NYC

As I mentioned, I have been in New York City for a while.

There are lots of nice things there and it is a great place to visit, but I wanted to write about a couple of matters that were not so good.

First, the exchange rate is bad, very close to being £1 = $1. Given the generally high prices there, it makes shopping, especially clothes, almost impossible for anyone not extremely rich. Yes, places do have “knock 30% off” labels, but they are still a lot of money.

The big bugbear is tipping. You have to tip virtually everyone now. It’s not like these people don’t get paid, but they do expect extra. The rule used to be twice the tax, but now, especially in restaurants, suggested tip is printed at the bottom. Mostly they start at 25%. There were one or two going from 20%, but none in the teens. An extra 25%+ on an already expensive meal is something that, well, let’s not say it is a con or a liberty, but something you have to watch out for.

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Holidays

As you read this, I am coming back from a nice holiday to the United States of America, and New York city in particular.

I have been many times before, of course, usually in the spring or autumn/fall. It’s not too hot, not too cold, just comfortable for walking round, and the flights are less expensive than school holiday time.

Going back to a place many times is great, because there is no presure on you to do the ‘touristy’ things. Yes, you can go up the Empire State Building if you want to (but it’s so expensive these days) but you don’t have to if you have done it before.

Instead you can explore the less obvious places, be more like a local, have a day trip somewhere, just sit in a park with a book drinking cider and soaking up the atmosphere of somewhere that is not home.

Shocking stuff

I want, in these blogs, to give simple, practical and, hopefully, reassuring information to visitors to London. I know, as a solo traveller, that there are always things you don’t understand about how things work in a new place. If you come here, you should have a great time for every minute you are here, not spend hours worrying about how buses work, for example.

Then you see blogs and videos from others giving information too. Some are good, others not.

There is one by a large American guy with a pony tail, I won’t say a name, who makes a lot of travel videos that are either “don’ts” or “shocks”. These are accompanied with videos of his young children messing about in whatever place it may be he is talking about, highly inappropriate in my mind for many reasons.

One of his past London shocks was, it’s a big city. The implication is, it’s unmanageable. For someone who claims to have been coming here over twenty years, not realising it is a big city looks like bad research. Anyone coming, even for the first time, must surely realise that a population approaching 9 million is not small.

One of his don’ts was, don’t be surprised if you don’t understand what British people say. No-one does.

Now… If he had said, ‘as you travel the country you will find strong accents in some places that can be a little hard to follow at first’, I would agree, and say of course, just as in the USA. But to say no-one understands them…? You wouldn’t say that about France, because, if you don’t understand French, it’s all impenetrable.

Another don’t was, don’t be surprised if you find British food that is almost edible. British food has improved, and it may still not be good, but it’s possible to find something to eat, maybe.

I could point out that most high streets are dominated by American chains, McDonald’s, Burger King, Subway, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and so on.

There is great food in this country, and there is slop, just like anywhere else. You get what you pay for. There are world class standard restaurants and cafés. If you are coming to the UK, don’t just go for McDonald’s everyday. Try pubs, local restaurants. there is great variety. Let’s not condemn all UK food equally.

I agree there are chain restaurants that can be awful, but others that are great and good value. There are small, family run places that will treat you to some of the finest food you will have ever. And there are the tourist traps.

And, just because it’s not American does not mean it’s wrong.