A Travellerspoint blog

October 2013

Central Park

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Breakfast at 8pm. The TV was on and the United States Federal Government Shutdown was all over the news and as a tourist and not being familiar with the American politic system it took a while before you really understood what it was about. It was simply about budget disagreements between Democrats and Republicans and that the US had international loans over its maximum limit. But the news also focused on the so-called Obama Care which means that 15% of the US population (otherwise completely uninsured) is covered by Obama Health Care Law. The Republicans wanted to revoke Obama Care to ease the already stretched economy but when the Democrats didn’t agree to that the Republicans put a spoke in Obama’s wheel and forced the government into Federal Government Shutdown.

Neither my friend nor I knew what that meant for us as tourists but according to the New York Times they had closed the Statue of Liberty… and we had tickets for Statue of Liberty for tomorrow! So, we were hoping this would be a short thing (but now later on we all know it went on much longer). But today we had planned for a whole day in Central Park. We walked along Broadway to the southwest corner of Central Park. First, we planned on renting bikes but you are only aloud to bicycle along the bigger roads in the park so we cancelled that idea. So, if you’re planning on visiting Central Park – don’t rent any bikes. Walk instead. It’s worth it!


Facts about Central Park…
Central Park is a 3,4 km2 green square (4 x 0,8 km) in Manhattan, New York. In 1853 the decision was made to build a green area, but the area needed to be “cleansed out” of its inhabitants before the project could start. Most people lived in small villages like Seneca Village, Harsenville and Piggery District and were poor white people, free Afro-Americans or residents with British or Irish origin. They estimate the residents in the area were about 1600 people before the villages were leveled to the ground to give place to Central Park. The park was opened already in 1857. It wasn’t as big as today and was then situated in New York’s northern outskirts and not until many decades later the park had become an oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. A competition was announced in 1858 to design and develop Central Park that was won by landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstedt and the architect Calvert Vaux.
The construction began the very same year and continued during American Civil War and was completed in 1873. The park has millions of visitors every year and became a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Central Park consists of several natural lakes but also founded ponds. The forest seems natural but is substantially planted and about 4 million trees are planted in the park. The park has extensive pathways that have become popular jogging tracks for the inhabitants of New York. Central Park also consists of bridle paths, two ice rinks and Central Park Zoo. You have the opportunity to rent a bicycle to ride along the larger roads or rent a boat for a tour on one of the lakes in Central Park. Strawberry Fields is the memorial in John Lennon’s honor, after being shot outside his home in the Dakota Building next to Central Park December 8th, 1980. So across from his home is the memorial Imagine in Strawberry Fields and fans from all over the world gathers to participate in the annual memorial.


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We entered the park through Columbus Circle in the southwest corner and walked towards east and passed Gapstowe Bridge and Inscope Arch on the way to the statue Dancing Goat, a playful bronzed statue near the Central Park Zoo. But we passed the Zoo and walked to the famous statue Balto instead. A portrait of the sled dog Balto a Siberian husky who was the leading dog in his sled team transporting diphtheria cures in Alaska in early 20th century. This achievement has led up to a sled dog race in Alaska organized every year.


Then we walked towards Literary Walk, probably the most famous pathway in Central Park. A long alley lined by big maple trees, also called the Mall as I’m sure most of you have seen pictures on during the fall when the leaves changes color to an ocean full of red, yellow and orange leaves. Today it was about +25 °C and sunny so the fall seemed far away. Such shame since we were hoping to see some of the beautiful autumn colors.
We had a look at Eagle and Pray Statue standing close to the Mall. Then we walked via Navy Terrace towards the statue Alice in Wonderland. This impressive sculpture was given to all the children in New York and both children and adults are allowed to climb up on the statue. We then walked towards east and found Charles B Stover Bench which is a big bench made out of granite. It’s a special design that amplifies a whispering person’s voice at one end of the bench to the other person at the opposite end of the bench. My friend and I tried it and it did work! After that we headed for the Romeo and Juliet Statue but I must say it wasn’t that impressive compared to the other statues we already had seen.

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Time had passed by and we were really hungry. We left Central Park for lunch and sat down in Theodore Roosevelt Park and chilled for a while. The sun was broiling and it was hot even in the shadows. Back in Central Park we walked over Oak Bridge and the view over the Lake from this bridge is well-known around the world so that’s a must in Central Park! When we were walking along the Lake, we noticed a small building down at the water’s edge. A trail led us there so we took a look. Inside a young woman prepared for a romantic lunch and had created a heart out of rose leaves. She told us she prepared for a proposal. So romantic! She also asked us if it was enough rose leaves or if she should spread some more. “All over the place!” we said.


Then we headed for Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s memorial Imagine. We sat down on the benches for a while listening on a street musician sitting there playing his guitar. After that we took a quick look at the elegant statue the Falconer. A bronzed statue sculptured by George Blackall Simonds. We then walked back to the Mall and sat down in the shadows created by the big maple trees. We sat there for over an hour resting and just being in the moment.

