The State of New York is situated in the North East of the United States of America (USA). It’s capital is Albany, but I visited the very well-known city New York after the motto “Ich war noch niemals in New York” (I have never been in New York), which is a song by the German artist Udo Jürgens. It is also a song of a musical written by him.
New York City
Who has not dreamed about to see New York City once in her or his life? Thinking about New York I saw the dangerous Harlem, the skyscrapers, the big Christmas tree in front of the Rockefeller center (well-known by the movie: “Alone at home” (Swedish: Ensam hemma 2), where a boy called Kevin got lost in New York) and the Statue of Independence, of course, infront of my eyes. Though I finally visited the overrated location from 10th to 14th December 2018. Below you can find out, how dangerous Harlem nowadays is and how big the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller center is in real.
10th December 2018
I came by flight from Mexico City. It was around noon I arrived at the John F. Kennedy airport (JFK). The flight had taken between four and five hours and actually I was on my way home to Sweden. There are no direct flights from Mexico City to Sweden or Denmark (Copenhagen), though I decided to make my own route with a lay over for some nights in New York City. I had chosen InterJet for this part of my flight home and it was a good decision. My Mexican friend Cesar in Mexico City had told me, that he, if he is flying somewhere in the Americas, always choose that flight company, but that was after I had booked the flight. Anyway by his statement I was awaiting good service and I have got it. I definitely will choose that flight company again, if possible. By the way InterJet offers cheap flights.
The immigration process was going smoothly, even it took time because of all the visitors. When it was my turn I told the officer, that I have an onward ticket, but would like to stay some days to see the city. I was on my way to show it for him, when he put the stamp in my passport. It did not state the name of the port I arrived at. He twinkled at me and gave me my passport back. I did not think anything, when I passed the customs officer and I was not asked anything either. It was as smooth as it could be. Looking around for an ATM and afterwards for the train, I easily found what I was looking for. The signs were big and clear. I felt welcomed by the city of New York.
Already in Mexico I had been looking for, how to go to the hostel, where I had booked a bed. As usual I booked by booking.com, but I found a bed in the HI-hostel NYC (Hostelling International), where I am a member. These hostels are guaranteed clean and hold a good standard. I had tried to find a couch surfing host, but without success. Finally around five o’clock at the hostel after using the Air train, a communter train and the subway, I was really happy to have chosen this hostel. Even the building was an older one, the inside was not only pretty, but comfortable. The beds were good, the lockers as well, so was the kitchen. The breakfast was not included in the price, but there was a café, where one could buy breakfast if one won’t prepare it’s own breakfast in the kitchen. The hostel also had an elevator. It remembered me a lot of the hostels in Australia.
I had to get used to the USA currency again. There were 1-dollar coins and 1-dollar notes, 50-cent coins, quarter coins (25 cents) and dimes (10 cents), 5-cent coins, 2-cent coins and 1-cent coins as well as the other dollar notes, of course. The currency USD is a little less than the EUR, though I always compared 1:1 with the EUR, which still was in my mind, but I did no longer remember the price level from Germany and Portugal and not from Sweden either, by the way. I only remembered, that Mexico was much cheaper than Europe. Sometimes I tried to answer Mexicans questions about the prices in Sweden and I just could compare with the prices, when I left the country around a year ago.
There were offers at the billboard of the hostel for cheap walking tours – all were for 10 USD. I found walking tours fitting me for three of the five New York boroughs. This day I signed up for a walking tour with Jerry for the upcoming day. It was for Manhatten and Brooklyn. Afterwards I was looking for an evening meal. The hostel’s own café was open and because of the dark outside I bought an evening meal there. It was for 10.50 USD. I took a seat at a table, where another female traveller around my age was sitting and opened a conversation. She was easy to talk with and explained, that she is staying in hostels just for the possibility to interact with other travellers. She had a different style as mine for travelling and was very happy about cruises, but this time she had taken a flight. I actually do not remember, where she comes from, but the little I remember was, that it was another state of the USA. Another woman in our age made company with us. She already know the one I was talking with and took over the conversation. The women were chatting about travel agencies, which offers cheap opportunities to see the world as well as the cruises. I felt, that they were not the kind of travellers I could align me with.
