unique travel experiences

Month: November 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York

When you think of crowd-lined parades full of huge balloon cartoon characters floating down the street, one event that springs to mind is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York. It starts level with Central Park up at 75th Street, continues down 6th Avenue, before finishing outside the Macy’s departure store on 34th Street.

The start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in 2014

The start of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 2014

There are numerous hints and tips to get the best spectator spots, none of which I adhered to, so I ended up  standing with everybody else at the top of 6th Avenue level with 56th Street. Many rows of people in front of me looked like they’d camped out for hours in advance, commandeering barrier space and spreading out their folding chairs, close enough that nobody could sneak through any gaps but sufficiently far apart so that they took up as much space for their family as possible.


The Thanksgiving Parade Turkey

I walked backwards and forwards over a few blocks in an attempt to get closer to the front, but realising the futility of this attempt I eventually stood on a raised bit of kerb, trying to make sure that I had a darker office block in the background (rather than a gap) to make sure my photos of the floats didn’t come out too silhouetted. I probably didn’t get that right either lol.

Spiderman flying down 6th Ave

Spiderman flying down 6th Ave

I’d grown up expecting to see Spiderman and Snoopy and the parade didn’t disappoint. Also appearing were Thomas the Tank Engine, Paddington Bear, the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Skylanders Eruptor, Holiday Pikachu, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Papa Smurf but Spiderman was probably my favourite. The floating characters were interspersed with marching bands, cheerleaders, acrobats, Harlem Globetrotters, even the rock band KISS appeared on a float! All in all it was an enjoyably fun affair and another famous global event to tick off the list 🙂

My limited number of tips, if any, would include:

  1. getting there early to get a good spot – preferably near a bakery/coffee shop.
  2. not standing on a chilly street corner where the cold wind is going to whistle around your ear lobes for a few hours.
  3. trying to get some dark building in the background (as that might allow the floating balloons to stand out better in your photos).

Here’s Time Out’s guide to the 2016 proceedings


Thomas the Tank Engine steaming down 6th Ave

On a protest march up to Trump Tower

Last week I was in New York, had the Saturday free, and it was a lovely sunny day and so I decided to join the ‘Not my President’ march from Union Square up to Trump Tower. What was it like? And how was it different to the UK’s Brexit match in Hyde Park over the Summer?

I'm so angry I made a sign -

I’m so angry I made a sign –

So the result of the US presidential election was announced in the early hours of Wednesday morning and that very evening there was a march up to Trump Tower. An obvious end point. On Friday there was one too, probably one in-between on the Thursday too, but I went to the one march on the Saturday at noon, the day before I left to fly back to the UK.

A protester wearing their Guy Fawkes mask

A protester wearing their Guy Fawkes mask

The familiar vibe of protest and upset was present in both US/UK marches, but whereas the NYC march was organised, albeit not to the scale of the larger Hyde Park march, it felt more organic and less regimented and controlled. We gathered in Union Square on 14th Street, which was unfortunately trying to host its weekend food market, so immediately space was at a premium. People displayed placards, handed out leaflets, and a guy with a megaphone organised the masses as they arrived, but suddenly after 45 minutes without any warning the crowd shouted “let’s march!” and so they did.

There was a pre-organised timetable, but that went out the window, and we were off! NYPD police officers were present but were fairly inconspicuous, unlike in the UK march where I sensed far more police in hi-vis. Photographers lined the NYC route but “funny” signs were few and far between. I saw lots mentioning ‘Unity’, ‘Stronger Together’ (not unlike Brexit) and ‘Love Trumps Hate, and as I felt like getting involved I made my own sign the night before too, shamelessly borrowing the idea from a sign I’d seen in the UK.

A reference to some of Trump's "Locker room" talk

A reference to some of Trump’s “Locker room” talk

A lot of people spotted it and liked it, with only a couple of American guys not “getting it”. I explained it was a “British thing” and it was simply a bit ironic … don’t you I think? They seemed satisfied with my answer but still didn’t appear to fully get it!

However I soon realised there’s a reason that people make thicker cardboard signs on sticks, and that’s because your shoulders get really tired after a while when you’re holding a floppy sign above your head with both hands for more than a few minutes at a time! So next time I’ll incorporate a wooden stick in my design, although the jagged brown tape (rather than a marker pen) worked rather well and meant I could have spelt out something else if I’d wanted too.

Walking up 5th Ave with the stars and stripes in the sunshine

Walking up 5th Ave with the stars and stripes in the sunshine

I diverted off for lunch in Go Chloe’s to get a nice burger with a friend before resuming once more once they’d already arrived just past 56th street on 5th Ave, the block that contains Trump Tower. It was getting towards sunset at this point so we stayed for a while, tried to get as close as we could to the Tower itself, eddying in a circle in the crowd as everybody got a turn to get to the far end, up as far as the police barriers. There were a small handful of Trump supporters but they really were in the minority. I saw more Brexit supporters at the Brexit event.