When we were finished with Central Park for the day, we walked 6th Ave south towards our hostel. It’s amazing how many souvenir and gift shops there are in New York. Everywhere! And in the end, they all sell the same things. When we got to Times Square, we found a place selling Frozen Yoghurt. We just had to buy some! The heat and sugar rush made it irresistible. And it was sooooo good! After some food we took a power nap up in our room before hitting the streets again in the evening for some shopping. We bought a few pieces at least. We now had to fill up the suitcases we bought the other day before leaving New York ;) Before we went to bed, we searched the internet like crazy to see if Statue of Liberty was closed tomorrow. And everything pointed in that direction. But we agreed we would go down to Battery Park (where the ferry departure from) and see for ourselves what was going on.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york central_park Comments (0)

History, memories and more…

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We got up a little earlier today to be down at breakfast at 7am. On the news they were nagging about the Government Shutdown and Obama Care whether the president would give in to the Republicans or not. An hour later we took “the tube” down to South Ferry to find out if we could get out to Statue of Liberty or not. We arrived at Battery Park at 8.30am and walked to the ferry that was moored to the wharf. In fact, there were already people lined up so we joined them. The crew on the ferry came and told us that the ferry wasn’t owned by the government which meant that the ferry would take us out on the water and just circle around Liberty Island even though Statue of Liberty itself was closed. We’ll take it! Since we had already paid for the tickets it was a fair deal.
So, we embarked the ferry that was soon enough filled with tourists in hope of getting a view of Statue of Liberty up close, even though we wouldn’t be able to disembark Liberty Island. The ferry left the harbor going north on Hudson River and we got a magnificent view of Manhattan Skyline. The sun shined in an almost cloud free sky and made the buildings infinitely high. That was so impressive to see. Later the ferry turned around back towards south and Liberty Island and Statue of Liberty. The boat slowly passed the island so we would have time to take pictures but we didn’t get any closer than that. You could spot riot fences and barriers in the harbor at Liberty Island. Then the ferry made an extra turn in on East River and went in under Brooklyn Bridge before it turned back to the harbor. So, we did get some value for the money anyway, even though we couldn’t disembark and visit the actual crown of the Statue of Liberty (that we had paid for).


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Facts about Statue of Liberty…
The statue was a gift from the French government to America’s 100-year-celibration of independence. The statue was designed by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a young French sculptor who aimed for building a statue just as big as the colossal Helios that once stood on the Greek island Rhodos. The Statue of Liberty is inspired from the goddess Libertas from the Roman myths, with a glorious crown, attired ankle-length dress and slaveries chains by the feet. The Statue of Liberty’s face is told to be shaped after Bartholdi’s own mother Charlotte and the body is said being designed after a prostitute. The crown has seven spikes which symbolize the Seven Seas and the Seven Continents which freedom was being spread. In the left hand she holds a board with the inscription “July IV MDCCLXXVI” (4th of July 1776), which is the day America was founded and the English colonies in North America declared independence from. In her right hand she holds the torch that symbolizes enlightenment.
The Statue weigh 225 tons, is 46,5 meters high and together with the pedestal (27 meters) it reaches a total of 93 meters. Inside is a stairway you can use to get up all 354 steps up to the crown. The statue was manufactured in France and sent over to the USA in 214 pieces. It took nine years to assemble the statue and during six of those years the torch was exhibited in Madison Square Park to gain interest and finance the construction of the pedestal that the Americans had to pay for themselves. In 1884 the Statue of Liberty stood ready upon Liberty Island. In 1986, about hundred years after the completion of the statue, the torch was replaced with a new one, but the original is still available to see in the monument's museum.


Satisfied we disembarked the ferry and started to walk north to get to the Charging Bull. The Charging Bull is a 3,2 ton heavy bronze sculpture standing in Bowling Green Park close to Wall Street, Manhattan in New York. With its 3,4 meters height and almost 5 meters long, the sculpture symbolizes an aggressive financial optimism and success since it’s leaning backwards on its hips and with its head lowered ready to attack. The bull is a popular attraction, which we experienced. Once we had gotten there several busloads with Asian tourists were at the site taking turns photographing them with the sculpture. After a few minutes we gave up realizing we would have to wait all day long if we wanted to have a photo alone with the Charging Bull. So we kept on going along Wall Street down to East River and headed for Brooklyn Bridge instead. When we got up on the bridge the temperature was close to +27 °C and the sun was broiling high up in the sky. The wind was almost non-existent so we had to stop every other meter to drink water and rest in the shadow (where there was one).


