Theres no place like home…

Ok, so I admit I had high hopes for New York.

I was armed with several emails address, telephone numbers, tips and tricks for the whole trip. I was ready and willing…

So what went so wrong?!

First of all, I’m lying a whole heap of blame on AT&T’s shoulders. I bought a SIM card out there, as it was the only way to get a US number people could call AND text. However, before he gave it to me, I suspect the man in the shop dipped it in acid, ran over it with a steamroller, left it in a tank of pirahnas before letting it fly out into space on a rocket ship, only to let it crash down to Earth in my hand as the reception was that bad. I couldn’t get to another shop for a while, and this one was the closest – only they couldn’t really help me because they were a concession…so for the first few days, all anyone could hear was snaps, crackles, and pops. Plus I managed to pick the only hotel in New York which seemed to have absolutely no reception whatsoever! None! At least, not without hanging out the window by my ankles.
Yes, all good fun.

But after visiting AT&T again, I got a new sim card (after they insisted it was my phone…all three of them) and they swapped the number – which was more than the first AT&T shop could do. I have no idea how it worked either – I think because one was a concession, and the other was the real deal so could do the whole shebang. Which is weird, massively frustrating, and just damn unfair. I felt completely screwed and they didn’t exactly jump down my throat to help…it seemed to take so long to get them to help me unless I was topping up or giving them money for something. (Even when I did on the phone, the woman at the end of the line got incredibly pissed off when I explained that no, I couldn’t use the automated service because the automated service wanted the zip code to where my credit card is registered to…not a UK post code. And yes Miss AT&T lady, I HAVE tried my postcode..and it doesnt work!)

Anyway, I stayed by central park west for the start, which was nice but I didn’t take as much advantage as I should have. Bethesda fountain was just lovely, and watching the various street acts perform reminded me of how I loved to spend evenings in the summer watching the street performers in Covent Garden. Plus the statue is very pretty, she’s much nicer in real life..

I walked around the boat lake, and to the Alice in Wonderland statue, where I found a very befitting quote from Lewis Carroll which I wish I could have gold plated and sent to all the cheeky little chaps who love nothing better than a strict session with six of the best! Or maybe just the dumbasses who seem to think I have nothing better to do with my time than entertain their ridiculous questions…

Damn skippy

Speak roughly to your little boy

And beat him when he sneezes

He only does it to annoy

Because he knows it teases

The hotel room was – unfortunately – tiny. I mean, I had even splashed out for a Queen size, so I dread to think what a normal double was supposed to be! I felt a bit bad getting gents to see me there, and tried to dissuade them to come later in the week, but they were insistent. However, they understood. ‘Hey! It’s Noo Yoik…whaddya expect..’ Well, thats ok then. I guess…
Apartment in Times Square was much better. Still no bath though, which is a crime! Yes, it may be sitting in your own filth, but it’s not about that. Its about relaxing, chilling, letting those poor aching muscles I stretched and strained from too much shopping and walking calm down and chillax.

But it did have a kitchenette, which meant I could indulge and buy lots of goodies from the supermarket to cook for myself (mainly vegetables. And cheese. Lots of proper cheese!). And a fridge, so a couple of bottles of wine made life a bit easier..

I think if I was to go there on a regular basis, I’d get to the point where I’d be ok, but sorting out the wheat from the chaff is so much harder than here. The sheer volume of timewasters and idiots was just too much for me to deal with. No, I can’t do outcalls. No, I don’t know how to get from your place to mine. No, I will not be coming back. No, there will not be another chance to see me. No, you cannot get shouted at in my hotel. No, I will not answer the door naked. No, I did not bring my whole wardrobe with me. No, I was not prepared to try and sneak item a, b or c through customs. No, I do not appreciate waking up at the crack of dawn to do an appointment with you, only for you to cancel because even though YOU set the day and time, you don’t know if you can make it.

And the appointments themselves? Hmm… hard to explain. I think I’d say English guys are definitely more giving. And long may that continue! There’s still the basic problems throughout the world – mainly the misapprehension that I’m a mind reader and know precisely what they want me to do, and what they enjoy each and every time. I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t allow someone to tie me up for an hour or more without giving them some kind of detailed instructions…

They’re also early birds! My god, every morning someone wanted a bit of sominksomink before they started work…exhausting! I couldn’t be doing with that for long. Especially when some knob jockey cancels and you’re already up and ready to go. For some bizarre reason, they never understood why I would take it particularly badly that I had to get up at 7.30am to see them when I could quite happily lie in till noon! After all…it’s me holiday!!

And yes, there were also the ones who are obviously insane in the membrane who called me up beginning of the week, failed to show, and completely underestimated my ability to Save Their Number, so that when they called back at the end of the week for an appointment, I refused. Busted, as we say in the industry. That, and ‘What a twat‘.

So now I’m armed with a viable list of timewasters and tragic cases who really need to get a life, it seems a shame that Im not going to be able to use them! Maybe one day, now I know the lay of the land, but not for a while. And certainly for a lot shorter period. I think trying to mix business with pleasure didn’t really work at all. If I was to give any advice on touring New York, I’d say get tourist stuff out the way in the first couple of days, work solidly for 2-3 days you advertise for, and then use another day or two to shop like a mad thing!

Ooh! And top New York tips in general –

* Of all places to look like a tourist, DON’T do it in Times square. Walk through it with confidence, and just a slight hint of boredom otherwise every tour guide and shit rapper is going to stop you.

*Don’t buy the maps in Central Park. There aren’t any maps in the park itself (probably due to said map sellers) but you can get a free one if you ask the conservatory people nicely. I found a booth at the Strawberry Fields memorial, which is by 72nd st entrance.

*Eat at 9th Avenue. From around 30th st up there’s enough restaurants to keep you going all year! And they wont rip you off. Also a good spot for little Jazz bars.

*If you get given a menu without prices on, go somewhere else. As well as sales tax and tips, they’ll probably charge you a Mug Tax too.

*Don’t wear a ‘I ‘heart’ NY shirt. Ever. Seriously.

*A lot of stores give you a discount for being a tourist. Macy’s will give you 10%…just take your ID to the visitors centre and they’ll give you a card you can use for 31 days.

*Coupons, coupons, coupons! If you’re going shopping, check the internet first for coupons for the shops you‘re going to. Print them off and take them with you. From what I understand, 78% of America’s economy is coupon based…

*Take a tour – the guide will have loads of tips about where to go and what to do. Its not tacky, and can be fun! Especially when it’s a Duck Tour! Again, look for coupons.

* Take paracetamol. They only have advil type stuff out there…so you end up paying £2 for an asprin/ibruprofen mix thing rather than the normal 19p packet of pills!

*Dont bother with the Statue of Liberty tours unless you’re really desperate to actually climb it. Get the Statten Island ferry instead – it’s completely free (you dont even need a metro card) and gets as close to the statue as any of the tours. Good enough for a cheesy picture in a green foam hat 😀

*Remember nothing is what it says on the tag. Theres always sales tax (I think it’s over $58 in retail shops), and tips for restaurants. Plus occupancy tax for hotel rooms. I booked through an agency, and still had to pay extra when I arrived. Urgh.

*Take earplugs. Air-con is everywhere, so even if yours isn’t on all night, someone else’s will be.

And I think thats all for now. No doubt I’ll wake up in a cold sweat and think of something else in time, but don’t let me put you off. It really is an….experience!

And yes, more pictures coming when I have a better net connection!

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