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The land of the free

Posted by: Jayo

Tagged in: USA , New York , Manhattan , JFK , America

Jayo

Okay, so my family & I were on holiday in the USA last year & I promised to relate my experiences on myDL. This is the first of a series on our escapades in the States. This blog will focus on our first day in NY. Here goes!

Day 1 - New York, New York

We left Joburg on 20 November flying Virgin Atlantic (excellent airline) via London Heathrow & arrived in The Big Apple on 21 November. Shaanlee was surprisingly well behaved for an 18 month old infant on her first plane trip. I had already prepared myself for the interrogation I was bound to receive from the notorious immigration & customs officials but was pleasantly surprised when they were extremely friendly & courteous.

After passing through the checkpoints without any fuss we found ourselves standing in the arrivals lounge at JFK International & all the signs the internet told me would direct me to the shuttle service were conspicuous in their absence. Being tired & in urgent need of a bed I caved in to an offer by an Indian man dressed like a Hip-Hop star to take us to Manhattan in his cab. He said the trip would cost me less than $50. I had read that the cabs were expensive but at that point I really couldn’t be bothered. As we walked to the parking lot I began to wonder why the Indian P Diddy was walking away from what seemed to be the ‘taxi rank’ for the yellow cabs. We then approached a rather large, black Chrysler 300C & he proceeded to load our luggage into the ‘trunk’. Thoughts of the Soprano’s running through my head, we jumped into the gangsta limo & headed for Manhattan.

JFK is located in the borough of Queens on Long Island & the view of the Manhattan skyline on this clear day was fantastic. Queens is connected to Manhattan by the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the Queensboro Bridge, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel. The bridges are free to cross but the tunnel is a toll road. Which route do you think Diddy chose to use?....... You guessed it, the tunnel. The tunnel runs under the east river & exits in Midtown Manhattan.

Diddy dropped us off at our hotel & handed me a receipt. The name on the receipt was New York Limo’s which explains why the price on the receipt was twice what he quoted me……….$96 i.e. R700. When I queried this exorbitant amount he said that I have to pay for his parking ticket at JFK, the toll fees, ‘gas’ & his tip as $50 went to the Limo company & not to him. I was not in the mood to argue so I paid the fair. I had just been extorted by gangsta cab/limo driver……….welcome to New York!

Our hotel was located in Murray Hill & was literally 5 minutes away from Madison Square Garden & the Empire State Building. Don’t let that fool you though, it was not a 5 star hotel. Manhattan is expensive & Natasha & I chose the cheapest option we could find when we made our bookings. Mind you the cheapest option was R3000 per night. We figured we would be spending most of our time on the tour & just needed a bed to crash but we were totally unprepared for what we got. Our room was smaller than my second bathroom at home & the bed was as comfortable as the ride in a Tata Indica but I was so tired it felt like I was sleeping on air.

I awoke at 10pm, my body clock completely out of whack. We got up, got dressed & strolled through the streets of Murray Hill which reminded me of Walthamstow in London. We found a Subway (the fast food joint not the actual underground train station) & ordered a couple of foot long rolls which were actually quite good. We went back to our hotel & watched a bit of American TV & then retired to bed. As I lay in our Tata Indica my thoughts were filled with all the things I was going to see & do over the next couple of weeks. I was suddenly overcome with excitement. I eventually fell asleep at 3 in the morning with a smile on my face………I was in the U.S. of A!!!!!!

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