This is a short review about my first visit to the USA. I spent a nice holiday in NYC and NJ from Sept. 1 – 12, 2004. It was really great, so I came back two years later.
Thanks to Wilko, Wendy, Leo, Glenda and Avian and the dogs and cats for sharing their beautiful home with me. Greetings to all friends I talked with, the Brazilian woman speaking perfectly German, the Italian speaking incredible fast American English, the Israeli who sounds like a Frenchman, the easy to understand fellows from Ireland and Great Britain and all the others I met.
A click magnifies the photos and allows a slide show!
Day 1 – Arrival
After eight hours of flying I arrived at the JFK international airport. Everything went easy, I got my luggage and my stamp in the passport. My friend Wilko picked me up and took me to his house in Tinton Falls, NJ.
Day 2 and 3 – bike riding
The first two days I explored the surroundings by bicycle. Although I was warned (“watch out – no one cares for a bicycle”) and didn’t see many bikes on the streets it was a good way to study a country where many things seem to be different. Everything seems to be bigger – the streets, the cars, the buildings, the meals (and so some people, too), the prices, even the cats, but also the waste of energy and the self confidence of the Americans. But nearly all I met where friendly and open-minded. On the first day, I tried a pizza at Umberto (583 River Road , Fair Haven) and ordered in Italian, but no one seems to understand. So I ordered a “pizza mushroom” instead. What I didn’t know was the size – it consists of 6 delicate slices, each of it as big as a half “normal” (European style) pizza. I tried my very best, but after four slices I gave up.
Day 4 – Ellis Island
After getting accustomed to the American way of life (and language), my friend and I took a first trip to NYC to visit Ellis Island. It was the first place for millions of immigrants, so it should be a nice starting point. The Immigration Museum is big – we couldn’t see and read everything. But it gave a good impression of how it was for the immigrants when arriving in the land of hope. Tons of information about the immigrants, their countries, the way they traveled and how they were examined where shown. A great visit, I recommend to everyone. Back to Liberty State Park we crossed Liberty Island, but decided to stay on the ship. The skyline was great and made me hungry for the city.
Day 5 – New York City, Times Square and Empire State Building
On the next day I took the railway from Little Silver to Penn Station, and this was the way I traveled the next days. By bike to the station, then 1:40 hours to New York City. Again no problem, friendly conductors joking with the passengers. The Penn Station is really big, but I found the right exit and entered the city at the Madison Square Garden, where the Bush company just had their convention. I’ve read many things about how to behave in New York: don’t stare on a map, always go, never stay, always care $20 in your pocket for a mugger (haha), but I found no one doing that. Tourists looked like tourists, and with my two cams (photo/video) and a day-pack I looked the same way. So I went straight ahead to Times Square, my first steps through the city. No one cares for red lights, most people are in a hurry. About every second to third car is a yellow cab, and most of them have a well working horn when the traffic stops for any reason.
The Times Square is impressive, hard to describe. I doesn’t make any sense with all the lights, flashes and big letters, but you feel as if this is the center of the world. You need to slow down and just watch all those people passing by or look at the different buildings. And discover places from popular movies made in NYC.
Next point: the Empire State Building. I needed two hours to get to the top (no, not because I’m that slow, but the queue was looong and there were detailed security checks). But the view was really breathtaking. You can see the islands, the street canyons of Manhattan, the top of other skyscrapers, the central park and where to go to next day.
Day 6 – Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, NJ
On Labor day Wilko, Leo and I took a trip to Ocean Grove, a Christian camp meeting community founded in 1869 and now a historic district at the Atlantic Ocean. Nice old houses made of wood and a great beach, in opposite to the declined Asbury Park (yes, the one from Bruce Springsteen’s early album) we visited afterwards, which nowadays looks like a ghost town.
Day 7 – New York City, Museum and Central Park
Back to the city. On the next day I went to the central park, visiting Tiffany’s and B.B. Kings Blues Club and Grill (he wasn’t there, as supposed) before. Meanwhile I felt secure and free to enjoy all the things to discover. I went through the Central Park visiting the Ramble, the lakes and many more locations until I arrived at the American Museum of Natural History. As everything it is big – no chance to see each and everything in an afternoon. Most impressive the dioramas and the dinosaur halls, of cause. A great experience, again something I recommend to everyone.
Day 8 – New York City, Brooklyn Heights, Chinatown, Little Italy
On a cloudy and rainy day (greetings from the Florida hurricanes!) I visited Brooklyn Heights with nice old buildings and much green around. The promenade offers a great view from Miss Liberty over South Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge and leads to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, where I got a sweet big (what else?) ice. Then I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan to visit Ground Zero. The WTC subway station was already opened again, without any shops, cafes or snack bars, everything was quiet and depressing. I walked across the Park Row and Center Street to Chinatown and searched for Little Italy, but I didn’t find much, even in the Mulberry street. Chinatown has taken it over, but I finally found it in Greenwich Village the next day.
Day 9 – New York City, SoHo, Greenwich Village
On the next day I walked down the 5th ave to Washington Square and visited SoHo (South of Houston Street) and Greenwich Village, where I found the “real Little Italy”. I had plenty of time to walk around and visited many of the sights I’ve seen in books and films before.
Day 10 – Red Bank and Sandy Hook, NJ
Once again I made a trip by bike from Tinton Falls to Sandy Hook, a large sand bank between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lower New York Bay. From the historic Twin Lights I could see the Manhattan skyline. Through the Hartshorne Woods Park with nice mountain bike trails I got back to Red Bank and Tinton Falls. BTW – I didn’t find the big waterfall mentioned in the internet…
Day 11 – Ferry from Atlantik Highlands to Manhattan, Financial District, 9/11
On the last day I took the ferry from Atlantic Highlands (NJ) to Manhattan. It was a high speed ferry, so it took less time to NYC then the train. The view was great, passing NJ, Staten Island and Brooklyn with the NYC skyline nearing. I walked through Lower Manhattan – Financial Quarter and Wall Street, Tribeca, Battery Park and all along the Hudson River, which made me realize that Manhattan is really an island. It was 9/11, the mood was a mixture of mourning and something like “life goes on”. Police and military were everywhere, but neither I never felt insecure, nor did the people look anxious. In the evening I got back to NJ – “leaving New York never easy” was the REM song they played those days. NYC is fascinating!
Day 12 – Departure
Time to leave – flying through the darkness I arrived the next day in Amsterdam and got back to Bremen. Again everything went fine.