Facts about the Brooklyn Bridge…
Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1869-1883 and linked New York and at the time independent city Brooklyn together. Brooklyn was founded by Dutch settlers during 17th century and was in the end of 1880 one of Americas largest cities. Fifteen years after the bridge was opened the citizens of Brooklyn voted for a motion that meant Brooklyn became a district of New York. Brooklyn Bridge is nowadays one of New York’s most famous landmarks. The idea to build Brooklyn Bridge was born when the German immigrant John Roebling took the ferry over East River and the ferry got stuck in the ice. Unfortunately, John Roebling crushed his foot, got tetanus and died and never got to see his masterpiece finished. His son Washington Roebling took over the project. But when the bridge was opened May 24th 1883, Washington laid on his deathbed, severely sick in caisson disease, after the pedestal work he had done on the bridge.
Father and son Roebling hadn’t just built a bridge that looked strong, its construction has proved to be just as strong. A network of wires is anchored into the ground to prevent the bridge to collapse whereof the strongest has a diameter of 28 cm. Even if the four strongest wires would break all the other wires would be enough to support the bridge. Roebling claimed the bridge would stand even without any wires. To disprove the people’s skepticism, he let a caravan of circus animals – including a herd of 21 elephants – pass on the bridge in 1884. With its length of 1,8 km and 486 meters span in-between the towers Brooklyn Bridge was the world's largest suspension bridge when it was completed. The most remarkable about the bridge should be the two stonewall towers which majorities of the wires are attached to. The two gothic arches reach a height of 84 meters each. Roebling claimed also that the memorable towers would make the bridge to a historical monument. And so it did. Brooklyn Bridge officially became a Historical Monument in 1964. During the years the bridge has had traffic of horses, trams and railways but today is only six traffic lanes for cars and an upper level for pedestrians and bicycles. The elevated pathway gives the visitors not only an opportunity to pass Easter River without being disturbed by traffic, but also gives a very nice view of the gothic towers and Manhattans Skyline.

So we walked almost halfway over the bridge before we turned around. Not that we didn’t want to but we had the Ground Zero or 9/11 Memorial scheduled and we wouldn’t make it if we didn’t turn around. After swirling around on the streets at Lower Manhattan (well posted signs though!) we arrived at the entrance. The queue was long and if you ever plan to visit Ground Zero you must consider 45-60 minutes only standing in line, especially during high season. The security level was high to get in, resembled of an airport security check. Guards checked your bag (water was allowed in though) and then you had to do a body scan for metal items before you could enter the actual 9/11 Memorial.

Facts about 9/11 Memorial or Ground Zero…
9/11 Memorial is the memorial of the terrorist attacks towards the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. The Monument, named “Reflecting Absence”, symbolize the area for the two twin-towers by two square lowered pools with eternal streaming waterfalls. Ground Zero opened just in time for the 10-year memorial of the attacks. The name of all victims from the September 11th 2001 and the terror bombings in 1993 are inscribed on the bronze panels around the pools. On-site are 400 planted trees and an underground museum (not yet opened during our visit though) that exhibit remains of the twin-towers from the terrorist attacks. One of all the trees that were planted on-site is known as “Survival Tree”. The tree, planted during 1970, was badly damaged and burned but was miraculously saved from all remains of World Trade Center in October 2001. N.Y.C. Parks Department took care of the tree and replanted it out on Memorial Plaza in December 2010.
The monument Reflecting Absence is built on the exact same spot as the two twin-towers were. The size of the pools and how they are placed are identical with how the towers once were. Along the pool sides streams waterfalls that can symbolize with how the towers imploded after the attacks. The reconstruction of the World Trade Center should be finished by 2020 and will consist of five skyscrapers. None of them will be higher than the two twin-towers. The tallest building “One World Trade Center” or “Freedom Tower”, with its 102 floors and 541 meters will be New York’s highest building. The height is symbolic since 541 meters (1776 ft) stands for the year America was founded, that is 1776. Freedom Tower shall be the most stable skyscraper in the world at the expense of 20 billion Swedish kronor. I remember exactly what I did that Tuesday September 11th, 2001. Soon after 5pm Swedish time the horror hit the news. Sweden and the whole world held their breaths. It wasn’t an action movie; it was for real. It’s hard to understand what the New Yorkers had to deal with that day.

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We got to the South Pool first and what struck me the most was the deafening murmuring from the waterfalls. The murmuring excluded Lower Manhattans busy city life and gave us visitors focus on the monument. The deepness of the pools was seemingly bottomless and no matter how long you stood there starring into the deep you couldn’t see the bottom. The mystery of the pools can resemble the consequences of the terrorist’s actions – just as deep and bottomless. I felt very small standing there looking down into the pools and realizing how fragile life is. I’m not a religious person in any way but I felt my life changed while standing there. About a month prior our trip they had broadcast the movie World Trade Center from 2006 with Nicolas Cage in the lead on TV in Sweden. So, with that movie fresh in mind (with authentic pictures from the attacks) I just had to honor the victims with a silent minute.


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After the visit I felt kind of emotionally empty and the heat didn’t make it better. After a well-needed lunch, we took the tube back to our hostel for some siesta. When we woke up, we craved for some frozen yoghurt. Brain freeze! But it felt ok because of the heat outside today. I had googled a candy store close to Central Park named Dylan’s Candy Bar. It is actually Dylan Lauren (Ralph Lauren’s daughter) that owns the store! So, it felt like a must when I was here in New York. We walked to 60th Street and 3rd Avenue and entered a total heaven for candy lovers. Two whole floors with candy and a third floor with a café. It wasn’t the cheapest candy you can buy but I did buy some anyway. On our way back to the hostel we shopped clothes at New York & Company on 5th Avenue. I found a pair of pants with 50% discount that I bought. Then we had to buy breakfast for tomorrow morning since we had to get up before hostel breakfast and catch our transfer at 5.10am for our day-trip to Niagara Falls.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york statue_of_liberty brooklyn_bridge ground_zero 9/11_memorial Comments (0)

