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New York, New York!
After four-and-a-half months I am finally getting out of Brazil. Anne and I were flying from Maceio to Sao Paulo and from here via Washington to New York, a 18 hour trip. In 1995 I visited NYC before, but only the JFK Airport for a short while on my stop to Maui.

Friday the 24 of February we arrive at the airport La Guardia. It is freezing cold. We both are pretty tired and Anne is still sick but the excitement for this city is stronger than our weakness. We eat a sandwich and collecting some maps of New York City. The first thing I notice when getting outside the airport to catch a taxi is the difference in temperature. It is around 40 degrees colder here than in tropical Brazil. The skin dries out immediately.

New York

On the departure deck we get a taxi and it is truly amazing that all the equipment fits in it. My 135cm boardbag which is so heavy that I can hardly lift it fits in the boot. Wow, big taxis in the US. We are driving along the Harlem River enjoying the skyline and get to our hostel in Washington Heights (173rd St). This is north of Harlem in Manhattan. Kids, dressed in goose-down jackets are hanging out on the street-corners and selling drugs. Our hostel (Manhattan Youth Castle Hostel / US$65) is small and new. We get a nice private room on the fourth floor and have to share the lounge and kitchen with other people. We explore the surroundings and see that the famous Broadway runs through our quarter as well. I can see all the way downtown, a couple of kilometres.

There are many small shops here, selling all sorts of stuff. The people speak spanish and for us, coming from portuguese-spoken Brazil it is not too much of a change. I am getting through with english as well and Anne speaks spanish in the supermarket. Even the advertisements are in spanish. Interesting. We bought honey, apple-cinnamon tea, muesli, joghurt, crackers, cheese, wine, herbs, olive oil, pepper and lots of other useful stuff for the next 9 days. New York is the first time (after I left Europe) that I am cooking again. It feels excellent and is good fun to cook nice pasta for us and to share it with a bottle of red for dinner.

What to do in New York City?
This depends entirely of the length of stay and we are asking us this question too. There are just too many possibilities. One option is to do what everybody else does (seeing the major tourist attractions), the other option to do a different "of the beaten track program". That's what we are doing.

New York

We are getting us a Metro Card (valid for seven days @ 24 USD) and for one week we can use all MTA buses and metros in New York City. Great Value! On Saturday we are taking the A-train downtown and get out at Times Square on 42nd street. Big 3-story tall advertisements everywhere on this famous place. It is freezing outside and the minus 7 degrees celsius feel like minus 14! This is almost 50 degrees different (Brazil 35), extreme for boy and mind. First thing we are doing is checking big surf-stores of Billabong and Quicksilver for warm clothing. "Man, I think we are in NY - what are doing surf-shops here in this cold?!" We finally succeed at Hennes & Mauritz and buy some nice jumpers and gloves. It is a bit warmer now. We are heading from one Deli to the next coffee-shop and in between we stroll along Broadway (where famous musicals like 'Lion-King' play) and buy a New York guidebook at Barnes&Noble.

New York - Times Square

Wandering between the old and new skyscrapers is mind blowing. It is a clear sunny day with blue sky and the large buildings throw all sorts of reflections against each other. And so many yellow cabs here. We instantly like this city. It has a good vibe, is very organized and the people are relaxed (even though they are probably pretty busy with unimportant stuff they look relaxed). And we see many dogs, carried in kinderwagen. Normally kids should sit in here but New York is obviously different. On the more chic 5th Avenue we meet a dude, handing out discount-vouchers for 'The Soupman'. His hand is out, one man rejects his offer and he yells "No soup for you, today".

Downtown are many museums like Guggenheim, Museum of Arts, National Museum of the Native American (we decide to go into this one and it is really good, and f.o.c). The Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building (New York is called "The Empire State") are worth a visit as you can expect good views, especially in the morning and at sunset. You have to be prepared for extreme security search and a 40-60 minute waiting time. We are thinking about taking a ferry-ride around Manhattan Island but are deciding against it, as it cost 24$ per person and we can go with the Staten Island Ferry for free. This ferry is leaving every thirty minutes and passes the Liberty-State. Perfect for taking pictures. When we returned there was an excellent view on the Manhattan Skyline including Brooklyn Bridge.

New York - Skyline

Walking through the Financial District (Wall Street), Little Italy, Soho and Chinatown is easy, for free and a must to get a good overall picture of New York City. And if you are looking for outstanding organic coffee, "PRET" is my choice, better and cheaper than Starbucks. It is on 42nd Street 11 West right in the center. Go to 'Cafe Roma' in Little Italy and enjoy a very good cheesecake with cappuccino. From Little Italy you will be in the 'Fashion District' in minutes. We enjoy visiting the Housing Works Bookstore very much. A huge second-hand bookstore with a cafe on 126 Crosby Street. The bookstore relies entirely on donations for its stock of books, records, CDs, DVD's and videos. They are staffed entirely by volunteers. The profit of the bookstore supports the fight against AIDS.

New York - PRET

On Staten Island is a small Tibetan museum (5$ admission, 338 Lighthouse Ave) and if you are keen to see a sand mandala, created by Bhutan monks, you should have a go. It is on display and the only one in the world. Usually sand-mandalas are destroyed after their creation (nothing is permanent).

In New York City are a impressive number of parks. The famous central park is not to be missed (I am impressed by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and its skyline). We can see a lot of squirrels here and there is still snow around. The Highbridge and Riverside Park are worth a visit too.

New York

And there are the Bronx, Brooklyn and Long Island and other things to see but our time is limited.

Facts about New York:

Contacts:
New York City’s Official Visitor Information Center
810 Seventh Avenue, between 52nd & 53rd Streets
Tel: 212/484-1222

The Official Visitor Information Kiosk for Chinatown is located at the triangle where Canal, Walker, and Baxter Streets meet.
Directions by Subway: Take the N, R, Q, W, 6, J, M, Z to Canal Street

Harlem Visitor Information Kiosk
Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building plaza, 163 West 125th Street, just east of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard (Seventh Avenue)

 

Yellow Cabs

Trump Tower

WTC Site

State of Liberty

At night

Marie Marie