A Travellerspoint blog

Rainy day in Starbucks, a meal with Mike & then Club Night!

Wednesday May 4th.

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Okay most of Wednesday day time can be wrapped up very quickly. I did plan to go to Central Park on Wednesday but it rained. All day. I decided to go to the local Starbucks in the morning anyway to take advantage of some decent wifi. I briskly walked the one block and entered to a packed Starbucks. No seats, damn. I ordered a hot chocolate and some breakfast wrap thing that has spinach in it. I stood around holding my laptop, drink & food awkwardly, hoping someone would get up soon. A small black girl smiled at me as if I knew her, not sure if she had been out on the pub crawl the other night I smiled back and she asked if I had a good night. Oh cool she was I just don't remember her I thought.

I quickly realised she was talking about the previous night, not two nights ago when my pub crawl was. She thought I was someone else, to which she was embarrassed about. Just as we were laughing about it a guy came over with a chair, he was leaving so brought his over for me to use at my new friend's table. Her name was Estelle from Cape Town in Africa. We chatted about hostel life and she had some questions about netbooks and digital cameras then she left for whatever she was doing that day.

I spent pretty much the entire day uploading all the photos I had taken over the past few days to Facebook. It was pretty intense, as I uploaded one album; the previous uploaded album had gained me 35 notifications within ten minutes. As I check those notifications I'd get another 20. Wow, it was turning in to full time admin work. NOOOOOO. I thought I had escaped this. Jenny Hool was the main culprit for the majority of these notifications =) She went comment crazy but it's all cool, I'm uploading them for people to see and comment so keep doing so! It was my own doing really for uploading so many at once. So yeah it was a nice day, it was raining hard outside but as I was inside sipping hot chocolate (and later a cappuccino) it was nice as I was warm & dry. I did some Skyping too, to my Dad and little sister Laura and I think my lil bro Aidan popped on in this session too. I think I must have Skyped my girlfriend Laura too but my memory is hazy but I'm sure I did (sorry Laura lol). It's my fault for not blogging closer to the actual day of events. But I'm trying to catch up now; D.C is slower paced than the manic NY.

Onto the main bulk of this blog - the evening. I had finally managed to get a slot with Mike (friend from back home in England) We had both been Facebooking to try meet up but with both of us not getting to the internet too often and being busy we had failed to meet up until now. The plan was for me to go to his and have dinner (tea) with him and his girlfriend. I got the subway two stops and picked up a bottle of red wine (how civilised) as we were having steak, and I headed to his rented apartment. It was great to see him and meet his girlfriend. It was pretty surreal that we were sat having food together in New York. In the most recent few years we hadn't seen each other all that much as he had been at Uni in London, so for us to now meet up when we are both thousands of miles from home was pretty dreamlike!

We had the food which was great. The steak was awesome, and we drank our wine and had a few Buds too. We talked about allsorts and it was really nice. As we entered the tipsy stage Mike and Alexandra started to feel tempted to join me on my club night with the hostel. A quick change of clothes for them and some youtube music to warm up with me and Alexandra doing a bit of Carlton (from Fresh Prince) dancing and we were pumped and ready!

We took the subway to my hostel and waited in the reception for everyone to meet up. Unfortunately our 'tour guide' named Ecko, a small 5foot effort of a man, was a real let down. First off he said that my smart-ish tshirt would be a bit risky, so would my hat and so would my shoes! Great! The hat fair enough but my top and shoes were fine. So I ran up quickly to my room for a complete change. I didn't have any other shoes I could wear except these small discrete dark-coloured pumps so I came back down with them still on and I proclaimed that they surely would be fine.

As the group got bigger we gained guys in caps, hoodies, white trainers, all sorts. So I was a little annoyed. Quite a bit of time had passed now while he was messing around trying to count everyone (he couldn't because he was so small) so our alcohol was fizzling out and our morale was dropping. After some more messing around by Ecko (I wish he didn't share the same name with the awesome character from Lost, because he's nothing like him so don't imagine him! He's a midget deflated version of the Lost Ecko!) we left the hostel and walked to the subway - I'll cut it short as it annoys me just thinking of it but he changed his mind on getting cabs and trains multiple times and Mike and Alexandra ended up going home which was a real shame. I stuck with it in hope of a good night eventually, all I needed to do was get to the damn place then I could make my own fun, screw this tour guide.

