Blessed to be a witness

Tuesday, 4th October

I heart NY

I know Yanks are always banging on about how America is 'the greatest' this or that or t'other, a statement that doesn't really mean much, other than the person making it is jingoistic. However, there's one place for which that claim really is right: New York is simply the greatest city on earth. To me, it's the epitome of the word 'city', like someone has distilled all the cities in the world to come up with the superlative. I couldn't agree with the 'I heart NY' t-shirts more. I heart it.

New York is the only place I've ever been that exceeded expectations for me. Walking down the street is just like being in a hundred movies and TV programs (except, perhaps Sex and the City). It's just like it is in the movies, then more.

We got into La Guardia on the same airline as the previous flight, with the BBC again, but the flight was only an hour and a half long. The shuttle from the airport to the hotel went all round the houses, uptown to downtown and back again, before dropping us off last. The journey was made amusing by two ladies from Atlanta, first-time visitors, who made observations like "it ugly!" "man I am so hungry! I don't want a pizza, but now those pizza slices looking so goood!"

I was looking around and I think I have put my finger on what makes it such a great space physically - even disregarding the aggessively sophisticated people and the buzzing, energetic atmosphere - it's the width of the streets. I have described parts of Hong Kong and Sydney as 'Manhattanesque', but on further examination, they aren't really - the streets are so wide here. The canyons made by the skyscrapers are wide enough to give long vistas all the way down the city - something that used to allow the locals to spot the Twin Towers from nearly everywhere in order to orient themselves. And there's so much art deco again. Of all the architectural styles we've encountered on our travels, this is the most satisfying. I'm fast falling in love with the 1930s, regarding architecture anyway.

We checked into a fancy hotel, and went for food. I was determined to fulfill as many clichés as possible, so ordered pastrami on rye, which, when it came, proved to be a slab of pastrami slices a good twenty centimetres deep, and thus almost entirely inedible, though delicious. M ordered salami and swiss cheese, and she actually counted the salami slices: nineteen.

Later, we hooked up with M's cousin who had kindly driven down from Boston to meet us. Naturally we had a couple of drinks, down in Chelsea, the meat packing district, and we ended up in a bar that is so cool and trendy that it doesn't have a name or a sign or any advertising or marketing - it's just a room in a former warehouse with a bar and a Saturday Night Fever-style floor that flashed in time with the music.

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