I find myself tired but happy, back in Barcelona, after a highlight packed trip to the United States. A few details you require, yes, I think I can do that. Perhaps garbled and jangled while my brain unwinds and processes a journey of delight, smells, and sights, unicorns, tall buildings, desert dust and giant redwoods! Come friends, beverage in hand, let us travel to America land!
A swift journey with plenty of legroom, movies on demand and endless blue ocean below, soon dropped us in the megalopolis of New York. We passed through security without a hitch despite being warned of unfriendly custom officials, and suddenly found ourselves in a country where conversations were mostly in English. The accent made us feel like we were in a movie and for the first few hours, we felt strange that we could eavesdrop on strangers, and they in turn could hear us wondering about it!
A number of things struck us, this being our first trip to the United States, and I shall record them here to remind us of our whirlwind tour of New York, later when the details are fuzzy, and perhaps not so striking.
One: people are incredibly friendly. Besides those on bikes riding at top speed over the Brooklyn Bridge yelling at tourists (personally I think this is probably some sort of anger management, and may probably be those bikers favourite part of the day, when they get to scream at the top of their lungs: BIKE LANE!!!)
Two: Everywhere you go, into every restaurant, you are given free water. Amazement! I will tip just for that :)
Three: People here randomly chat to you. We had a whole conversation with someone about Turtles in Central park.
We only had about a week in the city, and had arranged a home exchange. Another first for us, but hopefully not the last time we will do it. It was great to have a personal crash pad in the city. An interesting view into the lives of the locals, as well as meeting and exchanging a connection with someone with insights into the city. I think there is more trust involved than renting, as you know that the person whose apartment you are in, is in your home. A little more respect hopefully in your living space. Although I rent my apartment on occasion, this was a far more unique experience, than renting another apartment here. I would recommend trying it if you ever have the chance. It’s a fantastic way to see the world at far lower accommodation costs, if nothing less!
We were staying in the Upper west side of Manhattan, sandwiched between central park and the riverside park on the Hudson. From our tiny balcony, festooned with blooming flowers we were able to see both parks, and the ubiquitous landscape of New York water towers. Yellow taxis and pedestrians moved below, and we settled into the New York way of life.
Without having travelled extensively in the states, it’s hard for me to make assumptions about the city or general comparisons, but New York certainly felt like a very international city. The apartment style living reminiscent of most European cities, movement on the streets via taxi, foot or the vast underground. We felt at home, and I don’t quite know if it’s because the way of life was similar to Barcelona, or Tokyo or if it was because New York is ever present in cinema, and on TV. If you have ever watched Seinfeld or Sex and the City, you feel like you have walked down the avenues, or wandered around Central park.
As we explored further, our first impressions expanded and we were less struck by how familiar everything was, and began to enjoy all the small details. The fantastic architecture and rickety fire escapes that swarm up and down buildings in Soho and Nolita, the lovely leafy Brownstones in the Upper west and east sides. The multitude of cafes, shops, and bistros in the West Village, all correctly following the hippest trends in window front font lettering, with moustachioed skinny trousered men and vintage fashionistas sipping on hand poured coffee ;). We took an obligatory walk from Central Park down 5th Avenue to Washington Square. Staring up at the Gotham Gargoyles and Skyscrapers, we ate the worst icecream ever, quickly moved on down the grand avenue, past all the glittering brand shops while pigeons floated above and squirrels chattered from trees. We rested our tired feet in a cafe near the Square, and then wandered around the West Village, where we ate at Cafe Asean, a scrumptious meal in a cute Asian inspired setting.
After a few days of exploring on our own, my best friend Alba and her husband flew in from San Francisco to join us for the weekend and the madness of our reunion began. Alba and I studied in university together, then created MissYucki, now living an ocean and a continent apart, we like to have reunions as often as we can, in various far flung corners of the world. Each proves more epic than the last. This year has been a particularly good one for us, as we saw each other in January for her wedding in South Africa, and now again. The excitement and madness unravelled in a weekend gallivanting around New York hotels, Chinatown, the Garment district, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side, where she used to live while studying at Parsons.
It was amazing to have a guided tour of the city, and be introduced first hand to secrets we would not have been able to discover on our own in a week. Highlights included shopping up a storm for our Burning Man outfits in Mood a la Project Runway, and China Town. I never seen such ranges of sparkly materials, sequins feathers and endless racks of crazy earrings, and accessories. We were a non-stop force as we charged through the streets, figuring out what we would wear to the festival, and trying in vain to narrow down our choices from the vast arrays on display.
The weekend continued in an epic spate of visiting Hotels, including the Ace, Crosby and McKittrick. We had breakfasts, drinks in libraries, drinks on rooftops, giggled in elevators, and generally fun times all round. We also visited the Highline Park, which I loved, what a fantastic space. So thoughtfully curated! Other high notes included a visit to Times Square, Broadway, where we watched the Musical Book of Mormon, which Milos had been dying to see all year! It was as fantastic as the reviews led us to believe, although not something I’d like to watch with my parents! (sorry Mom and Dad! Too much swearing!) We visited night clubs and drank wine out of teacups, had a some wondrous dinners at various hidey holes in Lower Manhattan, and were taken for another fabulous brunch in Brooklyn.
So many sights, smells, and memories to savour. I have so many photographs too, that to collect them all here in one post would be ludicrous! Have a peek at the slideshow, and hopefully I will write a post very soon on the natural history museum and our walk over the Brooklyn bridge!