Niagara Falls

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Got up early as h*** to catch the transfer that picked us up at our hostel at 5.10am. A dark red van stopped outside and picked us up. We were the first being picked up so we had to go around half of Manhattan and pick up 10 more people before heading towards JFK’s Int’l Airport. We got our boarding passes, passed security check (and they just had to pick me out of all people to do an extra check up on) and then we waited by the gate. The flight departed at 8.08am and arrived at Buffalo Niagara Int’l Airport at 9.28am. We met our guide Eduardo that was waiting for us (originally from Peru). He took us to his bus we were riding in during the day and handed out name tags for everyone to wear with Eduardo’s name and phone number in case we got lost from the group. He told us people did get lost (not very often but it happened). Often because they didn’t listen carefully at his instructions or happen to join a complete different guided group (had also happen). It took about an hour before we got to the actual Niagara Falls.


Facts about the Niagara Falls...
It was discovered in 17th Century by Louis Hennepin and consists of three waterfalls that are created by the Niagara River on the border between America and Canada. The falls are just in between the twin cities Niagara Falls (New York) and Niagara Falls (Ontario). The falls were shaped when the glaciers went back during the last ice age and water from the newly created Great Lakes carved its way through Niagara Escarpment and all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean. The clear green color of the water comes from dissolving salt and minerals and the total erosion per year is 30 centimeters and according to calculations the Niagara River will get undermined and cease to exist in 50000 years from now.
The Niagara Falls includes three waterfalls; American Falls, Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls) and Bridal Veil Falls. Niagara Falls has a height of fall at 54 meters and is totally 1203 meters wide and apparently far away from being the highest waterfall. But the falls are wide and the total amount of water running through is high during the summers and regulated down to half in the winter. More than half the river water in Niagara River does not run through the falls but runs through turbines and provides electricity for the surroundings nearby in both Canada and the US. The Horseshoe Fall (Canadian Falls) belongs to Canada. The fall is 53 meters high and 790 meters wide. In October 1829 Sam Patch became the first to survive a fall down the Horseshoe Falls. He thereby started a long tradition of adventurous persons who tried the very same thing. Nowadays it’s illegal to try going down the falls without a special permit. The American Falls belongs to USA and is 320 meters wide. Height of fall is 21-30 meters depending on big boulders at the waterfall base. Bridal Veil Falls also belongs to USA.
From the American side you can see the American Falls from the pathway along Prospect Point Park, which also has an observation tower and a harbor for the Maid of Mist (the boat that takes all the tourists close to the waterfalls). Goat Island separates American Falls from the Horseshoe Falls and offer more viewing points over the falls and is available by a bridge over the American Falls. From the Goat Island you can reach the Cave of the Winds by an elevator that leads the visitors to a point under the Bridal Veil Falls. The Canadian side has also a observation tower (Skylon Tower) from where you can get a nice opposite view and as long as to Toronto. On the Canadian side there are also underground tunnels leading up to an observation room giving the impression of being inside the waterfalls.


We embarked the boat Maid of Mist that took us all the way up to the falls. We stood on the deck in our blue rain covers (as provided) with the water falling around us. Foggy water drops were everywhere and even though we had those blue covers we got wet and moisture everywhere. The tour on the boat took about 15 minutes and after the tour we got 30 minutes of free time to explore and take photos. When everyone was gathered again, we got onto the bus crossing the border into Canadian side of the falls. We then had a well-needed lunch. Lucky us it was a lunch buffet and you could eat all you wanted. And the desserts were delicious! When we had ate all that food, we got on the bus again. I almost fell asleep due to food-coma but I just had to stay awake because we made stops for photographs all the time on the Canadian side.

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We saw the Horseshoe Falls, the Whirlpool and one water power station along the Niagara River. It was now afternoon and the early morning started to catch up on you. But we had the American side of the falls left to visit. So, we got back onto American territory again and over at Goat Island, the one separating Bridal Veil Fall from the American Falls. We got an hour to walk around on our own. We were all tired and hoped that this was the last stop for today. But it was only one more stop Eduardo promised us. Then we were going back to the airport again.

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We arrived at Buffalo Niagara Int’l Airport at 7pm and our flight departure was 8.46pm back to New York. The flight took off as scheduled and we arrived at JFK Int’l Airport at 10pm. Then we ran around on the airport before we found our transfer back to New York and our hostel at Times Square. We arrived at our hotel at 11pm and we fell asleep pretty un-rocked I can tell you.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Canada Tagged waterfalls niagara_falls traveling Comments (0)

The High Line

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We recompensed ourselves with a nice sleep-in this morning. Today we were spending a whole day in New York without being in time to everything. The heat hit us when we came down on 41st Street. It wasn’t just hot outside but also muggy and this fog that had enwrapped whole New York City. That was a little uncomfortable since we were spending the whole day in the city… We walked to West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to take the stairs up to the High Line in its north end walking south.

