23 September 2007

La Grande Pomme (September Issue)

Written this morning when the hostel's wireless was playing up...

So, here I am, back in my spiritual home, New York City, after a long absence (well, three months). Obviously this trip is going to be a little different from the majority of holidays I take in NYC but different doesn’t have to be bad. Despite my efforts to get off the plane very quickly at JFK, it seemed that a couple of big flights had also just got in and the queue at immigration was huge. However, by the time I got through security, my suitcase was waiting for me and I hurried on outside.

Ordinarily, my first few hours in NYC would go like this: catch taxi with my parents to a nice midtown hotel, unpack and shower, head immediately to the shops, have nice dinner with parents, go to bed about ten.

Yesterday it was more like: catch AirTrain to subway stop, wait 20 minutes for a Manhattan-bound train to arrive, catch the A Train (now in its 75th year, apparently) all the way to 59th Street, change to the massively crowded 1 Train up Broadway to 103rd Street, check in to crowded but nice enough hostel, not want to take the time to find my toiletries and head straight out to the shops, grab an (excellent, hot, fresh sourdough) bagel from H & H (reportedly one of the city’s best purveyors of bagels), restrain myself from buying The Stuff of Thought, Discover Your Inner Economist and some non-fiction book about teenagers in a New England boarding school (all hardback therefore excellent restraint!), head to a random bar with a guy from the hostel, try to sort my suitcase and ensure all of my worldly goods are safely stashed in my locker, sleep (long and hard).

I felt a million times better this morning after a hot shower and a double espresso. I received a text from Monsieur E telling me he has, “issue with the boarder [sic]. Apparently my UPenn Visa was not cancel.” I told him to text me when he was about to get into NYC but obviously this means our 9 am rendezvous was not going to be kept. Not one to mope, I headed to another top bagelry on my list for breakfast: Absolute Bagels, a few blocks up Broadway from the hostel. My toasted poppy bagel was pretty good but nothing special (and nowhere near as good as H & H’s) but I was extremely impressed by their mini-bagels, reminiscent of Café Boulange’s mini baguettes in San Francisco. I walked up through the campus of Columbia and then back down past St John the Divine Cathedral and through Central Park.

The Park was looking gorgeous with the leaves beginning to turn. I’m not sure what it is about Central Park that makes it so much more exciting than, say, Hyde Park. Perhaps it is that it is so universal: my first experience was a picnic by the pond on a scorching, humid late July day in 1995 but it does equally well at winter activities, with the Wollmann ice-skating rink, which gives you views of the skyline while you skate (best enjoyed on a freezing, December night, with the city lit up and then warm up afterwards with a cup of their hot chocolate in the café).

If Monsieur E doesn’t arrive soon, I’m going shopping; his loss if he doesn’t get to be my style advisor as I didn’t come to NYC to sit in some youth hostel, however fine said youth hostel may be!

ETA (10 hours later): still no Monsieur E (still having border issues, though he insists he is on his way); instead, I walked 50 blocks to Columbus Circle for J. Crew and Sephora and then over to Bloomies where I made the mistake of asking a cosmetics woman for help. Error. I only wanted a moisturiser and came away with much more after feeling she had invested suitable time (and facialing) on me. The heavens then opened so I took the subway down to SoHo, grabbed a bagel and coffee at Dean and Deluca, shopped some more, wandered and wondered through the Village and then walked all 110 blocks up to the hostel. My feet hurt and I am hungry. I will kill that Frenchman if he doesn't get here soon...

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