11th Dec 2018
I bought a breakfast at the café for 7.98 USD, it was one of the four to chose as breakfast and a medium cup of coffee. In addition to them, the café offered different kinds of sandwiches, yogurt etc. I had scrambled eggs with ham, which came with a bagel with Philadelphia cheese. The portion was big, though I asked for a doggy bag for the bagel. I saved it for my evening meal.
Afterwards I was getting ready for the walking tour and I was at the meeting point in very good time. A woman was at a “tourist desk”, answering questions about New York – sightseeing, subway etc. The group joining Jerry were about 20 people. All travellers staying at the hostel. Jerry opened with introducing himself and explaining, what we will go to see that day. Then he asked for the fee. When all had paid, the sightseeing got started. First of all – on the way to the subway station, Jerry showed us a supermarket and restaurants in the surrounding of the hostel. At the subway station, he helped us to get our weekly tourist card. I tried to get one for elderly people, but meanwhile one can buy tickets for elderly, there are no tourist cards for elderly people. Though I had to buy one for the full price of 33 USD.
The tour started with Brooklyn, though we have got a nice view on Manhattan. In Brooklyn, Jerry told us to buy something to eat in a food market. They had a manual desk, where one could ask for different kind of sandwiches, pies etc. There were also take self desks in the food market, where one could take sallads. I had a “small” sandwich with tried tomatoes, mushrooms and Brie cheese. It was for 8.81 USD. I really had to get used again to the small coins. We did not eat there, but later, where we had that amazing view on Manhattan. We were outside. There were lots of benches, but I did not have my hiking cushion with me and did not sit down on the cold benches. I ate upright 😉 and only half of the sandwich, because there was neither time enough for me to eat all of it nor was I hungry enough for eating all of it. During this rest one of my fellow travellers asked Jerry for his age. He actually already is 71 years old. He does not walk very fast, but that is good for me and the sightseeing respectively the possibility to take photos. By his age, he also is thinking about to stop at bathrooms, which I really appreciated, because the tour was for the whole day – starting at 9am or 10am and back around 6pm.
Next place to see and walk was the Brooklyn Bridge. Most of the people are walking the other way around as we did, but we had the best view! At the end respectively the beginning of the bridge there were people selling souvenirs. I thought, the Brooklyn Bridge would be nice as a souvenir from New York, though I bought a fridge magnet with a photo of the bridge. Only some meters away, a couple sold these old advertising plates I so far only have seen photos of. One was for 12 or 15 USD and two for 20 USD. The first I saw was “We can do it” (women power), because of the price I also was looking for one about coffee and found the one I like best “Drink Coffee – Do Stupid Things Faster with More Energy”. I bought both of them and was carrying them all the day with me ;-).
When we were walking Manhatten we were to the New City Hall, the World Trade Center, the “Ground Zero” and afterwards to the Brookfield Mall with the Brookfield Place Ice Rink. From that area we could see a city of the State of Jersey. It looks similar to Manhattan. At the mall we had another meal. I just had a muffin and a hot chocolate, because I was not really hungry. Unfortunately there I had trouble with the payment, because the female cashier could not count. She first asked me for too much money and asked then two other workers of the place how to give me back the incorrect taken amount. I told her, that I do not care, how she will handle it, I just want my money back and won’t wait for it any longer. One of the other workers did serve the other customers meanwhile “my” cashier still tried to find out, how much she has to pay back.
It became dark, when we were walking to the State Island ferry. On the way we visited the Central Station and another Ice Rink at the Winter Village at Bryan’s Park, from which we could see the top of the Empire State Building. There were stalls close by selling artisanal and Christmas items. When we were on the ferry it already was dark. There were no time to see the State Island, but from the ferry one can see the Statue of Liberty. There is a ferry to the statue as well, but to go there takes a lot of time I have been told – that ferry only runs a few times a day. The statue itself is possible to climb, but I did not even touch it during this visit of New York. It is usual that tourists use the State Island ferry to see the statue, but it is quite far away and hard to get a good photo of it, especially for the sea and the dark.