So eventually we ended up at a club. A different club to what was advertised but at least we were at a club. Or a bar. That's a thing; American's, or at least New Yorker's, seem to call what I would call a bar - a club. Hum. We were in. Yay. House music, hum, not bad but not great. Oh well where is the endless vodka we were promised for the $10 paid. A lot of messing around by ecko (yes demoted to lower case) we all got a drink poured for us at a table. The deal turned out to be 2 big bottles of vodka, which with our group of people being fairly large, got us about 2-3 small drinks each. The little dwarf then told us he would be back in an hour. Obviously we didn't see him again. (I intend to complain to the hostel when I can be bothered, or at least write a review on some website somewhere. Take that mini chocolate face)

So our big group kind of dissolved into little pockets around the club now. I was with: Michi, Corrado (Italian guy) and Matt & Caitlin, a couple from Australia. Obviously intermixed with others but these were the main five I ended up with. I was pretty annoyed with how everything had gone down and was considering leaving the club to either find somewhere else or go home to the hostel. I went and bought a Johnny Walker Black and a shot of Tequila to cheer myself up - with the shot being free after Caitlin helpfully persuaded the bar man. Still cost me like £9, yes I converted that to pounds. Apparently this is club prices here in NY. That dampened my attempt to lift my mood!

I figured it was time to leave or make the night better somehow. I had spotted a fairly well dressed half cast dude with an afro sat confidently up on the back of a chair watching over the happenings of the club. I knew he had to have some kind of power/authority from the way he acted, and also because since I'd been there he'd had about five $350 bottles of vodka brought over to his table. I thought I'd either get my white ass told to go back to England, or get chatting to him. Luckily for me, after a shaky start, he took me on in conversation and after about 30 minutes of warming up he told me he worked for the club and for $60 between the 5 of our small group, he'd get us free vodka all night. A few words with the group and it was a done deal. It wasn't a tough choice really; for the price of one drink each we finished off another two large bottles of vodka between us by the end of the night. Good job T! After some funny shuffling dancing with Matt & Caitlin and lots of alcohol it was 4am. Time to go.

We leave and realise we're quite far away from the hostel. There's a few of us and we reckon we can take the subway. Caitlin refuses and hails a cab so we all pile in after the third or fourth attempt as no one would take all five of us in a cab. The ride was long and funny, with ducking down to avoid the police, Matt throwing up out of the window without trying to let the driver know then falling asleep and Caitlin getting very mad because Corrado was annoying her.

Caitlin had announced that she would pay for the cab fare but by the time we arrived she had forgotten and started asking for money; needless to say I was already out of the cab and heading to the pizza place opposite the hostel. They all arrived in the pizza place a few minutes later. I got an orange juice from the shop next to the pizza place and a nice big slice. Mm, perfect end to the night. Caitlin and Matt fell out over something and nothing. Well what I mean is that Caitlin kind of fell out with Matt, or herself. You know when one person in the couple is far more drunk than the other and they just argue and fall out all by their self? She did that and stormed out of the pizza place. Matt carried on enjoying his pizza. He obviously knew how it would go down as she returned 15-20 minutes later with her puppy eyes on saying her bed was lonely without him. Lol.

It was basically morning now and on our way out of the pizza joint a big truck was coming down the road. I did the pull down arm movement that cool people do to signal the driver to sound his horn. It went past us and we started to cross the road when FNNEERRRRERRRRRR!!!! Seriously the loudest noise I have EVER heard in my life. My bones shook; my heart skipped a beat, my teeth nearly shattered. This was seriously loud. It turned out it was a trash collection truck and it had stopped and some dudes had jumped off to collect bags of rubbish, as the massive massive horn rang out, it set a car alarm off because it was so loud, and one of the two black guys shouted 'quick nigga lets bail!' and they flung the bags into the back of the truck and jumped onto the back of it and it set off screaming down the road! It was hilarious. Comedy just writes itself in New York.

Bed and sleep at 6am!

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Posted by Explorer_T 22:20 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Third day in NYC - Yellow Cabs, Hotdogs, Screams & Phantoms.

Tuesday May 3rd

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Tuesday. I hadn't made any specific plans for Tuesday. I ended up going out with Michi and Tim for a wander. I love just going out and seeing what will happen. Tim and Michi hadn't been on the ferry that goes past the Statue of Liberty yet so I said I'd go with them acting as tour guide again.

Our hostel is located in Upper West Manhattan on Amsterdam & 103rd (God that sounds so cool) which basically means that it is roughly in the centre to the left of the main island (Manhattan) just to the left of Central Park, and the ferry we need to get is right at the bottom of the island. It takes about 25 minutes on the subway, at a rough guess - I always end up talking too much and I never realise how long the journeys are but I think that's about right. Police are common all over Manhattan but this day was pretty intense; we got out of the train at our stop and wandered towards the exit passing groups of cops everywhere and even passed two cops in the subway with assault rifles. It was obviously all because of a feared backlash for the killing of Obama, sorry, Osama. I can't help but get a rush of excitement when I see these kinda things, feels like a movie - real automatic guns! I plan to try go to a firing range while in the US, not sure what the rules are with me not being an American but I shall find out before I leave, would be ace to fire some guns. Man boner.

