Hello and welcome to what could be (don’t hold me to it though) one of many blog posts about my adventure in the U.S.A. as an exchange student from Wales. It’s been a bit over a week since I’ve arrived in the U.S., so I thought it’d be best to do a summary of what I’ve been up to.
I arrived in America and New York City on the 19th of August along with my mum, as she thought it would be a nice idea to spend a weekend in the city before I had to head off to Albany on the 22nd. After a LONG wait to get through security and to get my Visa checked, we made our way over from JFK into the Big Apple itself in a (very full) mini bus taxi. I should probably mention that this was my first ever long haul flight, and I can actually say that I really enjoyed it. It was also my first time sitting in the middle row of seats on a plane, which for some reason just made me think of that scene in ‘Friends’ where Phoebe tells Rachel that “something is wrong with the left phalange”.
The inflight entertainment and free food/drink made everything much more comfortable than I’d anticipated. I watched the 2016 Live action adaptation of “The Jungle Book” (a childhood favourite of mine), and the BBC 2015 TV mini series of “And then there were none”, unfortunately I only managed to watch 2 and a half episodes out of 3 and now find myself with no way of finding out the ending!!! (without spoiling it of course)
After checking into our hotel (and enjoying some free cookies) we decided to have a little wonder around the city. It’s just like in the movies and TV shows, but like most places it does have it’s bad sides. I say this only because I was struck at the amount of homeless people there were, I know it happens, it’s just not one of the things I think about when I think of New York. One of the stand out parts of our little exploration was our trip to Central Park, which was one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting before coming to NYC. It was a place of calm amidst the chaos of the city, I just love the fact that there exists a gigantic green park in the middle of an even bigger urban jungle. After fulfilling a minor dream of mine we returned to our hotel for some well deserved rest after being awake for 5 hours longer than we were used to (I slept for 11 hours and I’m not even sorry about it!)
Saturday was our first full day in the city and mum had thought ahead and had booked us a boat trip on the Hudson river to look at some of the famous landmarks that New York City is known for. After a well deserved lie in, we awoke to a rather cloudy and dull morning weather wise. About 10 minutes into our walk to the boat tour, the heavens opened, and they opened HARD! We took shelter in a NYC tourist gift shop where mum purchased a fridge magnet following her tradition of buying one wherever she visits, in addition to buying me some New York City pyjama bottoms (they’re sooo comfy!). After taking shelter in the gift shop for a considerable amount of time an umbrella was bought and we were off once again (typically as soon as the umbrella was bought it stopped raining!) but at least on our way there we got our first glimpse of Times Square another famous location I wished to visit (and would see fully later on, so stay tuned).
After finally arriving at our destination (if a little late) we boarded the boat and set sail on the Hudson River, which offered a unique view of the city and it’s piers (and New Jersey on the other side). The stand out part of the boat tour was seeing The Statue of Liberty in all her majesty, as actually seeing it in person was quite an amazing experience as it had served as the beacon of hope and ideals for a numerous amount of immigrants that had passed through Ellis Island (now a beacon of hope for me too!)
After the boat trip we made our way back into the city and stumbled across the “High Line”: a re-designed rail line turned into an aerial greenway, although quite random it was quite impressive. We stumbled across it by accident as we were actually looking for the Empire State Building, which in my honest opinion was not as outstanding as I’d anticipated it being. What was outstanding however was Grand Central Station, the sheer size of it was something I hadn’t anticipated, as I just thought it was a famous train station just because it was in New York City. The building itself was very beautiful (and well…grand) on the inside, with a ridiculous amount of cafes and places to eat on the floor below.
After enjoying our first proper meal at ‘Bill’s Bar and Burger’ (following the previous nights McDonalds (when in America!)), we finished our meal and walked out to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral looking quite grand amidst the modern buildings. After walking in and expecting a heavenly atmosphere we were greeted by the ungodly sounds of someone slamming random keys on the massive organ. It sounded like they were trying to murder it and everyone in the cathedral with those appalling tones!
After that minor form of torture, we made our way back to our hotel and watched NBC’s pathetic attempt at Olympics coverage. But seriously the U.S.A.’s coverage of the Olympics was such a downgrade to the BBC, after having 7 channels of non-interrupted, wide ranging coverage to having 1 channel of bias coverage with adverts which felt like they happened every 10 minutes sucked!!! (here lies what could be my first rant of many in regards to differences between countries, but let’s hope not too many)
We began Sunday morning and our last full day in New York City (so sad 😦 ) by visiting “The Top of the Rock” (Rockefeller Centre’s observation deck), which was quite an amazing experience for me, as I was visiting the location of one of my favourite phots of all time being :”Lunch atop a skyscraper”. In my own opinion this photograph captures the essence of America in many ways (as I had to explain in a class at Swansea). Following on from my previous wonderment, the views were incredible and provided a perfect scene of NYC, one that I had always imagined and wished to see with my own eyes.
After one surreal experience it was on to another, and that came in the form of the visit to the Nintendo store! A place full of colour and wonderment, where the purchase of a Luigi key ring was made and is now currently part of my UAlbany lanyard. After an already amazing morning, the day surely couldn’t have gotten any better right? Well as a matter of fact it did, with a return to my new favourite place: Central Park! Given the fact it was Sunday it was much busier then the last time we visited, but it still managed to retain its effects on me as we explored further into the park. It has a pond, a lake, a reservoir, several baseball areas, an Alice in Wonderland statue, loads of play parks, an Obelisk, a museum and a zoo from what I saw, and I’m sure there’s more I didn’t see (I dare you to get bored of Central Park!).
As much as I do love Central Park, walking through a big portion of it on a hot summers day is certainly tiring work, and by the time we reached the Guggenheim museum my feet were ready to drop off! We didn’t actually pay to go around and see the whole the museum, but we did stay to admire the architecture from the outside and the inside as requested by dad (as the creator/architect: Frank Lloyd Wright who was from Wisconsin, actually had family from Ceredigion in Wales!!!).
Forcing our way (mainly me) away from Central Park, our final stop was at Times Square (see, I told you to stay tuned earlier) where I guess a new tradition was made for our family. My dad had once previously visited New York City 13 years ago, and on this trip he’d had a picture taken of himself holding the Welsh flag in Times Square. So after forcing myself to get over my self consciousness, the photo was taken of myself holding the Welsh flag in Times Square too, even mum had her picture taken (I guess that means Geraints next!)
As soon as the pictures were taken the heavens suddenly opened again (opening HARD once again also) and we took shelter at a TGI Fridays, where I enjoyed a really good chicken pasta. After one last stroll through the city back to the hotel, our time in NYC had ended just like that (in addition to the Olympics, both of which were sad times for me). That night it dawned on me that I was actually going to have to LIVE in America, as up until now everything had felt like a holiday.
So ends the first part of my adventure in the U.S.A., but the rest of it was only just beginning! If you made it this far then thank you for showing an interest and sticking with it, if you enjoyed this then let me know, and keep an eye out for more in the future!