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Today was President’s day, which is apparently a real enough public holiday for IBM to be mostly closed. It also wasn’t unbearably cold (just very very cold), so I finally did some sightseeing. An Italian guy I met on the first day came along too.

Took the train into New York. The Hudson Line runs literally right along the edge of the Hudson River, in some places less than a metre from the water’s edge, so the view on the way down was pretty impressive in parts.

Arrived at Grand Central Station, and walked around a bit before going to the Empire State Building. Little did we know what we were in for, which was about 45 mins worth of queueing downstairs before buying tickets to another hour or so of queueing on the 80th floor before we made it to the observation deck. All the while they were trying to sell us stuff, like the audio tour, or photographs, or the “Skytour” (basically just a movie of common attractions). They very cunningly spread the queues out around the place, so there was never more than 10-15 minutes in any one queue before the next little bit of progress, be it buying a ticket, having bags searched, getting in a lift, etc. etc.

The actual view was, of course, phenonemal. It was a very clear, sunny day, so you could see a long way.

Later on we wandered up Broadway, through Times Square, and checked out a few shops along the way. For some reason the sales tax is higher in the city (8.625%, try working that one out before you get to the register). Also saw a group of street performers doing very impressive
break dancing on the freezing pavement.

Random Americanisms:


  • Every crossing in New York is painted like a zebra crossing, but they certainly don’t act that way.

  • Garbage (trash) from shops and buildings just gets piled up in bags on the pavement (sidewalk), even during the day.

  • Madison Square Garden isn’t terribly garden-like.

  • Times Square is really just buildings with advertising on them, and it certainly isn’t square either.

  • Because few people are game enough to drive in the city, every second car is a taxi.

  • Hustlers will approach you (at least, if you’re a young male tourist) on many street corners for sex shows.

  • Nobody cares about jaywalking, certainly not the police, nor the oncoming traffic.

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