We got the ferry and as I was previously shown, I took them to the back of the ferry to get the best views. After about 5 minutes we heard some rumbles overhead. A huge Chinook army helicopter roared overhead towards Manhattan. Then another, and another. The first two were really low, it looked so awesome. I was gutted that my camera was in my bag (as I'd already taken my photos of the ferry ride) I managed to get it out (hehe) just as the fourth and final Chinook went over us and this one actually hung around and did a few circles before it disappeared off into the now distant city.

It takes about 20 minutes or so to get to Staten Island. On the way there it flies by as you're watching the Manhattan skyline get smaller, and waiting for the statue to appear on the side. A lot of locals get the free ferry; they must go to work on the island etc. If you're fairly quick (which we were) you can exit the ferry and do a circle through the ferry terminal and get back on the same ferry back. You have to actually leave the ferry; you can't just stay on it unfortunately. The ride back feels a little longer as you've just seen what you want to see. I kept myself busy by observing all the different kinds of people that were on-board. I swear comedians in New York have the easiest job ever as far as observational comedy is concerned - the amount of funny and interesting things you see and hear by the minute is overwhelming. A little note; if anyone ever gets the ferry in the future and you think the queue is huge, don't worry as everyone easily fits on, the ferry is huge with two levels and loads of seats. A quick Google has just told me that 60,000 passengers a day use the ferry, not including weekend days. Pretty cool considering it's free. There is a ferry tour that costs to actually go to the island with the statue but I didn't bother as you can't actually go up the statue like you apparently used to be able to. That sucks; it would have been my only chance to go inside an American woman - although she was a gift given by the French so I'm not sure what that makes her? Meh, its fine I don't like tall woman.

After the ferry we planned to walk up towards Wall Street, on the way I decided it was my duty to try one of the famous New York hotdogs. Oh yeah, funny thing… don't. I'm not sure if this was just this one random guy's stand that didn't supply very nice hotdogs, but… it was crap. The 'onions'!? What even was that? They were in this red jelly-like substance. Even the hotdog itself was kind of hard and just generally poo. Go buy a tin of hotdogs and some finger buns yourself and take the photo and pretend you bought one from a proper stand, trust me. If anyone else has had one that was nice, please let me know.

Anyway, hotdog disappointment in the past, we walked up towards Wall Street. We got distracted by the big bull which is right near it. I saw the bull on my mammoth tour and the guide told us that it used to be, or still is, used for good luck by business people. They go and touch it or something. I can't be bothered to Google it for the truth or a better explanation so that will do for me. The bull is pretty cool, it feels a little out of place though, maybe something you'd expect in the southern states or in Spain or something, as I said I'm sure Google has the reason and it's history all wrapped up nicely.

I didn't get a photo with the bull on the tour so I wanted to get one this time. Oh. OHHH. Just before I go onto that, let me mention the funniest thing of the week. You know those people that don't mind being bored out of their heads all day and dress up as some inanimate object like a stone or bronze statue? Well there was one guy dressed up as one of those green toy soldiers. It was a really good outfit, with little blocks that his feet stand on and a mask so his face was all smooth. I'd seen one a few days earlier, on the tour, jesus I saw so much on that damn tour I could have come to New York for 1 day and left thanks to Jerry. No, there's a lot more to see, but we did cover so much. (I'm ignoring the red wavy line under jesus that wants to make me put the j as a capital, ha take that jesus, T one, small jesus zero) Anyway, side-tracked again (now I have 4 red wavy lines damn it) Yes anyway, the soldier: Michi/Erika, in her lovely blissfully ignorant excitement shouted to Tim, 'get my picture with the statue' and handed her phone to him to take the photo. I saw it coming; not telling her would make me laugh so naturally I let it play out. She runs over, takes a good look at his face, smiles, turns to get a photo, she wants to position herself to kiss 'it' on the cheek, as she's manoeuvring he turns to the side in a robotic fashion - my god the scream. Pigeons scattered up in to the air, people spun around. It echoed up along the skyscrapers. It was tremendous. She screamed, I laughed, we're all winners.

Heart attack over she had her photo taken and Tim threw a few dollars in to his backpack that he kindly opened after the photo was taken. Next we got a few photos with the bull. I got one at the front and one at the back pretending to kick his humongous cojones. I looked for some congratulations from Michi for knowing the word cojones hoping she wouldn't know it was a fairly common Spanish word used in English, but she didn't seem impressed anyway. My one word of Spanish knowledge doesn't really compare to her near-fluent English. I really wanted to try climb up on to the bull and pretend to ride it, but I didn't know whether it would be allowed by the cops that were around, or that my flat slippery shoes would allow me to climb on the smooth surface of the bull. As we walked off, I promised myself I'd come back to ride the beast.

