I could not resist revisiting my trip to New York by means of a blog post to document some of the things done and seen seen during our six days in the sleepless city.

The best thing about city trips if you ask me, is making lists of things to see and do, putting on comfortable shoes and setting off to satisfy a curious spirit. I love walking around, discovering the neighbourhoods, observing people, acquainting myself with the human and animal fauna.

We bought seven-day metro cards for 33 dollars each and made the best of combining public transport and walking. Grand Central, which was located only a few streets away from the hostel, was often our starting, transit, and ending point. We were impressed by the majestic architecture of the station and the main concourse’s blue, starlit ceiling which made us want to stop and look up every time we were in the building.

We arrived on a Saturday evening and the next morning, we went for a gospel mass. It had been on my bucket list for some years and it was a really special way of starting off the first day. It felt quite surreal to be there, experience the atmosphere and feel the energy in the vibrant hall. The night before we had  had dinner in Astoria with a group of hospitable Greek-Americans. Those first twenty four something hours were already quite indicative of the variety of options available.

Chelsea, Greenwich and East village, SoHo, NoHo, Astoria and Harlem were some of the neighbourhoods we really liked. The contrast to the skyscraper dense midtown Manhattan is quite stark. Think townhouses, wide streets and less people. I went for yoga, we stopped for coffee, browsed some second hand stores, went for an average stand up comedy show, took an elevated promenade along the beautiful Highline, went out for dinner, got a bit lost in the guts of the metropolitan train network.     

Ellie the dog in Chelsea

Walking the Highline

Iyengar yoga Institute of New York

I am a Seinfeld fan and I love diners, so quite naturally I gravitated towards Tom’s restaurant. Touristic, but still worth a visit.  I would normally have ordered a salad, but I decided to do the opposite and had an omelette that came with a heap of fries. We sat at the bar  and chatted with the Greek guy who was serving us. He had been living in the US for over ten years, was originally from a small island of the Aegean and worked an average of 12 hours a day. That’s what America is made of I thought. Hard work, opportunity and imported work force.

Of course, visiting only one diner would not have been enough, so we repeated the experiment and went for a breakfast at the Comfort diner, 214 E 45th St, New York, NY 10017, USA, just a few streets away from the Vanderbilt YMCA in Midtown Manhattan. A nice interior and overall less crowded.

Walking over the Brooklyn bridge to Manhattan just before the fall of the evening was another magic thing. You need the right amount of light to  be able to admire the view of the lit up Manhattan skyline and I believe our timing was  quite perfect.

We also managed to watch a Broadway musical – “A Bronx tale”. Getting the tickets was actually uncomplicated, relatively inexpensive and involved no queuing as we purchased them directly at the theatre an hour or so before the show.

What about the food? Well, you can eat practically anywhere and anytime in New York. Midtown Manhattan is full of places open 24/7 where you can take away or eat in and choose from plentiful buffets. Overall, the food we had was really tasty and reasonably priced. We did not make that many restaurant visits, but I have some recommendations that I am listing here.

Brooklyn

We had a scrumptious lunch at the Sri Sri Radha Govinda Mandir, 305 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Cheap, vegan and one lunch feeds two persons.

Astoria

We had Greek food at Taverna Loukoumi and desert at Lefkos Pirgos. The food at Loukoumi tasted authentic, the personnel was efficient and customer-friendly, and the place was full to the brim.
45-07 Ditmars Blvd, Queens, NY 11105, USA
3302 Ditmars Blvd, Astoria, NY 11105, USA

South of Midtown:

Mexicue, 225 5th Ave, New York, NY 10010, USA. This place serves Mexican style food and we relished in big salads that were both tasty and very fresh.

If I were to visit NYC again, I would go for more yoga, and visit some of the many museums. On this first visit, we felt that it was worth spending our limited time outside getting a sense of the city and its pulse.  We visited the Liberty and Ellis islands (Statue of Liberty Cruises, approximately 19 dollars) which was a nice experience, although the statue itself is better admired from afar. The material exposed at the Ellis island museum though, allows you to scratch on the surface of the American psyche and get a glimpse of how migration, destiny and dreams have come together to create a new common culture.

 

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This november 2017, I got a slot of one week in between jobs. Acting on a calculated impulse, I booked a trip to NYC. The Big Apple is a traveling destination that has slowly been growing on me – it has never been on top of my bucket list of places to see. Through some kind of mysterious background mental process, however, this apple had ripened and was ready to be harvested. I had a chat with a friend who was supposed to visit me in Sweden and we decided quite spontaneously to relocate our reunion to a different continent altogether.

Midtown Manhattan

It proved to be a really good choice for many reasons. Seeing my friend who also happens to be one of my favourite traveling companions on the one hand, and melting into the bee-hive called New York City are just two of them.

