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2023 - August - New York - Travel Day

Sometimes I have an idea how to start these blogs, other times I have no idea. It’s not been long since the last one and yet 10 days later this finds me high over the Atlantic cruising towards New York for a few days starting another blog entry. This trip is using up the last of our Covid cancellation vouchers and it is one I had to fight BA long and hard for so we were determined to use it before it expires during September 2023.

It has been 12 years since our last visit to New York which was extended by a week due to the Icelandic Ash Cloud, an experience I have no wish to ever repeat.

This morning as we left, I had my usual self-doubts about travelling. Karen was very supportive when I needed it. The stress continued until we were aboard the plane and I had downed the sparkling wine as we boarded, a G&T followed by some red wine with the meal service (which was very acceptable for a rare change).

The drive to the airport had been very smooth with little traffic on the road early on a Sunday market. Due to my mistake in telling Sunny the incorrect time initially, we were not able to meet him at the airport as usual, instead we waited in the McDonalds a very short distance from his house until he was back from another airport drop off.

It turned out the other drop off was Marion & Matt who now use Sunny after our recommendation. Funnily Alex & Susie are due to be picked up later today by him after another recommendation – We should be on commission with him!

It meant we arrived at the airport a whole hour later than we normally do. As we were only taking hand luggage for the first time, it made no difference to us. We were soon through security and within a few minutes our gate was called and we made our way to it.

On board the service from our air steward Ashanti has been first class (if only we were in it). I watched ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ and it is probably my favourite film of the year. Lily James was just perfect in it and I love the cross over culture with Asia. They do know how to throw a party, especially for a wedding. I think I would really enjoy it all (apart from the food, but that’s me being faddy). My friend Vijai has just had two family weddings and himself celebrated a significant birthday. His excitement in the build-up to the events and the subsequent photos he has shown me have been quite special.

One of the many things I have learnt from speaking to him about the events after 9 holes of golf has been the shocking fact that Hindu wedding ceremonies are not recognised in the UK. Therefore, his sons then had to have a civil ceremony the following day for it to be valid. This is just wrong. I don’t know who is authorised to hold a Hindu ceremony but I would guess they hold equally as much importance as a registrar in the UK.

The 10 days between Copenhagen and today passed by in a flash. Hardly surprising as we managed to fit in another football match (might as well give the Canaries the trophy now), a day trip to Burghley House, lovely BBQ at Barry’s planning for the Iceland trip, 10 holes of golf, a crazy gold tournament (I relinquished the trophy) and hosting a Gluten Free BBQ night followed by a Vegetarian Pizza Night. We also went to one of the concerts at Sandringham. We left before the main act came on, which had always been a consideration, which the lack of seating, mosquitoes, and the rain made up our mind for us.

Its almost as if we need this extra holiday to recover from all this.

One other significant point during these 10 days was that the penny finally dropped with the fact I need to and must lose lots of weight. It was probably hearing from the third separate consultant for different complaints that got it through to my thick skull. I have hated how I look and feel for the -past couple of years. So, for the last 8 days I have been really trying. It is hard though and made much more difficult by my limited diet or faddiness. I have no one to blame but myself for that, nor for having put the weight back on.

It is much more difficult to do whilst travelling however I have done it once before and I can do it again. It will become easier as such when I can start to see the benefits of my starvation but that will be an incentive to carry on.

Anyhow back to the flight, I also watched the film ‘She Said’ which was a good insight into how the MeToo movement started. It made me think again about how times change and in this instance for the better.

Our approach into JFK was smooth enough until we got 90ft from the ground over the runway, when our landing was aborted. The pilot put on full throttle as he pulled up on the joystick or whatever it is called up sharply. It was very disconcerting and I kind of wished I hadn’t just watched the TV series ‘Hijack’ recently.

Then the cabin manager announced there was nothing wrong with the plane and there was no need to be scared, which immediately put more fear into everyone.

Eventually the Captain spoke and apologised for the delay in doing so but said he had been rather busy flying the plane. Apparently, the plane that had landed in front of us had taken a wrong turning taxiing and was suddenly in our way!

It was still a relief when after circling we did eventually land safely.

We were soon off the plane and having global entry were admitted into the USA almost without stopping walking. Having no luggage to collect we were straight out and walking to the Air Train. Here our challenges started.

I had memorised our route to the Hotel ensuring we only had one change on the subway to make it easy. We were stopped by a ‘helpful’ guide who wanted to check where we going. He insisted my route was too long and suggested another one. I tried to say that his route would not work as the subway did not appear to even stop where he suggested we change. Karen insisted he would know better than me and so reluctantly we followed his suggestion by going to Howard Beach on the Air Train.

As soon as we got there and got a signal on my phone I checked. I was right, he was wrong but it was a bit late by then.

We then had to buy tickets for the Subway. Again, someone tried to help us. It wasn’t till afterwards we realised he was a cleaner and was later being admonished by the station officer for doing so. She herself then got us to buy the wrong tickets, or should I say ticket as she seemed to put my money onto just one ticket. She said this would be enough for our journeys today. She was wrong. This caused unnecessary stress getting through the barriers.

We caught the train as directed. After only 3 stops everyone was turned off and we had to wait 10 minutes for another one. No one explained why.

The lack of signage anyway was appalling. Even on the train there was no indication of a map or what the next station was. Karen was getting more frantic about it all by the second.

Apple Maps showed us we now had to change twice. Each one involved many steps. The first meant coming up to street level and walking 200 yards to another station on a different line but with the same name. In London this would be connected by a walkway.

We passed a Starbucks. As Karen was desperate for the toilet, we went in. She bought a drink and asked for the toilet and was told it was 100 yards up the block in Macys (which was shut).

At the next station our ticket no longer worked and we were told as it now had insufficient funds. The less than helpful assistant pointed out how to top it up or buy new tickets on nearby machines. I tried every option on every machine several times before I could get it to accept anything. With relief we bought single journey tickets each.

The next change was straightforward, apart from the 10-minute wait in sweltering temperatures on the platform.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel station stop – 9th Avenue on the D Line. The area surrounding the Hotel seemed at odds with the Hotel itself which was modern and new. Karen immediately said she wanted to be back in daylight each day, which may prove a challenge with the Billy Joel concert.

So, a long day. Tomorrow hopefully we will start to understand why New York is so good that they named it twice or I will change my name to Karl Karl.

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