Tim had to leave pretty soon as he was getting a flight back to Detroit. He said he would take a cab back to the hostel and we could jump in for the ride if we wanted - awesome, yellow cab time!

The cab was actually pretty impressive inside. It had a touch screen tv with all sorts of options. There was an option to use GPS to see exactly where the cab is on a map. There were options for all different tv stations and news. Pretty cool. The cab ride actually took a lot longer to get back than the subway takes so I wouldn't recommend getting one through busy areas if you're in any kind of rush. The subway trains are great and fast for getting around. Just watch out for the fast acceleration and sudden stops though, make sure you hold on or you'll be thrown around!

On the cab ride back I saw another cab with the triangle advertisement thing showing the UK flag with Prince William and Cate's photo, saying congratulations. I swear America has made a bigger deal of the wedding than 90% of Britain itself has. The 10% being people in London.

Tuesday night's plans were arranged; Michi and I bought a ticket each for the Phantom of the Opera show. I really wanted to see The Lion King or the Book of Mormon (a comedy musical written by the writers of South Park) but the tickets for these big shows were $135 and upwards. I settled for the phantom ticket at $26.50 - quite a difference. Book well in advance if you want cheaper tickets. I hate musicals, I mean I loathe them, but I'm travelling here, I'm here to broaden my interests and horizons.

Okay so this was one horizon too far. I was bored. I don't remember most of it so I'm thinking that seens as I wasn't drunk, I must have nodded off. I was quite impressed with the set and how they made it look like they were riding in a boat and stuff, but overall, it just wasn't for me. Michi absolutely loved it, she was a big fan so that's cool that at least one of us enjoyed it and it wasn't that much money, about £16 or something. I spent nearly that much to go watch Saw 3D at the cinema with Era a few months back and that truly was atrocious. Sorry Era but you made me go and it sucked big time, but hey at least you get a mention in my blog =)

After the show I was understandably tired. We had a little wander through Times Square on the way back to the subway station. It gets me every time, no matter how many times I visit Times Square, it just makes me stop in my tracks, especially at night - it's stupidly cool. It's funny because on a fundamental level I guess all it is, is just a big bunch of advertisements… But we flock there and are amazed; like moths to a flame. A freaking awesome flame that reads TOSHIBA and HANGOVER 2 OUT MAY 26TH! Deffo excited for that.

Okay okay it's no wonder I'm behind with this blog I get way too sidetracked and chat on forever. This day is over at this point: back to the hostel, knackered - think I did some late night Facebooking and then went to bed, tired as every night but totally happy after having another awesome day.

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Posted by Explorer_T 20:44 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Hung over but not stopping - this is New York!

Hungover. Rockafella. Comedy show.

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So yeah okay, I was rough on Monday morning. While drunk on the night out me and Michi had organised to do some things on Monday, agreeing to meet at 10am. Clearly I was not awake at 10am. Michi came up to the room and I turned over and awoke to her laughing at my hung over face, next to my hung over shoes.

On to our day of plans. We got up and had breakfast, I can't remember if this was this day or the next as I'm writing this on Friday but at some point along the way Michi managed to scam me some free breakfast cards. Contrary to what I'd read on the hostel's website, breakfast was not free for all guests. I think because I was in one of the cheaper rooms it meant that no free food for me. Boo. But now I did yay, go Michi!

Breakfast done we set off to the subway station one block from the hostel on Broadway. The longest I've had to wait for a train is about 4 minutes, they are great. Even when you have a little wait you usually have some kind of entertainment; people playing guitars, saxophones, some weird Chinese instruments that I have never seen before… I even saw one guy playing a huge didgeridoo! It's why I love this city, it's just so diverse. On this trip to the subway we had a treat; four black guys walking around doing the whole singing job with three doing the backing singing and instrument sounds, and one main guy singing. You know the type, that do the blues songs etc. Wow it was so cool. The song they were singing was recognisable instantly, ''eee w weeee we, ee ee um um buwayyy. A wimoweh a wimoweh a wimoweh. Inn the jungle, the mighty jungle the lion sleeps tonight!'' Another moment of, I'm really in New York and it f***ing rocks!

On to the day's activities. We went up the Rockafella building. Which is huge. It was quite expensive at $22 but what you gonna do, you only live once. There's the whole issue of which you should do, the Empire State or the Rockafella. After some Trip Advisor research and talking to people, the Rockafella was the chosen building to climb. After all, the Empire State looks nicer, so you actually get to see it if you go up the Rockafella. After some queuing and a security check we were off in to the high speed elevator. The ceiling of the elevator was transparent with some projected videos being played on to where the ceiling would be, so when you looked up you saw these videos playing and behind that, the long vertical tunnel going up and up and up with the lights flashing by as you ascend a floor a second, it made everyone dizzy and assured no one looked up again on the way back down.