Facts about the High Line...
Situated in Manhattans Westside, the High Line was an elevated railroad that was used from 1934 to 1980. On the railroad transportation of milk, meat and other products from the butchers in the Meatpacking District went straight into the fabrics and storages along the High Line through Chelsea District to 30th Street. In 1846 the railroad running along the streets of New York and Manhattans Westside was approved. Precautionary hired horseback riding men – the West Side Cowboys - were riding in front of the trains waving flags. But still accidents occurred between trains and other traffic so 10th Avenue became known as “Death Avenue”. After several years of public debates about all the accidents they finally agreed to improve the situation by the West Side Improvement Project, including the High Line among other things.
The High Line was first opened for trains in 1934 and ran from 34th Street to St. John’s Park Terminal at Spring Street and was back then 21 km long. The High Line was designed to go through the districts instead of above the avenues avoiding the disadvantages with elevated trains. The track connected the fabrics and stores by driving the trains straight through the buildings. During 1950ies the truck transportation between the states increased while the train traffic decreased all over the country. During 1960ies the most southern part of the High Line was destroyed along Washington Street between Gansevoort Street and Clarkson Street, which was almost half of the track's length. In 2006 track restorations began inspired by Promenade plantée in Paris forming a rectangular park extending 22 blocks from 34th Street and down to Gansevoort Street. Total length of the High Line is 2,4 km (1,45 miles). The High Line has different opening hours that vary depending on which season of the year it is. The High Line can be reached by nine entrees and there are restrooms and refreshments along the way.


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We went up-stairs and started walking on the High Line. In the beginning it was almost unbearably hot, just about +30 °C , foggy and no wind even though we were close to Hudson River. But it was nice getting away from traffic and just walking without being afraid getting run-over by cars or bicycles. The planted green areas made the environment relaxing and the trees gave well-needed shadows. We went the 19 blocks south as the High Line extends and we got down on Gansevoort Street. We got something to eat at a nearby restaurant. My fellow traveler got in contact with this Pierre who obviously had spotted her from across the restaurant. They ended up exchanging phone numbers and decided to meet later in the evening.

My friend and I decided to walk on our own for a while and meet up later at the hostel again for dinner. I wanted to go to this Ground Zero Museum (420 west, 14th Street at 9th Avenue) and I really had trouble finding the address but I finally found a small sign next to an entry phone. I rang and a super nice lady answered. She had a booked tour at 1pm but I was welcome to come up and visit the museum until then, in other words 15 minutes. So, she did let me in and I went up the stairs to the museum. I got a little disappointed that it wasn’t bigger but there were still so many things to see. Artifacts and pictures from the terrorist attacks were displayed and you could buy books written all about 9/11. High up running all around the museum walls was a beautiful quote “Two bullets went into the World Trade Center but only love came out of it”.

Close to 1pm I left the museum and headed for the Swedish candy store “Sockerbit” (which means "piece of sugar" in English). It’s located on 89 Christopher Street in West Village and I had to walk around a lot before I actually found it. They have a lot of candy (with the Swedish names of course). They had all the typical Swedish candy there is. Not at the cheapest prices but what can you do when you’re craving for sweets? So, I just had to buy some. Then I walked along 7th Avenue and window shopped all the way back to our hostel. Just further down on 41st Street they had frozen yoghurt. I bought two flavors; orange and strawberry. But the orange tasted strange and the color itself screamed artificial. Then I rested for a while at our room before my friend came back and we went out for dinner. We even bought breakfast for tomorrow since we were leaving early to Philadelphia and the Amish region.

In the evening we had pre-booked the Broadway show Mamma Mia! in the Wintergarden theatre. The show was awesome and the story had been mixed with a lot of humor and the actors were great. It became a lot of laughing during the evening. Unfortunately, a group of Swedish (!) people sat on the row in front of us and blocked our view. My friend had been texting with Pierre and he was meeting us up after the show. We got to our hostel and sat down at the bar for a while. Later I felt tired and went up to the room. I wanted to be well-rested for the adventures in Philly tomorrow.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york the_high_line Comments (0)

Philadelphia and the Amish

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The bus to Philadelphia was leaving already at 7am from 125 Park Avenue just across from Grand Central Station. But our hostel was really close so it took us only 5 minutes to walk in the morning traffic. The bus had air conditioning and Wi-Fi onboard and it was well-needed later today. When we arrived in Philadelphia it was about +30 °C, sunny and no wind.

Facts about Philadelphia...
The first Swedish expedition arrived in 1638 to the area we today call Philadelphia. On the west flood bank the New Sweden colony was established with trade marketing place and settlements. During 1650ies Netherland colonizers took control over the area and in 1664 it eventually got concord by Englishmen. The English man William Penn does counts as the founder of the city and the city got formally city rights in 1701. The first American congress was gathered in Philadelphia and 4 July 1776 signed the declaration of independence and in 1787 the American constitution was signed in the city. Temporarily between 1790 and 1800 Philadelphia was actually the capitol city of the United States.
Liberty Bell is a bell in Philadelphia since 1752 and the story about the bell is considered being a myth. The story tells about an old man ringing the bell at the same moment the American congress claimed independency. It’s possible a man did ring the bell in the exact same moment in 8 July 1776 when the citizens gathered for the first reading of the declaration of dependence but there are no proofs of that. When the bell arrived in Philadelphia and was ranged for the first time a crack developed.


