Taking this ESL job aboard Princess Cruises has started out pretty good...My first trip to Manhattan was paid for. (Nice!) I didn't get to stay for very long at all, but hey, it was a free ride, so I'm not going to complain. So, anyway, Princess paid for my airfare, a pretty nicde hotel near JFK airport, and my meals at the hotel. They also provided transportation to the cruise ship terminal. They will also pay for my airfare back home, as well as any other related travel expenses, as before.
Well, when I arrived JFK airport, it wasn't too long before I was on the airport shuttle. After I settled in a bit, I went down and had dinner at the hotel restaurant because the compnay paid for it. Right as I sat down to dinner I looked out the window and saw that it was starting to rain. A few minutes later, it started to pour. I wasn't too happy about this becuase I was hoping to walk around Manhattan (if I could figure out how to get there and not spend an arm and a leg, that is). After I ate, I talked the concierge and figured out that the subway to Manhattan is quite feasable (about $7 round-trip as opposed to about $60 taxi one-way); of course, it takes about an hour, but who cares? From the hotel, a hotel car took me to the nearest subway station in Jamaica (about 2 miles away). Unforuntately that cost me 15 bucks right there, but it was worth it. (That was almost my costliest expense of the night). I am not sure if Jamaica is in Queens or Long Island or what, but basically it's the Queens area, not too far from Brooklyn either.
The subway was a trip in itself. I spent almost the whole time reading my subway map, making sure I was on the right line and that I didn't miss my stop. The subway cars were rather bumpy and loud, so I could barely read. I saw a man with no legs begging for change going through the cars on his stumps and palms. There was also a magician with a rabbit and a dove. I thought those kinds of things were only in the movies and TV. I was also surprised to see a few people give them money. I would just think that New Yorkers wouldn't be able to or want to give money to people on the subway when they have to ride it every day, multiple times a day and see people like that on each trip.
As the concierge suggested, I took the subway to the 42nd St. Port Authority Bus Terminal station. Once I finally found my way to the street level after being several floors belowthe ground, I was in Times Square (but didn't realize it) becuase of my positioning on 42nd St (and my lack of studying up on NYC geography). So, first I headed east on 42nd street. It was drizzling and there were a TON of people walking on the sidewalks. All the people talking and bustling around, the jaywalkers (including me a lot of the time), the always-honking taxis (honking at the jaywalkers of course), the bright lights, the drizzle, and my excitment for finally making it to the city that never sleeps (and me trying to take pictures all the while)--it was like sensory overload! I went past Grand Central Station. Other than that beautiful building, one of the first things that I noticed when I looked up was the Chrysler Building, but there was no demarcation anywhere that I could see. On my right as I walked past Bryant Park was the Empire State Building, in all of its green light rain-soaked eeriness. I then headed north up Lexington Ave., I believe for about one block. I was still on a quest to find a label on the Chrysler Building, because at the time I wasn't sure if that was it. So, I then walked the on the other side of the Chrysler Building heading back west on a street that parallels 42nd (43rd perhaps?).
I then headed back up north again on Park Ave. I believe. Then I walked a couple of blocks past the southern border of Central Park and then cut over west onto 5th Ave south walking along Central Park. (I thought Park Ave. bordered Central Park (as would seem obvious), but then realized I'd missed it so went west and then south and then west again onto Central Park South. On my left was the Plaza Hotel, but it didn't look very much like itself or as impressive (with its trademark green roof and castle-like spires) at night. Then, I kept walking west along the south end of Central Park and found myself at Columus Circle, although I didn't know that it was called that at first, until I revisited it later after looking at my map. I then headed up north on Central Park West and had a quintessential NYC moment: a HUGE dead rat on the sidewalk right near the wall of Central Park--biggest rat I've ever seen, but it was a pretty taupe color. Then I cut over walking west some more until I got to Lincoln Center. There was obviously some show(s) going on. (I was envious of the theater-goers.) Then I walked down south on Broadway and ended up at Columbus Circle again, this time on the west side of it. Withing a few blocks, I walked past the neon lights of The Late Show with David Letterman/CBS sign.
Then I decided I better head down south and take either the "Top of The Rock" Observation Deck Tour at 850 ft. above see level (atop the 30 Rock Center at Rockefeller Plaza, aka the GE Building, aka NBC studios) and/or the Empire State Building. I really wanted to do the Empire or both, but I came to 30 Rock first. That view set me back 20 bucks! It was good, but I think I would have enjoyed it much better in the daytime. I then went down to check out Rockefeller Plaza. Didn't see Tina Fey or Conan O'Brien :( At Rockefeller Center, a security guard ? for 30 Rock offered to take my picture and then he started talking and wouldn't stop. And he tried to help with my lame camera. (It takes blurry pictures. But, of course, I haven't read the manual yet.) The security guard was very nice and friendly though. He nearly talked my ear off, but he was cool though. I really enjoyed hearing about NYC and everything from him, but I had limited time to see the city. He was a very nice guy from Haiti with a very minimal accent. We talked about my ESL gig and what he knew about 30 Rock, etc. By the time I got done talking to that nice man, it was too late to do the Empire State building; awww man. Well, maybe next time. And maybe next time some guy will ask me to meet him up there on Valentine's Day. Ha, yeah, right. Wishful thinking.
So, at this point, I still had to really check out Broadway more and Times Square (thee quintessential Times Square portion with the thin center medium separating the streets). I also wanted to see about checking out the lower side (WTC, soho, noho, etc.) and I also wanted to check out Harlem, but seeing as it was around midnight, I was pretty sure that wasn't going to happen. So, anyway, after 30 Rock, I checked out St. Patrick's Cathedral and then proceeded to Broadway/Times Square. I was getting hungry and wanted something "cheap" and fast, so I went to the brightest McDonald's I've ever seen (and the most expensive). I had something new, a cinnamon bites/ cinnamon roll and, of course, a flavored ice coffee (yummy!). Then I found the 42nd st. subway again and decided that if I would try to subway it to WTC and maybe walk around down there, but I don't think that southbound line was running, so I just decided to take the E line back to the JFK area to my hotel. I got off at the station that I got on in Jamaica and instead of dropping another 15 bucks or so on a taxi, I took the 50% less money AirTrain that connects to JFK. From JFK I walked the deserted airport-cargo streets to my hotel (about a mile or 2).
I really like the little bit of time I had in Manhattan. I was very surprised at how narrow many of the streets were. But I suppose the fast-moving car traffic and the easy-to-cross against the light foot traffic makes up for the narrowness. Given my lack of New York prepardness, my frugal spending, and the few hours that I could be there, I think I made the best of it.