So on to the view. The 'Top of the Rock' as they call it. It was as great as you can imagine, the most perfect view of Central Park, check out the photos for first hand evidence of the views. Michi and I stayed up there for about 30 minutes or so. There are a few different levels of elevation at the top so we went right to the highest point of course. We took some time just to stop and look, sometimes when sightseeing you forget to actually take it in, you concentrate on taking the photos and then leave. We hung around for a bit just beholding the view, it was ace.

Michi told me that she hadn't seen Grand Central Station yet so I was super excited to show her, and yes, mostly to show her the sound thing. She wasn't on the mammoth tour that I did on Saturday so I was now the tour guide. We went around to the front of Grand Central to get the best view, then inside to marvel at the scale of the main hall. It was time to be a big kid again, after losing my way and momentarily taking us the wrong way, I found the correct spot. I recorded a video this time to try to convey the experience; I need to watch it on the netbook to see if it worked properly, I hope the audio is clear!

The rest of the day was spent just wandering around. Even when you have no goal and no clear idea of where to go, it's still just the greatest place. The people, the atmosphere, the activity, it really is an awesome place to be.

That evening I planned to watch some NBA basketball in the theatre room with Scott and Steve. The Chicago Bulls game was due on first, then after that the Lakers game at 10:30pm. Unfortunately for that plan, a comedy night was due to start in the theatre so we wouldn't get to see the first game at all. Ah well I thought, a live free comedy show instead of basketball isn't the worst trade in the world. Unfortunately it actually was a bad trade. The four or fiver comedians were all terrible. There was an odd half decent joke here and there, but overall as stand-up comedians they were very poor. Two of them basically just read entirely from their notes! So two guys just actually read us jokes from what might as well been a 'How to be a comedian for Dummies' book. Not good. The funniest thing by far was this guy sat two sofas in front of me, he laughed like a maniac at every joke, and it became part of each comedian's routine because he was the only one laughing most of the time. It became very funny because it would go: A long-winded joke that ended pretty flat, not much laughing, a little silence, and then LOLOLOLOLOL from the guy. There was always a little break first while it registered in his head, it was pretty hilarious. I figured he was high on some drugs, although I secretly hoped he was a comedy connoisseur laughing ironically because the jokes were really bad. It was most likely the former.

So the comedy night ended up being quite funny. Next we watched most of the Lakers game but I was really tired by the 3rd quarter so it was bed time for me. And that's the end of day 2 in New York!

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Posted by Explorer_T 14:29 Archived in USA Comments (0)

A relaxed day followed by a pub crawl at night!

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After the long ass tour I certainly slept that night! I woke up on Sunday jet lagged, still tired, achy legs and a giant blister on my toe. But I'm in New York baby! I didn't really have any plans for Sunday, or any other day really; I had a loose list of the sights and things I wanted to see and do but I was lacking a day to day plan. I thought it would be sensible to get some rest anyway, so I got my netbook and went into one of the many common rooms in the hostel.

I spent most of the day sorting out the hundreds of photos that I'd taken the day before and Facebooking/Skyping family and friends as I hadn't properly told anyone I had arrived safely yet.

I went for a short walk around the local area. There are so many places to eat even in the relatively quiet areas. I will just finish eating somewhere, leave and walk about ten steps and want to eat at another place instantly. I never want to actually decide and commit to one place to eat incase I miss out on somewhere just around the corner etc. There are always people all over the streets even in these quieter neighbourhoods too; standing, talking, playing instruments, dancing, shouting, trying to sell you a handbag for five dollars,(happened) to no doubt feed his crack addiction.

So a pretty uneventful chilled out day on Sunday. Until, until I saw on the notice board 'Pub Crawl'. Cool. I'm in. Everyone met in the reception area of the hostel at 9pm and our American lady tour guide set off with us following to the first of the three local pubs/bars that she would take us to.

The first bar was described by the guide as punk, to which I had images of people with big green spiky mohawks and hands made of metal throwing up on each other for kicks, but it was such a cool place. It reminded of those small bars you see in movies that are set in the Southern states. There was writing on the walls, everything was made of wood and the toilet doors had loads of stickers and logos on. It was quite a small bar, with a very worn and used pool table. The till behind the bar was one of those really old school ones with huge silver buttons that clunk downwards. There were a few American men playing pool when we got there, totally 'normal' looking - one of them started to welcome us all and shook all our hands etc. American's can be the friendliest people. 'Can' being the imperative word there.