The heat hit us when we got off the bus at the first stop at Independence Hall, where the first American congress was seated. Because of the Government Shutdown the Independence Hall was closed so we couldn’t go inside and se the Liberty Bell. But we could still see the bell through a big window. Then it was finally time for breakfast, or rather brunch. It was a huge buffet and you paid after the weight.
Then we were supposed to visit the United States Mint, where all the coins are made in America. The main office is in Philadelphia and a few other offices in the rest of the US. But because of the Government Shutdown it was also closed. Bummer! It would have been fun to see.


We walked on the streets of Philadelphia and came to Elfreth’s Alley – the USA’s first street. The street is about 50 meters long and was created around 1703 and the cobbles still there today are the original cobbles from 1703. Elfreth’s Alley is today a National Historic Landmark and the houses have been kept the way they were when the street was created. After that we walked to Betsy Ross House - the house where Betsy Ross lived. This is the woman according to the history handmade the first United States flag and during that time there were only 13 states. Today Betsy Ross is buried next to her house which today is a museum.

Later we took the bus and drove to Philadelphia Museum of Art and walked upstairs. But the heat made it difficult and sweaty. But from up the stairs you get a nice view over Philadelphia and in front of the stairs there’s a statue of George Washington sitting on a horse. Nearby the museum stood four guys disguised to Ghost Busters. I can only imagine how warm they were in the heat. Even a Sylvester Stallone copy-like was there hoping to earn money by letting people taking their photos.


The bus picked us up later and drove us to Lancaster County and the Amish community there. One buggy ride was included in the price we already had paid for this day-trip. But this buggy ride was big enough for 15 people and the coachman was born Amish but wasn’t anymore. He didn’t even wear typical Amish clothing. What a disappointment. But he was well familiar with the Amish way of living. This is a short version of what he told us during the buggy ride… The Amish children are schooled for 8 grades and after that they start working at home. The youngest son in the family is the one inherits the farm. The rest of the family (in average 7.4 children per family) must leave and start their own families elsewhere. When the Amish people came to Pennsylvania, they were about 250 people. Nowadays they are estimated to 300 000 Amish and now living in 30 of the American states.

After the buggy ride we drove to Kitchen Kettle Village, a shopping center in the middle of the Amish area. We ate food, looked around in the shops. Our guide had told us to try out the Amish homemade ice cream, and we did. Both the ice cream and cones were handmade it was the best damn ice cream I’ve ever eaten! At 4pm we gathered at the bus and drove back to New York again. We got off at Grand Central Station and when we passed Bryant Park, we noticed a lot of cars, trailers and trucks. We wondered what was happening… and we soon found out. On one of the cars a note was posted “Law & Order”. They were shooting sets for the TV series Law & Order in Bryant Park. We started fantasizing a murder and that we would ask the film crew if we could be walkers-on... haha ;)

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Madame Tussauds

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And the rain came as predicted, or at least I was cloudy and drizzled. And half of New York had planned the same thing so we weren’t exactly alone visiting Madame Tussauds today. It was barely unbearably hot in the entrée so lucky us who had pre-booked tickets so we could skip all the waiting in lines and just passed through them. Inside the museum the temperature was better.

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Celebrities, presidents and athletes all made in wax were exhibited at all floors of the museum and they were really well-made and look-alike. When you got into a crowded room you couldn’t really tell who was a wax doll or human sometimes. A little creepy when "a doll" started to move around. We walked through the museum in an hour. After that we decided to walk on our own and meet up later for dinner in the evening. I visited a lot of dressing stores hoping to find real bargains. I walked along Broadway, 7th Avenue and 6th Avenue without finding something truly exciting.
However, I had started to get a sore throat so I bought something at the Pharmacy to ease the pain. It wasn’t a question IF you would catch a cold here in New York but WHEN. Half of New York were coughing and had nasal catarrh so it had to be a miracle if I wouldn’t get any of it. We met at the hostel later that evening and went out to an Italian restaurant and ordered pasta. Unfortunately, they had a little too much garlic in their salad.

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Shopping at Woodbury

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A cloudy and all grey morning in New York. This day was planned spending on shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Outlet. Unfortunately, about 500 other people were thinking the same thing. But they called in extra buses so all people could travel. My cold was not getting any better and thank God for the sore throat lozenges I bought yesterday.
We arrived at the shopping center ten minutes prior opening so we had time to get maps and the book of discount coupons that they handed out for free. When the stores opened at 10am and doors opened you could just run crazy. I had loaded my credit card with almost unlimited amount of money so I could just go for it. Discount signs here and there, all in between 20-70% off. And we are talking brands like Banana Republic, Adidas, Nike, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Disney, Izod, Gucci and so on. My favorite became Calvin Klein since the clothes did fit my “special designed” figure ;) We met for lunch. Then we went back for some more shopping as my credit card were almost glowing. But when the time was around 3pm we felt exhausted finished shopping and decided to take the bus back to New York.

