New York

An hr long queue at the emigration check, 16hrs non-stop flight, early morning view of the atlantic and a walk through the immigration counter, of course a small stop over at the counter for stamping :)

Entry into United States cant be easier and less eventful than that. The climate was fantastic with little moring mist. My cousin was there at the exit gate to pick me up.

Out of the parking lot and through the little traffic onto the highway, it felt like I was travelling in Delhi on a November morning. As we drove further away from the city, the landscape changed from flyovers and sky scrapers to smaller buildings to greenery. The road network is something that you feel first in US. Freeways, parkways, exits to the towns, the street roads and above all the obeyance of traffic rules. You feel amazed how people could stop at an intersection just because someone has put up a STOP sign. The road infrastructure is so massive that you never feel the traffic.

Well that was the first impression which was soon to change.

Driving around 56 miles, we reached Fairfield, Connecticut. A small town on the coast. The place is simply picturesque. Its the kind of place that you see in old English movies. Unfortunately, I dint take out my camera.

After the sweet welcome by my nieces, got fresh, filled my tummy with good homely indian food (there is lot of time for american stuff :P ) and off we went (me any my cousin) to get a feel of the New York city, this time by the local train.

Having travelled in Delhi Metro trains, I was familiar with a world class transport means, but New York metro was something that gave me a jolt. Our local train from Fairfield to New York dropped me off at the Grand Central. The platform seemed to be out of a museum. It was as if I was inside a warehouse with tracks bringing in cargo trains. It was nothing that I could have imagined. In India, platforms are something that are either elegant (like the Metro stations) or are dirty (like the nomal long distance railway stations). This was neither. And there was more surprise in store for me.

As we climbed the stairs and reached Level 0, I felt stepping into another world. Yet again a museum. This time some sort of a palace. Wow, did I do some time travel? Is this the same place?

The Grand Central station is one of its kind (at least thats what I know). It is a whole world on its own. With 3 levels underground for different lines of the New York Metro and 125 platforms (!!!!!), it is a transit point of at least a million people a day. And the concourse building above the ground (and partly underground) serves all their needs. I was there on a Sunday, so maybe I dint feel the rush (The Mumbai CST station would also look the same on a sunday. Grand!!!).

Getting out of the central station, we realised we were out for a sight seeing on a bad weather day. The forcast was for mild to heavy showers with winds blowing from the sea (I dont remember the directions :)

It was my habit to watch a city on foot and we walked along the 42nd street till the UN building on one side and then to the Times square on the other end. Apart from noticing the familiar names of building on the street, I ventured into the UN building, Madame Tussad's museum and the Toys R Us to name a few. From there we got back onto the Metro to visit the WTC heritage site and the wall street. The wall street bore the same deserted look of Mumbai's Dalal street on a sunday. I am sure it must be totally different on a trading day.

From the wall street, we crossed the Lincoln tunnel over to New Jersey to get a view of the Manhattan skyline from across the bay (Do you really call it the bay?). The sun supposedly getting down (we dint see it as it was cloudy) we called it for the day and kept the visit to Statue of Liberty and Empire State Bldg for my next trip to New York (Will that happen soon?).

I still had a day to spend before catching my flight to San Fransisco in the evening. I roamed around in Fairfield and enjoyed what I consider countryside in New York (No farms though!! Yet a calm and quiet place far from the madding crowd).

After lunch, I packed off my bags and there I was again at the JFK airport for my flight to the west coast.

Oh! I forgot to mention. In between, I rang up my hotel in San Jose to figure out the status of my booking. I had booked through my personal credit card and my office guys had also booked a room for me. Managed to cancel one of the bookings well before time. So no damage done finally.

And another one. Since I was reaching San Fransisco at midnight, I need to book for a Super Shuttle (it is sort of a shared cab that provides transport to and from the airport). This time I dint want to take chances of double booking so I mailed my manager in US (actually the VP) to arrange for that. (Now thats the nice thing about working in a small company. Even the VPs do help)

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