As you are aware from my last blog, I spent last week in New York visiting my brother who moved to Manhattan recently. It was my first time in the US as an adult and my first time staying in Manhattan itself, so there were a lot of first impressions. Of course there was a lot of shopping done, so I will do a haul blog too but for now I just want to talk about the city itself.
Now most blogs on New York will be what people did, or where people went but I wanted to write a different kind of blog.
I wanted to tell you (and if you've already been, talk about) these differences. So here goes:
Well, I had to start somewhere and why not with the loos. You know when you're on an aeroplane and you flush and the water seems to be sucked out like you're in space. Well, the American toilets flush just like that! Sometimes, the toilet actually flushes whilst you're still sat there, as a lot of them have sensors which detect when you've stood up (not terribly effectively). It's is very strange. They're also very short bowls which fill deeply, so if you haven't pulled up your skirt properly, the chances are you'll probably get pee on it!
Tax & Tipping
Don't get carried away when buying things, as there is tax added to your bill at the check out! As a tourist, it is easy to forget this but don't worry it isn't a lot. It's a bit like our VAT but we only usually see prices "excluding VAT" at warehouses or places like Costco as it is normally included in the price we see. In New York it is 8.875%, which I guess beats our 20% hands down, but the difference is ours is included in the mark up price AND our produce is usually a lot cheaper to begin with.
The tipping is also something to take into consideration, which is 20% minimum. In the UK it is rare to tip a bartender, but over in America it is standard and usually a very welcome addition to their salaries. In the UK, it is quite common to tip waiting staff, but the English tips are generally performance and food quality based and therefore the English will find it hard to accept if the food was bad/cold or if the waiter/waitress has been a bit offish. This generally is no contest for America or American hospitality. The food is always plentiful and delicious and nothing is too much trouble for them either. The bottomless coffee in itself!!
Delicious! Served for free with every meal (and continuously topped up) and perfectly fine to drink from the taps, which a welcome change from our European neighbours. It also isn't full of chemicals like it is in England. We actually topped up our bottles with water from a public water font in Central Park and it was just as tasty. I was certainly super hydrated my entire trip.
Roads; Crossing Them & Traffic
I can't talk about one without the others and all are essential for getting around the city.
New York has crosswalks on every corner of every block, which makes for a LOT of electronic signals. It is suggested (by law) that you always use a crosswalk, but many don't do this: FYI this is called jaywalking. I personally have never felt so "unsafely safe" while walking the streets. It certainly is an experience. Most vehicles aren't concerned with pedestrians, but by the same token the pedestrians aren't that concerned about the vehicles either. Cars and taxis will try and drive over a crosswalk even if their light is on red and yours is to walk. Don't feel alarmed, they won't plough you down. In fact, it is quite commonplace for drivers to be a little pushy and it's quite accepted, especially if there isn't anyone ready to cross the road. There is SO much traffic with constant beeping every single time any cars stop. In the UK, beeping is reserved for extreme annoyance, or just to warn people. While I was there, I found it was quite usual to walk around cars and trucks which were half on half off the crosswalk, just weaving through them like hey weren't there. Its like the pedestrians are completely blinkered and only see the "walk" sign and motorists only see open space in front of them, if something gets in their way when they're on green they BEEP!!!
I was very surprised to learn that Central Park is man made. I always assumed that they just stopped building to create this beautiful natural oasis of landscape, but it was the opposite. All of the trees were planted (often donated and have their names on plaques pinned on them) and the landscape was created by blasting the rocks and laying tonnes of top soil for the grass to grow on. It was certainly very beautiful. The rocks glitter too, literally.
Drinks & Going Out
I think I need to remortgage! The average glass of wine was $17 (£13)!! In the UK you can get a pretty decent bottle for that price, even in some restaurants. Cocktails were cheaper, coming in on average $15 (£11.50), so roughly the same as a cocktail place in the U.K. I was surprised that the wine was more expensive. If anyone knows why, please comment below.
I do however love that they call champagne with orange juice a Mimosa. It sounds a lot classier than "bucks fizz".
What night time? It truly is the city that never sleeps. Road works, building maintenance, shops, cafes, supermarkets, all open 24 hours. Not to mention the subway and taxis. You could walk out of the hotel in the middle of the night and get whatever you wanted and see lots of people doing the same thing.
We actually found that the quietest time was about 7am when we walked up fifth avenue on our first morning because we couldn't sleep (this was 12pm UK time). We'd been up since 4am due to the time difference and needed to get out and about. 7am seemed appropriate.
I genuinely get upset about the homeless in England and try to help out wherever I could. Our weather isn't always great (changeable and often cold during summer, present weather excluded) and they are often without food for days and days but in New York, the homeless seem to have a different way of life. There was a guy on the next block from our hotel playing games on a mobile phone and he often had pizza. It was so surreal! He had signs on the pavement asking for money, metro cards and hamburgers.
My favourite subject… There were so many dogs in New York, often tiny and cute and there were a lot of dog walkers. The dog walkers were usually more friendly and let you pet their charges. Some owners were far too busy on the phone, or just blinkered to even be aware that you were complimenting their fur babies. Having a dog in the city is seen as a symbol of wealth because it is expensive for them to live there, let alone for food and vet bills etc for their pup so if you see someone with one, they're usually loaded.
I also found out that you have to put your dog into a bag when travelling on the subway. Its apparently the law! This isn't so bad for the smaller breeds, but I did see a larger dog in such a bag who seemed perfectly used to it, so thought I'd include it as my only photo for this blog.
Such a cutie!
If you've been to New York I'd love to hear about your trip or if you're going, I'd be happy to recommend some places to go.
Thanks for reading. Chèlle xo