Firstly, and most importantly, the food. I was super lucky in that the friend I had stopped by NYC to see is also vegan, and so within the first half an hour of being together I had a list in my phone planning out all my meals and several snack stops for the four days I would be in her hood. I made the gross error of describing bagels as merely 'rolls with holes in them' and after being heavily chastised I made my first breakfast stop a neighbourhood bagel company. I completely aced the ordering process ("Hello, I want a bagel!" (yes that is a direct quote)) and my first everything bagel, toasted, with tofu cream cheese, was acquired... and a world was changed. So. Very. Delicious. A bagel, as it turns out, is everything I want in a food- dense, chewy, with tart tofu cream cheese slathered on, still cold despite the heat of the toasted bagel. I moaned and groaned, took pictures with both my phone and my camera, almost cried, definitely caused concern amongst my fellow diners, and then went back every morning after. That wasn't the end of the culinary delights by a long stretch of the imagination- then there was a pecan pumpkin vegan donut ate in the sunshine by Times Square, a vegan café near the Natural History Museum with an in-house DJ and a Philly cheese steak melt creation of pure genius, a visit to my friend's partner's work, a fancy vego restaurant which offered up such delights as dosa with coconut yoghurt and a roasted half cauliflower which again made my world anew... and the list really does go on. Vegan ramen, vegan pizza, amazing coffee... I tremble at saying this, but Melbourne- New York has pretty much got you beat (maybe not yet on the coffee front though you can keep that crown a little longer).
When I wasn't eating (which to be fair was not that often) I was pounding the pavements and jostling with the crowds, seeing what was up in this huge city. Times Square was very reminiscent of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, with people and screens being busy in your face everywhere you look. Spring was just blooming across the city, so the trees were freshly green and cherry blossoms abound. One of my favourite mornings was spent riding a bike through Central Park, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and enjoying the sunshine on my bare arms. Temperatures climbed to around 30 degrees which I'm told is quite unusual for this time of year, but I enjoyed the heat bouncing off the pavement and the sultry evenings spent outside. I found shade and coolness quite quickly when walking through downtown NY, by Wall Street- the skyscrapers there feel quite closed in and the sun disappears quite early in the day, though luckily you're only about a five minute walk from the water where you can gaze across at the Statue of Liberty or walk up and across the Brooklyn Bridge. In the same part of town is the World Trade Center memorial site, which is filled with the green of trees and grass and people solemnly watching the water pour down the sides of two huge memorial fountains on the site of the two towers.
New York really has something going on at all hours of the day, and something for everyone. People watching is a rich pastime- I sat next to a guy on the train with a beautiful sequined gown, who was on the phone organising what sounded like an accounting consultation (eh numbers aren't my strong suit), saw hipsters that wouldn't look out of place on Brunswick St clutching their coffees in one hand and their phones in the other, overheard a debate about which high-end furniture store was really the most 'in' at the moment, and watched a little kid take on someone the age of his grandpa in a chess match in Union Square Park. In general I found the subway-vibe to be quit boorish, especially around rush hour- the best of humanity doesn't come out to play in crowds that's for sure, and I felt quite disheartened after I saw a short Asian lady hip-and-shouldered off the stairs so some suited guy could get home just that bit faster. Riding a bike in NY is also quite the experience- within my first five minutes of crossing onto Manhattan Island I had two cars cut me off, one altercation with a pedestrian looking at her phone so intently she forgot to look at the road at all, and one instance of a runaway food delivery trolley careening down the bike lane.
New York, New York- what a city. I spent only four full days there though after just that I was ready for my peace-and-quiet bus ride to Montreal, armed with a bagel for the road and some intense sandal tan lines, practising my French as Quebec loomed.
Too bad I've not that much French to be practising.