27/10/2008 - Limits
Had a great ride Saturday in Zeeland. With motorbabes Sonja and Aletta and a group of women from the 'Zeeuwse Motor Vrienden Club'.
The sun was shining as I left Breda, clean roads, no leafs and alone this time, 'cause motorfriend Djoeke was busy doing other things. But, no worries, nicely on time and with a full tank I was on my way to Zeeland.
10 Km into my trip, things started to change. No more sun, grey skies and are those raindrops on my helmet? Thankfully the weather Gods were in a good mood because by the time I entered Zeeland, small pieces of blue sky peeped through the greyness and by the time I reached exit 36 my sunglasses were doing their proper job again.
Without any major problems I reached 's Heerenhoek, a small village in Zeeland. Thank God for Google Maps and the large type print. Riding into the village I was immediately confronted with a beautifull sight. Because, where to find the meeting point? Well, of course right there, a row of beautiful bikes, sisterly together.
In cafe the Korenmaat I found a bunch of happy women and a rather grumpy bar owner. "Don't drag the chairs and tables, there'll be scratches on the floor". Poor man, obviously never encountered a group of motorbabes before. Within no time tables and chairs are set together and we're enjoying a nice cup of coffee (or tea). And, as so many times before since I've become a motorbabe, I once again meet a whole new set of fun people, women mostly. Sorry ladies, I've already forgotten most of your names, not my thing, but your faces are in my memory.
And than it's time to go. After filling up my tank once more we leave. Take a left, take a right, round a corner. Wow, my glasses are all fogged up, breathing too hard in my helmet. Why is everybody slowing down? What's that on the road? Mud. Or rather Zeeland clay. They don't have sand in Zeeland, the soil consists of clay. And while it's no easy feat to cross that without fogged up glasses, with them it's bloody scary. But, with a bit of sliding of the rear wheel, I manage and on we go.
After some adjustment of my helm I manage to clear the fog on my glasses and with a clear view of the world I start to enjoy the surrounding countryside. What a beautiful country I live in. Great roads, meandering (do roads meander?) through gorgeous Zeeland, the sound of motorcycles before and behind me, happiness can be found anywhere. And than...........I turn a corner. And before me there is a shadowed path, covered in wet, shiny clay. Hands cramp in my gloves, toes curl in my boots. Oh My God!! Do I have to ride through here? Yes, You Have To Ride This Path. Just follow the rest. And here I go, in second gear, I very carefully cross this mirror. Left turn (aargh), right turn (swallow) and finally, the end of the mirror. Safe. A new experience, another obstacle concquered.
We had a couple more of these during that ride. Often with a dry patch in the middle, mostly straight, no turns. At the end of the day this motorbabe rode the Zeeland clay, okay, not whistling dixie but without cramped hands and legs.
Tired but happy (I know, it's a cliche) we reached the Market in Goes. After a half hour wait for our hot coco with cream (sorry, the machine isn't working) I started for home again.
Super ride, super company, super weather, and so a SUPER DAY
And the next day???? Cleaning the bike.
Oh, for anyone who is interested, there's 10 pounds of Zeeland clay in my front yard. Pick it up for free.
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27/10/2008 - bye bye New York
Yep, you're getting it. It's time to say goodbye to New York. And I did in style.
I took the subway to Central Park. You know, take the N downtown to Times Square and than the 1 uptown to Columbus Circle. That'll take you to South Central Park. It had been raining of and on which made everything seem more fresh and breathable. Because it's so hot and humid here.
Trying to pose as a real New Yorker I treated myself to a caffee latte (who doesn't watch Sex and the City) and a cannoli. (What that is? It's good and has lots of calories.) And a bottle of water.
Soon after I sat down at the last available table a girl came up to me and asked if she could sit down. She looked like a girl to me, very young but she must have been around 25 or so. Well, naturally I invited her to share my table.
She told me dat she'd been in New York for 5 months, arrived here from Germany. When I asked her why she was in NY she told me, for love. It turned out not to be the real thing so she went looking for work. Went from one job to another, mostly nanny or housekeeper. That wasn't the real thing either. The Jewish family where she worked as a nanny neglected to pay her and her last job as live in housekeeper for a scriptwriter ended rather abruptly 2 days ago when it turned out that sleeping with the boss was part of the job description. Unfortunately, refusing his avances meant no more place to live. But she was lucky, she told me, because that morning she managed to get a room where she could sleep for a while, keep all her stuf and work for the rent. When I asked her where she had been the last 2 nights, she told me she had been walking around NY. Goning home to Germany was not yet an option, she said. She's the kind of person who sticks with wat she is doing. I wished her a lot of luck and went on my way, walking around in Central Park. Her story is a good example of a completely different side of NY. It's not easy getting and keeping a job and to live here you must make a bundle. It takes a lot, to live here.
