10.08.2010 - 14.08.2010 25 °C
I find it weird that the places I am told I will love I am usually not that crazy about. And the places that I am told I will not like or that I am crazy for going to somewhere so boring for so long, I love. I was told by several people I will not like New York City. It is too busy, too noisy and too crowded. Of course, I loved it. I love how multi-cultural it is. I love the way it is so well organised and structured, I love the different districts and I love how accessible everything is. I also found that all the stereotypical things that I do not normally like about American culture (capitalism, multi-national corporations, consumerism) fit here. Not because it is such big city, just because it fits. I was not bothered by the number of Starbucks Cafes, MacDonalds Restaurants, Nike outlets, Apple Stores, the different number of Coke flavours for sale; it all worked here. It felt like finally being able to appreciate something in it's natural habitat. I still dislike how how these corporations seem to be slowly taking over the world, but in New York it was ok.
I only really had the one full day in New York city, so I tried to make the most of it. I was up early and left my hostel in the Upper West Side (yeah check me out) and started heading down Broadway to catch the Staten Island Ferry so I could see the Statue of Liberty without having to pay to see it. The first main attraction I went past was..... the M&M Store!! It was right across the road from the Hershey's Store! Which one did I go into first?? I was like an excited little kid. It had three floors all full of really cool M&M stuff (surprising really). I took photos of the giant blue M&M and the giant green M&M and didn't buy a single thing! Incredible! That is one shop that can take over the world if it so feels. After this I wandered down through Times Square and sat and admired the giant advertisements and the people (mostly tourists) bustling around. I headed a little further down the street and found a store as equally cool as the M&M store, Eastern Mountain Sports. I wish I could say I left this store without spending any money, but I can't. Why is it I can not walk into these stores without buying something? God damn it. Luckily it was just a bowl I bought. It compacts into a not so big bowl. V cool.
After many hours of walking (and many band aids on my feet - I stupidly decided this was the day to wear my new thongs/flip flops) I finally reached the spot where the twin towers once stood. I had not really read anything about what had finally been decided for the site, only a list of possible suggestions. I was honestly expecting some kind of area that had been levelled and left as an open area for people to pay respects, maybe even a big monument with a list of names of everyone that was killed. I really did not think it would be possible to ever build something ever again on the spot where so many people lost their lives in such a horrible way. To me building something here seems disrespectful. But I walked up to the area where the buildings once where to find it shut off due to construction. In true American for the local Government had decided to build a shopping centre. As a sign as respect to the people who died. So soon you will be able to buy the latest Gucci and Prada designs while you think of the people who lost their lives. I am still shocked by this. I even decided not to do the memorial walk that had been set up nearby. The monument or memorial site in my mind should be where the accident occurred. But I guess I have forgotten this is a prime piece of real estate, and that of course is the most important thing to consider here.
I finally got to the Staten Island Ferry after walking around the coast line for while. This thing is huge! It is like a moving apartment block. I was firstly amazed that the boat was able to fit everyone who had been waiting to board. I was more amazed when I got on just how few people there seemed to be on board. There was 10 times more spare seats than people. Wow! I stood outside and got my cheap (well free) view of the Statue. And then I ran to the other side and got my free (so very cheap) view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I would have loved to have walked over this, but I knew I would not have time to do everything that day and, well at least I had seen it from a distance.
After catching the Staten island Ferry back again I decided to walk up through China town towards 5th Ave. On the way I walked past the empire State Building (I had forgotten about this) and decided to head up. That was a bit of a mission. I was not allowed to take my blunt cutlery set up with me just in case I decided I wanted to poke someone repetitively with it until it annoyed them enough to jump off the side (I am assuming, I don't know what else I could have done with it really). The view from the top is incredible. Though the thing I really don't like about seeing the US finally for myself is how much it ruins the romance of TV programs and movies I once thought were glamorous and ideal. I know now there is no way Carrie or Monica and Rachel could ever have afforded apartments like that, you do not see swarms of people in designer clothes walking the streets, there are no smug men wearing black suits driving around in limos giving lifts to random girls (well this one may be true, who knows) and if you make a pact to meet someone at the top of the Empire State building as a sign of your undying love you wont be one of only ten people up there. In fact, good luck finding each other. In real life I imagine two people walking around for about a half an hour screaming out each others names over and over again. Romantic huh? Sometimes it is not so good to know the truth.
After having had enough of walking I decided to walk (because I was so tired of it, though I though I would do just a little more) the rest of the way up 5th, cut across Central Park so I could see at least some of it and grab some much needed food. One the way up 5th I saw a group of people standing outside a building taking photos. I decided to cross to have a look see and was told it was a basketball team. Despite having no idea who anyone was I grabbed out my camera as well and tried to take a few shots. Something different. I then had a little wander through Central Park which is beautiful (once again recognising many settings from movies and shows). The park was so much bigger than I had imagined and I wish I had had more time to walk around, but it was getting dark and I was already ready for my little hostel bed.
The next morning I got my stuff together yet again and hoped on the Long Island Train to Amityville. I was off to visit my friend Katie who I had met on the farmstay in Italy. After one incredibly hot ride on the subway (despite the fact it was cool and raining upstairs on the world level) and a quick trip on the train (haha!) I was there. Katie was living with her parents after finishing her own few months of travelling in a cool little house with it's own little jetty, small speed boat and a yacht. As you do. This house was backpacker heaven. I was fed incredible food, given free beer (!!!) and taken on a little ride on the small boat to have a look around. Katie and I made the decision that we would head up to Newport, Rhode Island the next morning as she had friends there and wanted to show me around. So I said goodbye to my comfy double bed and off we went!
This was a fun little road trip. We ate loads of fresh fruit (well that was more me, if I eat one more grape or cherry I think I am going to turn into one) saw really cool corn fields (I had to overcome the urge to fun out into them to have random photos taken in different spots with just my arms sticking up) beautiful big houses and caught the ferry across with the car. In Newport I got to see what a Mansion really is. The houses here were incredible. While many of them have been turned into museums and a university, the fact that people had actually once lived in these was incredible (again, it was incredible). We drove around for ages deciding which ones we wanted to own, despite the fact that if either of us had that much money we would be off travelling round the world. I am sure though if I was offered anyone of these I probably wouldn't say no. Then I'd sell it to fund my next 2500 trips. We finished the night with a BBQ, smores without the chocolate and biscuits (so just marshmallows really) and vodka.
Now onto Boston, where everyone drinks cwoffee and knows your name. This is a little scary considering I have never been there and know pretty much no one.