But now all the trouble started. First of all, none of the buses back to New York did departure in time. And when you spotted a bus it just drove by! Second, it started to rain like hell. Yes! Awesome (not)! Without an umbrella holding like 72 shopping bags in my hands… And I felt my nose started to flow. So, I had to stuff my nose with paper handkerchiefs so I didn’t have to blow my nose all the time. Haha, I can only imagine how funny I looked! But finally, a bus came and stopped. But all people in the line (which had become quite long by now) couldn’t embark this bus. But we finally could embark the next bus. All wet and tired we sat down at our seats.
But don’t think the trouble ended here! After half an hour the driver drove off the road to a bus depot and none of us passengers understood what was going on. Apparently, something was wrong with the bus. Something with the air conditioning so the driver couldn’t see through the window because of the condensation. So, for safety reasons the driver changed to another bus. And of course, if the driver can’t see I don’t want to ride on that bus! So now all passengers had to get off the bus with all their shopping bags and get onboard the new one. When everyone finally was seated on the new bus the bus driver announced that this was the WRONG bus… My first thought was, “What the f***?! Are you kidding me?!” So once again we all had to disembark the bus with all shopping bags and embark a third bus. And when I was grabbing my shopping bags the paper bags had almost dissolved from all the raining and fell out. YES! Then I lost my patient. This was not happening! After crumple everything up in plastic bags I boarded the third bus and sat down on the first best seat. Angry, cranky, with a cold and now probably even fever I sat there and thought that if something else happens now before we got back to New York - I’ll explode.

Fortunately, nothing else happened. But we had run late so we got stuck in the rush hour in New York. The drive back to New York would have taken 1 hour, but according to Murphy’s Law the bus drive took 3 hours! As soon as we got off the bus I went to the nearest Pharmacy and bought nasal spray because now my nose had swollen up so I couldn’t breathe. So, after a hot shower, nasal spray, sore throat lozenges and pills reducing the fever I managed to sleep all night. And those of you who wonder why on earth I could go to Woodbury with a cold I can just tell you I don’t regret it at all. I haven’t made so many bargains in years.

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Love the Shoes

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This was our last whole 24-hour day in New York. I woke up and felt pretty alert compared to yesterday. And the nasal spray had done its miracle against both nasal catarrh and swollen nose. We just relaxed today. Went out and visiting stores one last time checking out we hadn’t missed anything. We also went to Aerosol again, the shoe store with great and service minded staff. I did end up buying a pair of shoes with heels (!) that’s wearable to everything – jeans, leggings, skirts, dresses – you name it! And I’m not someone who can wear high heels but thanks to Aerosol I now own a pair! I love them :)

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We stopped at a restaurant and ate before we walked on our own. I walked up north to Central Park. Sat down on a bench at the Mall and enjoyed the sunshine. After half an hour I started walking towards 5th Avenue and looked around in the clothing stores to see if I found something I wanted to buy. But I actually felt quite finished and happy about my shopping yesterday… in fact I began feeling finished with New York too (this time around)! Homesickness had starting to crawl up on you. Getting home to the food I’m used to, drinking water out of the tap, watching TV, driving my own car… but most of all my bed! We had a day-trip to Washington D.C. planned for tomorrow though.

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Washington D.C.

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Woke up early in the morning for the day-trip to Washington D.C. The bus departed from 125 Park Avenue at Grand Central Station at 7am. A fully seated bus with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, thank God. Our guide Eddie was born and raised in the United States but had Albanian parents. He guided our tour in both English and French. One couple from India had to complain about pretty much everything! Before the bus even left Grand Central Station, they wanted to get off the bus (on the way back) somewhere along Interstate 95. They claimed the bus driver had promised them that. Eddie, who must have had an angel's patience, tried to explain that they had bought return-trip tickets to Washington D.C. and that they couldn’t let people off on the highway. The Indian couple then changed their request and just wanted to get off the bus somewhere in Maryland. Once again poor Eddie had to explain that he and the driver had the responsibility to get all passengers back and forth. But if they wanted to, they could get off the tour in Washington D.C. They said they had to think about it for a while.

And eventually after long discussions with the Indian couple the bus could leave Central Station only 20 minutes late. About an hour later Eddie announced the bus would make a stop at a service area in Baltimore for breakfast. We had only 40 minutes before the bus where leaving again. And the Indian couple just had to argue with Eddie again. They wanted more than 40 minutes and demanded at least 1 hour. Sigh! And poor Eddie (with a heart of gold) had to convince them that 40 minutes was all the time they would get but we were more than welcome to bring the breakfast with us on the bus to eat. Finally, they accepted it and everyone was back on the bus after 40 minutes (even the Indian couple). We continued our drive south towards Washington D.C. After a while the Indian couple was argumentative again. Now they thought the bus driver looked tired and they wanted him replaced. And once again Eddie had to discuss with the couple. It was actually a second driver on the bus just in case but Eddie explained that if the driver would get tired, they would switch immediately. All passengers on the bus just shook their heads and sighed loudly and got annoyed over the Indian couple. We finally arrived in Washington D.C. The first distinctive feature knowing you are in Washington D.C is the lack of sky-scrapers.

