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Travel Not Tour - by Liv Hambrett

Manhattanites by Day, Statenites by Night

March 30th 2008 00:25
And so we stood before a teased tornado of salt and pepper hair, our luggage pooled at our feet, our cab driver roaring from view. One by one, we began to laugh. Because our clothes were sticking to our bodies, because we hadn't slept in what felt like five years, because we were in the ghetto, having watched all the pretty parts of the island pass us by in a cab driven by a madman who didn't speak English (word of note, not many people in New York do). Because initial disbelief at our surroundings gave way to hysterical, barking laughter at the hair. Irwin ushered us into a basement style bedroom that bore two raised queen sized beds sporting butterfly encrusted doonas, a kitchenette that consisted of a toaster and a microwave balancing precariously on the wall, and a sumptuous indoor rockery arrangement.

We fell asleep that night to the soothing sounds of neighbourhood domestics, backfiring cars and the occasional rustle of indoor rockery.

The first week of New York went by in a whirl of big breakfasts, sangria, late night ferry rides, and spotting NYC firemen. No one loves eating quite like the Americans do, and no one does breakfast quite like the New Yorkers. At our regular diner, in the Financial District, Georges (Dad that should ring a bell for you) we came to be loved by the staff for our loyalty and willingness to embrace the menu in its entirity.

The shopping in Soho and Greenwich Village is superb. From perfumeries and flea markets in the village, to 6-garments-to-a-rack-because- they're-so-expensive-we-only- need-to-sell-one-a-week-to-co ver-our-rent-anyway boutiques in Soho, to the basics in Gap or H&M or gay porn in the Oscar Wilde bookshop (yes we walked in without even thinking about what the name suggests, yes we were forced to browse and make admiring noises so as not to offend the keen sales assistant ...). Our time was thus spent drifting from cafe to boutique, to second hand bookstore, to bar with the occasional detour to a park to rest our salt bloated bodies. There was an accidental stumble into Chinatown, late one night when our lone brush with the subway resulted in us getting out at some south coast station. Needless to say several NYPD men were approached and needless to say, every single time ... 'where ya from? Awstralia? No way ... you guys got kanagroos out there huh?'

A highlight was a visit to a psychic in the village (true locals, as we became, call the centre of Greenwich Village, the village, and the east part, East Village ... trust me, it matters. Areas and names matter in New York more than they matter in Sydney and that says something) which resulted in a deep discussion on a park bench and a follow up jug of sangria at our regular place, Le Petit Cafe in Soho. This jug led to deep, introspective discussion, spoken at volume levels achieved only by the ingestion of excess alcohol, which led to our being super friendly to an old couple sitting next to us, which resulted in the realisation they too were Australian, which resulted in the realisation the man was from the suburb next to me and owns the nursery on my Auntie's street. Yes, you can go all the way around the world and sit in the corner of a tiny cafe in a tiny neighbourhood in one of the busiest cities on the planet ... and still find a neighbour.

This week in New York also saw the inception of the Lazy Sunday (which can also occur on a Monday if the Sunday is unexpectedly busy) and began on a fine Sunday spent in Battery Park, overlooking Liberty and Ellis Island. Manhattanites dont have backyards, for the most part, and so on a sunny days they trickle out onto any patch of grass they can find and Mr Softees (poor cousin of Mr Whippy) line the streets tempting children and career obsessed anorexics that populate the chick lit genre so beloved by the cities' authors.

We left Staten Island, and Irwin's hair, having learnt Lower Manhattan (Financial District, Soho, Greenwich Village and Nolita) by heart. Which is a good thing. Because once you cross midtown and into the Upper West or East side, you never go downtown again. Unless you absolutely have to - like, say, if you are a banker and your office resides there, or you desperately want to be seen in the Meatpacking District (painfully, painfully trendy) or you have to pick up a dress on hold at Alice Olivia, but even then you'd just send your nanny.

Besides, like, do cabs even go there?


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