Harlem

I think I am a city-tripper at heart. I have made the very conscious choice of living in a small town as the hustle of crowded places, trafic jams and loud noise is not my daily cup of tea. But unleash me in a place like NYC for some days and I feel happy and free as a bird. Because there are so many things to see. And so many things to do. It is like food for my brain that relishes on new impressions. It makes my inside jump for joy. At the same time, I get a sense of inner peace.

Central Park

The Highline

I don’t know how many hours I spent looking up information and planning the trip, but they were many. My friend had made her homework too. We merged our plans, adapted them to life as it happens, put on our walking shoes, bought metro cards and set out to scratch on the surface of this huge kinder egg. On the very first night, after meeting up in our shoe-box sized YMCA room we went for dinner to Astoria.

Oh my, I do love the woods, creeks and parks of my neighbourhood, but the manmade urban landscape of the city that never sleeps does also have its soothing qualities. Sparkling skylines and soaring buildings make your neck muscles extend to the infinite. My brain neurons – aka electrically excitable cells – found a lot of power to tap into.

WTC 4

Liberty island

There is a lot to be said about the post traveling syndrome….If overseas traveling fails to give you a jetlag in the proper sense, it nevertheless affects your body, mind and feelings at all kinds of different, subtle levels. Emotional jetlag is a traveler’s reality and not at all a fictitious condition….

Brooklyn bridge

What is the state of affairs after returning from my first ever trip to the US? Well, I lost one night’s sleep on my flight back, broke a personal record by sleeping for 9 hours straight the night after, started a new job and went away for a long yoga-related weekend to Gothenburg.

As I am writing this I am back to normal, timid snowflakes are softly making their way to the ground and my heart feels light and full of thanks.

October has been a quite active month with a lot of rain and windows of crisp autumnal weather of the perfect type. Cool air, blue sky and a palette of rusty colour splashes all around.

I think of autumn as a really spiritual and soulful season. It instills a special kind of calmness and introspection.

I have harvested the pumpkins from my pumpkin patch and let them ripen on my kitchen floor.

A happy family of five of different size. I am quite surprised – I really can’t tell what kind of pumpkin this is.

I kept the seeds from two kinds of pumpkins I bought at the supermarket. A butternut squash and a Hokkaido pumpkin. The first one is curvy and the second one round. One had small seeds and the other big ones.

 

I planted both kinds, but only one of them grew and gave plants. I was convinced it was butternut squashes, but I think these must be Hokkaido pumpkins. In any case, I just love them and I want more of them next year.

I renewed my balcony flora and love how the colours light up the dark. We visited my grandparents’ grave in little Söderhamn and planted a couple of purple heathers and lit a candle. I appreciate this regular ritual. It feels good. After visiting the graveyard, we lunched at our favourite cafe that we always return to. Its fifties’ interiors and history of several decades keeps us returning.

Time could pause for a while – it races by too quickly. I want to seize the day, keep it in my fist and release it slowly. Can I?

 

On my very last morning in the neighbourhood of Old Faliron, I put on my bikini under a loose borrowed dress, clutched a towel, put on my flip-flops and walked down to the beach…

Although I had spent a few days at my friends’ place already, I had not really realised that I could actually go for a swim. Just cross the busy street, trafficked by cars and trams and take a dip.

Thankfully I got my act together some hours before taking the bus to the airport and went for an early swim. Quite a few regulars were already there, chatting in small groups, discussing ailments and diets, wishing each other a good month ahead while floating around.

You never enter the same river twice they say. In hindsight I realise that I will never swim in those same waters again. I was lucky to end my stay with a baptism in the  Argo-Saronic gulf, before it was blackened by an oil leak from an old sunken tanker.

In my pictures, as in my memory, beauty is still immaculate…

 

 

 

 

I traveled back to Athens from Paros by boat on a Monday evening, arriving late in the capital. I walked from the port to the metro station in surroundings that reminded me of the streets around the central station of New Delhi. Piraeus is a sad example of urban development…

I caught a metro and then a tram and landed at my friends’ place for a long catch up talk and a few hours of sleep before getting up on Tuesday morning to catch the 08:26 train to Thiva (Thebes) where a friend was picking me up.

Why Thebes? Well, I had a standing invitation from a friend that had never materialised mainly for logistical reasons. This time, I had decided to just do it and I was excited to discover a place a bit off the beaten tourist path. My friends had described Thiva as a quite sleepy and indifferent provincial town, but I have nothing against exploring quaint places.

My friend picked me up at the station. First we went to the open air theatre and looked at the view from the forest clad hills around it. Then we went for a coffee on the central square. I felt a bit sleep-deprived and groggy, so it was nice to sit down, chat and drink lots of water before going to the Museum.

The beautiful newly built Museum was a revelation. For me it was like transiting from a fragmented view to seeing the whole picture. Suddenly, sleepy, provincial Thebes revealed itself as a cradle of civilisation that has fostered centuries of history and myth in its bosom.

Before me I could see a red thread of facts and fiction intertwined: The Mycenean civilisation, Hercules and his twelve labours, the Theban cycle, Antigone and Oedipus, king Kadmos… I was reminded of things that I had long forgotten and reconnected with a vibrant past.

