Being social in a pub? No, thank you!

 

Our list with things to do is much bigger in New York than it was for Geneva. So we made a promise to ourselves that we would go out and do more here than just going to the supermarket in the weekend and doing a quiz on Monday. And we have done well so far. (Proof? We went to Central Park, to Coney Island, to Long Island City …)

And yes, we also tried to go out for a drink. You know, just to be social. But that has been a disappointment almost every time, so we kind of gave up on that …

I can identify the problem in three words: TOO MUCH NOISE!

It is just unbelievable how much noise there is in pubs. And unfortunately also in restaurants most of the time. There are so many people who all talk loudly, the music is even louder, so people have to increase their volume even more …

And there we are, Hubbie and I, two people who love quiet and calm surroundings. So we just use our own version of sign language, because we don’t even try to actually talk to each other anymore. That would be pointless, because we know we will not be able to hear anything.

Of course, we still have to shout our order to our waiter, but even he doesn’t always understand us. There is just too much noise.

Even in Belgium I thought the music was too loud sometimes, but I had enough other quiet options. Here it doesn’t matter where I go, it seems to be the same everywhere.

I really don’t know what is up with that. But I don’t like it. Because you can’t hear each other, you can’t have a conversation and your ears hurt at the end of the evening.

So it seems that being social in pubs is not going to be a reality here either …

 

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Sun, ocean, beach

 

It had been on our calendar for quite some time, but we just never got around to actually going there. One time because we had some other things planned, another time because it was too hot outside … But last weekend we finally made it to Coney Island.

The only thing I knew about this part of New York was that you can stroll on the boardwalk and that there’s a wooden roller coaster. So it was time to get to know more about it.

We discovered that we could easily walk from our place to a metro station where the N would take us to Coney Island directly. Bonus point! We took off … and got a bit discouraged when we were waiting in the hot and humid station, all sweaty. But we persisted and luckily there was AC in the train itself, so the torture didn’t last too long. ;-) We got a seat and were ready for our new adventure.

We didn’t count on the long trip though: it took us more than an hour to get there. Admittedly an hour is not extremely long, but Hubbie correctly remarked that in the same time we would have flown from Geneva to Brussels. :-)

But anyway, the first thing that surprised me when we arrived was that Coney Island has a beach! I really didn’t know that … We didn’t investigate the quality of the sand though, because we are both not big fans of beaches (that sand just gets everywhere!). Instead we just walked around a bit and enjoyed the view …

Coney_Island-beach

 

we listened to people screaming on the rides …

Cone_Island_RollerCoaster

 

we enjoyed some art …

Coney_Island_art

 

we soaked up some vitamin D …

Coney_Island_FerrisWheel

 

And that was it, really. We didn’t stay too long, because we only arrived mid afternoon and still had more than an hour to spend going back home of course.

It is not something we would do every week, because some parts were very crowded. And yet … with a comfortable chair, a parasol and a good book … Who knows we might spend a day there this summer.

 

Why don’t the restaurants have main courses here?

 

When we announced that we were moving to New York, some of our friends agreed unanimously on one thing: we would be able to treat ourselves with culinary delights! Apparently New York is the place to be if you want to eat well for little money. (Contrary to Geneva …)

So you can imagine my surprise when we went to a restaurant for the first time and I noticed on the menu that an appetizer cost about 20 dollar. That wasn’t what I expected when our friends said it would be cheap here. And the restaurant wasn’t fancy or anything.

I was a bit confused and continued to look through the menu in search for the main courses. But I couldn’t find them anywhere. Now it was just getting crazy. I mean, what restaurant doesn’t have a main course?

It took me a while, but eventually I discovered the problem. What I thought was an appetizer, was actually the main course. Here it is called ‘entree’. But to me an entrée is an appetizer. It was like that in Belgium and it was like that in Geneva. So you can understand where my confusion came from.

But well … you live, you learn. :-)

 

New York’s smallest island

 

The first time Hubbie and I went to Roosevelt Island we took a photo of a small island a bit further down the river:

U Thant Island

We wondered then what it could be and now I have found the answer: it’s the smallest island of New York.

That piece of land is officially called Belmont Island, but it is better known as U Thant Island. And it is special for two reasons:

  1. Nobody is allowed on it.
  2. It did not come into existence naturally.

In 1892 William Steinway (the one from the famous pianos) started digging tunnels under the East River, so his company in Queens would be connected to Manhattan. To realize this they had to build a shaft, which produced excess landfill. And that’s why you now see the little island in the river.

But that’s not all …

Afterwards the island was a bit forgotten, because, well, you can’t really do much with less than 20.000 square feet in the middle of the river, can you? Until in 1977 there was a group of UN-employers who started leasing the island from the city. That group was a big fan of the spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy and called itself Peace Meditation. They planted some shrubs and gave the island a new name: U Thant Island, after the third Secretary General of the UN.

For a long time they were the only ones allowed on the island, but because of the tightened security by the UN, even they stopped going there.

But wait, there’s still more …

In 2004 the local artist Duke Riley rowed to the island one morning when it was still dark. On top of the navigation tower he planted a flag with a symbol of two electric eels on it and declared the island a sovereign nation. Of course that didn’t last long, because the Coast Guard was already on its way to escort Riley off the island. They hadn’t seen the flag though, which then still waved for a couple more days.

Nowadays U Thant Island is a protected natural area for birds. And the tunnels underneath it are still used by the 7 train.

 

 

Sources:

Secret New York. An unusual guide. 2014; Jonglez.