I sat at the bar with an Ozzy guy from my dorm room called Scott and another Ozzy called Steve. There are a tonne of Australian people in my hostel. A good thing for me as I'm making some great friends and contacts for places I may visit in the future on my one year visa in Australia. I got a corona with lime. This was my first real experience to see the American culture of tipping. People pretty much tip a dollar or two with every drink they buy, maybe more but our group generally tipped just one or two2. After a bit of observation I adhered to the rules. A guy came to the bar that wasn't with our group and I was pretty sure he was Jewish, you can just tell. And perfectly as the comedic stereotype may suggest, he didn't tip and turned to walk away from the bar. But don't worry; this stingy Jew was stopped in his tracks. The bar girl promptly shouted ''Yo! Tip!? That's how I earn my living!' He very reluctantly adhered. I don't know what her hourly wage was but I later learnt that a bar guy I spoke to earned $5 per hour, which is like £3 per hour. I don't know how true this is but it makes sense that they would need tips to live on. If you think though, in a busy bar, at a dollar or more tip per drink, if you serve a few hundred drinks in a night… you upgrade quite nicely, past what a lot of bar staff in England would earn.

We didn't stop too long and moved on to another bar. It was fairly small and I got speaking to a guy from Chicago that I'd met on the mammoth tour the previous day. We had a tequila or two and discussed various travel stories, amongst talking to various others. One great thing that happened in this bar was when a guy called Dan was drinking Johnny Walker and he threw out the line 'scotchy scotch scotch' to which I instantly completed the quote '…here it goes down, down in my belly'. Anchorman. The next 10 minutes involved about four or five of us just saying Anchorman quotes. Anchorman. Anchorman literally united nations. It was a great moment.

Again we didn't stop too long in the bar; we were soon off to the final bar on the list. I was a little tipsy from the tequilas and as we entered the bar we realised it was a karaoke bar. There were four guys on a slightly raised stage area screaming to the Aerosmith song from Armageddon 'Don't wana miss a thing'. I grabbed Edward (dude from Chicago) and dragged him to the stage and we joined in instantly, and at the same time making four new friends. The rest of the night involved many drinks, many many song requests and lots of bad singing. I cannot sing well at all but when I'm drunk I couldn't care less, but it seemed to go down well and people were cheering and shouting at the crazy English drunkard. My main singing partner was Steve. We were rock stars. One song that came on randomly with no request was a 3 Doors Down song called Here Without You. This song has some meaning for me and Laura my girlfriend. One of the 'couple songs' we've acquired over our 3 years together. It's not the best known songs or anything so it was a shock that it came on. An even bigger shock was a previous time we heard it together: In 2008 we were in Mexico, taking a late night stroll past some bars etc. and we heard the same song - it was being played by a lonely musician with his guitar in a café. It was pretty surreal.

I got very drunk and had loads of fun, with people I'd just met either the day before or that very night, in a bar, in New York. It's just like a dream. I was at work a week earlier in an office and now in the past 48 hours I'd seen so much, met so many great people. This travelling business was living up to my hopes!

As the night came to an end, the music stopped and there were only a handful of us left (I'm always out until the end, party animal much, oh much o much) As I went towards the door to leave I noticed another door opening to the left, I popped my drunken curious head through to see what was in there. It was a small takeaway tagged on to the bar. Unfortunately it was closed, all the lights were out, but, but I did see a large fridge full of Budweiser's. Just there. It would be rude not to take a road beer I thought. Yoink. One last free beer for me. I walked back to the hostel with a man named Tim, a lawyer from Detroit and Michi, or Erika, she goes by both names. Michi is from Mexico and she spent a good portion of the night on the karaoke stage too. We had a ten minute walk or so I think, I'm not sure as my memory is pretty vague of this part. We shared our one road beer and we went into one of the common rooms back at the hostel for a little while. Tim spoke some Spanish so Michi and he had some Spanish talk, which was fine by me because I was so drunk that everything sounded like another language anyway. Plus I got to keep amusing myself by blurting out the Anchorman line 'What!? Look I don't speak Spanish!' They didn't know the reference but it's okay because I did. Inside joke to myself = win. I do that all the time, think of an inside joke from some film or family guy or something, realise that the current crowd I'm with wont get it, but I say it anyway just to amuse myself. I have thought this is possibly what people do that are considered crazy people. You know when some old guy just says random crap and then laughs and no one understands, he's considered a weirdo but maybe they are just using some 1950's comedy cult movie quotes? Who knows.

The night was pretty much over now, around 4 am or so I think. We said our goodnights and went to our rooms. Once I got in the dark hole of bad smells and snoring that was my dorm though, I didn't quite feel ready to go to sleep - so I cancelled my climb up the bunk bed steps and left the room with a drunken skip in my step. Where would I go? What would I do? I had no idea but I love the feeling of being free and being able to wander. I didn't remember most of this part of the story until conversations the next day and a video I recorded on my camera.

The video showed me crossing the street from the hostel to the local pizza place; I got one of those giant slices of pizza, with mushroom. Then, according to a girl called Zubie that witnessed it; I went into the computer room in the hostel where she and a bunch of her friends were hanging out, and announced loudly ''I AM FROM ENGLAND AND I AM DRUNK!'' To which I left the room. I don't remember that part but I remember the next part: I realised I hadn't seen all of the hostel yet as its quite big, so I wandered around and explored all the common areas, munching on the giant slice. The place was pretty deserted. Obviously i suppose.