Of course, my friend did not only make sure to nourish my intellect with her insightful and educational approach.

She also took me to her beautiful village home on top of a hill and fed me in the true spirit of Greek hospitality. In no time she had cooked up a little storm; fresh salad with garden veggies, an omelette made of free range eggs, fried potatoes. I practically never eat fries, so eating a batch of fresh fries made with love, high-quality oil and potatoes was a luxury. That heartfelt lunch, and the many little treats that followed still put a big smile on my face.

You do understand that I was very happy to have gotten on that train despite my mere four hours of sleep the night before? It paid off manifold and it was probably a good idea to just keep my body in travel mode, while it was still rocking from the boat journey.

Once again, I got to experience so much in such a short time. I was immersed in the stuff myths are made of. I spent time with the queen of modern Thebes who lives with her king on top of a hill in a house they’ve built with their own hands. From her patio she sees mounts Cithaeron and Helikon and every morning she goes for a jog.

Every encounter with a soulful person leaves a trace of stardust on you which you don’t just shake off. It becomes part of you.

 

 

On an early Friday morning I got on a ferry to the island of Paros for the third leg of my trip.

Paros was a bit of a random choice; I wanted to spend around three nights on an island and was considering my options. I did not want to spend too long time on traveling and as I was going there solo, I wanted there to be a fair amount of activities to choose among.

I had somehow associated Paros with young Brits on their holiday alone debut, white trash, exploitation, etc. The real-life experience did not confirm my preconceived ideas at all…

Some years ago I visited the nearby island of Naxos together with my sister. We both liked Naxos for its friendly and service-minded people, the beautiful nature and the size of the island: big enough for variation, small enough to travel around. Naxos and Paros are like the big and younger sisters – very alike in many ways, but at the same time distinct in character.

I had three full days on Paros and no dull moment. I rented a room in Parikia, the picturesque capital.

I went on two very relaxing and quite easy hikes/walks, watched movies in an open-air cinema, swam, met up with a yogi friend, did some yoga in the narrow space of my room, explored my surroundings and generally had a really good time.

If I was to go back to Paros, I would get on a SUP board, which I did not get to do this time around.

For the rest, I am very happy with my choice and I really recommend both Paros and Naxos to those of you looking an easy holiday choice because of the particular blend of familiarity, culture, landscapes and good-natured people these two Aegean gems have to offer.

 

For the second leg of my journey I descended to the South to visit three couples of friends and their offspring in three different locations.

On a Sunday morning I took the train from Thessaloniki to the station of Lianokladi, from there a suburban train to the town of Lamia, a taxi to the bus-station and then a coach to Arkitsa on the east coast where I was going to stay with a friend and his family of five at their summer abode.

The first evening turned into an improptu reunion when my friend M and her little family joined us as they happened to be at their summer house in a nearby village. Already on the first day of my southbound trip I had thus checked two out of three bullet points in terms of reconnecting with friends.

During the dinner at a taverna by the sea, sometime between the kids’ ice cream and the bill, it was decided that I was continuing to the Peloponnese already on the next day together with M and Co.

Arkitsa behind the mosquito net…

So I left Artkitsa a day earlier than initially planned with the mission to visit another couple of friends in the township of Kiaton, located at the Corinthian bay. By pure coincidence, M was traveling to the same area with her family just around the time I intended to visit my Kiato friends. We concluded that carpooling was a great opportunity to spend some time together during the approximately three hour long-ride there.

Upon arrival to coastal Kiaton, it was time for yet another reunion; the branches of my tree of friendships have intermingled and grown to all kinds of directions; as a result, I spent a good four days socialising in concentric circles.

In Kiaton I spent two days of family time, swimming, eating homemade food, listening to sailor stories, and just pausing for a while. I had ambitious plans of maxing my time in the Peloponnese, but in the end I took a day off from traveling and planning. It was all worth it.

Bay of Corinth

Then, after two nights on the Peloponnese it was time to rewind to my starting point, Arkitsa, that I had left somewhat in a hurry. My friends who had drove me all the way to and dropped me off at Kiaton picked me up for the ride back.

On the last evening of my stay, we ended up having a big dinner with pasta puttanesca  and watermelon in the same constellation as on day one. Finally, I also got to spend some time with my Arkitsa hosts that I had left in a rush. And just before the dust had settled, it was time for me to catch a bus to Athens for a sleep over on the couch of another couple of friends before taking the boat to the island of Paros.

If this whole thing sounds confusing, I understand. Contrary to what you might believe though, actually being in the eye of this hurricane of dates, places and people to visit was like experiencing a state of total harmony and contentment.

Sailing to Paros island…

Yet another part of the journey was ticked forward by a charmed clockwork and I was looking forward to part three…

 

 

 

sofiawise

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

The Chick on a Pea

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

Sadness Theory

Music with passion for the environment

zee pause café

taking a moment, having a coffee, writing down some thoughts