Holiday 2009: NYC II - Tall Buildings, Gorgeous Americans and the Dirty Subway

The days were spent wandering around the city looking like tourists. Steve was convinced that we could pass for real New Yorkers if someone was walking past us, but I wasn’t so sure – I mean… I looked cool in my checked shirt and wide geek glasses, that’s for sure, and Steve’s close cropped hairstyle was very American, I think they’d’ve spotted us a mile off. This is because of Up.

Looking up, the sky was scrapped by long gleaming futuristic buildings that mock the large expanse of the sky that become the canvas of a thousand clouds avoiding collision with the man made cathedrals of capitalism. The buildings are of awe inspiring architecture, from the red brick buildings with amazing fire exits that look like they have been lifted directly from the TV and placed there (er… it’s the other way round, obviously) to the stunning glass and steel monoliths that rise higher than the highest building in Britain by almost 200 feet, and in a higher frequency than is humanely possible to imagine.
The only thing that was better to look at than the buildings and the quintessential looking New York street was the quintessential ladies that populated the street. It might have been the mix of two, single male men on tour in New York, the summery weather revealing more of the female form to the eye than is seen in the UK recently, or it might just be the fact that there is a whole lot of attractive people living in this place. But seriously, the beauty of some of them was shocking – in fact, it became almost a joke. After the first mention of the amazing ladies, every time we saw one that mutually tickled our fancy, we exchanged a knowing nod.

Underneath this fancy exterior was a maze of rat like tunnels and routes mapped out by a scarily mad tunnelling mastermind. The tunnels crafted into the bedrock underneath Manhattan and on top of Queens and Brooklyn are numerous and confusing, as is the line naming convention. Unlike London, where each line has a name and colour, several lines share colours in NYC, as well as routes and platforms, as well as destinations. It took a little time to figure out the difference between the 7 and the 7, denoted by a diamond shape around the number rather than a circle. Also, more annoyingly, certain trains don’t run on days and the signage in the stations left little to be desired. For example, the key piece of information that unlocks the key to Manhattan is that the Avenues run South North and the Streets run East West. This means that 1st is more East than 4th, and 56th is more northern that 42nd. This helps when you are on the streets, meaning that you know if you are heading the wrong way after only one block.

The problem occurs when the signs on the subway say that the exit is on 34th and 7th, or Broadway and Canal, or… well, you see the problem. 34th St station is huge, crossing with Herald Square – but the square is bounded by several other streets, and to know which one you should come on it almost impossible, meaning that we would most likely be heading the wrong way for a block before realising and doubling back. And turning around 180 degrees on a NYC sidewalk (pavement, God Save the Queen) is the worst, and most touristy thing anyone can do.

So whilst Steve and I looked the part if we knew which street we were on, and which way we were going, every time you caught us gazing up the glass sheer structures, or ogling at the pretty girls, or turning around on the street, or even getting the Tourist approved map out (one with the streets in detail but with no subway stops and one with the subway stops but no street detail, good one guys) you could tell we were not from around here. So why did we keep getting asked questions like “Is the A running today?” or “is this the platform for SoHo?” or “Does this go up town?”.