A Travellerspoint blog

June 2016

Anxiously waiting…

It was unusually warm and muggy outside, on a Saturday like this. When I finished packing my bags, I realized that one large bag and one carry-on bag would be pretty tough dragging down to the train station in this weather condition. So, a thought hit me that it might be possible to take the bike… but no, I don’t know what I was thinking but it was definitely not possible to bike with those two big bags anyway. After a lot of shilly-shallying I finally arrived at the train station and had plenty of time before the train departed. Hot! Did I mention that? You could barely stand out in the sun, so shadow was badly needed. They announced on the screens that the train would be 3 minutes late – what a surprise (not)?! Well, a few minutes were okay but no more than that, since I had a train change in the neighbor city to continue on to Stockholm Arlanda Airport. While standing on the platform the delay became even longer and just then they announced that it was due to signal error… *sigh* Signal error seems to be the first thing they blame on when delays occur, you don’t even get surprised anymore. And here in Sweden the trains do not wait for another when two different train companies operate, and that was just the case for me with two different companies. Oh well, I should have taken a taxi to the neighbor city at once as the first sign of delay occurred. I got in conversation with another traveler about us splitting a taxi and we were pretty close doing so when we by chance heard from a kind person that the train in the neighbor city will wait for this delayed train no matter how long it will take. And why? You’ll see, the staff working onboard the train from the neighbor city to Arlanda were waiting for this delayed train on the same platform as us and needed to ride with the same train. Hmm. Sometimes you’re lucky!

My brother Danny, boarded the train a little further along the way and we could finally look forward to this trip, or? Right behind us were a mother and her two children perhaps 3 and 6 years old. They were loud and made sure that all passengers in the same train cart knew they were on board. Whining, shouting and loud discussions for about two hours to Arlanda floored us, my brother and me. Once at Arlanda, we decided to eat something before calling the transfer to our hotel. We spent a large part of that evening trying to understand why I wasn’t able to check in my brother online for the flight. However, I did I kept on receiving a text message saying; “due to government regulations you need to be checked in at the airport”. Neither I nor my brother had any clue what that meant. We could agree on two possible scenarios though. Either he had just been randomly selected for some kind of questioning or that the airline had discovered something that was unclear and wanted to ask about. Or a second less possible scenario was that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) had discovered something after the visa application that they wanted to talk to my brother about. But that felt far-fetched because that would not prevent him from checking in for the flight, that questioning would take place at immigration at JFK Intl Airport in New York. So, an anxious waiting and tensions was in the air that evening. Worst case scenario would be that my brother was refused entry in to the US and that I would be forced to do this trip on my own.

Posted by bejjan 08:32 Archived in USA Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Allow yourself to be a tourist sometimes ;)

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After an unusual warm night and only a few hours of sleep (have never experienced more rustling bed blankets in a hotel before) you had to get up early in the morning to get ready, eat breakfast and transfer back to Arlanda Airport. For once the flight departed from terminal 2. Quite surprisingly since Delta Air Lines is one of the largest airlines in the United States, so I had almost anticipated terminal 5 – but not. To locate Delta Air Lines check-in counters was relatively easy. Since I was already checked in online, I went to a self-service kiosk to collect my boarding pass and baggage tag. I got my boarding pass but no baggage tag. My brother tried to check in via self-service kiosk as well but wasn’t able to but asked to visit a check-in counter. Since we were early at the Airport it had luckily not yet become a long queue. While waiting in line personnel came from Delta Air Lines and began questioning each person about where they were going, why, purpose of trip, for how long and so on. In other words, sheer cross-examination. When the questioning was finished each and one of us got a sticker on the backside of our passport as a proof that you were approved – kind of. And that applied to every passenger in the queue! This was my third time flying to the US and I have never experienced anything like that before. I have flown with Delta Air Lines nationally within US before, but now was the first time internationally. So perhaps this is Delta Air Lines normal routines on flights to US?

