June 13th, 2008
Categories: General

My American Adventure

 

This is going to be a long post, so bear with me. Basically, a day by day, blow by blow account of my wonderful trip to the USA. I will interject some photos here and there, hopefully none with me in it, unless it’s appropriate. Here we go!

Thursday – Colwyn Bay > New York
I arrived in New York at around 3pm, hostel is nice and clean, if a little noisy. My first long haul flight went fine, as I forsaked the movie for the best of british cuisine. Sat next to a fairly attractive Irish girl (accent more than anything, I’ll be honest), so that made the trip quicker.

After unpacking, I was hungry, so headed to a diner for a Pastrami Sandwich, was very, very nice, and scarily filling. The first (of many) oversized portions I’ll be struggling through this week. After eating I felt thirsty, so headed to a bar.

The first bar I found was this Irish bar (yes, I know the two rules of travelling: never eat in McDonalds, and never drink in an Irish bar), but this had an “Ice Line”, which kept your beer cold as you put your beer on it! Never seen one of them before, it was rather cool!

The other thing I experienced was the American concept of tipping. Man you guys tip big! $1 on a $4 beer is a lot, but I appreciated it when the 4th was on the house. To begin with, I thought the barmaid fancied me, but apparently it’s quite a custom.

Anyway, I ended up getting mildly sloshed and ended up watching the first of many baseball games that week with a chap called Allan – who was an Elevator repairman. He gave me his card and promised to email me, he never did. But he did buy me a beer though.

Friday – New York
I woke up at 4am, not good, so I thought I’d go out and explore early morning New York. Was in Times Square at 5am. Was unbelievably quiet and serene, with a few taxis blasting around. If you ever go to New York, there are worst ways of spending a jetlagged morning. I then braved the subway to South Ferry, to catch the Staten Island Ferry to see the Styatue of Liberty, the most iconic thing to do with New York.

After taking about a million photos of the Statue, Ellis Island and the view over Manhattan, I headed to the World Trade Centre site. It was sobering, no doubt about it, but the most moving thing was St. Paul’s Chapel, the small church opposite Ground Zero. This became an unofficial memorial to the 9/11 tragedy and features a lot of photographs, murals and the fence from which people hung banners and sympathy cards. It was so moving I cried.

After having a quiet moment of reflection (you should go), I headed upto Wall Street, with a picture outside the Lincoln Memorial, Wall Street and just gaped in awe at the sheer wealth in the city’s financial district. By then it was getting quite late, and was beginning to feel tired. So I did what any Brit would do – find a bar and have a few drinks.

I had fish and chips for tea, this was quite impressive – and a difference in the portions for Brits who’ve never been. The fish consisted of three fish, and a mountain of chips. Other than that though it was a very plain night out, so retired early.

Saturday – New York
Saturday began with one of my “100 things to do before I die” – breakfast New York Style. Basically, huge breakfast in a diner that goes on for hours. I bought a copy of New York Times to read, but ended up throwing it away when I wanted to search the city. I got speaking to a lovely New Yorker who showed me places to go and things to see. After brunch, I was feeling a bit woozy, and struggled around the city, I got so pissed off when it rained that I went for lunch, when I really wasn’t feeling too hungry. Instead I took five minutes out, headed onto the underground, and the weather improved, so I went to see three things that I aimed to see that day – Madison Square Garden (was a bit meh), the UN (again, a bit meh) and Empire State Building.

I went all the way to the observation deck (for free, thanks to a very kind German), and stayed up for about an hour, taking a heck of a lot of photos. I would’ve stayed up longer, but I had to get to the one thing I was really looking forward to on my trip. The ball game – NY Mets vs. LA Dodgers. I have kind of adopted the Mets as my team, as apparently they’re rubbish and nobody else supports them, so I thought I’d support them (plus I’m not allowed to support the Yankees). The train there was fabulous, everybody going crazy for the Mets, and not an ounce of trouble. I managed to find my seat just before the first pitch was thrown.

And so I stayed for an hour an a half. There was a bit of singing, a bit of chanting, but overall it was quite dead. The Dodgers took an early 2-0 lead, that the Mets didn’t look like overcoming, but in the 8th innings, a triple home run from Carlos Beltran saw Mets take the game 3-2. It was in those last 2 innings that I saw why America loves baseball. It was great! Chanting, singing, whooping, everybody going crazy, was a fantastic atmosphere, the likes I had yet to see! Everybody left very, very happy and I decided. I love baseball.

I arrived back in New York City for a night out. I decided to explore the local bars, between myself and the hostel. I found some cracking bars, an Irish bar (yeah, I know) where I was based for a number of pints. The barman was a massive Northern Irish fan, who we chatted about football and life back home. I headed out after a while into a few more bars, where all I seem to meet were ex-pats. Was great though, and they kept buying me drinks and telling me to move to America permantly. If only :).

Sunday – New York
Sunday I woke with a classic New York hangover. Luckily by this time I’d got to know people in the hostel (my travel tip? Stay in small hostels if you’re travelling on your own. You will get to know people a lot better.), and as such I collared one of them to go for some breakfast to shift the hangover. It worked, as eggs and every type of meat you can obtain from a pig meant that the majority of the hangover was gone by 10am.

From there I decided to head to Central Park, to see what New York’s playground has to offer. I was treated to more baseball for an hour, which was just as captivating as the game before. There’s millions of leagues in the New York area, and each one has it’s own little competitions. I was watching a game in the Broadway League (basically, everybody who works on Broadway), and it was rather captivating.

