With the appetite partially sated, we pay our bill after some calculator consultation to work out an appropriate tip. Turning a corner, I realise we are on Broadway and it hits me again – we’re in New York. Broadway, the numbered streets, Central Park – these are names that I’ve heard for so many years. To be standing on a street thatI’ve seen in movies, read about in books is surreal and yet here we are. Maybe I need to move here for a few months for it to loose some of its status. I need to see the inconveniences, the constant noise, the traffic and pedestrian overwhelm. How long do I need to stay in a city before I’m no longer a visitor? The tourist gloss will fade and a new attachment would grow. My preferred place to buy groceries. The place I think makes the best coffee, the best bread. The streets that are quieter to walk along. I would probably find my own little corner of Central Park.
For now though, I’m a wide-eyed visitor, charmed by every new experience and inconvenience alike. Broadway is odd in that it run diagonally across the strict grid layout of Manhattan’s streets in the midtown area. Originally a Native American trail that ran the length of the island, it became a natural thoroughfare for the new settlers. It feels like a slightly anarchical act, crossing the city like this but we do it anyway. Leading us back to Central Park and its cool shadows. Steve had visited New York once also previously and suggested we now grab a drink at a place he’d been last time. The Tavern on the Green is an historic landmark I remember from the Ghostbusters movie. We sit outside and order a couple of beers. Montauk Summer Ale for me and a Captain Lawrence Imperial IPA for Steve – both local craft brews.
Above a plane dips and banks as it releases smoke from the rear, writing something high in the sky. Every few minutes we look up trying to decipher what the message might be. I sip my cold ale from a clear plastic cup.
‘I should’ve ordered a beer from a glass bottle. I hate drinking from plastic,’ I complain to no one in particular.
‘Do you want mine?’ he offers half-heartedly.
‘Go halvsies?’ I ask, feeling like a fussy spoilt child.
‘I guess this is what holidays are all about. Pushing you outside of your comfort zone.’
‘Fine. I’ll live on the edge and drink from a plastic cup.’
Letters blur and twist as the words continue to be created. KRISTINA. KRISTINA HEART. KRISTINA HEART MARRY ME? I hope Kristina was not kept late at work by her boss. A marriage proposal by skywriting on Labor Day weekend in New York City is no small gesture. I not only hope Kristina saw it but that her suitor got the answer they were looking for. The grand gesture is a risky one. We look around to see a couple with that newly engaged look but to no avail.
We opt for a slow stroll back to the apartment, skipping the horse and carriage touts and ubiquitous yellow cabs lined up at the park’s edge. Emerging from the park, tall apartment blocks tower overhead and we join the crowds surging along NYC’s Friday afternoon streets. Begonias bloom in tightly cordoned patches underneath plane trees, maples and ash trees. The Upper West Side (UWS) where we are staying is essentially an affluent residential area with Whole Foods, Traders Joes and numerous Starbucks stores. It feels like the location of many TV shows and movies. Four storey brownstones, small concrete playgrounds sit behind larger scale apartment buildings that line the main streets. Piles of black garbage bags play home to many plump rats.
We make a stop on the way at Pioneer Supermarket for snacks and drinks. I love visiting supermarkets in foreign countries. They are a fascinating cultural insight. The products that people choose to spend their money on never fails to amuse me. This one is no different. Trays of pre-cut vegetables and ranch dip, salami wrapped mozzarella cheese sticks, lox (thinly sliced cured salmon) and cream cheese. One aisle over there is selection of crisps and snacks I’ve not seen before. I settle on buffalo blue cheese flavoured cheese curls. They’re gluten free too. Handy that this is opposite the beer fridge so Steve is entertained.
We buy a range of snacks and some fruit for a snack in the morning as well as milk for my obligatory morning cup of tea. Some new craft beers for Steve and a bottle of cold white wine for me and we a head back to the Air BnB. The physical act of travelling can be tiring. Waiting around at airports, plane travel as well as time zone differences all take their toll. I’m grateful that we are taking four or five days in a place before moving on. I need this time to stop and breathe. The near constant interaction with someone is also draining. I need to take time out with my headphones listening to a podcast, or nothing at all while I write in my journal. I don’t know the ideal length of time travelling with someone as yet. We are two and a half weeks in to our month long trip and these are things that cross my mind.