Eventually my brother and I got called up to a check-in counter and it didn’t seem to be any problems for the man to check in neither me nor my brother. Well, no problems passing through security check either. Now we had to kill time before boarding at 7.30 am. Arlanda Airport’s terminal 2 is not big in comparison to terminal 5. After security check there is like one tax-free shop and two places to buy lighter meals and one or two souvenir shops. So not much you can amuse yourself with. But shame on him for giving in. After another passport check and waiting at the gate the boarding started. Because we had our seats way back in the aircraft, we belonged to the group boarding last… wouldn’t it be smarter to board the passenger in the back first? I have been thinking about that for a long time, that it must be the most time efficient to start in the back?
Anyway, I scanned my boarding pass and was on my way to the plane when I turned back to see where Danny was. Saw that he had been taken aside by security guards for questioning. Now, my brother wasn’t the only one taken aside for additional questioning, it was quite many people. But yet again… did they really have time for questions now during boarding? So, a little anxious I sat down at my seat in the plane and could only wait. It felt like two hours passed by before Danny showed up inside the aircraft. But now we were finally both in place and could sit back “looking forward to” 7 hours and 45-minute flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport, US. After a night of poor sleeping, I had a tough time to keep me awake between the meals.


The airplane touched down just before 11 am and I had honestly expected a massive queue to immigration and customs. But it was really calm, almost no passengers at all. Then took the Air Train to Jamaica Station and changed to subway (E-train) to Manhattan. Or well, that was the idea anyway. When we boarded the E-train and was heading towards Manhattan they announced several times that due to construction work the train would not stop at certain stations (it was difficult to hear which ones) so I felt it was better to get off the train a few stations earlier. But it turned out to be a few stations too early! After wandering around for a while and eventually waved in a cab, it turned out we were in Queens… ha ha, sometimes you have to allow yourself to be a tourist ;)

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Once we crossed the East River and gotten into New York lunch traffic we spotted well known landmarks like Chrysler Building and Empire State Building.


Now it turned out that a significant part of New York’s streets was closed due to NYC Pride Week’s parade happening that day, so traffic chaos was worse than usual. But after a lot of ifs and buts we arrived at NYMA (New York Manhattan Hotel) at 6 West 32nd Street. We received a double room at 13th floor and just outside our hotel window was Empire State Building in its pride. Alright views ;)


Tired and hungry we went out on the street and chose the very first best restaurant to eat. It turned out to be a Korean restaurant and we ordered one dish each. Only problem was that the staff came with like 30 tiny plates with different meat, chicken, vegetables, rice, potatoes and so on and it was impossible to figure out which ones belonged to me or my brother. Moreover, they lit a barbecue on the table for us to barbecue the meat and chicken. Then it was the thing with eating with chopsticks. It’s definitely not my thing.


With satisfied hungers we walked via Broadway north to Times Squares to check out the mood. Crowded as usual. It was very warm and muggy outside and one became sweaty just by moving a little bit. Really felt like it needed to rain and thunder.


We walked to Bryant Park and sat down for a while and just absorbed the environment, traffic, buildings. We did a devious back to the hotel and managed to get on the “wrong” side of the closed 5th Avenue (due to the gay parade) to get back to the hotel. It was barricades and, in that way, impossible to cross the avenue. We walked and walked and finally found a passage at 34th Street where you could cross 5th Avenue. Once back in on our hotel room and somewhat (very) jetlagged it was no problem to go to bed early this evening.

Posted by bejjan 08:36 Archived in USA Tagged new_york traveling chrysler_building Comments (0)

A City Oasis

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A proper sleep-in would have been nice this morning, but with a body still set at Swedish time it didn’t quite happen that way. Hotel breakfast was okay, it satisfied your hunger at least. This particular morning you could tell that something definitely had been burned in the kitchen since a heavy smoke had spread in the dining area. Once back in our hotel room both we and our clothes saturated in the burnt smoke.

