Life in a New York Minute: Part 4

By Day Four in New York I had got this notion into my head: I HAD to go and see the flower market. With no real idea of what to expect there, I was largely basing this whim on all the travel blogs and tv shows I’ve seen that display glorious pictures of endless fields of flowers. So we hauled our tired behinds out of bed and braved the sweating, heaving metro filled with morning commuters to get to 28th Street.

1239929_10200548478856111_360140350_nIt was one of the strangest streets I’ve ever been on. Here in Britain, flower markets aren’t generally a tourist attraction. They take place in the early morning and they’re predominantly for business men and women to trawl in the hopes of finding stock. Like fish markets, they don’t seem to make the list for ‘must-see’ destinations.

But if you are ever in New York, you should go along to 28th Street. The pavements are literally lined with trees; orange bushes and buckets of firecracker flowers I had never before seen screening pedestrians from the road. I found myself reaching out to touch the beautiful velvety folds of a plant, transfixed by the pure alien-ness of it. We entered shops 1233629_10200548481336173_200418687_ncautiously, with men calling out in an Italian tongue that lay heavy and fast on our ears, and found ourselves in warehouses that reached back further than we could see. The colours were blazing, the shapes twisted and elegant, the stalks thick, proud and covered with dew.

Just before we left the street, emerging amazed at the other end, I saw a small shop with buckets lined outside the front door – the picture is just to the right. They were my favourite flowers of the day. Like fireworks frozen in nature, they simply popped. 

From there we wandered around countless streets, through Chinatown, before finding ourselves in Little Italy. It looked like Christmas to me, with red, white and green tinsel dangling from one side of the street to the other: a city ready for Santa Claus. Tanned, dark haired men beckoned you in to their restaurants, promises of pizza and pasta and an ice cold glass of water difficult to resist.

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But there was no way we would stop here for pizza. We had another goal in mind.

Finally, after what felt like miles, we found ourselves at the Brooklyn Bridge, joining the throngs of people on bikes, tourists clutching cameras, and determined women striding forward in suits. It sounds corny and obvious but it was JUST like all the movies: one of those moments when being in New York really hits you.

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

I never imagined I would really be here. (The one with the beard and the camera is obviously not me)

It’s a much longer bridge than you’d think. The wooden slats under feet start to burn in the extreme heat, but every step closer to Brooklyn feels like a success. You find yourself forever looking up and around you, wanting to absorb every brick, every wire suspending the giant structure, every bolt in the railings. The well-known skyline of New York unfolds behind you (though more of that later).

SO worth it.

SO worth it.

Remember our seemingly foolish refusal of pizza? Frank Sinatra was a pizza man. He was actually quite famous for being a pizza man. In fact, he liked a certain pizza so much that when on tour he would order it and have it flown out to him. This pizza came from the restaurant we made a beeline for on entering Brooklyn: Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. And on trying some for myself, I have to agree with Frank. It was some of the best pizza I had ever eaten. And the fact that it was huge and conveniently placed before me after our five hour trek down through New York city didn’t hurt.

* * *

Tummies full and hearts heavy with glutted sin, we left Grimaldi’s and wandered over the river bank. I loved this place. From here the skyline of New York spanned from left to right across the blue rippling ribbon. Yellow taxi boats skimmed from one shore to the next. Grass lined the bank where couples and students and families lounged back on their elbows with food scattered around them. And along the way, in the shadow of the beautiful, breath taking, industrial Manhattan Bridge, a dainty bride took the hand of her new husband and stood on the shore line for photos in front of an excited crowd.

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* * *

That evening was our last one in New York City. We spent it the way it should always be spent: in the front row of a broadway show, singing our hearts out and dancing for an encore.

Late that night, we strolled our way through Times Square and back to the hotel, the harsh lights of the plaza blinking behind our eyelids as we slipped into sleep.

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Life in a New York Minute: Part Three

There is no going to New York without eating breakfast in a god’s honest American Diner. Which is where you would have found us on our second morning: perusing a menu and revelling in the fact that eating pancakes WITH bacon wouldn’t be seen as weird in this magical place not called home.

breakfast

 

…I won’t lie. I had a distinctly uncomfortable feeling as though I was carrying a football around in my belly for the rest of the morning, but it was worth it. Bacon. And Pancakes. That is all.

dinosaurWe then headed Uptown to the Natural History Museum, just about managing to duck inside as the first warm droplets of rain splashed down on the sidewalk. It’s one of those buildings that you can get lost in. Everywhere you look there is marble and giant replicas of impressive dinosaurs and mammoth bones bigger than the tallest man in the room. Sweeping staircases lure you onto one floor, plunge you down to the next, tease you up to the top until your head is spinning and you are so dizzy you have to take a seat. Which we did. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the building under a domed starry sky, listening to Whoopi Goldberg as she took us through space and time.

