Month six: Pretending to live in New York

Places visited: Washington DC, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), New York (New York!), Massachusetts (Boston)

I’m squishing Boston into this post, even though technically it happened in Month Seven.

Favourite things: Spy museum in DC, Eastern State Penitentiary, seeing Manhattan for the first time, meeting Tom at the airport, the High Line, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, cycling around Central Park

Worst things: My credit cards. Bane of the trip.

Modes of transport: Car, taxi, bike, ferry, bus, metro, plane!

Books read: A little house binge! Little Town on the Prairie, Those Golden Happy Years, The First Four Years. Also Dark Tower 4, 5 & 6, The Circle, A Walk in the Woods

Best/weirdest food: Knish! Love it. Also more exquisite ice cream flavours, pretzels, roasted vegetables (I was so pleased with this that as I sat eating it, watching Masterchef, I was smugly convinced that it would beat any of their creations).

Things lost:

Things bought: Books! Presents, deoderant, magazines

Injury/illness: Mild nausea, mild sunburn, stomach pain.

American restaurants/shops visited: Dunkin Doughnuts, Pats (philly cheese steak staple), Wendy’s

So that’s that! Although, not quite. I’ve got so much more to say about this trip, and there are a fair few more list – type posts in the pipeline. I’ve always enjoyed writing more reflective pieces than the typical ‘this was Place A and all the things I did there’ ones, and what better time to reflect than after half a year away from home?

Books on location

It’s not often that I read books wih locations I’m familiar with; more because I don’t seek them out, not because they don’t exist.

But New York is the setting for so much popular culture – I recognise things I never knew that I knew. Streets, shops, even the way people walk.

This also includes books, and especially the series I’m currently reading, The Dark Tower. Large parts of these novels are set in New York and there’s a whole host of references which I know would have gone completely over my head before.

Now, I feel like I understand the story more completely, like I am sharing an inside joke with Stephen King. One of the central elements of the story is located really nearby; I walk down the same streets and it seems almost as if I could wander into the fictional universe.

This might be particularly enhanced due to King’s tendency to use regional brands, slang and businesses within his fiction. Anyway it’s definitely something I’ll look for in the future when choosing books.

Museums of Manhattan

This week has been a big shift from traveller to tourist – Tom and I have been visiting famous attractions from Times Square to the Public Library, taking pictures and eating ‘New York’ foods (hot dogs, pretzels, bagels and frozen yoghurt).

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I’ve actually gone above ground and seen the sights I’ve been travelling beneath on the subway (Grand Central Station, for example, is gorgeous.)

Art, both modern and ancient, has taken centre stage. We’ve seen both the silly (lego exhibition) and the serious (I forgot how excited I was when I discovered Futurism as a teenager).

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Discovering great restaurants is more fun with someone else, as is trying to decide which is the Chrysler building and which is the Empire State.

Seeing the UN headquarters was a particular highlight. ..

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And getting to play with the sailboats in Central Park seems like something straight out of a film.

There’s still so much left to see, but not so much time. I’m beyond glad that I left such a large chunk of my trip in this city.

Summer in the city

New York is a wonderful place to get lost in. Now I know my way around the metro system, I’ve been exploring further afield, going to Brooklyn and taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

There’s also more cultural activities than you could ever keep up with; I’ve been to a comedy night in Greenwich Village, a fourth – wall – busting play as part of NYC Fringe festival, a free soul concert and a public discussion with the writer of Batman to celebrate the comic’s 75th birthday.

I was introduced to the High Line (perhaps my favourite place in the city so far), and have visited the Botanical Gardens, as well as Union Square Park, Bryant Park and, of course, Central Park, where I had delicious knish for the first time. (Superb word, knish.)

It’s pretty dreamy to look around at all the skyscrapers; to see the statue of liberty for the first time. Today I went to Coney Island and lay in the sun for hours. The ferris wheel was a particular highlight.

I’ve yet to see the most hipster part of Brooklyn, and in the next few weeks I will be going to free outdoor film screenings, a dance show, and a whole host of museums.

Poking my nose into every bookshop I see is also a delightful way to pass the time, and of course, cooking. At the moment I’m revelling in sautéed brocolli.

Thanks again for all the NYC suggestions and recommendations people offered!

Defining liberty

I’ve been thinking about freedom, these past few days. When I see a reference to the United States as the land of the free, it irks me. This is because many of the freedoms this country seeks to uphold – the ones other freedoms are sacrificed for – seem to me to be insignificant.

But of course liberty is not one single thing. It is a way we can describe a whole range of behaviours and beliefs. You cannot ‘have it all’ with liberty; you must pick and choose, prioritise.

And so I would choose different freedoms. It’s probably why I don’t think that I could live here, no matter how much I love the people, the cities, the view.

My kind of freedom might not look like much to someone else. The pure delight I feel in being alone could be downright miserable to others.

This is the freedom I am celebrating in New York, a city I have yearned to visit. I go anywhere I please, at any time, and do whatever I want. When walking makes me tired, I stop. I cook for myself on the most beautiful little stove I’ve ever seen. I read, and spend a lot of time in bed. I am exploring this island oh so slowly. Each day’s task is never bigger than trying a new subway line, or finding a good restaurant. It is easy and wonderful and free.