So...I've been away for a couple of months now, visiting 7 different countries; an update is overdue to say the least.
Yes, I am alive and still in one piece, minus the odd scrape, and still have all my possessions, minus the odd iPhone. I'll leave that as a teaser for later...best to start at the beginning I say.
1st Stop NYC
I touched down in JFK on the 28th Dec and could have been anywhere had it not been for the line of yellow cabs waiting outside. However, it wasn't until I was sitting in a cab paid for by a stranger (this sort of thing happens when you travel) and the famous Manhattan skyline emerged over the horizon that the reality of where I was hit home. This was New York, f***in ay!
But things never run smoothly with me - I contrived to to hit NY with not enough money, no cash, and hadn't unblocked my account for overseas. To make matters worse, my hotel required the balance on arrival, so I had no place to stay. Good start Steel.
Luckily Manhattan is an easy place to get about, so I wandered about for the day with all my possessions in tow like a tramp, looking for a place to crash.
I found a cheap hostel and sorted myself out the next day, so I could begin experiencing NY. It is, as you would expect, a very vibrant and noisy city. I also realised that most of the stereotypes from films are true - the over zealous cops, the accents, the gangsters, the cab drivers, the mentality and the rawness of the city. If you've ever played GTA, you'll find that some of the characters in the game come to life!
On my 2nd day (don't worry, I'm not doing it day by day) a friend from Uni, Julianne, kindly drove down from Connecticut with her Dad to show me about Manhattan, give me a helpful list of things to do and take me out to a great Cuban restaurant.
With that list and my New York City guides I managed to cram in a hell of a lot of stuff in 2 weeks. Too much to mention it all but some of the highlights were - Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Centre, Empire State (not as big as expected), Museum of Modern Art (a who's who of contemporary artists) for a Van Gogh exhibition, Chicago at Broadway, Brooklyn Bridge, Madison Sq. Gardens for a Knicks game, a jazz bar and the essential shopping.
I gave those sidewalks a good pounding as well. On foot is a great way to see the city, from the Financial district up to Central Park. I loved the strip from the Meatpacking District across to East Village - a lot of cool bars, shops, clubs and cafes (one from the film Harry met Sally, which does the best pastrami sandwiches) and it was possible to meet some authentic locals there as well, unlike tourist central, Times Sq! This strip also included St. Marks, a punky area packed with tattoo and piercing parlors which has to be seen.
And of course, there was what I originally went for: Times Square for New Year. I was there. In my kilt. Next to eager Asians. For 8 hours. It was minus 8... and it was worthwhile! The atmosphere was electric, the place was full and as you would expect my kilt got a bit of attention. More than that, because of the huge build-up it actually felt like a New Year after the big countdown and the ball had dropped. Once in a lifetime though.
My second week in NYC found me at the NY Loft Hostel in East Williamsburg. Brooklyn baby! This was in an industrial area and on my exit from the subway it must be said that I had a 'where the hell am I' moment as I took in my surroundings - deserted, with big old brownstone warehouses and factories.
But in the evenings it took on a livelier atmosphere and I found some cool bars and restaurants hidden away. Williamsburg is one of the upcoming trendy areas - very bohemian, with many interesting characters and musicians mulling about. In one grungy rock bar I found, called the Wreck Room, the bartender was straight out of Wayne's World!
My hostel there was very cool, with massive rooms and lots of friendly foreigners, including a bunch of Brazilians who liked to party. Daytime there was spent exploring Manhattan and Brooklyn, which has cool places to visit too, while nightime was left for drinking and partying. My time there flew by, there was always something to do and, despite the freezing cold (I should be used to it), I had an absolute blast. I heart NY and I've got the T-shirt to prove it.