Finally, my adventure in NYC started yesterday. I had to pick up the flight at 14.50 but it got delayed by an hour. In the end, the plane landed at around 19.15 local time (which means a damn lot of hours inside the plane). Going through immigration and customs was boring but easy.
Getting into Manhattan was quite a mess though. Instead of picking a taxi, I decided to try to make my way through the subway system. So I first picked up the AirTrain and, instead of getting to the E train, which is the one I needed, I ended up in the A train. OK, looking at the map it was clear that A could take much more time to get to the destination than E, but it could bring me there anyway; so I waited for that train instead of going back. Going through Brooklyn took quite a bit, and when the train got to Manhattan, something happened (it was spoken out loud, but I couldn't understand it) and the train changed its way through another line. So I couldn't get to the station I planned and decided to get down in another one to later take the 6 line. However, to pick the 6 line in the correct direction, I had to go out of the metro system and reenter again at some other place. At this point I was so bored (due to carrying all luggage) and stressed that I stopped a taxi.
The thing is that I had to be at the apartment between 9pm and 10pm so that the tenant could give me the keys. As I was certainly going to be late, I attempted to call her when the plane landed, but she didn't pick the phone. As a result, when I got to the apartment, nobody was there. Uhh... scam? No. Fortunately, I could check my email through the mobile phone and saw a mail that told me to go to another direction to pick up the keys. This mail also had her mobile number, and I noticed that I had written it down incorrectly... hence why nobody picked it up before. So taxi to downtown again, pick up the keys, and another taxi uptown. Expensive, yes, but I was not going to attempt the subway again carrying all my stuff.
At around 11pm I got to the apartment, made the Internet connection work on my laptop and went to sleep. 30-hour long day finished. (Note to self: I had wished multiple times to have longer days. Don't say that again!)
As regards today, I have read the New York Times (pretty darn expensive), explored the surroundings of the apartment (located at the Upper East Side), checked the way to get to Google using the Subway (not that difficult, now that I wasn't stressed), had lunch downtown, bought a local SIM card for my cell phone and went running in Central Park. Yay!
Now, some things that have surprised me from the city so far.
It is amazing how widespread and easy is the use of credit cards to pay for virtually anything and everywhere (even inside the taxis!). Of course, it's also frightening the fact that there is no ID check for the use of the credit card, so losing it is... uh... scary. Also frightening is the way you spend money... virtual money is much easier to give away than physical one!
Tipping is annoying. Come on, just tell me how much I owe and don't make me figure out how much to add to make it right. You know, taxi drivers, waiters... everyone expects tips and there are some guidelines on how much you are supposed to leave. I guess some taxi drivers got angry yesterday...
The subway system is quite... "interesting". Everything seems very old, and the way it works is not too clear. Some stations don't open all day as others do, in some you have to change the direction by going outside, some trains don't have any clear indication of what is the next station... so far I think Barcelona's system is much nicer. Maybe except for the MetroCard.
Water is free. What do I mean with this, you say? This morning I sat down in a bar to get a coffee and, before I even ordered, the waiter served me a big glass with water and ice. Similarly, when having lunch, I also got water without having ordered it. And what's more, the waiter refilled the glass as it emptied.
Speaking of glasses... mixed drinks seem to be common here. The lunch menu included one mixed drink (some with champagne and some with vodka), and I saw several bars in which the happy hour started as early as 4pm. Oh, and the names for these drinks are quite "funny". Guess I'll have to learn them and what they are composed of.
I don't know which language to use to talk to people. Many of them seem to understand both English and Spanish.
The blocks in Manhattan are not as big as some people made me think. You can, in fact, do trips that span multiple blocks on foot.
And, at last, the weather is unbearably hot and humid. Not good for sweat.