A Warm Welcome in New York

DAY EIGHT – 28th MARCH 20011

“I wouldn’t go anywhere near Turkey – it’s a dangerous place. Isn’t it?”

It’s an interesting line from the man sitting next to me at Nashville International Airport, as I tell him about the next leg of my journey following the States. What’s even more interesting is that this guy used to work for the airlines, so he’s one of the tiny percentage of Americans who actually have a passport.

I tell him that Turkey’s a nice place, really. And if he goes there, he won’t get bombed. Honestly.

The flight to Newark, New Jersey is just under two hours and it’s done in a relatively small aircraft. At the other end, finding the train to New York City is remarkably easy. Then I hit the subway.

I wasn’t expecting New York to be as welcoming as any of the places I’d been to in the south, but getting a large case through the barriers in the subway isn’t straightforward at all. Unlike the London Underground, there are no wide lanes for wheelchairs or luggage. To use the “disabled friendly” access you have to find an attendant, swipe your ticket and then have them watch you going through a caged gate.

I’d done my research on the subway lines, and worked out that from Penn Station I needed to go north for just four stops. Easy enough, apart from the fact that not every trains stops at every station, Confusingly, i end up at two stops North of where I actually want to be.

The Helmsley Hotel is on the south avenue running along Central Park, and on the short walk from the station I see the huge green space stretching out before me. But despite its four star status, check in at the hotel seems cold and unfriendly. I get the impression I’m going to be charged every time I look at a member of staff. And when I get to the room, I realise that I’m right…

You can look...
... but you can't touch!

The room itself is smaller and less ornate than those I’d been used to in the south. I also have a “city view” which, from the 19th floor, doesn’t do much among the skyscrapers.

Four start but compact - this is what you get in Central Park

OK, I guess it does everything a hotel room should do – but there’s not even tea and coffee. Even more annoyingly, I can’t get the air conditioning to go below 23 celsius, I call reception, who send a maintenance man, who tells me in broken English that the a/c doesn’t operate in “cool” mode until the summer. a second call to reception confirms this, with the manager helpfully suggesting that I open a window. Yerrite – there’s a 45mph wind up here.

Time, I feel, to get out and explore.

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