This post is the first part of a series named “New York”, in which I talk about my trip to New York city in the first week of May 2011. These posts will be loaded with pictures, I took 1050 that week!
So last friday I came back from a 5-day trip to the Big Apple. Because of my parents 25th wedding anniversary, my parents, sisters and I went to New York city.
For all of us it was the first time in the States, in fact, the first time outside of Europe. My sisters and I only flew to London once, so second (commerical) plane ride too!
I took my trusty Panasonic DMC-FZ 38, which is not the best, but amazing for what it offers (and the price I paid). I didn’t buy anything in the US (for myself).. except for an extra SD HC card. After deleting some totally worthless photos, my iPhoto application said: 1050 photo’s. Nice catch, eh?
I already placed 10 nice one’s from the first batch on my Flickr, but I’m sure while writing this post, I’ll upload more to either this site or Flickr. This will be a blogpost, but it will be overloaded with photo’s, hopefully.
Friday, April 29th
Quick notice: I started adding photos chronologically, but so much text and not enough photos of New York, when we arrived. So added some photos from day 2, on perhaps.. weird places. Enjoy!
I still went to ‘work’ (read: internship) for the morning and drove home fast (but safely) just in time to not stress out my parents, because “you have to be at the airport way ahead of time!”. If all events could be finished after another, we would have been ready to board the plane within less than an hour, that’s how ‘long’ it took.
So with enough time on our hands and an aviation happy sister, we went to Schiphol’s observation deck, very windy. Walked around, took pictures, removed the hair from our eyes and went looking for a place to eat. Expensive.. but my sister has some sort of staff card, so we got 10% off. Next step: gate check-in.
I finally encountered the fullbody scans, but as long as it finds nothing, it doesn’t show the picture (because you can see them once you’re on the other side). So we all went through, without a problem. Also, no need to take off your shoes in Amsterdam, they only did that at JFK.
Then we waited for an hour in the gate lobby, looking at our Boeing 747-400 (for the nerds: PH-BFD) being loaded with delicious goods (at first we weren’t sure if it was going to be ours, because it said “KLM Asia” and “City of Dubai”, but it turns out KLM Asia is basically just KLM). I really enjoyed the plane and the food, big thumbs up for KLM there. The seats were somewhat cramped, specially compared to the Delta plane we took back to Europe, but that’s a whole different story and it won’t be till 6 ‘days’ later that we get there!
It had been 7 years since I been on a plane and I was amazed at the sheer power of the thrust when taking off, it was just a thrill ride. Once it got airborn I got a little dizzy at some points, because it was moving up and down, turning and I was watching out of a small window with my camera in my hand and the rest of my body facing forwards, but nothing could spoil it. Taking off is amazing!
What suprised me too, was the fact that we could see the Dutch shoreline so quickly, thinking back, it makes a lot of sense, because Amsterdam isn’t that far from the coast.. but.. just like that, you left your own country. The next stop was England, we were still flying low so I could see quite some stuff. Then we went over Ireland, by that time we were at cruising altitude (36000 feet, or 10000 meter, 10km!) and ice was starting to form on my window and the edge of the engine. I couldn’t see anything but heaps of land, hills, grass.. after Ireland.. a lot of hours of nothing, just ocean and clouds.
Fast forward 5 or 6 hours.. (In the meantime I watched Gnomeo & Juliet, with Arabic subtitles, don’t ask.. Thumbs up for KLM’s on-board entertainment system, though!)
The next bits of land we saw where Saint-Pierre and Miquelon (France overseas territory), Newfoundland and Nova Scotia (Canada). We then flew over the slim peninsula Cape Cod and started our descent. We had some thick clouds and they gave us some ‘turbulence’. But it was nothing, really! I doubt the pilots would have called it that anyway, in fact, no seat belt signs went on (or did they?). Little side note though: airplane seat belts are really cool.. or am I too nerdy now?
Next big chapter, landing on JFK. The landing went perfect, I guess. I’m not familiar with them, but I was pretty content.