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The plan for today was to visit Central Park. The warm frowzy air remained in New York and held the city in a firm iron grip and it was even worse down in the subway. We bought us a 7 Day Metro Card each and then took the B-train to 103rd Street to enter Central Park. It was warm and frowzy outside even though it was still morning, probably close to +30 °C and maybe more. But it was endurable thanks to shadows given by the trees in the green leafy park. Since I had been in Central Park before I knew which way to go for me and my brother to see the most scenic parts of Central Park like the well-known the Mall, Alice in Wonderland (though it was closed due to annual cleaning of the statue), Imagine, Turtle Pond etc. We strolled around in the park during a couple of hours and saw beside well-known statues and monuments also classic street artists and carriages and of course the police. Every time I’m in the US I wonder at how many officers they have patrolling the streets. That’s not something you’re used to if you live in Sweden. A Cheeseburger each had to do as lunch since neither my brother nor I could eat more due to the terrible heat outside.

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When we left Central Park in its southeast corner, we weren’t that far away from Dylan’s Candy Bar. New York is not known for being a cheap city and the prices in this candy store you will have to cough up money if you feel the need for sugar. Despite scandalous prices, Dylan’s Candy Bar is definitely worth paying a visit even though you leave empty-handed. There is candy in all its colors and flavors, for both children and adults. Candy can be found on two out of total three floors and on the third floor is a café.
We took the subway back to Grand Central Station for a quick visit inside the magnificent building. In the main entrance a 360° movie theater was set up where they showed a movie about the nature and landmarks of Italy. We were fortune enough to be just in time for the last film show of the day. It was a 10-minute movie and I wasn’t that impressed even though it was my first 360° movie. The temporary movie theater was poorly set up and the projectors didn’t overlap very well. But on the other hand, what could you expect when it was for free?

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While close to the UN Headquarters we walked over there and took some pictures at the iconic UN Building. Then a smooth ride with the subway back to the hotel for resting before dinner at Rossini’s Restaurant. Say what you want about the restaurant itself, but it was absolutely nothing wrong with the food. At least it was a tasty chicken and great wine. When back at the hotel again we took the opportunity to visit the roof top bar. From up here we had an excellent view of Empire State Building which we would benefit from the upcoming 4th of July Weekend, when the building was lighted up by red-white-blue colors in various patterns.

Posted by bejjan 08:46 Archived in USA Tagged new_york central_park Comments (0)

You learn something new every day ;)

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We began the day by taking the subway south to Flat Iron Building. The building was completed in 1902 and was then one of the highest buildings in New York with its 20 floors. An additional floor was added three years later. Flat Iron Building is one of the most known landmarks and icons in New York, thanks to its characteristic shape. Then we took the same train but northbound to 49th Street and Gray Line’s ticket office. It was time to collect our bus tickets for tomorrows shopping in Woodbury. When that was taken care of, we didn’t have more plans for the day. We started walking towards Times Square and passed Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and felt that we could spontaneously visit it. Only problem was the gigantic queue lining up outside. Since I visited the museum three years ago, I knew there were VIP tickets with so called “express line”. But to get tickets we needed access to Wi-Fi, which could be found at McDonald’s right next door. So, after some fixing and tinkering getting the e-tickets we could just slip past the queue and go straight in to the museum.

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Although the majority of the wax dolls were the same as three years ago there were new wax dolls as well. But what had I expected?


Included in the ticket was the new 4D movie “Super Heroes”. With worthless 3D glasses, a jumping seat, showered with water and other things supposedly making the experience “4D” I was not that impressed. The movie should have had an age limit of “younger than 12 years”.

We strolled further along the streets of New York and decided for lunch at an Italian restaurant. Pretty soon I realized that I had been at this restaurant three years ago as well. And immediately the warning flag popped up – watch out for the garlic! They have tons of garlic in their food. Fortunately, you can choose from their buffet and can thus take only the food you like. But yet I managed to choose a chicken with such strong breading that I had to give to my brother. I like chicken, but this one was too strong for me.