When I was a child, I used to dream of being an astronaut. My dad bought me a planetarium, with plastic planets that you could paint and fit onto spikes that stretched out from the torch-sun, and that you could spin around in orbits. It even came with a cap for the sun, with constellations on it that you could project onto your ceiling at night. The show we watched catapulted me into space and reminded me of that dream, zoomed me into the void to come face to face with those constellations I had cooed over as a child. It was incredible.

Funnily enough, when we exited, if anything we were more dizzy than when we had entered.

There was a beautiful tower somewhere on the ‘fossil floor’; a beautiful circular structure with curved benches that you could rest on. We took a pew and looked out over Central Park. How could anyone get tired of this view? It was just – and remains to this day – astounding to me that such a clear cut pocket of green can make such a unique and beautiful stamp on a city so big and so utterly consuming. It was as if I was watching the leafy green heart of the concrete body that is New York pulsing fiercely, churning out the life force of the city, pumping blood and oxygen through its veins.

museum tower

That afternoon was a splash through the northern part of the park, ducking under trees for shelter and ultimately giving up and rushing, drenched, to a local bar where Ma settled in for a beer, and us two girls smacked our parched lips over an ice cold water.

horse and carriage 2It wasn’t until dusk, when the rain had stopped, the streets were dry, and our feet had stopped throbbing with pain, that we hopped on the metro like locals so as to clamber aboard a horse and carriage like tourists, and get a royal view of the park. We trotted past runners and cyclists and goggle eyed children, bouncing slightly on our velveteen seats, and waving like the Queen of England before we realised probably no one would get the reference.

horse and carriage

And the day wasn’t over yet! We still made it to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where we enjoyed our food whilst the waiters performed show songs, dancing on tables and shaking their collection hats for extra singing and dancing lessons. Each one of them were Broadway hopefuls, and I loved that they spent their evenings working to reach their dream, winning over the hearts of the customers and belting out their passions over mac and cheese. It was also the place where I had my first slice of red velvet cake, so naturally, I’m going to sing it’s praises.

dinerThe table to our left had four of the most friendly people I had ever met. They were all from Louisiana and were on a one day stopover between travelling – they’d been to Italy, Spain, France, and England, and were passing through the Big Apple on their way home. They told us fantastic stories about their travels and wished me a happy birthday over cake. One of the women told me to come back to the diner, that she had been three times and she loved it every time – and that I would one day see HER on Broadway. I can say with all the honesty in my heart, that I cannot wait for that day.

We rounded off the day with an evening at the very top of the Empire State Building. Yet another maze to pass through, the view once you get to the top speaks for itself. There is a reason it is a landmark of New York. And a reason it became one of the landmarks of our holiday.

For this one though, I’ll let the picture do the talking.

empire view

If you missed the other instalments of Life in a New York Minute and want to catch up, you can start with the very first page of the story here.

Life in a New York Minute: Part Two

It has been a long time since I wrote a blog. And a VERY long time since I wrote the previous installment to my tales of The Big Apple, which means that many of you most likely don’t even remember what this whole series is about. So for those who want a reminder, you can head on over to Life in a New York Minute: Prologue and work your way back to the present (and I promise, apologetic and explanatory blogs are on their way).

However, for those of you with the memory capacity of an elephant, let’s begin.

Source: blogs.reuters.com/environment/files/2008/08/elephant.jpg

Source: blogs.reuters.com

* * *

That following morning we would be found trying (and failing) to navigate our way through the metro system, in search of the Statue of Liberty. I was eager to get there, not so much for the statue itself, but because, quite simply, this didn’t feel real yet. I needed to be slapped around the face with something so undeniably ‘New York’ that I would finally get it and stop feeling like I was in some kind of helter-skelter dream.

It was a cloudy day, fog choking the New York skyline, the waters of the East River and the Hudson a metallic, surging green. But over there, in the distance, you could just about see the proud figure of Liberty, one arm lifted to the skies, holding light to guide the way.

‘Eeek, there she is,’ trilled Ma, reaching for the camera.

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We boarded the ferry and stood on the top deck, letting the wind whip our hair back from our faces. The closer we got, the more photos we took, the bigger she got, the more real this whole place became. Behind us was the beautiful, iconic skyline of New York; in front was the Lady Liberty herself.

