Round the World with Chris Arnold: American touchdown
Five cities down, 11 to go - our Black Market Flights buccaneer, Chris Arnold, has just completed the first of three continents on his Round the World in 35 days expedition. The Student Flights client and recent uni grad embarked on a round the world (RTW) trip in late February with our exclusive Black Markets Flights airfares and dropped us a line from JFK airport en route to London to begin his Euro jaunt. Here’s the lowdown of his time in the US of A: East Coast or West Coast? Chris tells us all about Portland hipsters and how not to wear your backpack...
They say the West Coast is the best coast. What’s your verdict? LA or NYC?
So Los Angeles itself, I’m not really a fan of. It’s somewhat dirty, and pretty difficult to get around in as a backpacker. Plus, it doesn’t feel like there’s stuff to do close by. I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it had I not been with friends down in Orange County. Whereas New York City was incredible, so many great sights if you’re travelling solo and so many fun activities if you’re with others. And super easy to get anywhere you want to. So definitely NYC.
What’s the most 'American meal' you’ve had during your time in the USA?
In Portland we went to this burger/sandwich shop in the suburbs that served something called ‘The Reggie’. Don’t ask me exactly what it was, but it had a lot of chicken and cornbread smothered in gravy and oil. Which was incredible.
Is it true about the hipsters in Portland? Is the dream of the '90s still alive there?
You’d be hard pressed to find a male cyclist that’s not either wearing horn-rimmed glasses or rocking a huge beard (or both), that’s for sure. They’re definitely around, not so much in the downtown region, but if you venture into certain suburbs you’re sure to experience a very hip/alternative culture.
How many of NYC’s five boroughs did you manage to visit?
Pretty much only Manhattan and Brooklyn. We took the ferry to Staten Island, but took it back straightaway so it doesn’t really count. Worth the trip though, as it’s free and you get the best view of the city and of the Statue of Liberty. And I guess the train to JFK went through Queens as well. But Manhattan and Brooklyn was where I spent all my time.
How did you spend your days in NYC?
I spent the first day doing a walking tour with the hostel I was staying at. It was led by a 77-year-old retired teacher named Jerry, who was really something else. It was the best day, the tour went for a full 14 hours (!) but we got to see so much of the city: Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge, Ground Zero, 1 World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, Times Square and more. I met some amazing people on the tour, so I was able to spend the following two days hanging out at different parts of the city with them.
What was your favourite part of Manhattan?
The day after the tour we walked all through Central Park and hung out in SoHo. The weather was sunny and perfect (albeit only 4 degrees) but it was such a relaxing day and we got to see more of the culture than just the sights. I’d have to say Central Park.
Coolest thing you’ve seen so far on your trip?
The view of Seattle from Queen Anne - it’s this really sweet suburb where a few of my friends live, and there’s this one park that has amazing views of the city. I went there three different times in the one-and-a-half days I was there.
Any lessons learnt?
Don’t wear a backpack on your front when you walk through Penn Street Station in NYC when you take the train in from Newark. You’re guaranteed to trip over at least three suitcases due to lack of downwards vision in the crowd. Guaranteed.