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You can easily take the subway to Long Island from Times Square, which we did. Over there you get away from the bustling city traffic and sit down on a bench and see a pretty stunning New York skyline. A little break before we headed back to Manhattan and the hotel. In the afternoon my brother wanted to visit a Game Stop store just a street away from our hotel. At ground level were a lot of TV and computer games. No surprise given the store’s name. Downstairs there was another store, Think Geek. There were gadgets and other things for collectors, toys, t-shirts, electronic gadgets and so on. Big themes were of course Star Wars, Pokémon, Star Trek, Game of Thrones etc. As soon as you got downstairs it was like entering a different world. Think Comic Book Store from TV-series Big Bang Theory, though this store was anything else but comic books.

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In one corner was a full-size Storm Trooper, in another corner was Darth Vader. First thought was… OMG?! Do these stores actually exist, for real??? Ha! You learn something new every day ;) While my brother went well in the store I felt out of space. Signs everywhere like “geeks enter here”, “join in – geek out”, it was like geeks everywhere.


But I ended up buying a lamp in shape of BB8, the cute little droid from Star Wars; The Force Awakens. A movie I wouldn’t have seen unless I had been invited ;) Now we were starving and definitely time to eat. We strolled along Avenues and Streets and eventually found a nice little Irish Pub that was just enough room and didn’t play too loud music. You could have a conversation without screaming. Great food and friendly staff and it weren’t expensive (we went here several times during the week). The evening ended with Tequila shot each – bottoms up!

Posted by bejjan 08:52 Archived in USA Tagged new_york madame_tussauds long_island flat_iron_building Comments (0)

Shop until you drop

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Most part of this day was dedicated to shopping. Yet another warm and muggy day along the Streets of New York and it was even worse down under in the subway system. But it was still worth the effort to go down in the overheated subway and ride a few stations than to walk the same distance along the streets. We entered Port Authority Bus Terminal and just as last time I was here (3 years ago) it was not easy finding your way to the right gate. The bus terminal consists of 6 floors on which busses leaves from four of these floors. There are totally 223 gates to choose from, so you should definitely make sure to be there in time avoiding stress. My brother Danny and I found our gate with 10 minutes to spare. We had purchased return bus tickets with Gray Line but you can get to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets in other ways too.
The bus ride took about an hour and upon arrival at Woodbury we went straight to Visitor Center to collect our discount coupons (included in the Gray Line bus ticket). A well needed map is included as well, which is needed since the shopping area is big! There are 220 stores to choose from and all are at ground level, so you will be walking a lot if you want to visit every store. But on the other hand, there is something for everyone. For example, more common brands like GAP, Aéropostale, Reebok, LOFT and MaxMara and if you want to spoil yourself there are Dior, DVF, Gucci, Michael Kors and Armani… and of course Calvin Klein ;)


As a Calvin Klein freak that store was a must :) I must have spent like an hour and just wallowed. But who wouldn’t have done that with regular discount and additional 45 % off? I can tell you that the suitcase I had brought was quickly filled up after that visit ;)
It’s obviously not just shoe and clothes shops in the area, also a lot of dining options are also available. McDonald’s, Vegetarian Food, Tacos, Pizza, cafes, ice cream and so on. One definitely does not have to go around hungry, that’s for sure. All and all, my brother and I were there for about 4 hours, but it was enough for both of us to visit the stores we wanted. So, it was just to bring the now well-filed suitcase and sit down in the bus for a ride back to New York. Depending on when you take the bus back you must bear in mind that you may end up in the middle of New York’s rush hour, so you must ensure having time marginal in case you have somewhere to be after the shopping. Once back in the city, we went down to the subway to get back to the hotel.

