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Entries about traveling

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 ;)


View New York with the Bro' on bejjan's travel map.

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.

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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.

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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 ;)

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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.

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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.

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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)

Flying back home


View New York with the Bro' on bejjan's travel map.

Time to travel back home. Even though New York is one of my favorite cities I do get enough of it after one week. Maybe it’s the constant noise of traffic? Or the crowded people on the streets? I don’t know. But it’s an intense city with a lot of impressions and experiences that physically and emotionally drains your energy. But is it not just that which contributes to the charm of New York?
We got up at 8 am and packed the rest of our things in our suitcases. We checked out at 11 am and got to Penn Station and the metro. From here you take the E-train to Jamaica station and then switch to Air Train to JFK Int’l Airport. We had already checked in online for the flight, so all we had to do were to get boarding passes and baggage tags and then drop the bags at self-drop. Simple and easy, almost no queue at Delta Air Lines counters. Unfortunately, the queue to security check was long. But we had plenty of time. The last week of terrorist attacks in e.g. Istanbul, had led the US to high alert and enhanced the security at all their international airports, so we wanted to have plenty of time to clear all procedures getting home.

Then we had to kill some time before boarding started. The speaker in the departure hall called stubbornly for a passenger destined for Abu Dhabi. Danny and I happened to sit near that specific gate and could see the plane bound for Abu Dhabi. It was an Airbus 380, in other words the world’s largest passenger airplane. So, I can understand that the flight crew wanted to get a hold of that passenger. Otherwise the ground staff would be forced to identify and unload the missing passenger’s bag out of hundreds of checked-in bags (an A380 can carry up to 615 passengers) and leave that bag behind here in New York. And that was exactly what the ground staff had to do. I watched them dejectedly unloading the bag containers again to look for the bag. Not fun. Nowadays the probably know in which container the bag is, but if unlucky the container could be in the back of the plane.

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When we finally boarded the plane and sat in our seats it was nice to know you were on the way home, even though it would take more than 8 hours back home to Stockholm Arlanda Airport. When we finally touched down at Arlanda we had suddenly changed date and time to July 5th just before 8 am. You were just so-so fuddled in your body. But after refilling you stomach you came around and just wanted to get on the train and just get back home. For once the train arrived and departed as planned. That doesn’t happen very often nowadays. But suddenly it happens ;)

Posted by bejjan 09:34 Archived in USA Tagged new_york traveling Comments (0)

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