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Trip to New York and Boston - Newest article

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View the photo gallery from New York

The Visitor went on an eleven-day trip to the USA in October 2014, visiting Boston, New York and vicinity. Flying with Icelandair out to Boston (5 h) and home from New York (5 h). The flight was fine and shorter than most would think. This was the Visitor’s first trip to the States in six years as the focus of the last few years has been more on Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Being from Iceland gives you a good feedback almost every time, not to mention if you are also a travel writer / consultant. To top it off the Visitor once in a while also handed out a free copy of his Visitors Guide travel book :).

New York and the people

New York is the biggest city in the United States, with around 8.4 million inhabitants of which 2.6 million live in Brooklyn. The source is of course Google; I did though ask many locals about this, but none of them seemed to have a clue! The Visitor stayed in Brooklyn in an Airbnb accommodation, instead of the expensive Manhattan area (which has the highest cost of living in the United States). Arriving with a bus (5 h) from Boston to street 42 in Manhattan, it was somehow like a scene in a movie to come to this buzzing and overwhelming area, full of tourists and locals. The Manhattan Island is mainly divided into streets and avenues and is rather easy to access with the subway. The locals are usually very helpful when asked for directions. The multi nationality of the city is of special interest and the Visitor often asked the locals about their background. Meeting people from India, Persia, Russia, China, and Pakistan and so on. Many of whom, had only been 10–20 years in the country. Also of course many second and third generation or going back many generations. As the native Indians / redskins have been of special interest to the Visitor from childhood, he was a bit disappointed seeing or meeting none of them ?. Being told they are only to be found in the Midwest, the reservations and maybe in the casinos which many of them run.

The general good appearance of the people both in Boston and NY was also of some surprise as we Europeans often think of Americans as being quite overweight, which I thought was much less the case there than even in my own country! Those cities though as well (as their suburbs) and San Francisco and (the plastic) LA though having the most fancy looking – perhaps none stereotype Americans. Another thing that I noticed after a few days in NY was that there seemed to be more women than men around. Asking one local woman about this she said yes this is the case there are like 10 to 1 women here !. The Visitor being an analyzer and economist had doubts about this figure, and the respondent then said it must be 5 to 1 and that this was a very bad place for women dating but great for men. The Visitor found some statistics on Google that show that women outnumber men in the city "by 52.5 to 47.5 percent," translating to 410,045 more women than men overall according to the New York Post.

Tours
The hop on hop off tours run by a few companies in the city can be recommended. The price is good and this is a quick and interesting way to see the city and get a good overview of it. The main tours in Manhattan are the downtown tour (45 street and down) and the uptown tour (street 46 and up including Harlem). But there is also a night time tour and a Brooklyn tour.

Shopping
Shopping is generally good in NY, many shops have good sales and offers. All the main brands can be found there. The prices in Brooklyn are lower, not least for services. The mall in the Queens neighborhood is supposed to be good (Queens Mall in Queens Center). There is also a very good outlet center called Woodbury which has 220 outlet stores. http://www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=7 which is about an hour’s drive from the city. They have all the main brands like Nike, Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein and more where you can get great deals. There is a bus going there from the Manhattan bus station.

Service
It is customary to pay a 20% tip for service whether it was good or just fair. It can be a little annoying for those not used to it, at least when the service is not so good. This is the main salary that people get. Some of them are paid as little as $4-5 per hour and then they get the tips, although the minimum wage is supposed to be around $7. The Visitor did find this a bit strange that the (tax-free) tip accounts for most of the salaries. When asking one local about this she said people are supposed to “claim“ the tips as salary on their tax record but the minority do. This, the number of illegal immigrants etc. doesn’t surprise me to be the reason for a rather bad economy and social issues in the States. The tax rate is 30%, which means that earnings of 500 dollars give you 350 dollars as disposable income.

Things to do - Recommendations
This can be found in various travel books etc. so here are a few tips.
Visit the great Metropolitan Museum of Art, a huge and magnificent museum where you can spend hours. Also the American Museum of Natural History is nearby – both located by Central Park*, which should also be visited. The hop on hop of bus* - visit China town*, among else good for a cheap haircut and manicure - the Empire State Building – One World Trade Center* - Statue of Liberty.

Hotels in New York - Hotel Millennium Broadway by Times Square.

Upstate New York
After staying in Boston and New York the Visitor wanted to see the countryside. Along with my Airbnb host we visited The Minnewaska State Park Preserve which is about two hour drive from the city. On the way there is the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets located in Central Valley, New York. The center is owned by Premium Outlets, a subsidiary of Simon Property Group, and takes its name from the town in which it is located!).