During the afternoon we used our tickets to Empire State Building that we had bought in advance. These tickets are not specific for one day or time but are valid for one year from date of purchase. I had made sure that we had gotten tickets for observation deck on the 86th and 102nd floor. However, it’s not certain that you get to visit the top floor due to weather or wind, and then you don’t get no money back (access to the 102nd floor costs $20 extra per person). Therefore, we had made sure to visit the building on a nice day with great views and almost no wind. But at this particular day the elevator between 86th and 102nd floor was out of service due to “mechanical error” as they said, but we would get our money back for our prepaid tickets. We were lucky anyhow, now when we couldn’t visit the top floor.


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Well up on the 86th floor you will get a fantastic view of New York. As a recommendation you should visit a cloud free day during day hours. Thanks to the 360° view you will see Central Park, East River, Brooklyn Bridge, Hudson River and Statue of Liberty among many things.
We ate at Wendy’s before sunset and now we had time scheduled (8.15 pm) for Rockefeller Center and its observation deck Top of the Rock. These reserved tickets are booked for a specific time and you can’t access the building prior that time. But I needed to use the restroom so the guard was nice enough to let us in earlier.


The observation deck was crowded and just as the sun had gone down, we all stood there waiting for Empire State Building to light up. Eventually a guard came and announced that Empire wasn’t going to be lighted up tonight due to the terrorist attack in Istanbul. That was one of the highlights during the visit at Top of the Rock, to see Empire State Building light up, but that wasn’t the case this evening. We got a little disappointed though. But we still got great pictures of New York and the millions of lights light up the city during at night.
The evening ended up in the top roof bar at our hotel with a Mojito drink each.

Posted by bejjan 09:01 Archived in USA Tagged new_york shopping empire_state_building rockefeller_center top_of_the_rock Comments (0)

Silent witness

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We had the whole day full of activities and things to see so the alarm was set early today. And you could tell at the hotel breakfast that most people weren’t up yet. But we had to get up early to make it in time for the ferry to Statue of Liberty. I had intentionally pre-booked early morning tickets, partly because it wouldn’t be as many people then but also because the temperature wouldn’t be too high outside. It’s very easy riding the subway south to Battery Park, from where the ferry runs. You simply take the metro number 1 to its end station South Ferry. You should consider sitting in the front of the train since the subway platform at South Ferry does not reach to the rear cars of the train.


Even if the clock hadn’t struck 9 am yet, it was terribly hot outside. Hot and muggy! If you really need a thunderstorm, where can you find one? My brother Danny and I were lucky to arrive just in time as a ferry arrived at the harbor and soon depart for Statue of Liberty. It took about 15 minutes by ferry to get across the Hudson River outlet to Liberty Island. You would think it would be a little more wind out there on the island, but the wind was basically non-existent. It was if not even hotter out there. So, we slowly walked to the base of the statue and lined up for security check. Metal detectors and bag x-rays. Luckily you could bring your own water. Tickets with access to the crown are sold out basically the same day as they are released and are difficult to obtain. Tickets to the pedestal are easier to get (although you need to buy them in advance) and tickets with only access to the island can be bought the same day. We had tickets for the pedestal and to get up there you can choose to walk the stairs or take the elevator. I must confess that we were a little lazy and took the elevator up, but only because it was so darn hot in there.

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We find many names for those we love; they say. And sure enough, Statue of Liberty has many names; Miss Liberty, Lady Liberty, Mother of Freedom and Green Goddess are just a few. The statue’s formal name is Liberty Enlightening the World. The statue was the first glimpse of America as many immigrants crossed the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life. Statue of Liberty has become to represent freedom, classic liberalism and republicanism and the shape of the statue consists of many symbolisms. For example, the feet of Lady Liberty have thoroughly been positioned to represent freedom from oppression and tyranny. You might think that the statue should be quite high, but when you start to look at all the facts you are being fooled. The total height of the monument from the ground to the top of the torch is 93 meters. Out of those 93 meters the pedestal is 47 meters, meaning the actual statue is only 46 meters – in other words; the Statue of Liberty is smaller than the pedestal! Measuring from the heel up to the head it’s barely 34 meters. One estimates that about 600 bolts of lightning hits the Statue of Liberty every year. So, you might consider once or twice to visit the statue another day in case a thunderstorm is approaching.