Facts about Washington D.C...
Washington D.C. or Washington District of Columbia is the US capitol city with wide avenues, parks and many white buildings and monuments. The city doesn’t belong to any state but its own district geographically. District of Columbia covers a 180km2 area along the Potomac Rivers’ west side. But later on the city has been counted in to a big metropolis area together with Baltimore, the so called Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area, which makes Washington D.C. the fourth biggest city in the United States (after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago).
The city history begins July 16 in 1790, when the Founding Fathers liberated the country’s capitol city from the states and was placed in its own district, District of Columbia. United States first president George Washington had personally chosen the area by the Potomac River in Maryland. They bought a rectangular area from privet owners and in 1791 the city got the name Washington honoring the president. Officially Washington D.C. became capitol city and home for the government in December 1st 1800. Since the city is outside the state system the region answers directly under the congress. Washington D.C. has been spared from violence with exceptions from the war in 1812, when British troops invaded the city and lit the White House and Capitolium on fire. The city development was difficult because of the partially non drained swamp in the area and not many people wanted to settle there. First around 1900 when the city plans came alive the drainage pipe systems developed and avenues and streets planted with trees. New monuments (Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington among others) were built and the city government grew. In year 1945 the United States military headquarter Pentagon was ready.
The White House is the official residence and primary office for the United States President. The White House was built after a congress decision in December 1790 and the architect James Horban got the honor to design. The blue print of the White House was greatly influenced by Leinster House where the Irish government is seated in Dublin. The White House was open for the public until beginning of the 20th century.
Washington D.C. suffered from the 9/11 attacks when Pentagon was attacked by one of the hijacked airplanes. The airplane had just taken off from Washington Dulles International Airport. Some believe a fourth hijacked airplane, United Flight 93, was meant to hit the White House or Capitoleum. The airplane went down in Pennsylvania most likely after the hijackers were overpower by the passengers.


We were supposed to start with a visit to Smithsonian Space Museum but it was closed due to Government Shutdown. So, Eddie took us to Arlington National Cemetery instead. It is a famous graveyard that has been sets in many movies and TV series when they are having military or naval burials. On the way over there we passed Pentagon.

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Then we stopped at Lincoln Memorial which is a memorial for both Vietnam and Korean War. The security here was extreme. Mounted police officers rode the streets, helicopters flew in the air and K9-units patrolled the ground.

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A visit to the city’s local Madame Tussauds was included, but it wasn’t as big as in New York and I think my friend and I walked through the museum in 10 minutes. Then we had time for lunch before gathering at the bus again. The bus was parked on the same street as the theatre where the president Lincoln was shot. He died in the house just across the street though.

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When everyone was seated on the bus again, we headed for Capitoleum and later the White House. Outside United Secret Service guarded the White House and Eddie told us that sometimes you can actually see the snipers up on the roof. But I couldn’t see anyone. Outside on the street a woman named Conchita has lived since 1981 protesting against pretty much everything. And she was there even today.
This was the last stop in Washington D.C. before the bus drove back towards New York again. And thank God the Indian couple had decided to stay here in Washington and not travel back to New York. I think all passengers on the bus could exhale now, even Eddie. We managed to drive into rush hour traffic in Washington D.C, Baltimore and New York which made us coming back at 10pm. So, this trip took 15 hours instead of 13 hours as promised.

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Leaving for now…

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Day of departure. In the morning at breakfast the TV was on as usual and the only thing they spoke about was the Government Shutdown. Now the population had start revolting across the States since families to soldiers killed in combat didn’t get their payment. So, people had started collect money meaning that these families shouldn’t need to worry about how to pay rent or for food now when they had lost a family member in battle. And all federal employees stayed at home since they also didn’t get paid, which affected us as tourists. We missed visiting the Statue of Liberty and other attractions in Washington D.C. But there wasn’t much we could do about the situation.

Then we packed our baggage. We had managed to fill up our new suitcases we bought here in New York with clothes and shoes so we felt very pleased. We checked out from the hostel. We could still put our baggage in the reception until we had to leave. So, we went out checking the streets of New York one last time. Then we took the tube to Jamaica and from there we took the Air Train to JFK Int’l Airport. Since we had booked different flights back home, we got off at different terminals. I had to wait for another 30 minutes until the check-in opened. I passed the security check and then I had to wait for like 2 hours until boarding. So, I bought something to eat and bought water before I could board the flight. The flight took off at 8.40pm and as usual I got a seat with a lot of over energetic kids and young adults that wouldn’t sleep. But I could only plug my ears and try my best to get some kind of sleep. The aircraft landed at Keflavik Int’l Airport on Iceland at 6.15am local time. I had like an hour to change flight and then it took off towards Stockholm and Arlanda Airport. So, at 12.30pm I was finally standing on Swedish ground again. Picked up my baggage and took the train back home. I’m so glad I had a pre-booked cab waiting for me at the train station taking me home to the door now when I had to large suitcases to handle.

Summarizing the trip, I must say it was an amazing trip! The western riding was great. Nice horses, lovely staff and amazing nature. And New York… what can I say? I LOVE IT! The people in the streets, the attractions, memorials, patriotism and kindness of the citizens… what else is there to expect? Only negative thing was the Government Shutdown that affected us tourists. But on the other hand, that means I still have things left to see in New York – so I have to get back again ;)

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