They say London isn’t so much a city as a collection of villages. New York – such as I’ve seen, so far – is much the same.
A transatlantic flight is not much fun, especially in economy class, especially seated next to a woman with very sharp elbows and no sense of personal space. Needless to say, the only possible way to survive is to be grateful it’s not a direct flight to Australia, hence only 7 or so hours, and to watch The Great Gatsby – now showing on a tiny, pixelated cinema screen near you. Even nearer if the person in front of you suddenly lunges their seat back.
Our first experience of this great city was, erm, interesting to say the least. Assuming navigating the subway into Manhattan might be beyond our powers at midnight NY time (5am UK time), we staggered into a shuttle bus for our prebooked airport hotel, congratulating ourselves on our foresight and general brilliance when, a mere hour after landing (short pause to discuss gun violence in NYC and Johannesburg, plus the Great Shutdown with our very friendly immigration official) we arrived at the checkin desk. Sadly, we were not at the right hotel. Apparently the tiny differences between Hotel X and Hotel X and Suites or Hotel X Express are vast and unimaginable – and 10 minutes apart by taxi through some of the least attractive areas in the JFK surrounds, that is. Bed never felt so good.
Day One found us in the middle of Manhattan, luggage-free and ready to roam. Aaaaah! We took a deep breath upon emerging from the grimy subway. Aaaaah! The aroma of Midtown is a strange mix of roasting nuts and raw sewage. As we walked down Broadway (quick detour into Macy’s – apparently the largest department store in the world, although I am pretty sure Dubai must have some to rival, if not overtake), we saw some of the iconic architecture – Empire State Building and the Flatiron building – and pushed our way through street markets of overwhelming colour and vibrancy, and the scents became mouth-watering and consequently much, much more appealing. Curving down along 4th Ave after Union Square, we found ourselves on E Houston faced with Katz’s Delicatessen (famous for That scene in When Harry Met Sally). Soon their equally famous Pastrami sandwich was in our faces…. Deeeeeeeelicios! An equally fabulous coffee from a cupboard-sized coffee shop with our friends from London made us question the very nature of the coffee we drink at home. McSorley’s Old Ale House was packed with students playing drinking games to the accompaniment of the obligatory dark or light ale, served in two small tankards.
But, the only way to end your first day in New York? The Husbandly One made an epic choice: Vin Sur Vingt and a bottle of Pomerol, saucisson, French bread and the most incredible Creme Caramel… Tired, sore feet instantly repaired.