For our first full day in town we linked up with Craig from the Big Apple Greeters, a voluntary organisation which links new visitors to a local who will guide you round their part of the city. This service is free but massively over subscribed, with maybe 25% of applicants being matched. We received conformation of our link a couple of weeks ago and the plan was a three hour walking tour of the core of Midtown, drawing on Craig's personal experiences.
Craig - our Big Apple Greeter
Craig actually originated near Nottingham but came to New York in the early 1960's doing several sales jobs, but mostly working as a broker for Merryl Lynch, initially working a pitch in Grand Central Central Station.
Grand Central Station
We were introduced to the hidden gems of Grand Central and the history of its construction including an ongoing project to build a new station 8 floors down to connect it to the Pennsylvania railway which tunnels beneath. From there it was out through the old Pan Am building and over to what was the Catholic Archbishop's headquarters before it was converted into a hotel. We were shown the old priests bar and private rooms which have been retained in all their splendour for corporate use.
Outside the Rockerfeller Centre
Then it was passed the Rockerfeller block and up to Central Park via 5th Avenue for a walk across Strawberry Fields to the Dakota Building, home of Yoko Ono and site of John Lennon's death. Fascinating stories abounded and it was with some sadness that we said our goodbyes near the Lincoln Centre.
With an afternoon to fill in Midtown we followed Broadway down through Times Square to Macy's, the iconic department store. If you want clothes this is the place for you but we didn't and frankly the place was a mess and I was glad to escape.
Then it was back up 5th avenue to Grand Central Station where Helen's whim for oysters and champagne was indulged. I tried an oyster but whilst it was tolerable, I was profoundly indifferent and can quite happily not ever eat another. Tasteless and dull in my opinion.
With the pedometer reading 25,000 it was time to get back to the apartment. Weary feet and weary legs. The day was rounded off by a visit to the area beyond 9th St where the restaurants serve a local clientele and we visited an Italian eatery which was both excellent and economic.
I will leave you with an observation. New York is pretty clean but it smells - sometime quite badly. The problem seems to be the gridiron pattern used, which means all the rubbish is stacked on the pavements rather that in service bays to the rear. Possibly not the city's greatest attribute!