Wednesday, September 28, 2016

USA in the summer. New York, Niagara falls, Portland

 New York City 
Ever since the move to Amsterdam traveling has become easier comparing to Moscow and Cyprus and NYC was on mind already for a while so when the opportunity to go came I jumped right on it. It was my 5th time in the city and probably the first time I was really a "tourist" not just a visitor. We stayed in East village which is probably together with West village my favorite part of town and hot the sites. The process involved lots of walking which was great way to feel the energy of the city. I might sound like a cliche but I don't mind : I love love New York City! Just like I love Paris and Cape Town and Hong Kong and Tokyo, I think is just a general big city crush. I love the spirit, the bustle, the constant feeling that you are in the middle of where it's really happening. Probably that's one of the reasons I really love Amsterdam too, although on a much smaller scale, but that's a city where things do happen and history is created.
But back to NYC. In total of 4 days pretty much all of Manhattan was covered except didn't hit a single museum, but I guess something for next time. It was heartwarming to take the ferry to Staten island being surrounded by so much impressive beauty right on the water. To be perfectly honest I don't really think New York is a pretty town. Most of the buildings down in my favorite neighborhoods are dingy looking and in desperate need of renovation, the streets are often covered with trash and there are too many homeless people, something I am not used to anymore. It's only when you get to the business area you see that overwhelming massive buildings with impressive entrance and huge amount of security guards, just to remind you that you are in the land of the free.
That and Times Square. Where the consumerism is reaching a whole different level.

One of the best things about visiting NYC is the food. From the teleportation-to-China style lunch places in China town where you pay next to nothing for a dim-sum out of this world up to the fancy urban cafes or a random Ethiopian restaurant next door, or just a cool donut/latte place - it's all food to remember. I got the chance to visit twice the Mogardor in East Village and I was In love with it. It's the kind of place where people queue before opening hours to have a spot for breakfast and it's highly advisable to reserve well in advance for dinner. This tiny little Moroccan restaurant changed my view on chicken. I swear can eat that Chicken Tangine with Charmoulla sauce every day, you could say it was just a chicken stew with green spicy sauce, but then - divine. NYC was a good way to catch up with some old friends and randomly even met a lady I know on the street which resulted to a nice morning coffee. Strangely enough it really felt homey to be back in town and I know I will be back soon. In fact already booked my next trip.

Random facts:
- ladies in NYC are super skinny. Big city, tough competition on the dating market, very much like Moscow. I don't think it's the working out, just not eating- American men don't know how to dress. I think it's the fact that everything they wear seems too big, and the white socks really kill it for me- super refreshing to get back to free ice-water and free refills, not so nice back to 20% minimum tip culture- buying a sandwich from the supermarket deli is the same as sitting down and eating it in a nice cafe, the same 11 USD, better sit down and enjoy it- I have forgotten what it is to pay 10$ for a glass of wine and when you add tip. Versus 3 EUR in Amsterdam and no tip.- shopping is addictive and NYC is the place where that addiction can reach extreme levels. Just visit the Burlington Coat factory at Union square and hit the girls dresses department. Terrible retail experience but what nice finds... My credit card saw no mercy.

A small travel tip there. If you visit NYC you should try AIRBNB. It makes sense everywhere but particularly in a city like NYC. Makes you feel so much more at home staying in a private apartment, you get more space for less money and other "extras" such a big fridge to store fruit, drinks, wine etc. It's just so much nicer. I have always stayed in hotels before and now regret it. Also I am not really the kind of person that likes to socialize with other travelers, I much rather meet locals or get a sense how they live and possibly learn from it.

Niagara Falls

Niagara falls, Ontario CA
 We decided to take a side trip to the Niagara falls and 7,5 hours later ended up in Ontario, CA in the lovely but super touristic town by the falls.
The views were stunning and the whole feel of it being smitten by the power and beauty of nature a very special feeling

Glorious nature beauty, truly amazing to see and feel a bit small and insignificant comparing. 
A random story. Remember how I mentioned that I am not big fan of socializing with other travelers. Well my abilities to adapt were tested when we booked a stay in a lovely little Bed and breakfast called a " A night to remember". It was certainly very charming though in bad need of renovation, and the wifi speed was certainly something to remember, I had worse only in Congo DRC. But the breakfast next morning was ... wow. Basically the owner of the place prepared and served it and we were sited on a long table with several retirement aged couples from the states and Canada and one super funny lady with banana allergy of which she " Learned it the haaaard way" by her own account. I felt a mix emotions similar to being invited to the future in-laws for the first time. 
Portland, OR 
3 years of my life spent in that lovely city and still felt very familiar. A week there in July brought back lots of good memories, the mountains, the outdoors, the snowboarding, the wineries, the road trips, and about all, the friends. It's where my kids were born, where I joined my first running race, where I started writing, where I started to love hiking, and where I learned to snowboard and took my first surfing lesson, it's where my favorite red wine is coming from, where I met one of my BFF and where I had my baby shower surrounded by good friends. Great memories kept flooding my head, but so did things I now have that I could never have there. 

Mt Hood
Oregon is a great place to come back to and I would do so with pleasure. I am sure it's possible to build a really good life here, just not for me or us. I have learned to appreciate what I have at the moment so much and I don't see the need to move. I have the best job ever, it doesn't even feel like job since it has always been my hobby. I am close to my family, my kids go to one of the best schools in Netherlands, we live in a drop dead gorgeous place right down town and I love my neighborhoods bars and restaurants, and the Amsterdam crowd, and our morning runs along the Amstel river, and the canals, I love how Paris is 5 h drive away and in a matter of one year the kids have been in Milan, Paris, Toulouse, Andorra, Cyprus, Belgium, Germany, skiing in Bulgaria, Rome, Romania. And when the weather goes really bad, which it surely does, then we jump in the plane and 4 hours later we are in our gorgeous apartment in Cyprus where the sun always shines.
I do miss my friends, but that only means that I need to visit more often.
In conclusion, it has been wonderful as always to visit the USA this summer. I am a big fan and regardless of current political events, that country will always have a special place in my heart. I once wrote my bucket list that I want to visit every year, and so far so good :)