USA 2010


USA 2010








Yes, the trip Westward was long overdue, but finally it has come. A bit of New Amsterdam and West we go in a modern day stagecoach. With an RV for three weeks through the Southwest of America. Heehaw!

The agenda:click to enlarge and The route: map click on the map to enlarge


New York City

People go to New York, the unofficial capital of the USA, for a million different reasons: to get famous, to be a face in the crowd, to escape, to chase dreams. Her magnetic pull continues to draw millions of new admirers. Manhattan, only 13 miles long and 3 miles at its widest, has it all in the priciest real estate known to man. People built New York, even Central Park was landscaped over 150 years ago.

The Lenape tribe was happy to sell Manhattan to the Dutch in 1626 for 60 guilders in what must have been the first real estat scam. And so New Amsterdam was able to grow as a trading post. In 1654 the Sepharic Jews, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, established the earliest Jewish community in the new world. By 1664 English warships didn't even pay a penny when they took over the prosperous colony and New Amsterdam became New York after the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II.

Thursday, 13 May.

We get up early and leave under a grey sky and 7 C° temperature to the airport to queue in the longest line we have ever seen. It takes an hour and a half to get to the check in counter where we are told to hurry to the boarding counter. When we finally get there we are told there is a 1-hour delay, which suits us fine, as we did not have a breakfast yet.


Hammering on a jet engine is not a reassuring sight if you are about to fly with the plane

Already for weeks the Iceland volcano is messing up flight departures and we have been really worried that our flight would be cancelled, so we are more relaxed after the news that everything is ready to go. Or not… coming back from breakfast we see some technicians hammering on the jet propeller and we are announced another delay. This time a vital part needs to come from Paris. The delay is now already 4 hours but we will get meal vouchers. As the program for today is only night photography I am not too worried.
The time delayed is 5 hours. Instead of leaving at 11.15, we leave at 16.15. We are given a ghastly meal of a couple of B movies from the eighties. Delta is cheap in more than 1 way.

The arrival in New York is swift and before we know it we are in a taxi to our hotel. We cross the bridge and the noise of the wheels remind me of the Soprano theme song. Check in is quick and we crash in a great hotel room on the 14th floor. As we are close to the Brooklyn Bridge we decide to do a little stroll to see the bridge and have a Big Mac just because that is American. And indeed they taste better than they do at home. “Terroir”?

Hotel : This one

The way to book a hotel in the US is via priceline! The nice part of it is that you can decide what to spend on a hotelroom. Then priceline will check around if a hotel is willing to give a room at this price. For the hotel it garantees a higher percentage of occupation. We offered 100 usd a night + taxes and got this hotel.








Friday, 14 May.

“I have more time than money” -  “Then you are not from around here!”

I have more time than money is a Dutch idiom meaning we do not mind waiting. So when I use the phrase I get the reply “well, then you are not from here”. And indeed, although the Americans look like Europeans, we are indeed in another world…. that is, the new world!
So we start out by buying a week ticket for the metro and slowly we figure out the meaning of the different lines and colors. I will never be completely happy with the connection between the different lines and it is a far cry compared to the efficiency of the London subway.

The famous clock at Grand Central

Today we will just plan to walk around the main sights, after a visit to the photography temple of B&H of course. Indeed I see stuff I need I was not even aware existed. What a place!

bh photoshop

After a 5-dollar Chinese meal we walk to Grand Central Station where we have a 5-dollar foster beer. It is very cool in the basement and we meet a nice couple from Connecticut. They had not been in New York in more than 10 years and admit it has improved a lot in that time. We also notice a lot of blue on the street and feel very safe walking around. When we walk back from Brooklyn after our night photography we find ourselves in disturbing alleys, but everything is cool and nobody is waiting around the corner to cut our throat.



Saturday, 15 May.

