Impressions of New York

There’s something very unreal about travelling.

You look at countries on a map, you know they’re there, that they exist and people live there, but somehow the knowledge remains as intangible as a dream. It’s only when you clamber off the plane and start paying for things with Monopoly money that it begins to sink in.

I’ve spent the last two weeks haunting Manhattan, pounding up and down the avenues, my shoes worn thin by the hot tarmac. The first week was for work (my day job), the second holiday — the two combined long enough for me to slip into the smog and bustle of NYC as if it were a second skin, my life in London all of a sudden a distant dream.

Midtown Manhattan is a true concrete jungle, hard flat lines of asphalt, angular buildings, thousands of windows. There is little space to breathe between the ever-open shops and restaurants. At night white vapour rises from the manholes and twines with the wheels of the ubiquitous yellow taxis, curling long, hot fingers into the air. Gothic churches snuggle up beside sleek skyscrapers, and there is always, forever, the droning hum of air conditioning.

By day, you can escape to Central Park and within minutes lose sight of all buildings and traffic. Yet from the top of the Rockefeller you realise that Central Park is but a tiny carpet in the living room of NYC, an ornamental rug neatly placed in the centre of the room.

Little Italy is laughably fake, Chinatown is surprisingly grimy and bewildering. East Village is rough around the edges but with a flair of style, West Village is low-storied and peaceful. And the only word I have for the nightlife in the Meatpacking district is ‘eurotrashy’ (although I’ll admit that Soho House does a mean burger).

The little I saw of Brooklyn was more akin to a bedroom—residential, quiet, restful. From the shoreline you can look on to the furore of Manhattan and wonder why anyone would live there.

And yet… for two glorious weeks the city was mine. I saw the Statue of Liberty. I crossed Brooklyn Bridge, I went to the Natural History Museum. I picnicked in Central Park, ate bruschettas at Inoteca and ventured into the bowels of the underground. I walked far more than my legs care to remember and ate a lot of (very good) food.

Yet here I am, back in London, fighting exhaustion, dreading work tomorrow morning. I’ve only been in the country for six hours and the memories are already fading, ephemeral, as if I never travelled at all.

There’s something very unreal about travelling. It feels like the last two weeks were a dream, and a part of me wonders whether — during the flight over — New York has simply evaporated into a thin mist.

9 thoughts on “Impressions of New York

  1. Pingback: Whoops! | quillsandzebras

    • Agreed. Strangely even though London is also a big city, it’s less draining than New York — perhaps because there feels like there’s more room to breathe here.

  2. What a wonderful description, I almost feel like I visited too.
    I also travelled recently, to the other side of Australia (Port Macquarie, in New South Wales), so I can fully understand the wonder, joy and passing sense of (un)reality.

    I hope the return to daily life isn’t too jarring.

    • Thanks :-) Australia is actually on my to-visit list. One day, when I have the cash….

      Let’s not talk about daily life, ha! The writing panic has already sunk its claws back into my heart!

  3. Well we would most certainly make room for you here in Perth, but we do often miss out on overseas visitors because we are just so damn far from the rest of the country!

    No, no, no, don’t panic. Breathe deeply, then exhale slowly, now do it once more, …. and finally one more time. Hopefully you feel a little bit better?

    Of course we are all eager to read more, but we want you to enjoy writing and do it because it gives you a release from everyday life. I hope our expectations don’t make you feel that it is becoming a chore? I think you should not worry about everyone else, but do it for you – it works so much better from the heart, yes?

    • Don’t be silly! Reader expectations buoy me up and keep me going.

      I think I’m just hard on myself because I want to be able to give 100% all the time, but there are so many other things pulling at my attention that it’s often impossible! Plus I am a natural worrier. It’s what I seem to do best. :-P

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