But just before we landed I could see the American cities living and doing their thing, which was quite a surreal sight, knowing that I saw Americans driving their cars over the interstate. This might sound weird to you, but there’s this ‘thing’ that Dutch people seem to have with “Amerika” (United States in Dutch). The word Americanophile is a well known word over here. After 2 days of New York I also lost most of that feeling.. “it’s just like home!”. In fact, I felt more alienated in southern France or the crappy parts of Belgium than I did there in the US of A. Now I’m not sure if it were my high expectations or just the wrong image I get from the media (about the states). But we’re rushing into things again, we’re not in Manhattan yet, we’re still taxiing on the west 13R airstrip of JFK and I notice the typical American Ford vans and pick-up trucks driving about, which I find funny, because I’m only used to airport specific vehicles, on airports that is!
You know how I said big chapter, we’re there! We got off the plane, walked through the gates and entered a giant hall. Complete silence! COMPLETE! Well maybe not complete, but it felt soooo strange. We had to wait in a line, comparable to themepark-line lenghts, dragging our suitcases along. Thank god they had TVs hanging on the wall showing CNN and some shots from ‘the Royal wedding’ that happened that afternoon. The TV was muted though.
I wouldn’t say uncomfortable, but due to lack of better words; yes, I felt uncomfortable. What kind of prisoner camp is this, I thought. Big giant, military-style cut, men were sitting in cubicles, looking like they been working for 18 hours and definitely not looking pleased. We had to check in there, they looked through our passports, took digital fingerprints of both our hands (your thumb and other 4 fingers separately) and they took a photo with a web cam, or maybe it was a secret iris scan, I don’t know. They also stamped our passports, which is
cool (nerdpower!). When we walked up he started asking where we were from and what we were gonna do in New York and how long we would stay, so I was thinking.. okay.. smalltalk. But alas, after he asked that he went silent again, with the occasional command. After my dad and sister he didn’t even bother talking, he just showed us which finger to push on the machine.
The irony of it all, were the TVs hanging above the cubicles saying stuff like “Welcome to the United States!” with happy suburban families and kids smiling. I didn’t feel welcomed at all.
By the time we were let into the States, our baggage must have spin the thing a hundred times so we could take it immediately and went towards the exit. We had booked a shuttle to our hotel, before we went, but the time said 8:30pm and it was like 10pm. Asking the lady at the info booth if she knew where we had to go, but not before La-Theesa (not sure if this was her real name!) and her girlfriend were done talking about some picture of a girl on one of their cellphone, she called up the company. To the fresh air!.. but not before walking past 6 dodgy dudes asking “You need a taxi?”.
Next big chapter. Also, to clarify, with big chapters I mean things that made an impression on me. Closing the happy happy Welcome to America chapter, we sat down in a little van, our bags in the back and carrying our hand luggage. First thing I noticed, driving and operating a cellphone, I totally forgot about this. This isn’t allowed in the Netherlands and a lot of other European countries. I then just stared outside the window, soaking up all these new impressions. Multiple lanes with different speeds, or the lack of a specific fast lane. Garbage trucks with no doors but just pieces of rope, the special infrastructure (many bridges, overpasses) and the roar of many big V8 cars. Now I don’t know if it’s the Americans being short or their cars so huge, but everybody that passed by looked so tiny, sitting there behind their steering wheel.
So the lane thing was slightly chaotic, but I knew this already and are familiar with the catchphrase “Stay in your lane” (which would be the worst advise here in Holland and you’d actually get fined). We then crossed the Queensboro bridge and entered Manhattan, it was there that I re-discovered the meaning of the word ‘chaotic’.
It was fun, certainly great fun, but I was so relieved I was not behind the wheel, just thinking about it stressed me out. Left, right, honk, right, honk, honk, break, left right. Now add in the sound of a dozen V8′s roaring on either side of you, the hilly landscape of Manhattan and the many lights. Also, multiple the ‘honks’ by 3. After 500 milliseconds of green light, New Yorkers beep their horn if you’re not dashing off in time. Then there were the zebra crossings on every corner and people and cars could go at the same time, also, people do not obey the colour of the light and jaywalking was the most normal thing in the world, even with a cop on every streetcorner! So through the chaos I slowly started to ‘see’ Manhattan, the grid-like street system (genius! We should have that over here!), the old apartment blocks and somewhat medium to high buildings. Oh yes, the yellow cabs.. I knew there were a lot, but they’re like everywhere.. everywhere.
Reaching our hotel, the Ameritiana, on the corner of Broadway and 54th street (great location!) we checked in, which went nice and easy and went to our rooms. I don’t remember much because it was almost midnight and everybody fell asleep right away.
That’s all for this day, if you want to read the other days/posts, following the link below.
View all my New York posts! #newyork2011