Out Last Day in New York and we had planned to mainly get around and check out free attractions such as the library, Grand Central Terminal, Central Park and cram in a bit of shopping before jumping back on the Subway to JFK after a Good Dinner.
However as we watched the morning news while eating breakfast, we once again heard a local news announcement that changed our plans once again, for the better. We do highly recommend Watching the local news reports as you can pick up all sorts of last-minute info that can really help lead to a better trip. In this instance, it was the Veterans Day Parade that was taking place in New York Today.
When We booked our flights it was mainly based on some excellent fares offered from Virgin and we didn’t realize at the time we would be in New York for Remembrance Day. In the UK Remembrance Day is a big deal, It is very Similar to Veterans day but with more Focus on WW1 and WW2. With this year being 100 Years since the end of WW1 we were pretty upset to be missing it. So it was great to hear there would be a parade marking the day in New York, and Like Most things American it would prove to be huge, Spectacular, and very Grandiose. Honestly, we didn’t know Veterans Day was such a big deal in the USA but it was great to show our Respect to all Servicemen Worldwide who have given so much for our freedom.
The first order of the day was to pack our bags and bid farewell to our home for the last few days. We then Checked out, which took no time at all. Everything was in order and no hidden charges and we dropped our bags with the concierge for the day. All in all, despite the horror reviews we had loved our stay at the Manhattan at Times Square. Just try to ensure you are in the Executive Rooms
We had a little shopping we needed to do so took the morning to check out some of the area’s shops. Even despite the terrible Exchange rate at the minute, it’s still cheaper to shop in most places than it is in the UK and there are lots of brands and items that are simply not available in the UK, or so I am told. I can’t say I keep up with all the latest Celebrity fashions and brands but Kate, Working in a retail store certainly does.
Fifth Ave and the surrounding streets were eerily quiet. Mainly as the roads were closed off for the Parade. It was incredibly surreal to look down Fifth Av and as far as the eye can see there were no cars, in what is usually a seething mass or metal lights and horns.
Veterans Day Parade
The New York Parade is supposed to be the Largest in the Country and began at 11 Am with a Ceremony at Madison Square Park, this was a bit too far down for us so we waited, Starbucks in hand outside the Public Library, a very fitting location, for the parade to pass. It began with a procession of Motorcycles, The Collective Noise coming down the Avenue sounding like a jet engine coming down the road. The Veterans on Bike is a fitting symbol of America.
The next 15 minutes there was a large gap, and one very vocal Bystander really couldn’t understand this was because the motorcycles were faster than the rest of the parade that was on foot. So he became the entertainment while we awaited the Parade. When it came the size was pretty incredible. There was representation from nearly every service of the New York state, Fire, Police, Prison, Airforce, Navy, and Army were the obvious ones with their Marching bands and troops on parade, but there were many others such as historical societies (such as the WW1 Memorial) and groups for minority servicemen.
The parade rolled on by for hours on end, after nearly two hours they were still filing by, To the point, it was hard to understand where they were all coming from or going afterward. By now we were very cold and needed to get on, so we bid our farewells to the parade and headed to Grand Central.
Grand Central Terminal
Now Usually we don’t consider Grand Central as an attraction or somewhere to Visit, we would tend to end up here as a course of action in using the transportation system but for one reason or another we had not been yet his trip and as we were a few blocks away we thought we could pop by and get some photo’s
There isn’t that much to see at the station but it’s still a cool place to visit seeing as it’s been in so many films and tv shows. It is also a very impressive building and just wandering around checking out the architecture is something not to be missed.
We also went downstairs to the excellent food court that has just about anything you could want from a rail station food-wise. We were not eating but wanted to check out the Whispering Gallery, Something we have repeatedly forgotten to on previous visits. Here you can stand at separate ends of the hall and simply talk to each other as if you were stood next to each other. It takes a while to get over the initial embarrassment of talking to yourself in a busy place, and as there are four corners you can also hear interlopers having their conversations. But it really does work and the acoustics confuse your brain, and it’s as close as I think you can get to just hearing voices in your head…Weird!
After this, we headed to Times Square for a late lunch early dinner in preparation for our flight.
Tony’s Di Napoli – Times Square
Italian Food is pretty Synonymous with New York. It has its own Big Bold New York Style Italian Cuisine that reminds you of Mafia Meals and Mob Boss Family Get-Togethers. It was this style of Red Sauce Italian we craved.
