New York – biting the Big Apple in one go!…maybe not – arrival and day 2

Prepare for a big one. This post has been in the making for days. I am going to go through the whole stay in New York in this one post(not). I have to get it over and done with, or else it will never happen.

This chapter actually starts back in London. I spent the morning in the courtyard of my bed and breakfast, writing the last entry about the city, with a coffee and bottle of water next to me.

In the early afternoon I started my walk back to the subway that will take me to the airport. It was hot and my bags seemed that much heavier somehow. After a bit of a confusion with the location of the station, I was on the subway.

Arrived at Heathrow nice and early and checked in. They had an interesting system there, as far as passport control is concerned. You go to a separate desk for a visa/document check, where they do whatever it is they do and then they stamp your boarding pass and with that you go through security checking. That is the only place that seemed to operate that way. I wonder why.

At the terminal I saw an outlet for Pret a Manager a place I have been seeing around the city and always sounded good, but never got around to trying it.

After some wait, it was time to get on my ride.

The flight went fast, other than the delay before lift off, which had to be endured without AC, as that was not working.
I watched a few movies and tried not to sleep, as I knew I would be arriving late in NY and that would make adjusting much harder.

After some delay in landing in JFK, we were out and onto American land. The terminal must have been rather old, because it was grim, grey and yuck in general. Then there was a loooong wait for passport control, which was not helped by the rude people in charge of organizing the crowds and directing them to the different counters. Douglas, my control guy, definitely hadnt read the pledge posted on the wall of treating us courteously and professionally in welcoming us to the country. His questions were short, grumpy and to the point. Fingerprinted me like a mere criminal, not the innocent tourist that I am and plopped my documents on the counter when he was done with me…saying nothing. I was not sure if I could go, but I grabbed them and slowly walked away, forcibly holding back my humanly instinct, he obviously lacked, for saying “Thank you”.

It was 11pm by the time I left he terminal and I was not in the mood to deal with public transport at that time, so I headed to the long line for taxis. As my turn approached I read that it will be $45 flat for a ride to Manhattan. Sounded astronomical, but the alternatives were not any more appealing either. I had to just grin and go with it, but it hurt.

Into the back of the taxi. Felt like a little adventure, as I have never been in one that has that driver/passenger separation. The taxi was old and I wondered what kind of people have traveled on it. There was a monitor that was playing news and constant ads, we are in the commercial capital of the world after all.
The ride was long. As I started to see the lights of Manhattan, my driver got off the highway and started driving through some dark streets and under the highways. Looked creepy and just like in the movies when a lady is driving through those areas and gets robbed or killed…or they find the car in the morning with the body in the trunk. My heart started thumping faster and I politely asked “So, where are we now?”. He said that I could use the monitor in the back to press Map and see. I did and we were through Queens. At some point he says that he got of the main way to save me the tolls. Not that the explanation made me more relaxed, but it gave me something to hold on to.

(At this rate, I will never finish this entry…)

Approaching the hotel, my first impressions of New York in the dark, were that it was grimy, messy with bumpy streets and wonky street lines. People were driving out of control, a bit like in Sofia. The place didnt inspire me the least.

I arrived safe and sound at the hotel, tipping the driver my “saved” toll fees. Settled into my tiny little room at The Pod and played with the idea of going out for dinner, but decided to just go to sleep and start fresh in the morning.

I started, but not fresh. On the news they said the weather was 89% humidity and it felt like it! I walked quickly to the nearest breakfast place and charged for the day. Yummy and refreshingly affordable after London – $8.38 for the omelet with veggies, toast, coffee and bottle of water!

Then I was off in the heat of the morning. The place was going already, people everywhere, cars on top of each other, you wouldnt have guessed its barely 8am.

I just spent some time walking around and getting my wits about the city. Passed by MOMA, but it was too early and it was not open yet, so I kept on going until I reached Central Park… the entry to it smelled of urine, there were a bunch of homeless people waking up too, but I could feel the pull and charged in.

Loved it! It is a wonderful park that seems to have been there forever, not the man made creation that it is. It doesnt seem ordered and planned, it has a certain organic free flowing charm about it. My favorite part was seeing the city peak in the horizon like a fake set for a movie.

This is where Wollman Rink, currently ran by Donald Trump, comes to life in winter, but during summer its an amusement park.

After a quick stroll through the park I was back out and onto the streets of the city.

Mr. Blab had mentioned to me FAO Schwarz, as the place to visit for kid’s presents, but I had no clue where to find one. As luck would have it I passed it over on my walk, with lots of people waiting for the shop to open. I grabbed a coffee and sat down with them, watching the fountains nearby.

Shortly the red carpet was spread and a dude in full gear made a welcome message to all of us, eager shoppers. That character must be known, because a bunch of people were taking their picture with him.

The shop itself is fun – good quality stuff, unlike Toys’R’Us, which I visited later, but the prices were corresponding too. I managed to spend over an hour and few dollars in there.

After that I was on the hunt for the Burger Joint – a place I read about on tripadvisor. It took a bit to find the hotel that was housing it and then after some confusing walking around the foyer and looking for the place, I just followed some people into a little crack between the wall and a large curtain and then I was there. The place is tiny, but full, felt like some hidden communist gathering from the years past.

The crack in the wall tunnel, leading back to the hotel.

The walls were busy with messages from celebrities and praise of the burgers on offer. I had a medium rare cheese burger with the lot and chips and sat down across a French couple. The food was good, the burger tasty and juicy, but I think it was the atmosphere that makes the place. It was way to dark to take a picture of the burger, sorry.

With full belly I venture out again to explore the city.

There is obviously a problem with people remembering where they are here, as there are numerous flags everywhere reminding people of the country they are located. And not just one or two here or there – every other building has those cues. I wonder if its dementia or some rare local strain of it that affects the people?

TImes Square is as busy as one could imagine. Reminded me of some suburbs of Tokyo.

And right in that middle island is what? An US. Armed Forced recruiting station of course!

The theater district is a complete jungle. The heat and the people are a deadly combination, I had to escape for a drink and recharge. Just look at it! Doesnt it tire you out just imagining walking down that street with 80% humidity?

Next I headed to the Empire State Building to try and get to the top. This took ages. The building is old, in the process of being renovated, I think. The process was dreary and slow. The line of people kept going and going. Stop here to buy tickets, stop here to wipe your nose, stop here for security check, stop here for I dont know what…. get in this elevator, get out…get in here, get out… we were 6 or so floors of the top waiting, when one of the “helpful” people organizing us said “the wait for the last elevator will take about 30min, but those of you that want to can go up the stairs for the last 6 floors”. A bunch of us took the offer. The stairs themselves were steep and small service ones. I had a young lad next to me. As we climbed, people would drop off for a rest on the different floors, but I kept going. At the end, I turned and looked at the youth and he was looking worst for ware, so I felt ok with being somewhat short of breath. Cant drop the ball for the pregnant women team!

The top is packed with people. The view is good, but not as impressive as I expected. I stayed until the sun went down to make all this wait worth it.

On the way back there was a free summer movie night at Bryant Park. I stopped and watched a bit.

I better stop here and post this, as it becoming a novel. The rest two days will follow.

Phew!