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Back in SF

San Francisco, United States

Back in San Francisco

I woke up very early on Friday. I, because I wanted a cheaper flight, had booked the plane to San Francisco a mere day and a half after I arrived in New York, so I had to get round everything before I left.

The Hostel I was in was in the Upper West Side of New York, very close to central park and within walking distance of the upper city shops. New York is interesting in that it isn’t centralised – there are about four different nodes of tall buildings, each of which would qualify as ‘downtown’ in another, lesser city, but which are simply concentrations of businesses. Downtown proper is quite a wee way downtown, and the place is so big that you must take the subway.

I didn’t like the subway the first day, but it got better as I had more experience with it. New Yorkers are inherently selfish – I stood up to give my seat to an elderly lady (I guess my parents didn’t send me to that expensive school for nothing!) but she wouldn’t take it. She thought that if I wanted to give it to her there must be something wrong with it! And before I could overcome my surprise a young blonde women sat down in it nonchalantly instead. It was all a bit strange.

Anyway, the first and only day I got up at 5:15am. It was pouring with rain, and the snores of my ten roommates filled the room. I trotted softly to my locker, not putting on the lights or anything in order to not disturb them, and started to undo my lock. Suddenly there was a dazzling light and an outraged Chinese girl was demanding to know why I was going through her stuff. I was puzzled and not a little angry – not only was it 5am, but I was being accused of being a thief and I had stumbled around in the dark only to have this girl turn on the light and wake everyone up! It took me waving my backpack and my lock in her face to convince her that the stuff was mine, and even then she refused to talk to me again.

So at 5:45am I was out the door and swinging down Broadway to find a bagel store.

I needed a bagel store because I had been ordered by a friend of mine to eat one while I was there. Stumbling into the nearest small bagel-shop I could find, I had the generic trouble of trying to order something in my New Zealand English before giving up and resorting to pointing and making hand gestures. The bagel was excellent though – it was so early in the morning the bread had just come out of the oven, so it was crispy and delicious quite apart from it being great anyway.

By 6am I had reached the Rockefeller centre, certain that I would be the first person there and would get a great shot from my camera. Unfortunately I picked the day with some sort of high fashion show on, and the queue stretched all down the street. I just took a photo of the building I presumed was the famous one and moved on.

By 6:15am I had reached Times Square, as I intended, with just enough darkness left to make it impressive but no crowds. It was amazing – I loved it. It was like a fireworks display except more entertaining because the pictures moved and bubbled and shifted. It would have be tough to stick it out with crowds though.

At 6:30am I reached the Empire State Building. I didn’t go in, because it would have cost me a lot of money, but I did get this wicked shot of it covered with mist. It is an impressive building.

By this stage I had already walked about 20 to 25 blocks, and my feet were a little sore. I had walked a very goodly amount the day before, but still would have preferred to walk on the pavement as opposed to the subway. Unfortunately I needed to get about 60 blocks in less than an hour, so the subway was the only practical option. Today though the subway was better, perhaps because I had fortified my mind against what I knew was coming, or more probably because after one go on it I was as shocked as I was going to get. After a fairly pleasant ride to South Ferry, I jumped on the free Staton Island Ferry to Staton Island. This took me straight past the Statue of Liberty for free, which was a darn slight better than paying $40 for the same thing. It was a lovely hour ride, dropping me back off at the bottom of Manhattan Island.

I again braved the subway, but this time my sense of direction failed me. I got off at the right station to look for the WTC (I had carefully mapped out my route prior to the day) but walked the wrong way up the street (to my eternal shame.) This took me through Greenwich Village, and Soho, both of which were amazingly interesting. Another subway

ride later and I was at Ground Zero, which was not much to look at. Waking under it to get to the subway station was amazing though, because the station is the only thing that survives from the original structures. The people in that station were totally silent. Not a whisper, not a sound, and all out of respect for the signs telling people that they stood in the WTC. It was strange after the huge noise of the outside.

The WTC brought me to the end of my ‘tourist’ stops, so I jumped bravely onto the subway again for the journey to the Metropolitan museum of Art, travelling though Central Park again.

The Met is amazing.