Last but not least we took the subway to the “Time Square”, which is very close to the Broadway, though we also were walking the Broadway. Jerry explained, that the Broadway in the beginning was the only road for the people from the countryside to come into town e.g. selling the farming products or buying necessities.
He took us back to the hostel by subway as well. I would loved to stay there, but I had days left, though I followed him back to the hostel. In the subway different homeless people were asking for help, money prefered. One was asking for water etc, though I offered him the other half of my sandwich. It was cut and not touched of me. He happily did take it. I was the only one, who gave him something. Unfortunately I did not have water to offer. Actually I had thought about before, what I should do with the half sandwich, because I had the bagel as well and was wondering by myself, if I could eat the bagel the following day. Now there was no need to eat old bread.
12th Dec 2018
This day I chose another kind of breakfast of the four on the menu. I had a medium cup of coffee as well. I only had to pay 7.80 USD for it. I found a place at a table with other travellers, but all were occupied by their smartphones.
The tour for the day was for Bronx and the tour guide was David, around my age or maybe a little younger as me. He was grown up in Bronx, lived at other places in the USA and finally returned to Bronx. He told us several times, where he grew up and where he is living now. This tour was for half a day only, but also for 10 USD. Anyway I think it is cheaper than other tours and it is very comfortable to start at the hostel.
David took us by the subway to Bronx. We were walking a lot of the borough, what I really remember was the Yankee Stadium, a Baseball park – I actually got the idea it was about football ;-). We were not allowed to enter the stadium, but the park, where we also used the bathroom. In a part of the park are names of famous players and managers as well. David was keen to tell us about different players and the club.
Another place I will remember was the house of Edgar Allan Poe. There is a museum as well, but it was closed. We were not allowed either to see the house from the inside. David told us, that Poe had been living here for some years only and that the house had been moved to the park, where it now is situated. Unfortunately it is not maintained well. We had a lunch at a pizza bar, where (big) pizza slices were announced for 1 USD. Unfortunately mine was for 2.50 USD, because I did not choose the “normal” one, but one with different kinds of cheese. They only had softdrinks for refreshment, but I had been wise and a bottle of water with me, because I still have problems with the bubbles in softdrinks.
I was going back to Manhatten after the walking tour and found picture postcards. I bought five different and also stamps. For the stamps I was told, that it does not matter how heavy my letters are, I can use them anyway. I really hope it was working. It would be nice if the receivers of the postcards would send me a message, that the envelops with cards from New York have arrived (their were four or five cards from Mexico inside as well). I also was going one more time by the State Island Ferry – just to see the Statue of Liberty in daylight and in the hope to get better pictures. Unfortunately the statue is too far away from the sea-lane, though I could not take good photos.
At the ferry station on State Island I had a meal at a snackbar (for 9.36 USD). It was nothing special and even no drink included. At a café I had a varm chocolate, because I felt frozen. The chocolate was for 3 USD even it was no possibility to have a table. I was in good time for the ferry – actually I just missed one, but the waiting time was not getting long, because of the artists singing and playing. I think it was for Christmas and they also were asking for tips. By the late hour I could not make the Rockefeller center, even I had planned that for the afternoon.
Back at the hostel I had a chat with the other girls in my room. One was from Germany, another one from Brazil, two from the USA. Not all of the eight beds were occupied in the room for females.
13th Dec 2018
This morning I had three big hotcakes and I ate them all for breakfast! With a medium cup of coffee the breakfast was for 7.88 USD. Also this morning it was not much space at the tables of the café, but I only had a very short conversation with one of the travellers.
The theme of the tour of the day was Harlem and Midtown (both are parts of Manhattan). Our guide was Jerry again. I did not tell you all about Jerry before. He actually was very special – or maybe he had the New York humor, I do not know if that one is special. Worst of all was, when he asked one of the female attendees if she was a Nazi. She was not from Germany! There were only Jerry and David as guides for these tours and David only offered the Bronx tour and a State Island tour.