Wikipedia

The New York Times

Keep the compliments coming!

You know what they do really well here in New York? Give nice compliments. I have received more compliments in the couple of months that we’ve lived here, than all the years before in Belgium and Geneva. And it feels good!

It already started on our very first day here. We had just landed and Hubbie and I were trying to handle all of our suitcases, backpacks and our Mika. I noticed someone coming through the door and walking passed us, when she shouted: “Nice coat!” Loud and clear. I was surprised, because getting a compliment from someone I didn’t know at all was new to me. Luckily I was able to get over myself on time to reply ‘Thank you’.

Since spring has arrived, I am walking around in the most fantastic shoes ever:

Cat shoes

And I’m not the only one who thinks that, because I can’t even count the number of people anymore that have given a compliment about them. And all people I do not know!

Just last week, Hubbie and I were at a barbecue trying to eat without spilling too much ketchup. I was eating my hamburger not so elegantly when someone came up to me and said: “I just had to come over and tell you how much I like your shoes.” I smiled from ear to ear and replied: “Thank you so much.” And that was that. But I was happy for the rest of the evening!

Can you imagine something like that happening in Belgium? Or Geneva? I don’t think I ever experienced it there. Which is a shame, really, because it just makes you happy for the rest of the day.

So from now on I am going to try to do the same thing. If I see someone with a nice dress, great shoes, an awesome hairdo or anything else, I am going to give them a compliment. And I hope that they will also go about the rest of their day with a huge smile.

My cutest movie experience ever

– – –

Spoiler alert

In this blog I’m describing two scenes from the Pixar movie Inside Out. If you still want to go see the movie, maybe it’s better to skip this post.

– – –

Pixar Inside Out

On Friday, Hubbie had the day off (yay!). Since we had talked about going to watch the movie Inside Out, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Plus, we had discovered that there was a theatre in our neighborhood where the tickets for the morning screening were cheaper. Deal!

Although we also had our doubts about this plan. I mean, spending an entire movie in a theatre filled with kids? Was that a good idea? It turned out it was. It actually made for two incredibly cute moments …

 

Oh no!

The first one was in the scene where Joy and Bing Bong were stuck in Memory Dump. When Bing Bong sacrifices himself and slowly disappears from Riley’s memory, you could hear the cutest voice you can imagine:

Oh nooo, Bing Bong!

You could just hear pure emotion in that voice. It was so adorable that I had to laugh a bit (and I wasn’t the only one). But that was fine, because that way I could stop myself from bursting into tears …

 

She does!

The second cute moment came a bit later, when Joy realized that Riley also needed Sadness in here life. Joy says: “She needs you, Sadness!” To which a kid in the audience responded:

She does!

And again an emotional moment turned into a super cute one :-)

 

Recommended

But even without these two kids who made it extra cute, it’s still a great movie. The concept was represented beautifully and the movie had funny dialogues, emotional moments and adventurous scene. My conclusion: well worth seeing!

 

Here is the trailer …

 

… and one of my favorite scenes

Enough with the plastic bags already!

plastic-bagWhat is it with plastic bags in this place? It almost seems like an obsession. Everywhere you go, in every store, you get a plastic bag. And if you buy something that is a bit ‘heavier’ (like a can or a bottle), you even get two! Because one apparently can’t handle that weight … It is so ingrained that some people actually find it strange when I say I don’t want a bag.

 

Weird looks

I always carry a reusable bag in my purse when I go to the supermarket. But sometimes I am still putting my groceries on the conveyor belt, while the cashier is already starting to put the products in a plastic bag. I then tell her that I have my own bag and that I would like to use that, please.

And sometimes they give me a strange look. Or a surprised “Are you sure?” Yes, of course I’m sure, because that is the sole reason I am carrying that bag in my purse!

 

Think of the environment

I don’t understand … Who still wants to use plastic bags, for crying out loud?

You can read articles about how bad it is for animals.

You can see documentaries about what it does to the environment.

You can hear facts and figures that are so difficult to grasp.

And still it is the most common thing around here to get a plastic bag everywhere. As much as you like. Absolutely free.

Yes, I know, in Europe – and the rest of the world – the problem has not completely gone either. But at least I had to (rightly so) pay for plastic bags in Belgium (and that’s almost four years ago). And I saw a lot of people carrying their own reusable bags. Here in New York I still haven’t seen that. So for me it really is a difference in state of mind.

 

She doesn’t get it …

reusablebagAnother example from everyday life? My pleasure!

I was standing at the cash register the other day and was loading my groceries into a large reusable bag. There were still a couple of items left that I had to pack when I wanted to pay. At that moment, the cashier took them and started putting them in a plastic bag!

Uhm, what? I just used my own bag to put in all of my stuff and it wasn’t full yet (because I hadn’t bought that much). What part of this scenario screams that I would want a plastic bag? Why is it so difficult to understand that I do not want one and that THAT is exactly the reason why I always carry my own reusable bag?

I made it clear to her (politely) that she could add those items to my bag, which – of course – ended with her giving me a weird look.

 

Half-hearted solutions

I really hope this mentality will change quickly. But that will be difficult. Because apparently there have already been some half-hearted attempts to change the situation, but without success:

In 2008, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg tried unsuccessfully to pass a bag tax of 6 cents. More recently, New York State has preferred to attack the problem with soft diplomacy. Since 2009, large stores throughout the state providing plastic bags have been required to take them back for recycling. But there is not much enforcement, Mr. Gonen said, and the program “hasn’t put a dent” in the numbers.

 

Nope, New York, this does not make me a fan of yours …