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We spent HOURS on that Island. We circled the statue, climbed half way to the top, wandered around the museum, and ate lunch in it’s shadow, our necks cricked the whole time, straining to see her face. I loved the aura of the place, the atmosphere of grandeur and of expectations met. The sun came out in full force around noon and the brilliance of the green of the statue reached all the surrounding shores.

With reluctance, we crossed back to the mainland, donning our Liberty headbands and acting every inch the tourist, as was our duty.

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That afternoon we ventured back into the heart of the city and found ourselves in Grand Central Station. It’s not a place that immediately comes to mind when you think of New York, but it’s one you HAVE to see. It has witnessed the birth of so many memorable film scenes (my favourite of which has to be the scene between Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney in ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding), and the whole place is just dripping with elegance and beauty.

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We went in search of ice cream – any kind, any where, as long as we got it now. The food court in the basement is incredible: noodles, soups, meals, pizzas, desserts towering high in chilled counters…and a gelato bar. Yes please.

Words cannot describe how incredible that double scoop of chocolate and vanilla was. No words. Just…oh my.

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There wasn’t long to sit around however, as we had tickets for that night. Tickets to go and watch THE LION KING on BROADWAY. So us girls hurried on back to the hotel, chucked on our fabulous outfits, whipped on a bit o’ lippy  – and paused for a second to take a shameless photograph – before rushing out the door to go and watch Simba rise to the challenge of becoming King.

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Well. There’s not much point in me telling you it was a fantastic show. You already know that. The whole world knows that, without even having seen it. The thing that sets it apart from everything else I’ve ever seen is the intricate, masterful, mind-blowing and tribal puppetry. It’s a Disney classic, a timeless story, but it is MADE into a world famous show because of the skills of those working backstage. Just incredible.

Out of the theatre and back onto the streets of Times Square for a meal at Applebees. The place had the same rush and thrill of the day before with an added intensity. It was such a dazzling place, lights blinding and eye catching, and throngs of people surging in and out of shops at midnight, with no thought of sleep. I wasn’t so much intimidated by it that night as enthralled by it. I weaved through the crowds easily, moving with that determined pace that seems ingrained on all New Yorkers.

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And as I lay in bed that night, with the ‘Circle of Life’ playing over and over in my head, I smiled. It had crept over me, and I hadn’t even noticed. I felt it.

I was here.

Life in a New York Minute : Part One

Never in my entire life had I felt my heartbeat in my tongue.

The taxi driver swerved sharply and then jumped on the brakes, stopping us a hairs breadth away from the car in front.

Gulp.

We’ll just pretend I didn’t make that very British squeak of fear, shall we?

As we shoved our way from block to block, a cacophony of car horns echoed behind us, the more-than-vocal New York traffic.

* * *

It was our first venture out of the hotel. We were smothered by a blanket of warm air that wrapped itself around us with a loving welcome, and a greeting from locals of cold indifference and irritated sighs.

The Big Apple was…big. Good lordy it was big. I had never seen buildings so tall, traffic lights so high, billboards so broad!

We were all tired and jet lagged and stumbling through the city like drunken ants, trying to navigate our way to Central Park for a lie down in the sun. However, along the way, we found 42nd street. For those of you who have been there, you know as well as I do that there’s no casual walking past 42nd street. We were sucked in like countless others before us, deafened by street sellers and street walkers, speakers and stall vendors. Until…BOOM. We were in Times Square.

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Let me just repeat that: I was in Times Square. I was actually IN Times Square. I could really see those giant adverts on those sizzling famous screens. I was truly being jostled by crowds with camera lenses glued to their eyes. There really was a guy on stilts walking towards me, dressed in drag as the Statue of Liberty.

– Wait, what?

This was it; this was really it. New York. Me. In New York.

Weird.

Amazing.

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We posed for the camera along with the rest of the tourists. We pointed out the Disney shop and M&M World, and Hersheys. We nearly got ran over by cars and pooped on by horses. By the time we burst free from the Square at the other end, we were exhausted. We looked back at the dazzling black hole of brilliance, and backed slowly away. Maybe we’d try again another time.

1236460_10200548318172094_1207672038_nTwenty minutes later and you’d find us in the middle of a busy roundabout decked out with a water fountain and monument. The spray from the water was cool on our cheeks and from the foot of the colossus we could see straight down every road around. Sky scrapers, executive buildings, apartments, for as far as the eye could reach. And each road one straight shot into the distance. It was like nothing we’d seen before.