I met with Jerry and the other attendees at 9am or 10am again. After Jerry explained the tour and told us, that it only will last for around four hours, he asked for the payment. It may sound strange, that the guides are so eager to get the payments, but people are dropping off and it is much easier to check how many are attending the tour at the start of it. I think these men do not have a great pension and need the money for a social life.
Jerry explained, that there are two parts of Harlem: The Anglo-African and the Spanish one as well as he added, that the Spanish Harlem does not have the history like the Anglo-African (with all the crimes and drugs). I was following the tour especially for the reason, that I thought, it is not good to visit that part of New York by my own – just for the crime, but times has changed and so has Harlem – anyway the part we were shown. Jerry first showed us the shopping street. There you still can buy clothes you cannot find somewhere else, almost not somewhere else in New York. He pointed at a lot of them- for him and most of us, unusual clothes and shoes. They were Dandy-like and I think some of them were just for musicians. We continued to the living areas of Harlem – some streets, not many. Houses were in very good shape and really nice to look at. He told us, that there has been projects for the housing / refurbishment of the old houses, which gave the people, who lived and lives there new skills and work. Today they all have a paid occupation. With that the crime reduced.
We were not staying at Harlem for a long time, but continued to Midtown, where Jerry showed us more of the Central Park as last time, the Winter Village in Bryan Park, the Central station and last but not least the Time Square. He also showed us buildings and areas, we had not been to before and made us aware of window decorations from a special company on the other side of the street with the Trump tower (The company has the building with the items for men on the same side as the Trump tower.). The decorations had won the first price for Christmas decorationx this year. The company used to have the best Christmas decoration in town, he told us. He also went with us to the Rockefeller center. Meanwhile I thought, it was only one building, it was a whole quarter with a lot of decorations as well. The big Christmas tree did not look as big as in the movie, maybe because I am an adult and it also may depend on the angle, where one is looking from. The tree was decorated with 40,000 lights in different colours. They seemed to be small and I had prefered less, but bigger lights. There was no other decoration on the tree but the lights. I was disappointed like I had been once in Venice and I think it is all the same: Hearing too much positive from places it makes my phantasy working to much. Reality is always less glamorous.
The tour ended around 3pm at the Time Square. This time Jerry offered to take us back to the hostel or, if we wished, we could stay in town. He also explained, how to find a Subway station. Some of us did stay in town, so did I. I had earlier decided to try to see a musical at the Broadway respectively at one of the scenes around that street. I also had found out, that there are booths, where one can get “last minute” tickets, actually they are “last day” tickets. I found booths at the Time Square (I had read about, that there is) and I nearly was caught by the “ticket maffia”, because there is an offical sales point, the TKTS discount booths, with lots of booths and an advertising pillar about the actual prices. I was in for the “Phantom of the Opera” and had decided, they have to cost less than 100 USD, otherwise I will try to find cheaper tickets for another musical. Though I was looking at the pillar and found out, that there were still tickets to get for the chosen musical and the tickets were for 81 USD. A guy told me, I had to follow him to buy the tickets. I did follow him to the agency. Well there, they were asking for more than 90 USD and I told them, that I do not agree with the higher price and went away. Back at the advertising pillar of the TKTS I finally also found the booths of the TKTS, which were very close to the pillar and got my ticket for the announced price.
At that time I was hungry, of course, therefore I was looking for a not overprised restaurant. Finally I found a self-serving restaurant, which had tables and chairs inside and offered pizza slices and other meals. I did have a pizza slice and a tea, because I was frozen again. There were time left before the musical started and I was looking around in souvenir shops, which also sold suitcases. I was not sure, that I will get my advertising plates in my backpack and also was thinking about, that the bag I have for the other souvenirs maybe will not resist the pressure of other cabin bags. I found some I liked, but thought I will think about it until the upcoming day. Maybe I will buy new suitcases – maybe not. I first will try to get all my stuff in my backpack and bags I have.