I ended up finding the theatre room, filled with lots of sofas and a huge projection screen. President Obama was on it and he was announcing how Bin Laden had been killed. I sat there not believing that it was real for a while, realised that i was too drunk to really take it in and so I finished my pizza and then finally went up to bed. I had it in my mind that I would put my laptop on and watch The Peep Show to fall asleep to, but as I realised in the morning - i woke up with the laptop closed in its case next to my face, I'd tried but failed. Also strangely, my shoes on the other side of my head? Not sure why I would have felt it necessary to put my shoes next to my head but okay. This is New York everyone is crazy. I seem to fit in perfectly.

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Posted by Explorer_T 22:08 Archived in USA Comments (1)

The First Full Day in NYC - Huge Tour of the City!

Straight in with a super long tour

View World Tour on Explorer_T's travel map.

On to my first official day on Saturday 30th April. I had a really good sleep and got up for a tour I'd spotted on the notice board. One of the major reasons I chose this hostel (Hostelling International, HI for short) was that they offer lots of free or cheap tours pretty much every day. This was gonna be a long day; the tour started at 10am and was listed to finish at 12 midnight… really? Was that a misprint? I'd find out sooner, or later…very later. I figured I might as well jump in feet first on my first day with a major tour and get to grips with the city.

The tour guide was an old New Yorker named Jerry. He was such a character I loved him. He was so full of energy for a 70 year old. Full of stories as well as the normal tour guide information. If we had 5 minutes to wait for a subway train, he'd break in to song for a full 5 minutes loud as anything. He was hilariously crazy, hilariously American. He was something straight out of a movie.

We set off at just after 10am and went to the nearest underground train station, buying an unlimited travel ticket for $29, which I've definitely got the use out of. The amount of places we went to is hard to: 1. remember and 2. a hard task to type up in the short time I have but we did a lot… I'll describe a few of my favourite moments that are in my head right now:

1) Walking for ages so not knowing where I was, then walking through a really nice neighbourhood lined with trees, seeing a river at the end of the avenue, walking up a path to a raised platform, then realising where we were; on Long Island with a side view of the NYC skyline, the buzz of helicopters flying around - oh it was like being in a movie. The first of many times this has happened.

2) Brooklyn Bridge. It looks so cool, packed full of people, one half of the path is for pedestrians and the other is for cyclists and they zoom down there, if you get hit by one of them its game over, they go mega fast.

3) Two instances of my first impressions of the local New Yorkers - because we were in a fairly large group of about 14 or so, and all new to New York, we took up quite a lot of space when stood still. The first thing happened only like 5 minutes into our tour, when we walked down into the subway, a fat woman shouted out 'WHAT THE HELL IS THIS!?'' clearly not happy that a group of people were in her line of walk, she then proceeded to walk around us all and off up the steps. The second was very similar, it was when we were on a side walk and a dude shouted out pretty much the same thing. Again not happy that he had to take about 3 extra steps and deviate from a straight path. Everyone is just like on Grand Theft Auto 4, if you stand in front of someone they blurt some lines out - well those lines aren't made up, these people really say these things... so many times I've thought, GTA4!

4) The first time it really properly sunk in that I was on my travels and in New York. It was after the Brooklyn Bridge and everything - they all still felt surreal. It finally hit home when we hit the major city part with all the big skyscrapers. The busy traffic, all the yellow cabs, lots of different people all rushing around, and looking up so high at all the buildings that I felt like I could fall over backwards. It hit home then, surrounded by skyscrapers, I was in New York. It felt awesome.

Oh did I mention I was still in my flight clothes from the day before? That sucked. On a major walking tour in yesterday's underwear and pumps felt good, naaat.

5) Ground Zero. America is in the middle of building a new skyscraper in the place of where the ill-fated towers once were. We went into a church first (St. Paul's Chapel) which was were a lot of the fire fighters and injured would go to rest before heading back out to help in the wreckage. Jerry impressed me here, he told us of the story of the atomic bomb in the second world war and how the US dropped them on the two sites in Japan etc, it seemed a little inappropriate for some people but he was making a valid point by putting the 9/11 tragedy in perspective. Around 2-3 thousand were killed on 9/11, but as he pointed out the US killed around 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima & Nagasaki. I say I was impressed because to me (maybe naively) some American's seem quite closed off to the world and think that 9/11 is the worst thing that ever happened in the history of man. Of course it was horrendous but I liked how he treated the whole thing by putting it in perspective before acknowledging what we were about to see and learn about.