On the – free - ferry to Staten Island we meet some Belgians that went to the Southeast of the US last year and we get some nice advise about places to see and things to do. Wall street is deserted on a Saturday and it does not impress me that much. I thought it would have been a bigger place where they stash all that cash.

We have a lovely meal in little India (Banjara restaurant) and go for a visit to the Metropolitan in the afternoon. I do not want to sound snobbish, but we are a bit disappointed by the quality of the exhibits, compared to, say the British Museum or the Louvre. I guess those institutions got their collection by colonial plundering at the time the Americans were still busy killing the Buffalos and the Indians. The pieces on display are a ramshackle of bits and bob left over by the European Museums, or are gifts from collectors. In fact the nicer pieces are loans from these museums.


To be fair we did find the Temple of Dendur impressive. This was a gift from the Egyptian Government for American aid with the relocation of the Aswan Dam. Overall the Egyptian part is quite extensive, but the biggest place of the museum is the gift shop with several pricy books and artifacts.

Museums : I only visited the Met. The Roman-Greek section ofcourse, and a bit of the Egyptians with a visit to the Temple of Dendur. Also we had some time left for the 3000+ european paintings from the Middle Ages through the fin de siècle, including works of Titan, Rubens, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya and Degas. Guggenheim and MoMa will be for next time.



We end the evening at the Rockefeller Center to watch the sun set over New York.  We start to Like New York.

Sunday, 16 May.


Mayor Bloomberg endorsing his DA candidatefoto

Again a beautiful day, we get up a bit later and start with a walk to the Brooklyn Bridge. At the city hall we see a lot of police around. When I ask a police officer if we are allowed to go closer he answers in a New York accent “sure, it is just the mayor coming and we gotta make sure nobody robs him while he’s here”. So we watch a press conference by Mayor Bloomberg endorsing his candidate for the election of attorney general for New York.

After a walk on the bridge we take the metro to Mulberry Street, better known as little Italy. I was not expecting much, but I have to admit it is a little bit like Italy. We have a lovely lunch in Cha Cha’s place ‘In Bocca al Lupo” (the wolf’s mouth). The owner has played in several mob movies and the walls are full with photos of him with famous actors, from Anthony Quinn to Tony Soprano.


I play Lou Reed’s “Sunday morning” on my ipod in the metro to Central Park and suddenly it says Lexington Ave – that I know from “waiting for my man”. It all fits together. It is a warm Sunday afternoon, the Italian wine we had for lunch is making us feel very mellow and Central Park is abuzz with people who are in need to exercise.  It is like a traffic jam, the car free roads are full with people walking, running, skating, bicycling through each other while the horse carts and pedal-taxis roam around looking for customers. A bit further the pond is full with little rowboats, we even spot a genuine gondola! Everywhere street performers show their art, musicians, jugglers and statues ply their trade all over the park. We love the walk and get lost several times on the little, winding paths.
We are very tired when we get back to the hotel and decide not to go to Times Square for night photography. Time to pack, but we’ll be back!!!


Monday, 17 May

Mexican food: is it good? – We’ll they have a lot of food.
No, I a mean is it tasty? Puzzled look – What do you eat in Belgium?
Now I am puzzled! What do we eat in Belgium?

We decided that a taxi to the airport would be more comfortable than dragging our luggage trough several metro and train revolving doors, so in less than half an hour we are at JFK.


Again we enjoy the American custom of having a host at every place to help you find your way, so we are shown our check in line. 5 hours and 4000 kilometers further we touch down in LA. It is a cloudy and rainy day. Strange, sunshine in New York and rainy in LA! Again the local host/ambassador of the airport helps us greatly in finding out where the shuttle to our hotel can be found. Upon arrival we find ourselves in the biggest hotel room we have ever stayed in. Rita loves the enormous spring bed and the lovely bathroom.


