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July 30, 2008

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Dusseldorf to NYC

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Greetings from the good ol' U S of A! I'm back in the States, this time in New York City. The flight from Dusseldorf to New York was easy; immigration was not. This week, we're covering some highlights in New York City and some lowlights, too, like my brother being diagnosed with cancer. It's been quite a week. So, turn on your air conditioning, sit back, relax and I'll tell you all about my trip to New York. BTW: Did you know that you can take a hot air balloon ride in Central Park? Plus, if you've ever considered Aruba as a vacation destination, check out some helpful Aruba travel tips that will prepare you before you go. All of this and more inside this week's story.

Last week, I left off in Dusseldorf, Germany, at one of the best airport hotels around. From there, I walked literally, just 200 yards and checked in for my eight and a half hour flight to New York on Air Berlin. I'm a friend of the PR person's so I got upgraded and that made the flight as easy as can be. Otherwise, I would have paid the extra $60 to reserve an exit row seat. FYI: A few weeks ago, I wrote a whole review of my experience on Air Berlin. You can check it out here.

I'm always ragging on the appearance of the international arrivals areas at US airports. Well, JFK's Terminal 4 caught me off guard! It was actually quite pleasing (new interiors and no garbage). That is, until I got to the immigration hall where I was rudely greeted to a zoo -- it was packed! Seriously, there must have been 700 people in each section (US Citizens and Visitors). When I finally reached the front of the line, I asked an officer (let's call him Officer D), what the heck was going on ... with a smile, of course! I explained that it had taken me 40 minutes to get to the front of the line and that it's like a prison, since you can't use cell phones. And why can't we use cell phones, anyways? All of these passengers had likely gotten off a long-arse flight and want to contact their loved ones and catch up with friends and family. Why can't we at least text legally? Because, let's be honest, many of us are doing it anyways! Officer D's response to why the line was so long and slow was shocking to say the least. He said, and I quote: "This place is a human sewage factory." He went on to say that I was lucky not to be in the other line (Visitors) because it was full of "smelly A ... rabs". What the ??? Why would a low-life like this be permitted to welcome visitors to our country? I think it should be a prerequisite that every single customs official do something they've most likely never done before travel overseas. Maybe then they'd be more educated and welcoming and realize that our customs policies suck.

I've frequently written about the different ways to get from JFK to the city and vice versa. The quickest and most expensive is via U.S. Helicopter; fares start at $159. There are two car services; Dial 7 (Tel: 212-777-7777) and Carmel (Tel: 212-666-6666) that are basically the same price as a taxi ($45 flat fare plus toll and tip). You can always pay with a credit card with these guys but some taxis now offer the service as well. I usually use Dial 7 because Carmel's phone number reminds me of the Devil and Lord knows I don't need any run-ins with that bastard. The cheapest (and also my favorite) method during rush hour is taking Air Train ($5) to Jamaica Station, then jumping on the E train ($2) to 53rd Street on Manhattan's east side. Door-to-door, it takes just under an hour but it's not convenient if you've got a lot of bags and don't like to walk. But this time, I decided to try a new way. I took the Air Train to Jamaica Station but instead of taking the screeching, loud, bumpy old E Train, I took a train to Penn Station. This train is much more comfortable and it's quicker, too but it's double the price. It costs $5 when using one of the ticket machines on the platform or $10 if you pay on the train. Yes, I learned about that price difference the hard way.

The train to depressing Penn Station took 20 minutes and I decided to go to my hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut (45 miles outside of the city). To get to Connecticut from Penn is a complete rip-off. They charge $40 one-way for the regular train and $63 for the high-speed Acela train, which is, get this, a whopping three minutes quicker! What genius figured out that pricing?! The trains leave every hour, which is the same from Grand Central ... except that Grand Central Terminal is not only one of the nicest stations in America (thanks to Jackie Onassis), but fares to Connecticut on Metro North are a fraction of the price. Check this out: an off-peak train to Norwalk costs $12! Next time, I will take the E train to 53rd, walk two blocks underground and jump on the 6 or 4 subway and travel one stop to Grand Central.

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Pictures From

The Trip


Maritim DUS Hotel


Walking To Airport


Air Berlin Check In




Biz Class


Holly's Website Is


Inside Terminal 4


Immigration Line At Terminal 4




Helicopter To NYC


E Train



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