I was in good time looking for the theater, playing the “Phantom of the Opera”. People were already queueing, so I did line up as well. Finally in the theater it took time before most of the places were filled – there were still vacant places when the musical started. There were no wardrobes, though we had to take our winter jackets and coats in our knees. In addition to that, there were no much space for the legs. I also still had my cold and my hearing was worse than usual. I did not really hear the actors and musicians and after a while I also got pain in my legs. Though at the first break (I do not know if there were more) I left the theater – even I had paid a lot of money for the ticket. I took the subway back to the hostel.
14th Dec 2018
This was my last day in New York. My flight was around 10pm, though I had lots of hours to spend in the city. I decided to visit the Guggenheim museum and take photos of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Therefore I put my backpacks and my little bag in a locker at the hostel after I had checked out. I also was interested in to buy new suitcases. because I could not close my big backpack with the plates inside.
First I was to the Guggenheim museum. I took the subway and a bus, but left on the wrong side of the Central Park. I walked throughout the park and eventually found the museum by a description I had got at the hostel. Fortunately, the museum is not very big. The admission fee was 18 USD for elderly, the normal fee was 35 USD, if I remember right. It mostly displays works of Hilma af Klint. An artist, who was well ahead of her time. She wrote in her last will, that they should be shown not earlier as … Her works are really different and I am not sure, that they ever will be common in one century or another. The exhibition was very interesting.
My further goals were, as I already have written, to take photos of two contemporaneous skyscrapers. The Empire State Building was finished only some month before the Chrysler Building. I thought, it is not too far for walking and by walking they will be easier to find, but by bus. Though I walked. I found the Chrysler Building and took some pictures. Actually it is not easy to take pictures of skyscrapers in a town like New York. I was hungry as well and had a pie and a dessert in a café, offering healthy food.
Afterwards I was looking for the direction to the Empire State Building, which was soon done with help of the name system of the streets. One cannot go wrong. Anyway it was much farther to the Empire State Building as I hade expected. After a long walk I arrived, took my photos from a nearby street. There were beautiful buildings in that street. To get a real good photo of the skyscrapers, one has to stand in the middle of the street, which is not easy by the traffic.
For more photos of New York, please follow the link.
I walked back to the Time Square looking in one of the next streets for the shops with the suitcases. I actually found it, but they did not have the suitcases anymore from the evening before. I continued to another one and did not find suitcases I liked either. At the end I crossed the street to an outlet, selling suitcases. I soon found the colours I liked and bought them. I actually got a discount of 50%, though they were overpriced from the beginning. At the end I got both together cheaper than the big one – taxes included. For the first time I had chosen hard cover ones.
With my new suitcases I hurried to the hostel, using the subway. There I changed all my items from the backpacks and little bag to the suitcases. The big suitcase was not full, neither was the little one. It took time anyway. The plates I wrapped with my big travel towel and put them crosswise at the bottom of the big suitcase. They did not fit in the little one. I was sure, I had packed very well and nothing could happen the plates.The backpacks I donated to the hostel – for a traveler, who needs them and also explained, how practical they are, but that I no longer can carry them on my bag for the weight.
The hostel has two customer serive desks. At the other one a young man from Argentina just had asked for the best way to the JFK airport by public transport. When I now had the same question I was recommended to have company with the guy and we had. He was a very nice guy around 35 years old and had been in the USA for business, but added some holidays to see New York. We had company until the Air train. I had trouble with buying the ticket by VISA card and he had an earlier flight to catch. The trip had taken much longer than we had expected. I had half an hour more to go and no problem. An assistant of the Air train dit help me to get my ticket and I took the next Air train, but the one the Argentinian guy had caught. The trains go very often and I only had three stops to go. I was just in time for the requested three hours before the flight for the check in. The queue was very long and people were taken out of the queue and sent to another counter etc. First after around two hours in the queue – there were only three assistants working, I did understand, that not all the people will go with the same flight. When finally we passengers for the flight to Stockholm were taken outside the queue (their were only half an hour left for the flight leaving and we should have been at the gate for boarding fifteen minutes ago) another passenger was denied to join us. He told me, his flight was for Oslo and was leaving earlier than the flight to Stockholm. Though we helped that guy to come into the extra queue, but this was even managed of the three assistants. One had a problem with the printer for the boarding passes, but he was good to manage it by moving to another booth. By the way I checked the size of the little suitcase in that thing, which is done for it, when I queued. Unfortunately it was two (2) centimeter to thick, but I did not say anything about it while I checked in and the assistant did not ask for it either. Though it was no problem to get it onboard. For other flight companies, but the cheap ones, it might not be a problem at all. They usually have the allowance for little bigger cabin bags.