Rita, dazzled by the seize of the room

The plan was to go to Venice beach in the afternoon, but bad weather, jetlag and just plain tiredness make us decide to stay and enjoy our room. We then go for a walk around the block and walk into a small shopping center. When we see two African Americans leave a Mexican restaurant with a smile we ask if they have good food in there. The eldest replies with a smile “oh, they have a lot of food”.  So I rephrase my question and ask if it is tasty food. Now this question puzzles him and I begin to think that there is a cultural difference in defining “a good restaurant”. “What do you eat in Belgium” he asks back, trying to figure out how we can survive in LA. Yeah, what do we eat in Belgium? I fail to give a proper answer and say proudly “we eat a lot of French fries!” LOL, they do not have that in here, but they do nice all you can eat buffets he says. So we give it a try and indeed the food is good!
We head back to the hotel with a nice bottle of Californian wine and sleep like Angels on a bed of clouds.

Tuesday, 18 May

Today our road trip will start. We can only collect our RV at 3 in the afternoon so we decide to  visit at Hollywood Blvd. It is raining a bid and there is a dull gray sky. We take a day card of the metro and go for a combination of train, bus and underground before we arrive at the Hollywood station. We walk a bit on the Boulevard and maybe due to the weather, but we have a feeling of decay hanging around the area. The street is full of closed shops and strange folks hang around the dirty streets. Not a very enjoyable place, more of a Hollyweird place. I do get to see the Hollywood sign and by the time we are back at the hotel it is time to pick up our RV.



It takes some time to go through the paper work, followed by a mandatory video about RV driving and we are off. First a quick stop at Wall mart for supplies and already the evening traffic out of LA is building up. We are unable to make in to Phoenix as planned and we decide to sleep on one of the truck stops along the road. It has been a long day but we are very happy to have our own wheels to see this big country.


Continue to Arizona






  • Photographing the Southwest. 3 volumes by Laurent Martès. Highly recommended for photograhpy!
  • Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon trips by Lonely Planet. Confirming the bad reputation the are getting lately. Not sure who they wrote this book for, surely not LP guidebook buyers!
  • Grapes of wrath by John Steinbeck for a lazy afternoon. Set during the dust Bowl era on the route 66

Websites : where to begin? try Google....





  • To and from the airport

- By the NY Subway

- by bus

- My favorite, by LRIR and airtrain

- By taxi: 45 usd + tip

Want to know how much a cabfare will cost?



  • Things to see: I decided against a citypass. Counting my pennies I came to the conclusion that for me it is cheaper to pay for each thing I want to visit seperatly.

- The Empire State building: I am not planning to queue to get in. Besides the nicest photo of New York is with the ESB on it.1400 lights are used to lit this building each night.

- The Rockefeller Center: This is the one I want to make the photo from on the 70th-floor observations deck. This midtown complex is famed for its towering Christmas tree and adjourning ice rink. Build in 1933 the top floor was done like the upper decks of a 1930 ocean liner and had 360-degree views of Manhattan.

- Central Park: Two and a half miles long and half a mile wide is the first man made public park in the USA in 1853. Being from the Hair generation I do have to visit the park. As I understand Sunday is the day to see the cityslickers cactching some rays. The 843-acre has miles of trails, boating on the lake and free activities in the summer (philarmonic concerts, Shakespeare in the park, summerstage shows, etc.) A haven in Stressville

- Staten Island Ferry: a free 25 minutes ferry ride that sails along the statue of liberty and Ellis Island. Great views of downtown Manhattan skyline. Try sunset or sunrise

- Apple store: Prince street 103 - greenstreet

- Battery Park, for a view on the statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge for the skyline of Manhattan

- Walking by Times Square, United Nations, Brooklyn bridge, World Trade Center site and look at the Manhattan view from Brooklyn.

- Grand Central Terminal: a 1913 Beaux Arts train station is the city's most spectacular point of arrival.

- China Town and Little Italy

-Gospel: on a sunday morning in Times Square, I am in need of being saved.



















































A Nice restaurant in Little India