My favorite chants for the day, of which there were many, included:
“Not my President, not my President”
“My body my choice [sung by girls], her body her choice [sung by boys]”.
“Immigrants are welcome here, no hate, no fear!” (below)

I completely believed it when I joined in with the “Not my President” chants as he’s “not my president [elect]” with me being from the UK. Still I’ve got to put up with Theresa May instead! Later that evening I checked out the Instagram feeds for Union Square and found myself in a few pictures, but luckily/unluckily wasn’t fortunate enough to be selected for Buzzfeed’s 28 signs from Trump protests. Maybe a good thing as I hadn’t been that original and as a friend pointed out, had been protesting against democracy. He had a point. Everybody was aware of the popular vote/electoral vote rules before the contest started. Maybe the greatest democracy in the world needs to take a look at the system before the next election in 4 years’ time.

An NYPD cop high-fiving the crowd

An NYPD cop high-fiving the crowd

Lastly here’s the guy who did go viral with this great sign.

One of the best signs of the day - Twitter: @AlexMLeo

One of the best signs of the day – Twitter: @AlexMLeo

So it was a nice atmosphere, with many signs, no trouble, and showed that a lot of Americans aren’t pleased with the outcome. Like Brexit, maybe we’ll soon hear more about the number of people who didn’t bother voting, and if they had, they could have made all the difference and got Hillary in instead. Similarly like Brexit it’ll hopefully work out in the end with everybody from both sides getting together to try to “make America great again”.

US election night in Times Square

The US election results: I didn’t stay up for the “Brexit” vote in my own country but couldn’t resist attempting to try to stay up in NYC having landed just a few hours earlier! So after dumping my suitcase in the hotel room I headed straight out to Times Square to see what was going on!

First reaction? Screens everywhere of course, but this time most showed polls result, voting maps, scrolling “News Alerts”, together with PR mugshots of Clinton and Trump! One showed a bar chart with the magical figure ‘270’, the target for the potential winner. That target seemed a long way off at 8pm.

Times Square's big screens

Times Square’s big screens

Having scoped out both ends of Times Square, ABC News not doing much on a raised stand at one end and the famous red steps at the other, I settled somewhere in the middle in front of the Jumbotron screen underneath the Marriott Marquis hotel. The atmosphere was cheery and good-natured with more locals than tourists it seemed, many using the square’s red fold-up chairs and facing them all in the direction of that big screen. Apparently Clinton was at the nearby Javed conference center and Trump in one of New York’s larger Hilton hotels to accommodate his large contingent. Either way Times Square felt like the place to be!

The masses staring up at the Jumbotron screen

The masses staring up at the Jumbotron screen

Dressed up street performers seemed thin on the ground and instead many an odd character took the opportunity to entertain the crowd! There was the tall black guy with bobbed hair camping it up singing Whitney Houston songs and the jet black haired religious white guy dressed in red wandering around with a book with a mirrored cross on the front.

The 'Obamanator'

The ‘Obamanator’

There was ‘The Obamanator’ – a guy dressed up like Obama, the young Hillary supporter who was attracting a lot of press attention, the 2 Brazilian guys in USA hats who were being “papped” constantly, the older Hispanic lady who whelped when the ‘254’ Trump result came in, but who was then instantly swarmed over by the press photographers. Not knowing whether to stop crying or continue for the cameras she went  with somewhere roughly in-between the two.

A Hilary supporter who proved popular with the press photographers

A Hillary supporter who proved popular with the press photographers

So what there was a LOT of press. Press taking photos of anything that moved, amateur photographers like me taking photographs of people holding up placards and everybody else taking “selfies” of all the goings-on! Every other 20 people seemed to be holding a foam-headed microphone. Some connected to state of the art “proper” TV cameras, many instead connected by cable to an iPhone. Different broadcasters, different needs I guess! I was interviewed by the Times Square initiate on a “proper” camera but made it my only interview of the night.

MTV interviewing the crowd

MTV interviewing the crowd

The crowd’s conversations were intelligent, the concerns in the crowd genuine, with many people hoping their friends/families “back home” in their home states would do the “right thing”. The realisation in the crowd of an imminent Trump victory felt more likely as the night went off but still with a feeling of “surely not”. Towards 1am (6am equivalent UK Time) I started to flag with the Trump score stuck on ‘254’. I wanted to be there for the collective gasp when the final ‘270’ vote came in but I’ll have to assume it went ahead without me all the same.

Placards were out in force

Placards were out in force

So viewing all this in Times Square?! Well it was the place to be! Ample screens to stare at, many places to sit down and lots of entertainment to help pass the time. Good luck America!

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