Monday, October 07, 2013

18 September: Johannesburg to New York

We left Joburg at 20h55 last night. Well, that's not to say that's when this trip started.

You've got to be at the airport 3 hours beforehand and that put us smack bang in the middle of peak hour traffic. Luckily we got a lift to the Marlboro Gautrain Station and it was all pretty painless. Must remember that for future peak-time trips. It is so much more manageable than trying to get in and out of Sandton.

But we were super early and had hours to kill at ORT. We shared a pepperoni pizza as a late lunch, getting into the American mood, before a very easy journey thru passport control. They didn't even check our visas!

That said, before our flight, we went thru a mini TSA experience outside the boarding gate. Being patted down and having our carry-on bags rifled thru.

After we boarded, I watched The Internship. Barely made it thru tho, my eyes were desperate to close (in all fairness we'd been woken that morning at 4:30am by one of The Trucker's drivers calling!). We ate while watching and were super lucky that our plan of booking the 2 aisle seats of the 4-seater middle group paid off and there was no one sitting between us.

So we both managed to get about 10hrs sleep on the 16hr flight. I watched some Carrie Diaries while we ate breakfast. Probably one of the best airline breakfasts I've had, it is usually my least favourite meal on a plane.

And before you know it, we were landing at JFK. Hello USA, hello New York!

Getting thru passport control, getting our bags and all the way thru customs was a breeze. But we arrived at morning peak hour. So we sat waiting at the airport till 8am before we hopped on the Airtrain and then took the E-line from Jamaica to Lexington.

We've bought a 30 USD 7-day Metro card for the subway (and buses),which is the equivalent spend of 12 trips. It's already come in super handy when we ended up on a track going downtown when we actually wanted to go uptown!

We changed lines and headed to East 105th street, which is where we got to meet our first AirBnb hosts. They had other people still there, but let us shower and dump our bags. They gave us a key and we were off again, now to explore the city!

We're really close to Central Park, so we started with a little walk thru part of it. Then we hopped back on the subway and headed down to Grand Central Station. It is weird traveling somewhere for the first time that is so familiar.

Got a few photos for posterity and then found a nearby Starbucks. The Trucker had a major craving. Me, I couldn't be bothered, I've never found anything there that takes my fancy. And I had an awful iced-coffee (they seem to think this is literally coffee with ice o_0 yuck), which did nothing to cast their worldwide spell on me this time around either.

Then it was back on the subway to track down a Krispy Kreme. The Trucker isn't a fan of Dunkin' (which we'd already seen a ton of), so was keen for me to try the alternative. We got what was supposed to be an original (but had no cream filling, so I think was probably a plain) and a pumpkin spice one. I am fascinated by the American obsession with pumpkin-flavoured everything (since we get none of it here!).

We looked thru a Duane Reade store and I found my much coveted Peanut Butter Lindt balls. But we haven't bought any yet ...

We offset the sweet of the donuts with a slice of pepperoni pizza from Sbarro because The Trucker spotted one across the road. I swear, all we've done today is eat, walk and take the subway. And it didn't end there!

We bought ourselves a T-Mobile sim for the phone. Wifi is less freely available here than I expected. Now we have unlimited data for 10days, free local calls, free smses and free calls to SA landlines :)

And then we walked some more. At our breakfast last weekend, @RebeccaHumphry had recommended Shake Shack to me, so we headed to the nearest one for some lunch. And inadvertently found ourselves looking at The Flatiron Building. Haha. Again, I'm amazed at how familiar this place feels.

Unfortunately, when we found the Shake Shack, it had a queue like I've never seen before! (See the photo below!)

At least that convinced The Trucker that it was worth trying - haha ;) So, instead, we looked for one closer to home and found there was one on the Upper East Side. Luckily it had a much shorter queue! The burgers were delish! I'd definitely recommend them :)

We also stopped to visit a Whole Foods Market. OMG I'm sure I wandered the entire store with my jaw dropped. Also, craft beer is booming in America. I doubt anyone has managed to work their way thru all the options! We may need to taste a few ;)

Then it was back to our AirBnb home to rest our legs, charge our phones and get some more cash before heading out again.

First we took a wander in the area we're staying in to find a grocery store to get some water etc. Which meant that, when I found the Duane Reade, I got my peanut butter Lindt! Yum! Melt in your mouth delish. I think I'll try bring some home, but can't imagine they'd survive the journey uneaten - haha.

Ooh ooh, and more exciting things happened ... my BoldLoft delivery arrived :D So, more than a year ago, I tried to order these pillow cases from South Africa (that was in Feb last year) ... by May they had kindly refunded me because they never arrived (which amazed me in itself). And I pretty much gave up on getting them, there didn't seem to be a point in trying to re-order them from SA, since I couldn't change the delivery method to something more traceable than the Post Office.

So, when we decided to come to America, I thought this might be my opportunity and the week before we flew, I re-ordered them, for delivery to the apartment in New York. And they arrived this evening, while we were there :) I was elated. Adore them :)

At about 17h30 we headed out for the evening. We wandered across Central Park and hopped on the Red Line down to Times Square. Wow, it was all kinds of crazy-busy with lights and people! I can't imagine the locals ever come here (except to see a show, perhaps?)

We walked all the way up to the M&M store. Again, I wandered open-mouthed. No part of my brain can comprehend the 3 floors of merchandise, all for one type of chocolate. I don't understand the obsession with branding?

I was very keen to get some personalized M&Ms made tho ... but the cheapest, smallest container was 20USD (R200). So, um, no.

We sat on the Times Square grandstand and just watched for a while, while we rested our legs. We considered going up the Empire State Building, but our feet were too sore, so we headed back home instead.

We thought about stopping for dinner, but neither of us was very hungry so we just went straight home to bed. What a fabulous first day we've had ;)

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