Ideally, we would head to Little Italy for this but since time was running out on Our New York Adventure and our Luggage was in Times Square we looked for something a bit more Local. Tony’s Di Napoli fitted the bill perfectly. Serving massive Family Style dishes in a setting straight out of a Mob Film it was pretty much perfect for us. It might not be the finest in town and probably overcharged a bit for what we got but it was exactly the experience we were going for!
Being still Lunch they offered Half Portions, instead of the Giant Family portions which served 2-3. This was perfect as we could try more than one item. We ordered the Ravioli and the Shrimp Linguine Both of which were excellent, and with drinks, the bill came to around $50 Which is not too bad considering the location and the huge portions.
Subway to JFK
After Lunch/Dinner we still had an hour to kill before heading out of Manhattan, so headed to an Irish bar Next door to the hotel before grabbing our bags and heading for the Subway. We jumped on the E train at 50th Street and it took about 30 mins to Sutphin Blvd – Archer Av – JFK Station where we grabbed the Airtrain back to our terminal. In less than an hour, we were safely at JFK Ready to fight through Security.
There is some debate as to what the best way to get to JFK for tourists is but at Rush Hour it’s hard to argue against The Subway! You can use the LIRR But that means heading to Penn Station which is a good 15 Block walk from our hotel so for us the Subway was perfect. Also as we stood in the Security Queue we spoke to a couple who had got a Taxi in. This had cost in excess of $100 and took nearly 3 hours! Avoiding Traffic in New York is always a good move. People Stuck on the Dreadful Shuttles must have been out there all night.
After a good 40 mins in Security, we were through to the lounges for a spot of Duty-Free, picking up some bargain Vodka and Patron Cafe, which meant we nearly missed the plane! Well, Our Purchases nearly missed the plane.
Virgin Atlantic Economy Classic to London Heathrow
We are pretty loyal customers and fans of the Virgin Atlantic Brand but have noticed a watering down of their service of late, we had issues on our last Premium Economy Flight and Our outbound leg on Delta had really shown how good an Economy Service could be.
But we were Eager to give Virgin a chance on this return leg flight. Out outbound had been a Delta Codeshare but this was Full-Fat Virgin. Things did not Start well. The A330-300 is an aging plane now, we remember when these were brand new, but they are showing their age a bit now compared to the 787’s used elsewhere in the fleet. (and more are on the way due to engine issues on the 787)
The Economy seat on this flight is one of the worst long-haul seats we have used. It is rigid and ungiving, and simply sitting down gave an impression of discomfort. The Touch Screen display is connected to Virgin’s impressive Vera Entertainment system but these are the older touch screens that are terribly unresponsive. We were also plagued with stuttering issues later in the flight when the movie would stop, only to resume a second later, missing the content in between. Essentially ruining the film as it happened every 10-15 seconds which is very annoying.
The Flight itself was excellent. We pushed back early and were airborne on time after a bit of a runway queue. The Flight Crew was really riding the winds and we zipped back across the Atlantic in under six hours which was incredible.
This was Fortunate as the product on offer was also pretty dire. After such a good Economy flight out we were especially disappointed with the offering. The Cabin crew were excellent and can’t be faulted. But the Main Meal was pretty dire. Some Cheese and Biscuits, with some sausage and Pasta slop and a tiny tub of cake. Washed down with an ok wine. It was pretty poor. Kate’s was even worse, I forgot to make a note of what she ordered, and the picture below does little to jog my memory as to what the beige mush actually is! Breakfast was nothing but a Dry Breakfast Biscuit and pot of yogurt, which was utterly dire. My mind wanders back to the Premium Economy Breakfast we had earlier in the year or even the Bacon Butties we had on a BA Connection between London and Manchester and wonders where Virgin is going with this “Low Cost” carrier offering!
Still, we are booked on Virgin for our upcoming Vegas to San Diego Road Trip Adventure next year so they have a chance to retain our Loyalty! And let’s be fair, we did pay “Low Cost” Prices for our New York Flights, but not everyone on the plane had!
Back at Heathrow Immigration was very light and the bags came early and we were off to the carpark (parking lot) to pick up the car and start the slog back up to Manchester. A thoroughly successful and memorable trip to NYC just before Christmas.
We can’t wait for our Next Big Adventures Next year as we have a whole lot planned! Bring on VEGAS BABY!