It has a real Egyptian shrine in it! It was Washington Crossing the Delaware! It has Salvador Dali, Picasso, David’s ‘The Death of Socrates’, it has a wing the size of an ordinary museum dedicated to arms and armour, another to classical statues, yet another to modern art. I was in there five hours and I didn’t look at anything in detail – I actually just walked through and occasionally read a brief sign when interested. If I was to stay there for a week I wouldn’t get round – a month maybe more realistic. After my feet began to swell in my boots, I wandered down the road looking for the Guggenheim building, which is very famous. I took a photo of the building which is just cool, but the exhibits, no matter how famously amazing, didn’t really interest me at all - so I didn’t bother going through the hassle of turning off the flash every time I wanted a shot (this is why so many of my photos are overexposed. Sorry.)

After wandering around strawberry fields (the part of central park dedicated to john

Lennon) I bought a hot-dog (again by the order of my friend. This friend lived in New York while growing up, and was invaluable in her advice on where to go and what not to do. It was so good, so relevant (I stumbled from crisis to crisis in pretty much the order that she wrote down instructions of how to get OUT of the situations) that I was printing it off for other people in the hostel). I then went to the hostel and sorted out my life to get through JFK airport security – throwing away everything that even resembled a bottle or something like that.

By dinner time I was again feeling adventurous, so I moved out onto Broadway to look for pizza (which was apparently amazing.) After having such luck with the ‘hole in the wall’ bagel place, I walked into a really dodgy looking pizza shop and ordered a pepperoni (you only get one topping for some reason.) It was the best pizza of my life. I ha#
I've a shot of it here to remember it forever. And it was HUGE!

Getting up at four this morning was tough – since I was in a dorm on a Friday night, it didn’t matter I got to bed at 9 because I couldn’t exactly turn off the light, or asked them to shut up. Also people were walking in an out every hour until about 3am (it was a Friday after all.) So I got no sleep. And then, after busting a gut to get to JFK by 6am, it turned out my flight was booked for tomorrow instead! I simply couldn’t deal with going back and doing the whole thing again, so I changed my flight while I was at the gate, and left as I thought I was scheduled for San Francisco. If you have to fly an airline in the states, fly JetBlue, because it was nice. Delta and American Airways are pretty average, but JetBlue was actually NICE, which lots of legroom and free eats and everything that used to be nice about plane travel (including good looking male flight attendants). We were a bit delayed, because as we were sitting on the tarmac during boarding a tire punctured, so they had to change that, but nothing to serious.

After that we were in San Francisco airport, and through a remarkable piece of misdirection I ended up in the international baggage terminal. I got out in the end, but not without having to go through customs, who held me up because ‘I didn’t have the proper paperwork to enter the US.’ I managed to convince them to show me to the domestic terminal eventually, and the manager thought it was pretty funny!
So I am back in San Fran, living in my basement, and I am pleased I didn’t give back my keys. I’ll have to give them back eventually, but not yet. The plumbing seems even worse, if that’s possible, from when I was here over the fall, which is impressive, but the place is simply too good a base to refuse. I am going to bed now, because I am so tired. Good night!

permalink written by  Crosswood on January 12, 2008 from San Francisco, United States
from the travel blog: New Zealand Student, American University.
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It took me ages to read that post, and yet i still seet with rage at the blond bimbo. I wish shame upon her.

BIG day. My boss left New York yesterday. I shall here about it in person soon!

permalink written by  Rebecca on January 12, 2008

Oohh your previous training in early mornings stood you in good stead for your trip to New York! Who would have thought!

permalink written by  Mum on January 13, 2008

Glad things worked out in NYC and that you've made it back to SF and familiar home turf. Wow, did you ever cover a lot of territory in the short time you were there! I thought the military trained you to always head in the right direction?! But where would the adventure be in that, eh? Hope you get caught up on your sleep.

permalink written by  Gigi on January 14, 2008

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Crosswood Crosswood
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I am a second year Officer Cadet in the Royal New Zealand Army, going for a trip to Berkeley (University of California) in the United States. I have a sense of humour, poor organisational skills, and collect clocks.
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