We had to queue for the security check at the end of the line, even I told the female officer, that our flight will leave in some minutes. Later a male officer discovered, that we were late for our flight and took us through the queue to the security check. I opened my little suitcase, took out my notebook and my tablet etc. We all had to take off our shoes no matter about the age. I was checked in that arch, which tells them if I have something hidden and asked if I am older than 65. I answered, that I am 68 years old. That must have been the wrong answer, maybe a “yes” had been better, because I also was checked with that electrical rod to see if I have drugs or maybe explosives on my hands as well as a female officer touched me all over my body. The officer did not find anything. When I was looking for my suitcase, I could not see it, but a moment later. It was hold for a total check. I told the officers, that my flight will leave without me, but they only told me to stand back. I was waiting. Finally that female officer did take a look into my suitcase and found the only item, which was not wrapped very much, but in the original sealed plastic bag. It was a fridge magnet looking like kitchen utensiles. It was in coppar and the utensilies had a length of around 3 cm. The officer told me, that I could not take it with me, because of the knife (which had an edge for not more than half of the size and was not sharp either). I told her, that it is a souvenir – a fridge magnet and that I cannot hurt anyone with it. She was going to ask another officer and came back and told me, that she anyway has to take the knife, though I told her, she can take the whole one. Finally I got my suitcase and could continue. It remembered me on Shanghai, where I had scissors in my first aid kit. Since that day I always pack the first aid kit in the big suitcase for the flights. The scissors had this safety rounded ends to open bandages without hurting the skin under it. It was taken away from me with the words, it was anyway scissors.
I was the last one entering the airplane it seemed, all the other passengers were looking at me. For being sure to have enough legroom and wise from the flight to Los Angeles, I had booked a seat at an emergency exit. Though I had to put my bag in one of the overhead departments. but it was to heavy for me, because they are high up as well and I am only 160 cm short. I asked for help of a steward, but he told me, he was not allowed to leave his place. Luckily another steward did help me. At this flight the stewards and stewardess’ were speaking English and not only Spanish. You may already have imagined, that I was flying Norwegian again, even I do not like the company, but it was the only flight company with affordable prices with direct flights between New York and Stockholm – Copenhagen, Denmark would have been fine as well, but there was no other company either. I had been throughout a similar situation at the security check, when I was flying Norwegian from Stockholm to Los Angeles in January this year. I do not understand, why they chose me. Once I understand, because it may be just a number they have to count and then check the person coming at that place, but twice is unusual. Furthermore it would have been a meaning with it to check me for drugs, when I was coming from Mexico, but not now. I do not have any statistics about how usual it is, that white, non American women elder than 65 years old, are dangerous by going by plane: How often they hurt other passengers or the crew or maybe blow up the whole plane. I do not know either, how often they are smuggling drugs. Anyway I never read about it or heard about it in the news.
The plane could not start, when I was onboard, because another passenger arrived and told the crew, that his cabin bag disappeared at the security check. Though the plane did wait until the bag was found and brought to the plane. Anyway this time we only started 45 minutes late.
There is a life in between my travels, but how does it feel to come home after eleven month from home in a total different enviroment. How to adopt the “normal” life again after a nomadic lifestyle for eleven month? If you are interested in it, just follow me back to Stockholm, Sweden. You can find it under the tab Sweden 2018 / December 2018.