New New York

After the F1 in Texas, which was a bit of a fiasco, but ended reasonably well, we went on to New York. I watch too much Futurama not to call it "New New York" occasionally. We stayed at the New Yorker Hotel (just by the future site of Madison Cube Gardens).

It is the first time I have been to New York. The reason behind it all is that Sandra has always felt a bit cheated that we married in a register office and she did not get (as we could not afford) the whole white wedding thing. This year (Tuesday) it is 25 years, and so she wants to organise a blessing (which will be some time next year) and do the whole white wedding that she always wanted. Thankfully it is still me to which she wants to stay married :-)

The down side is that she has been watching "Say yes to the dress" and "I found the gown" on daytime TV solidly for about the last 6 months! You can see why I wanted a "man cave" with its own TV now. They booked an appointment in Kleinfeld's. I have not seen it, but a dress has been picked, and paid for (ouch) and will be ready in a few months. Yes, she will be flying back for a fitting. It is a new designer dress and she is the first to order this one.

New York was interesting - we got the hang of the roads quite quickly - I commented that London cab drivers have to learn loads of roads and routes but New York cab drivers just have to be able to count.

Trying to get cereal and toast for breakfast was impossible (I even had my marmite, but no luck).

We went to a show (Something Rotten) which is really funny. We got soaked on the way back. We saw Times Square. We even went to an Ice Hockey game at the Barclays Centre (who don't like it if your camera lens is over 4"). I got a cold, and so picked up some industrial strength sudafed which required passport and signing disclaimers and so on - but works well. Sandra has a bad cough too - but did get soaked in Texas and New York, so not that surprising. We abandoned doing Empire State building because of queue and price. We went to Macy's, shopping, several times! They had a buggy ride around the park. We did a lot of walking all week.

I left my Tempur pillow in Texas - idiot! Managed to get another one in New York.

Our A&A voice SIM cards do work in US for calls, texts and data. There is wifi pretty much everywhere - even so, I used the SIM for maps when Victoria was driving in Texas, and that quickly costs (it is around £2.50/MB). Once we got to New York, James and I both got T-mobile pre-pay SIMs with 3GB of data for $40 and used that when no wifi.

BA were terrible - the flight out to Texas was a new plane (LCD window shutters even) but the staff ignored people's call buttons, spilt tea on Sandra, and were generally crap. One passenger managed to be sick, and was sort of stick, call button was ignored for about half an hour - when we realised what happened (sat across aisle) we (well done Mikey) ended up helping him out. On the way back from New York the plane was older and the staff were just as bad, if not worse. They had over booked the flight and could not even seat us together. World Traveller Plus (their premium economy) did have bearable leg room though, just. Even so, I have to question whether BA is a good choice for such flights in future.

Getting in to the US was slightly better than previous trips - more ETSA terminals, and they worked this time. Even getting back in to the UK was a tad better (Heathrow) with more ePassport terminals that were a bit quicker.

One thing that I really dislike about US is the tips. It is bad enough that prices are before sales tax, but then they have "service charges" on things. They make like they are optional, but try and guilt you in to paying tips saying the staff rely on them - so basically saying that they do not pay their staff properly and that is somehow the customer's fault. I am happy to pay extra, a tip, for exceptionally good service, but if it is a necessary part of the price - then damn well make it part of the price. One place I handed over what worked out around 15% tip as that was convenient number of $20 bills - they came back as we were leaving pointing out it was below the 17.5% "guide" tip by a couple of dollars. I did ask if it was mandatory and they said it is "typically" 17.5% unless there was a problem. I was cross, said the "problem" was "questioning the tip" and hander her another 5 bucks, but as I left I was kicking myself for not saying "if it is not mandatory then now, because you have tried to embarrass me, there will be no tip - give me change". Why the hell cannot people simply state / agree a price and be happy to be paid the agreed price, with any "tip" only for being exceptional. US companies should damn well pay their staff properly in the first place!

Update: Wow, tipping came from prohibition and bribery and really should be abolished - see this article and great video!

However, we are finally back in the UK - and as always - happy to be home.


  1. We went to Florida last year and New York the year before that. I agree that BA is terrible. Back in Economy we have had broken headrests in 3 out of the 4 flights. The seat back screens on the older aircraft are terrible.

    We also stayed in the New Yorker for our trip to New York. You really can't get a better location, train into Penn station and just cross the road! We thought it a great hotel but did have to make a complaint as the water supply to our room was turned off on the last day of our holiday meaning that we had to use the lavatories on the ground floor and demand a key for another room from reception so that we could get a shower.

    Data on our phones was no problem at all as we are on the Three network, who for several countries abroad including America allow you to use your allowance and don't charge any extra for calls. Might be worth getting yourself a SIM!

    In the USA tipped staff get below minimum wage on the assumption that the tips will make up the shortfall. By not tipping properly you are just not paying your server properly, not doing anything to change the system.

    I hate the USA tipping culture too. Remember its not just wait staff, it's the room cleaners, bellboys, taxi drivers... the list goes on and on. However if they are good servers can make a wage they can just about live on in the states, which is not true in the UK. You do get far better service in the USA as well.

  2. What is http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-HQKbIFhGrYE/VjP3u6CfvmI/AAAAAAAAEJk/KZ9SXueTLY4/s1600/AJKL3266.jpg ?

  3. The queues at the Empire State Building aren't too bad at times (but I've no idea how to tell when it's going to be "quiet"). But when it's busy, you have to queue to get into the building, then queue for security, then queue to pay for tickets, then queue for the lifts....

    A better bet, I've found, is "Top of the Rock" at the Rockefeller Center. It's less well-known and hence less busy, but the views are just as good. (It doesn't appear to be any cheaper, though.)

    1. The views for top of the rock are better (you can see the Empire state building), in three different levels and there is much less queuing as they use a timed slot for entry system.

  4. Tipping in the USA is terrible, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't too bad. Cheesecake Factory even add a 3% charge for staff healthcare!

    Don't forget to take into account the import duty for the dress if it's over £300 (I'm assuming it is!).

  5. In terms of the call button on planes - I'd say that unless you're in Business or First on one of the ME3 airlines (Middle East Three - Emirates, Qatar, Etihad), just don't bother. Much quicker and generally easier just to walk to the galley and find cabin crew there who'll help you pretty much straight away.

    BA on the LHR-JFK route is all about frequency whilst having a decent enough business cabin. Everything else is just a bonus for BA. Planes are mostly 777s and 747s, nothing newer, as they care about the frequency too much to use something like a A380. That sadly means older planes, where only the business cabins are vaguely new (and not even there fully). No glamour, just functional. The nice and impressive one is BA2 / BA4 into London City, very small planes with excellent service and great crew. In the sales, or if you do an "ex-EU" (buy a ticket from somewhere like Dublin or Copenhagan rather than London, where the pricing is more competitive), it can be a fairly decent price

  6. I'm happier about the tipping aspect having thought more about it and contrasted the alternatives.

    Can you imagine a UK restaurant manager responding to your complaint about poor service with "I'm terribly sorry about that sir, I'll dock the waiter down to half of minimum wage for that to make sure it doesn't happen again?" Tips can deliver that quickly and easily if the service is really that bad. Plenty of UK places seem to make it all too obvious the staff don't care about the level of service they deliver, since they get paid regardless!

    Try imagining the service we might get from Openreach if we, or A&A, paid half their salary with BT only covering the other half ... think we might get fewer dishonest "right when tested" outcomes, for example? Maybe not practical for that particular case, but it certainly gives a useful incentive to get their finger out.


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