Two subway rides and a quick walk through the cozy neighborhood of Astoria and we were welcomed with a beautiful smile and yummy heart shaped banana muffins. East of Manhattan, this attractive part of Queens was a new angle of New York City for both Chantal and I. Though we were later than anticipated, Melissa, our Couch Surfing host happily took us into her home and told us about her neighborhood and past couch surfing experiences. She explained she had another surfer using her extra bedroom and that we would be sleeping on her pull out couch, which we found to be super comfy. After freshening up, we headed outside and met her other surfer, Lucas, a friendly scooter propelled Parisian with a handsome beard.
We walked to a great pub where we shared drinks and lively conversation. Originally from California, Melissa has lived in one New York City neighborhood or another for six years. A nurse and avid traveler, Melissa shared with us her stories from around the world and was keen to hear about our trip to India. Chantal and I hit the sheets and fell asleep quickly.
The next morning, Melissa gave us her phone so we could call JFK airport to check on the status of our bag. American Airlines had not put it on the plane in Toronto, and it turns out they failed to put it on the next day’s plane as well. With Melissa, we jumped on the R train to Manhattan.
Our first stop, Katz’s Deli.
Eating here was at the top of ur list and this famous NY delicatessen churned out energy and what looked like mouth-watering food faster than you could say “tasty tongue sandwich”. We were given a ticket upon entry (told that if we lost it we’d have to pay $50) and stood in line.
Chantal and I shared a pastrami sandwich and fries; it came with a generous plate of pickled cucumbers and green tomatoes. I thought I’ve had pastrami, but I haven’t. Perhaps it was view of the meat slow cooking in a vat of delicious juices, or the iconic NY deli décor, but this sandwich was the best I’ve ever had. After looking at the many celebrity photos on the wall, and filling ourselves with the most perfect pastrami and pickles, we headed back to the subway.
We only had a short while in Times Square,but it was enough to soak in some liveliness and take a few pictures. The highlights; giant advertisements, the NYC Police giving solicitors a hard time (not to mention a million people with their phones out, trying to catch the cops being unjust – I wonder if we’ll see it on Facebook) and the fact that it wasn’t shoulder to shoulder busy.
We headed back to Melissa’s apartment, called the baggage centre (our bag had arrived!), and headed to the airport. We were worried we hadn’t given ourselves enough time; luckily we picked up our bag in the same terminal we were to depart from. Through security, to the gate and with a Starbucks frappuccino in our tummies we boarded the plane that would take us away from our home continent and towards the city of Helsinki.