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Central Park was like an oasis. It was the first green we’d seen all day, the first shade we’d fanned ourselves in. We walked and walked and walked, until we found a wooden hut at the side of a lake, where we settled down and drank in the surroundings. A beautiful cream coloured bridge soured over the lake opposite us, starkly set out against the dense foliage behind it. A weeping willow sobbed it’s leafy tears into the water that lapped against the side of blue rowing boats, carrying couples and families making leisurely ineffective scooping motions with clumsy wooden oars. A sandy tower stood proudly above the treeline, dominant and yet shy at the same time, merging into the light of the sun.

I looked down and saw a turtle bobbing along, just a few feet in front of me. A strange little creature with a crusted brown shell and reptilian neck, striped and aged, it seemed weary as it ducked into the depths to resurface moments later. It was an old man, enacting the age old routine of living.

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We didn’t move from that spot, not for a long time. We watched and listened and became the background to peoples’ lives. A man on the path by the trees played the drums and a little girl climbed up on the bench next to him and slapped on a tambourine, playing along and laughing.

It was beautiful here.

As if in affirmation, a soft pulse in my tongue started up once more.

Beautiful New York.

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Picnic Perfect Plastic Gem

Some days are like those little plastic gems you had as a child – the ones that used to end up glued to your mother’s shoes by some inexplicable trick of fate.

Today was a plastic gem day. It was beautiful and sticky and grubby and perfect. It was plucking at grass blades and barking back at dogs. It was all the mess of childhood with all the sincerity of maturity.

Me and le man couldn’t stand one more day of being shut up inside. We haven’t found it easy to face the heat these past few days, finding it easier to cuddle up next to the open fridge and scowl at any sign of the sun’s rays filtering through the window. But today was different. We slung the picnic rug under our arm and made our way to the local park, stopping along the way for some food supplies.

Our pitiful food supplies

Our pitiful food supplies

Way back in the day, we went on a romantic break away to Paris, pretty much penniless, and avoided starvation from one day to the next with a store bought picnic of an evening. Today, we felt it was time to rekindle the romance with a mimic array of foods, and so we sat on the grass with: a crusty baguette; polony; a selection of hams; brie; yogurt; and some (not so posh) crisps for that added crunch.

How delightfully posh we felt, surrounded by rejoicing school children having just broken up for summer, in our little plastic gem with all our grown up food.

We spent the whole afternoon there, lounging about in the shade of the trees, dozing in each other’s arms, lazily leafing through books. Le man pointed heavenwards and joked about watching the clouds in what was a clear blue sky; I shoved him playfully and directed his gaze to the trees overhead, each leaf haloed in sunlight. We chatted, too, incessantly, flitting from one topic to the next with childish excitement. Listening to music, we sang along to classics from our past and giggled when people turned around to stare in wonder at the strangely noisy couple in the corner. 

Picnic

perfect man

trees

laugh

together

Today was picnic perfect.

Today was my little plastic gem, where old met with new and love met with laughter.

Who knew I had a Safari Park on my doorstep?!

Today has been BLISTERINGLY hot. Insanely warm. It has felt like a foreign country and I’m pretty sure some of my face melted off in the heat.

However, I am not complaining, because it was also beautiful. It is so rare for us to have weather like this, I am treasuring every day of it. This is what Summer should be like. I got a chance to get my legs out, warm my face with a single glance skyward, and travel with my family to Longleat – a safari park on breathtaking grounds – for the day.

Now, this won’t be a long post. I am too flustered for that and am dying to be in my birthday suit, lying very still in a bath of ice with several fans blowing cool air at me. But I will share with you some photographs of the day – because, sometimes, so much more is said with a picture than with words.

What I will say though, is that today has been one of the best days in a long time. I saw incredible animals, ventured through an impossible maze, and had a cruise on a lake – all with the people who make me smile the most. You cannot ask for more beauty in life.

Though you can definitely ask for more skill in my photography.

* * *

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I want a baby goat!

I want a baby goat!

My favourite animal of the day <3

My favourite animal of the day ❤

Sisters feeding the deer

Sisters feeding the deer

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We can be a Big Cat too!

We can be a Big Cat too!

WE CONQUERED THE MAZE.

WE CONQUERED THE MAZE.

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Rather him than me.

Rather him than me.

 

A train ride around the park to finish the day off.

A train ride around the park to finish the day off.

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful day in the sun!