New York, New York
26.08.2014 - 29.08.2014
The last few weeks leading up to this odyssey have been very hectic and every spare minute has been spent making the necessary preparations. Now I have actually arrived in my first destination I've finally had some time to consider what on earth I'm going to do now I'm here. This is what I've been up to on my first 4 days.
Got lucky with the flight - had a window seat with extra leg room next to a passenger who broke her silence only to offer me her food (accepted). Watched a couple of films, read Viz and had a snooze so the 7 hours passed pretty quickly. It took nearly an hour after landing to get off the plane, but all things considered I would have settled for that. Got through customs no bother - all this talk of having to prove onward flights and sufficient finances may have been true for others but clearly my cheery nature was enough on this occasion.
A ticket machine fiasco and two train journeys later I arrived at the hostel. It is located amongst lots of garages in an industrial area in Long Island City, Queens, and is spacious, clean, has a good bar (that sells IPA!), speedy wifi and the staff are helpful (if a bit camp). As predicted, all the other residents are half my age; some wear their caps back to front, some have beards and at least one has a guitar (she is having a good strum as we speak).
I am in a 4-bed dorm with a Brazilian who claims to be friends with Neymar, a German who has just given me a ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus tour and a lad from Cardiff who builds smartphone apps. They seem nice. The fellow sat opposite me now has just offered me a strawberry (accepted). In fact, there hasn't been much to grumble about at all so far.
Day 2 was spent wandering around, getting my bearings and popping in to the odd bar and diner. Gantry Plaza State Park is 20 minutes' walk away (15 if you go the right way) and is a peaceful place to 'hang out' to get away from the hustle & bustle. There is a 60-foot neon Pepsi Cola sign overlooking the park and it also gives great views of Manhattan, especially at night. There are a few pics to prove this in the photo gallery, but instead here's a picture of a fire engine:
The next day I had a ticket for the US Open tennis at Flushing Meadows, only a few stops away on the subway. A roasting hot day (about 30C) meant it was tough walking around never mind playing tennis for 3 hours. It's a pretty big complex with plenty to see and do (and eat) outside of the matches themselves. For the first few hours I flitted between the outside courts and the viewing area for the big screen outside the main Arthur Ashe court, which was itself an impressive spectacle. One thing about Americans is they are likely to strike up a conversation at any point. Between mouthfuls of his pastrami sandwich, a bloke from Albany who had high hopes for his daughter to become a tennis champion ("she's #1 in her school and has a touch of genius but needs to put in the hard work") pointed out my ticket was in fact valid for two of the show courts (Louis Armstrong & Grandstand) so I got to see a couple of the bigger players (and none bigger than John Isner - 6' 10" and a 140mph serve). Here he is:
All of which brings me to today, and another big wander, this time over to Roosevelt Island, a long thin needle-shaped island situated in the East River between Queens and Manhattan. Another peaceful area was Four Freedoms Park, named after Roosevelt's famous speech in 1941 that I've just found out about on Wikipedia. Again this gives great views and plenty of places to sit and contemplate things.
OK you're all up to date so that's all for now. Hope everyone had an enjoyable Friday night. Look out for further updates and keep me posted on goings-on back in the UK.
Number of beers sunk so far: 5
Number of times heard something described as 'awesome': 6
Number of locals confused by my use of the word 'queue': 1