We stayed at a lovely Airbnb country farm with Tim and Becky. They had some six cottages as well as two adjoining rooms inside their house, where we stayed. Greeted by the friendly staff of two Australians and a Bolivian. We had a very relaxed and recharging time there. There are various animals at the farm: three friendly dogs, cats, a few horses, goats, pigs and more. The hosts were also well informed about the States, economics and world affairs, so you could have some intellectual conversation with them. Going to the States is definitely not all about the big cities such as New York and Los Angeles. This gives you a new and broader horizon. We had a trek one day in the nature, explored the farm and surroundings. A nice experience was also to have dinner at an “organic bar” nearby and chatting with the friendly locals we met there. Also visiting another vegan restaurant the other day in a small and welcoming village.
This video shows an interview with my host Betty

Restaurants: address and website

Nom Wah, Chinatown, 13 Doyers St, NY 10013
Should be the oldest Chinese restaurant in New York (since 1920), recommended in some travel books. However, as with many of those the food was just mediocre, we had a variety of courses for lunch. Saw many places that seemed to be of better value, a good indication of those is that you often see many locals and Asians in those.

Morandi, Italian, 11th, 211 Waverly Pl, NY 10014
A popular Italian – Rome cuisine in little Italy. Had some good minestrone soup organic taste, Gracchi Ar, - “Pesti di Limon” hand rolled, and salmon with salad. The atmosphere was fine but would rate the food as just decent.

To be Thai – 126 Beverly Road Brooklyn, NY 11218, www.tobethai.blogspot.com
Had great lunch offer, $9 for two courses and soda. Better than the $40 Italian restaurant. Friendly staff. Dinner and main course around $12.
 

BOSTON

The Visitor had often heard that Boston is the most European city in the US and that was definitely my experience after visiting the city. This goes for the city itself and the buildings, many of them are quite historical, as the city is older than most cities in the States. But also for the people which many look quite European and young. That should come as no surprise as there are some 115 universities in the Boston area!. The Visitor must say that he hasn’t seen so comparatively many young people in any city in the western world. The population in Boston is around 650 thousand and in the adjoining Cambridge around 750 thousand. The two highest ranked Universities in the world are in Cambridge that is MIT and Harvard. There are many districts in Boston, among else the Chinese one and the Italian which has no less than 110 restaurants or so. The city can be described as both beautiful and user friendly, both in means of transportation and the people.

Accommodation
My accommodation was in the district of Dorchester, around five km (three miles) from downtown which is thought of as one of the worst districts in the city. The Visitor wasn’t aware of that before booking this fine Airbnb accommodation in a spacious Victorian style house paying $60 per night, where the host was a middle-aged doctor from Armenia. The neighborhood wasn’t anything special just a rather plain lower income neighborhood with many Afro-American inhabitants. The train to the city was close by and this can definitely be recommended as good value for money.

Sights and Tours
The hop on hop off tours are a great way to explore the city, but there are four companies offering those tours and it is hard to see the difference between them including how their stands are displayed. They stop at numerous locations, among else museums and some also go to Cambridge and the University area. This seemed to be the most popular thing to do as well as taking a walking tour the so-called Freedom Trail, the story of the American Revolution tour. The author visited MIT in Cambridge and walked around the area, full of young, intellectual and good looking people – a few of course looking a bit nerdy!

Shopping
Did almost no shopping there since the author left for New York, but there were some fine shopping streets and areas. Furthermore, there is a great outlet with most brands, in around an hour from the city and there is a bus going there.

The countryside
Actually the Visitor’s tour started the first two days in the seaside town of Gloucester which is about 45 minutes drive from Boston with around 25 thousand inhabitants,. A nice and quiet town where an old (couch surfing) friend was visited. This was a nice start to relax after busy weeks back home. It was also nice to see how many brothers and sisters had my Honda Pilot jeep over there ?. Many of the houses there were “decorated” with the American flag.
Three geeks did not allow me to interview! Harvard, good looking people.

Restaurants
Passport, Boston
Great chicken soup as a ($4.50) starter, good Cesar salad ($4) and a very good tuna ($19)

Irashai Sushi Teriyaki, Boston, 8 Kneeland St.
A very good sushi and sashimi mixture plate ($24), also a miso soup. A place where it was nice to sit by the bar for solo traveler and talk to the persons next to you.

Benevento’s, 111 Salem St. Boston’s North End.
Had a great chicken saltimbocca ($19) with mozzarella, spinach and mushrooms. Asking a local at the next table she said it was a great place and “everything here is so good”. The portions were generous and I grabbed the leftovers in a doggy bag for dinner.

Fiore 250 Hanover Street, Boston's North End.
There were four of us, all of whom met in the hop on hop off tour. We had a good sample of starters ($32) for four. The author had a salad. This can be described as a medium good restaurant and the service likewise. Benevento’s was far better.

Irashai, 8 Kneeland St., Boston, www.irashaisushi.com


Author: Hakon Thor Sindrason
Date: October 2014





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