Following the game, I headed for a slow wander around Central Park, it was beautiful and so peaceful, hard to believe that I was in the middle of Central Park. Following that I did a bit of souvenir shopping (and some shopping for myself. Seriously though, the “I love NY” t-shirts should have “I hate China” on the back, they’re $10 for 7 in New York! I also bought a Carlos Beltran NY Mets baseball jersey, which suits me just peachy.

In the evening I headed out to a bar (Mercury Bar) and felt I had officially become a traveller. I gave advice on the guy behind the bar on how to get around Europe the best, and he helped me with the quiz. The team of “Johnny Foreigner” increased from myself and the barman to include a guy who had a fantastic knowledge of the past vice presidents of the US, and two other people with great sporting knowledge. I was wearing my Mets jersey, and they bought me beer all night as Mets fans, it was ace!

Monday – New York > Boston
Monday was spent travelling from New York to Boston for $0.50 on the wonderous Megabus. I used most of the day to catch up to sleep, but once I was there, I did manage to get up and see a little bit of the city.

I ended up in Quincy Market, if you are ever in Boston, in my eyes, this was one of the two best places to go. Quincy Market has a massive food hall, that you can sit for hours and just eat. It’s great. The smell walking in is fabulous, with plenty of delectibles wafting around. I had shrimp, calamari and fries in a surf & turfy thing. Was gorgeous.

I was tired, so returned to the hostel and watched Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. I then went to bed in the world’s most uncomfortable bed. Seriously, didn’t really sleep well at the hostel.

Tuesday – Boston
Day two in Boston began with my first free breakfast, horrah! Bagels, cereal and orange juice aplenty as I stocked up. I also got to meet some of my other fellow travellers, as – I’ll be honest – the hostel was rather unfriendly except for at breakfast. I met this girl from New York, who was a bit of a geek (Yay!), married (Boo!) and knew a lot about this tour around Boston. I took it, as I wanted to see as much as I can in the 24 hours I was there.

The tour was great, the guy who did it seemed really knowledgable about the city, and it went on for a good couple of hours. At the end, me and this girl went our separate ways, and I returned to Quincy Market where I had lobster. For the very first time. I know it was extravagant, but for $6 I could afford it!

What was great about the tour was it showed me places that I would’ve like to seen properly. I went to the Granary Burying Ground, which it’s the final resting place of John Hancock and Sam Adams, two of the signatures of the Declaration of Independance. Following this I chilled in and around the city, saw a bunch of street entertainers, and ate once again at Quincy Market (this time Chicken Teryaki).

Honest thoughts on Boston was that I’d have liked to spend a weekend there. I tried going out and it was just a bit uncomfortable, as nobody was out. Plus I didn’t really like the hostel, too busy, too unorganised and the bed I stayed in was terrible. The fact I was in a room of 10 and only started speaking to other people in my room the night before I left said something.

Wednesday – Boston > New York
Wednesday was another long bus trip, and another long sleep to New York. It was about this time I was feeling a little stressed, you see my time in New York was running out, and – whilst I had seen as much as possible, I felt I could’ve seen more. Luckily my knight in shining armour was my experienced travelling brother who said “Listen, don’t worry about seeing it all, you will probably go back again if you love it so much, just enjoy the short while you have left there.”. So I did.

The Wednesday evening was a little special as I simply chilled. I had come to know a few people in the hostel so spent the early part of the evening chatting with them, and finding out what they were upto. In the end, I headed out with one to Times Square at night, just took in the hustle and bustle of it at night. We also went to The Cold Store Creamery, which serves the greatest ice cream in the world. Fact. It was there that I realised why I loved New York – you could be a kid again. That ice cream was my evening meal, I was living out my dream of every 5 year old child worldwide. Vegetables? Pah!

Thursday – New York
My final day, and there was a few things I had yet to do which I must. The first was to meet somebody I actually know in New York. One of my Contiki buddies lives and works in the city. I’d been trying to get hold of him for the week, and ended up that the only time was in his hour long lunch break.

The day did eventually revolve around the food, and all the food I was going to eat anyway. I had a New York Breakfast, followed by a sandwich with my Contiki buddy, I had a pretzel, followed by a pizza from Lombardi’s in Little Italy, and finally a Cold Store Creamery ice cream. Then beer, lots of beer, as I managed to find a guy in the hostel who would be up for a few brewski’s on a night out. They got the better of me in the end, and I went to bed early.

Friday – New York > Colwyn Bay
My last day, and I said my goodbyes to a lot of people. I had made a few friends in the lovely hostel, not least the staff there. We exchanged phone numbers, MSN and Facebook accounts, and I gave out some of my fabulous badges. Then said our goodbyes. I left for breakfast.

I walked into an eatery in Times Square, and was joined by one of my hostel buddies, it was great! One last breakfast before a “Goodbye, and I mean it!”, and then something very weird happened at JFK.

I’ve written before about music meaning the most about holidays. Two songs from my Contiki which still make me think about it was two songs I heard pulling into London – Photograph by Nickelback and Friends Forever by Vitamin C. Both of those songs played in JFK airport when I was there. It was so surreal!

Flight back was fine, slept well, and it seems like I’ve been an age since I’ve been back. There’s so much more but I can’t formulate it into a decent blog post. All you need to know is the USA is amazing! I’d go back tomorrow. It was fabulous!

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