a lot so your stories are excellent. I am going back in November and can't wait.

    1. I can understand why you wouldn't want to go out at night. There is so much to do there that you could go back many times

  6. Amazing city. Love it.

  7. Drank in every word - photos are brilliant! x

  8. The snipers may have been due to the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Understandably so, NY becomes extra vigilant around major holidays and events. The whole Brexit thing could have something to do with it as well.

    1. No, it's normal and this was nearly two weeks ago now, so nothing to do with the Brits. We didn't notice them of course, the NPS lady told us thinking we would feel safer, hah, had the opposite affect

    2. I would agree. You might be safer but feeling safer--nope! I think I would want to do my sightseeing in areas where they don't feel the need for snipers on the roof. Unfortunately though, NY is a good target for the bad guys.

  9. Hello world travelers! Your photos were amazing and your trip to New York looked and sounded just as wonderful. We love reading your blog, you are so informative... We learn so much. We are currently in Angel Fire New Mexico where we have finally encountered some cooler weather! Thought we would die in the south. Hope that you two have recovered from your New York excursions.
    Yellowstone is looking really nice☺!

    1. I looked up Angel Fire New Mexico because I didn't know where it was. there are pictures of snow and ski runs, so no wonder you are cold. It's raining today, so am taking a day off. Lindsay still hasn't recovered so I'm re-looking at our itinerary to give him some time off

  10. Love your take on NYC! Beautiful captures that went along with it. I agree with your comment about the RV parking lot, it is indeed the only game in town so they charge you up there. Also about the subways, we were just lucky my friend gave us a walking/subway tour and thereby avoided the confusion.
    And we did have a hellish drive there coming from the north.
    It looked like you have survived and enjoyed your stay at the big apple.

    1. Yes we certainly did survive and hope to go back there one day, one week was definitly not enough