After my visit to Central Park I took the subway back to Times Square where I had to change trains. The station beneath TS is a large subway station. Thousands of people use it everyday and numerous artists take the opportunity to be heard and make at the same time make a buck. As I got off my train I heard the sound of a beatles number on steeldrum and one level up a group of hiphoppers was dancing away to some very loud music. As the leader of the band said: You can make a lot of noise in New York, and that's what we're doing. So much talent at the most unlikely spots. Those guys were GOOD. Most of the time people pass them by, everyone is in a rush, but some artists seem to touch something in people and groups gather to watch.
There are also a number of shops underground and I kept thinking, boy, I wouldn't want to work here, spend my working hours underground in the muggy heat and all that filthy air to breathe. And it doesn't look like a high paying job to me. As I said before, it takes a lot to live in NY.
Before I took the N train back to Astoria, I went up to Times Square. One last look around, to say goodbye to NY. With a little pain in my heart; I had such a wonderful time here, by myself, which I really didn't expect.
New York, I'll be back, to reacquaint myself with this wonderful city where I learned that I can do anything, anyting at all, as long as I keep overcoming my own private obstacles.
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17/7/2008 - New York, the sequel (episode 2)
Today it was the day of my outlet shopping trip. I got up a little late (NY can be quite tiring, you know) so I got on the subway at about 9, enjoying a very fresh croissant from Yaya's bakery and of course the inevitable bottle of water. It took me about an hour to get to Port Authority so when I arrived there at about 10, it turned out not only had I just missed the bus but there wouldn't be another one for an hour and a half. oh well, plenty to see and do to kill the time.
I decided to walk around Times Square a bit. What a fascinating place. Alle those lights, boy, even the McDonalds has a marquee, ten times bigger and with more lights than any theater I've ever seen in Holland.
So, in preparation of my shopping spree I whipped out my bank card and got some money from an ATM. Back home you only find ATM's at banks and maybe the larger shopping malls. Here in NY, they are everywhere. You can empty your bank account on every streetcorner, at shops, gasstations, everywhere. After that I was all set to go and find my bus. Port Authority is truly something to behold, well for me anyway. It's a giant building, several floors high. On every floor you find a big hallway with a lot of numbered doors. Behind every door is a bus. Simple as can be. No need to walk around, jumping out of the way of departing or arriving busses. No, just sit inside, an attendant arrives, you show your ticket, the door opens and you hop on the bus. Easy as can be. Our door was number 313. A slightly grumpy uniformed lady asked, no ordered us to stand by the door if we wanted to go to Woodbury Outlet. Well, we wanted so we went and stood by the door. Obviously. I guess this is where I have to make a slight negative remark. In my experience, which isn't vast, rather a lot of low ranking officials in the US are not very nice to people. I've noticed this with security people at airports, customs officers and again this lady. But, after a bunch of these grumpies, all of a sudden you run into someone who is eager to help. Luckily our bus driver belonged to the latter and he managed to take us safely and very fast, within the hour, to Woodbury outlets.
Outlets!! I don't think that any Dutch outlet can be compared to the American ones. Every fashion brand is represented. Armani, Gucci, DKNY, Tommy, Ralph Lauren and dozens more which I've never even heard (surprise, surprise me being a non-expert in fashion, but still).
Besides shop 'till you drop the outlets cater to every shopper's needs with a food court, carts, everything. Oh, and of course, in case you don't want to max out your credit card, there's ATM's. Lots of ATM's.
Boy, did I shop. Coming home that night my hands showed ridges where the bags cut into them. But who wouldn't. 10 bucks for a Ralph Lauren shirt. That's what, 6 Euro's? I can't even buy a brandless t shirt in Holland for that kind of money.
And now I'm back, looking at all the things I bought, feeling very satisfied and happy. Dinner is in the oven, on the way back I went to the supermarket and bought two turkey potpies (I love turkey potpies and yes, it maybe junkfood but there's vegetables in them) and some fruit for desert. And frozen orange juice. Such a nice invention, frozen orange juice. Why don't we have that at home? No heavy bottles to drag home, just a little carton, defrost, add water, done. Actually, to be very honest, I love junkfood eventhough I would never say no to a regular American cuisine meal. But, I'm on holiday and junkfood is allowed. Which is why at Woodbury I had a big piece of pizza. Since this one piece is larger than a small Domino's at home, it was a sufficient for a nice lunch.
Speaking of food, on my way back and forth to the subway I pass numerous restaurants, deli's, bakery's or other food companies. And all kinds, texmex, Chinese, Greek, totally United Nations. The smells make my mouth water and they are a big part of why this area is so much fun to be in.
On the way to the subway I also pass by the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Sermons every Sunday in Italian, Spanish, Check and Vietnamese. Whadda ya think of that. Do they have so many priest or is their priest multi lingual? I don't know. Sure wish I was here on Sunday. I've never heard a Vietnamese sermon before. But, on Sunday I'll be home again, most likely suffering from a nasty case of jetlag.
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16/7/2008 - New York New York, so good they named it twice (episode 1)
And so, here I am, all by myself in the big metropole New York. And I like it!! But OMG did I have major worries before I arrived.
