04.10.2011 - 29.10.2011
Well.. I guess 'then' is a rather flexible conception. New York has been a while, but that doesn't make it a less vibrant memory and exciting experience. I well remember entering New York on the Megabus, seeing the skyline for the first time, and realizing that the empire state building and the chrysler building aren't just real on tv. It's a funny feeling, getting out of the bus and telling yourself 'you're here, the streets of NYC'. Euphoria? But something to with your eyes. I'd spent my busride figuring out exactly what I wanted to do and when I was gonna do it, but on my first morning there was so much I wanted to do at the same time that I just couldn't decide anymore. Maybe, the amount of possibilities is so overwhelming that it freezes your brain and you end up spending your time shuffling between the stairs to the metro and the edge of the sidewalk a couple of meters up the street like a video-game character on tilt. I finally just wandered off into central park, surprised by it's relaxed atmosphere, far away from the busy city. I meandered down to Columbus Circle and onto Broadway, expecting to find a tourist office for a map to direct me to Times Square, but before I did I was already on it. I will not waste my time describing it, everyone knows. I spent the day strolling around, to the big theaters, past fifth avenues couture stores, and into Carrie and Big's public library. I stopped to eat sushi on Fashion Week's lawn, Bryant Park, which didn't smell as you would expect from a place where beautiful people in beautiful garments prance around. That lawn I mean.
That week, I also had my first jolly meeting with the American Healthcare System (it deserves capitals for it's accomplishment of being one of the most crappy institutions of the western world). I had an infected throat that persisted for a stunning 10 days and brought with it fever and limpness and kept me bed-bound for two days in my NY hostel. So, on Monday morning I decided to see a doctor. I asked the girl and the front desk, but upon hearing the word 'doctor' her eyes widened and she told me to NEVER go to a doctor in America. Exactly why never became clear to me, but she recommended to go to the hospital's emergency room instead, and I can tell you, if that's the better option, I don't wanna find out about the doctor. I spent two hours in the waited room, only to spend 5 minutes being checked up and asked questions ('do you have asthma?' -no, 'are you pregnant?' -errr), and ended up being charged $900 for it. Oh and now for the fun part; that didn't include the 5 different medications for my several new-found malfunctions (asthma..?). Overall an interesting way to spend a Monday morning, and it made me almost miss my bus to Baltimore (even though I was traveling considerably lighter.. I'd say over a thousand dollars lighter..).
To my further great convenience, I was dropped off at a dodgy parking lot far outside Baltimore, with no idea where to go. I managed to score a ride with two nice guys that dropped me off at the hostel. Christian worked at a sushi bar where I went the next day with my new Ozzie friends Josh and Ben. There was a karaoke night, but of course every one was quite sure that they would never go up to sing. Several hours and shots later, it was a very different scenario .
I spent a bunch of days in Baltimore, on Christian's boat (fantastic despite some leaks) and eating sushi. The weather was still nice though chilly in the evening, and we had a barbecue at the docks. Someone had brought a projector and we fashioned a big screen out of a tool shed and a white sheet and happily dangled our feet off the pier while watching Jaws. Can anyone think of a better way to spend the evening? Deep in the night, we lay on our bellies on the pier and tried to get the ducks to eat out of our hands. But every time we'd almost gained their trust, a train would rush by, honking loudly, and chase them off again.
My adventure continued in Washington D.C., a completely different city! Where Baltimore is mostly grim-looking and not too impressive, DC is full of monumental white buildings and long wide avenues, reminiscent of Paris. On the first night the obvious thing to do was to see the White House, and despite the rain I set out with my Ozzies. There was only one road that offered a tree-free close-up view of the First Crib, and it was closed off. We went and asked the security officer why we couldn't go in and when we could, be he couldn't tell us more than 'because' and 'later'. I went back later to get my view, but for now we could walk far around and see the house from a distance than ruled out all our illusions of seeing Obama reading his newspaper behind the window.
I spent my time in DC catching up on some museum-time, seeing as all the Smithsonians are free! I saw the Museum of American History (a lot about wars and cars), Natural History (Stormchasers in the IMAX theater! Yay :D), the Air and Space Museum ('the Apollo has landed') and of course I couldn't resist waiting in line for half an hour to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Also saw the original Star-Spangled Banner that inspired the American national anthem. It was huge and of course they had made a very big deal out of it, with a glass case and dimmed lights and a lot of security, while all imaginable interpretations of the anthem were playing. One night of excitement: my first tornado-warning :D. It ended up passing by DC and I didn't get to see it of course, but the feeling alone was thrilling to me.
On saturday 22nd my flight to San Francisco left very early in the morning. The flight was very scenic, seeing the sun come up over a tight bed of clouds, and flying over the snow-topped Rocky Mountains, beautiful! I landed in San Fran at 9.30AM and since I couldn't check into the hostel until 2, I decided to discover the city carrying my backpack. I wasn't quite prepared for the hills in the city (in Holland we would easily call them mountains) but I wasn't at all bothered: it was like I'd landed in paradise! The weather was more than beautiful and I sweated and panted my way to the beach, splashing my feet through the sand and water while pelicans dotted the horizon. The view was gorgeous, a little port with Alcatraz island behind it and somewhere in the distance the sparkly orange of the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite my aching back I couldn't wipe the smile of my face :D. I spent a few sunny days exploring San Fran's beaches and wharfs and meandering through neighborhoods with characteristic wooden houses and steep little streets. Then, I decided it was time for some nature and I spent a beautiful day at Marin Headlands, a regional park right on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I took a long hike through the hills, over beaches and past deep cliffs with my new buddy Brett from Chicago, seeing California Sea Lions at the marine mammal center and ending the day with the most gorgeous sunset on top of a mountain with amazing views of San Francisco, right above the Golden Gate Bridge. What a sight!
Then, I spent some days discovering the Uni of Cali at Berkeley. I stayed in a big house with 18 students and was shown around campus and the college nightlife. We spent the night playing flip-cup in teams of 8 and I was actually really good at it! It was almost Halloween so we went to a house party and had our faces painted like zombies, then went into town to discover we were the only ones in the Halloween spirit and the frats looked at us like we were the goth-kids in high school. No matter, it was fun.
Soon to follow... part II of the West Coast Adventure!