6) The ferry past the Statue of Liberty. Jerry's inside knowledge got us a good spot at the back end of the ferry. As everyone rushed further in, we stayed right at the back, outside. We were a little confused at first as we would get to see the statue later by being at the back, but we soon realised why. We got a great view of the NYC skyline as we left it, then passing the statue to our right, some great photos were taken.

7) We had a great lunch from a deli. All fresh food. I got a huge foot long 'hero', packed with stuff. I can't remember all the ingredients but it had big pieces of grilled chicken, parma ham, balsamic, salad - it was massive, I could only manage half and so rationed the other half throughout the day.

8) China Town. Should be called China City really, it's huge. A massive area and packed, the streets are bustling here. Jerry warned us to make sure we were 'watertight' as pickpockets are rife in this area. The area itself was kind of dirty and run down. Lots of little stalls on street sides with people shouting at you to buy their crap. There were some nicer areas, we passed through a park with some Chinese people playing some instruments and singing, others were playing some gambling game on this fixed stone table. It felt like we really were in China. After China town we went through Little Italy which was a few long blocks full of Italian restaurants. It really showed here how everything can change just going one street. Within 10 seconds you go from Chinese shops and people everywhere to exactly none, and now Italian shops and people fill the streets.

9) Grand Central Station. This building is impressive. Both outside and in. It is huge, I feel like I'm saying everything is huge but it really is (that's what she said). So impressive. I can't really explain the scale and how awesome the station is, I'll have to just upload the photos. One bit that I loved perhaps most though, is a bit of a silly gimmick I guess, but the child in me just loved it. There's a small area just a few seconds walk from the main central hall, this area is the joining part for a few walkways, it's maybe 25 foot by 25 foot, with 4 corners and an arched ceiling about 12 foot high or so. If you stand right in one corner, and someone else stands in the opposite corner (so you're a really good distance apart) and with all the people rushing through in between you have no chance of hearing each other normally. Because of the arched ceiling, when you speak (directly to the wall, facing away from everyone, yeah you look weird to anyone that doesn't know about it) the sound travels up over the arched ceiling and down to the other person. When Jerry asked someone to do it, I immediately ran over (I'd already seen it on the Stephen Fry in America Documentary so I really wanted to do it). When I got over there he said something and I literally spun around because I thought he had followed me over, his voice was so clear and loud, it sounded like his face was directly on my shoulder just behind my back. It was seriously cool.

10) Waiting to cross a road in China Town, with a proper keep fit American jogger running on the spot in front of us. He nearly gets hit by a cab driving close to the sidewalk, he instantly shouts out ''HEY f*** YOU a******'', in his accent it was just great.

11) Five course meal in an Indian restaurant for dinner (tea for Brits). I was sat with 2 Australian guys and an Australian girl, in an Indian restaurant, in New York. Pretty surreal still.

12) After finishing in the Indian it was dark, and we headed eventually for Times Square, at night time - boner time. I'm running out of superlatives to describe the sights in New York already on the description of my first full day - when you go around the corner and see the lights and busyness of Times Square you just have to stop. Stop walking and try to take it in, but there's far too much to take in. All the lights, all the information, all the people, all the smells, all the noises, all the shops… it really feels like this is why they call NYC the Capital of the World.

So often when walking around in New York you just have to stop, not just in Times Square, but all over. You have to strop and stand still to be able to register everything and see all that is going on. I've found myself just stood in the street so often, just looking around, doing a turn on the spot, but it's okay it doesn't make you a weirdo because everyone but the locals are doing this too. In fact usually the locals just stand around talking on street corners anyway.

One of the things I quickly learned on this first day was that in New York, there are no minorities. Really, there aren't any, you have every single nationality you can think of (and not just tourists, obviously you have China Town, Little Italy but there are communities for Polish, Jewish, the list is endless). There is every kind of fashion style; some of the people here dress so so crazy but after a few hours it becomes normal and you stop thinking that it's weird. There is no weird. People randomly shout and blurt stuff out all the time, no one even bats an eyelid.

I've tried to keep this short but as you can see, I got a lot done in day one! I've left a lot out too so I might add more in another time but its 1:40am right now after another extremely long day and im going to bed! The tour ended up being 14 hours long. I got back to the hostel wrecked. Not in a good way. I was limping because as I'd find out I had a massive blister on my big toe from all the walking, I was still probably jet lagged, I was in dirty clothes, but YES…my luggage had been delivered! I struggled to get it on my back and went up to the room, getting in the dorm around 1am, turning the light on to an instant ''turn the light off!'' from some dude who apparently has no eye lids… I mean can't you just put the covers over your head for a bit, if he knew my story I guess he wouldn't have been so short with me, but anyway I said No, sorry I cant. And he had to deal with it. I had luggage to unpack, 1am or not I was changing my underwear!

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Posted by Explorer_T 22:42 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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