When I was in New York in 2013 there was Government Shutdown, meaning most government tourist attractions were closed – and Statue of Liberty was no exception. Then I had gotten Crown Tickets. Well, well… now three years later I came ashore on the island and accessed the pedestal. And like so many other I had imagined the statue to be much bigger than in reality. But looking at all facts, the pedestal is actually higher than the statue itself.


Although the tickets included a visit on Ellis Island and its museum, we refrained to go ashore and continued on straight back to Battery Park. We started walking north by foot towards Ground Zero. When I visited Ground Zero last time, the entire area was fenced and you had to buy tickets to enter and access the area where the twin towers once stood (nowadays it’s free to visit the reflecting pools). Then construction plans for a museum had just taken shape. But now, three years later, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum had opened and of course I had tickets to the museum. The entire museum is underground and includes what’s left of the foundations where both the south and north towers once stood. Enormous iron beams twisted and ripped off like candy wrappers after the buildings collapsed was now a part of the museum. It was a surrealistic feeling walking around down there.


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To see all photos, pictures and videos of the attacks again made you feel a tremendous humility only by standing there. In one of all rooms are photos of all victims' of 9/11 attacks. Of course, taking photos was prohibited in there and guards inside made sure it stayed that way. Also, a badly beat-up fire truck had been set up for display, as well as the concrete stairway supposedly saving thousands of lives from a certain death inside the north tower.

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The concrete stairway, “the Vesey Street stair” also called “Survivors Stairs”, was the only safe way down for people when the escalators right next to it had been destroyed by fallen debris from the tower. The stair has a powerful meaning and remains as a silent witness, a symbol, for the survivors. Just as Danny and I passed the concrete stairway a guide stopped by and started telling stories about the stair and other things regarding September 11th.
The day of the attacks was yet one of the better ones (if you had an option to choose), since a big football game between New York Giants and Denver Broncos took place the night before. That caused many New Yorkers taking the day off, sleeping-in or was late to work on Tuesday September 11th. So, at the time of the first attack the buildings were far from full of people. The twin towers held together on a regular working day up to 50 000 employees and it could therefore have been significantly more casualties if the attackers had chosen another day.


After a lot of thoughts and emotions about the terrorist attacks we went further north to Brooklyn Bridge. Despite the intense heat surrounding New York we decided to walk across the entire bridge and over to Brooklyn. As the oldest suspension bridge in New York and a world-famous landmark the gothic bridge is a very popular tourist attraction. The bridge is 1,8 km long and was the world’s largest suspension bridge when it was completed in 1883. The bridge was built with numerous passageways and compartments in its anchorages and some of these vaults were used as wine cellars because the temperature there was always +16 °C.
Once over at the other side of the bridge, in Brooklyn, we went down to the metro and went back to the hotel. After today’s heat we rested for a while before heading to Benjamin’s Restaurant & Bar and our dinner reservation. It was a nice little restaurant and the staff was great. Huge portion sizes were served on huge plates and way too much for one person. But it was not a problem to bring the leftovers in a doggy bag back to the hotel. So, what did I have to drink then? For dinner a glass of white wine.

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Afterwards we decided for a Pineapple shot each. And during a visit at the Irish pub and the hotel roof top bar we had have a Tequila Mockingbird and Asian Cosmo each before calling it for the night.

Posted by bejjan 09:08 Archived in USA Tagged new_york statue_of_liberty brooklyn_bridge ground_zero 9/11_memorial Comments (0)