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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Fire!!

So, it’s November, another year nearly gone.

For those who are visitors from other worlds, let me tell you a few things about this time of year.

We don’t really do Halloween. Well, some families do, and you will see skulls and pumpkins around, but mostly not.

We do do Bonfire Night. November 5th. Fireworks and a big bonfire.

When I was little, we had our own, as did most families. They were generally disappointing and also somewhat unsafe, so I think most people go for one of the public ‘organised’ events, like Alexandra Palace. As the big day is a school day, I imagine most events will be this weekend. A quick look online will help. I haven’t looked, as I am elsewhere anyway, but down by the Thames is often good.

Kiddies used to make a pretend man, a ‘Guy’, who would get burned, based on Guy Fawkes. They would ask for a “penny for the Guy”, but you don’t see that any more (if you do, and they have made an effort, you can give them some change). If you don’t know what it all celebrates, look here.

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Card clash

If you are using public transport in London, you can use an Oyster card or a contactless credit or debit card. Yes, you can also use mobile devices with eg Apple Pay.

You often see people putting their wallets directly onto the readers. If these contain more than one card that could be used to pay for travel, it is possible that the wrong card is chosen by the machine, or no card or all cards are used. This is the so-called card clash.

Do avoid it by carefully taking your card out before using it.

https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/oyster/using-oyster/card-clash

Chicago

I have just come back from a holiday in Chicago. I have been there very many times, but always enjoy going again and always find new and rather surprising things to do.

It is a very special place. If you love your architecture then you will find plenty to enjoy. The boat trips down the river were really busy, and are worth doing.

It’s a great place for walking, and the food can be wonderful. Yes, sure there are the rubbish places, but there are some truly wonderful places, especially if you are a meat eater.

What sets the city apart are the people, who are genuinely friendly and polite. Given its size, it is a clean city too.

Definitely worth a visit, if you can. Don’t dismiss it as just another big city, because it isn’t. There’s a chance to see some fine theatre at reasonable prices, and the Navy Pier is one of the biggest attractions in the whole country.