You see, just before I left on my trip to the USA my niece who is to be my hostess in NY sent me an e-mail that there had been a change of plans and that she would be away for work during my stay. Her fiancee, who is a musician, wouldn't be there either because of some gigs he had in another state.
Let me tell you, I wasn't happy. You see, I am not a very brave person. I have this, I think basically female habit of seeing obstacles on my path which I will surely never overcome. They're obstacles which I, with a creativity which surprises even myself, summon spontaneously. I do this for all sorts of situations, not just for travel but for example also when I go on a motor cycle trip. Beforehand I visualize situations where I have to ride through gravel (I've fallen before) or the road might be to narrow to turn or maybe the ground will be too soft to park my bike etc etc. Needless to say, any one of these obstacles are either not there or easily overcome.
Well, the same applied to NY. We arrived Sunday afternoon driving up from Philadelphia. After a nice lunch D. showed me the subway and gave me very complete instructions on how to travel on it: where to get on, where to get off, how to find out where to go and very important, how to find out where I am. Monday morning I received another brief repeat instruction and I was off, flying solo.
And of course, no obstacles at all!! What a great city to hang out in by yourself. Okay, I wouldn't want it to last weeks on end but for these 5 days, it just couldn't be better.
I'm staying in Queens, in Astoria, a neighbourhood which has a lot of nationalities but by the look of it mostly Greek and Chinese. It's busy, it's alive and mostly feels very cosy and I don't feel at all unsafe (one of those obstacles, remember).
The subway is just the best way to travel. I wish we had something like that in Breda. Another obstacle vanished in thin air: subways are not dirty, dark and scary. Okay, some of the subway stations are kind of filthy. And it's hot down there. Very hot. The sweat runs down my back. But than, the train arrives and you get in and it's light and clean and coooool. I'm sure somewhere in NY there must be dirty, dark subway trains like you see in all the movies, but I wasn't in one.
In the subway you meet the most amazing people, well, they seem amazing to me anyway, being a small town Dutch tourist. On the first day an old lady stood up, not a day under 60, orange hair, glasses like the jar bottoms and started playing an instrument. It was some sort of small piano except you blow air in it? I remember when I was a kid, we used to have one at home. Haven't seen it in ages and really don't know the name. But seeing it there, on a NY subway was something else.
Across from me I noticed a priest, I think Greek Orthodox, with a beautiful hat, a long dresslike coat and wife and child.
Another day on the subway the doors opened and a huge woman entered, I guess at least 150 kg (sorry, don't do the pound thing). As soon as we were on our way she started crying, she was so poor, could anybody give her something, she didn't have any money to buy food. I just kept thinking: well, that sure hasn't caused any weightloss so far.
Requests for money seem to be quite common, especially on the subway. Of course we have that as well in Holland. Travelling on the train back and forth from work I frequently encounter beggars. The last attempt I saw on the subway was more fun: a big black guy started singing aria's, after which he went round with a little McDonalds bag, labouring under a I might say false presumption that anyone thought his singing was worth money. It wasn't. Trust me.
The subway will take you almost anywhere. On Monday morning I took the subway downton to Brooklyn Bridge, walked the bridge, met a lovely Australian woman (we had coffee together, being two 'lonely' tourists in NY), took the subway to Soho (love Soho), walked up Broadway (took in the Strand Bookstore on the way, loooved it) all the way to Union Square (shopped at Barnes and Nobles, can you tell that I like books?), had lunch, walked around, took de subway to Times Square, had coffee, and thand walked and walked and walked some more.
And that's NY. Besides riding the subway New Yorkers walk. A lot. Which is logical. Traffic is more often than not at a standstill, there seem to be more traffic jams than paved road, so, you walk or take the subway. And if it is late and you're tired and there just aren't that many trains anymore, you jump out in the road and hail a cab. A yellow cab of course. Ok, it might cost you a bit, but it's definitely worth the experience. And if you want to have some luxury you get a limo. Or a stretch limo. Or to really top it off, take a chopper. Sadly, that is way out of my budget. So my mode of transportation limits itself to subway and legs.
NY ain't cheap. My darling offspring handed me a list with desired articles of clothing, all to be bought in NY. And that isn't easy even with the dollar being at an alltime low. So, a day of outlet shopping was definitely required. I'm sort of proud of myself that I have figured out how to go about this. When still back home I was surfing the web, trying to locate an outlet close to NY. This turned out to be Woodbury outlet, about an hour's drive from NY. Now, I don't have a car at my disposal but the website said there was a tour by bus, departing from Port Authority. Since I had no idea where to find Port Authority, this seemed to be a non-happening expedition. But on Tuesday, while walking around Times Square, I noticed that according to my map Port Authority must be really close. And, I found it. A quite nice but uninterested official gave me a leaflet with information, told me no need for reservations, just come in and buy a ticket and away I go. So, Wednesday will be OUTLET SHOPPING day, my credit card is in my pocket, my fingers itch to sign receipts. Woodbury, here I come!!!!
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