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Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tourist in My Town

New York City feels to me like a place I will never have fully explored, and that makes it even more appealing - it remains quite the elusive figure: she whose depths will never quite be plumbed. Luckily, excited friends visiting often have their own ideas about fun places to go. And I can host and go along for the ride.

My great friend Nina visited me a couple of weeks back, armed with the latest copy of Time Out - circled in black throughout with the must-sees and the might-sees. I've known Nina for ten years, since we both worked on an American study abroad program(me) in Oxford, she as a visiting professor, I as British student mentor. On our very first day of meeting we discovered a shared love of literature, films and cocktails. A potent combination for friendship. Ten years later our weekend plans, perhaps unsurprisingly, included a bar or four, a movie and a trip to St Mark's book store.

The Original Speakeasy Look

A long established trend in the city of New York is a revisiting of the drinking heritage of speakeasies. Once the way around the prohibition era, the speakeasies paved the way for women's entry into bar life. (Well, if you make drinking in bars illegal for everyone, what's to say that some are more illegal than others?) An FBI study proved that the longest time it took - across America - to get an illegal drink in any such speakeasy from the time one arrived at any railway station, was about 3 minutes. (In New Orleans they even had a speakeasy in the station. Smart thinking!)

Two modern speakeasies of note are PDT (Please Don't Tell) - which I will obey and leave mysterious for now (though I'm pretty sure that those in the know need no telling anyhow) and Death and Company. Addams' Family-style doors and a sombre, soberly dressed doorman lead the way into the dark bar, lit by candles and not much else. Air conditioning and credit card payments the two key modern attributes of this otherwise authentic looking bar. Well, that and the hipster clientele.

A candle-lit Vesper - chilled and delicious

Further to the speakeasy trend, the prevalence of bearded New York city bar tenders only contributes to the air of casual subversiveness. I'm not quite sure why this is. Bill Bryson is someone I'd never describe as casually subversive in this way, beard or no beard, but the young, bristly bearded men seem like they've said, "Aesthetically I'm over the studied chic. It's time to let it all hang out." So maybe Sixties cocktail lounges will be next.

Visiting Gilbert and George's London Pictures, East Village NYC

Discovering new places with old friends is one of the greatest pleasures of catching up - when there's so much in the way of catch up conversation, but there's also enough new experience in the mix that one can fluctuate between the two - take a break from one and get back to the other. Bar hopping, gallery dipping, cinema viewing (we saw Headhunters - Danish crime / suspense drama) and book shop browsing provided perfectly poised antidotes for our incessant catch up chatter.

Sushi at Ooki, to finish it all off on Saturday night, was a perfect end to a perfect 'staycation' with a great friend.

Jubilee Jubilations - Back Home!

Back on the plane on 31st May it has been 7 weeks since I left the UK for a whole new, New York, adventure.

Jubilee Jubilations at the local kitchen shop InSync

Being back home in Teddington with Mat once again, it was hard to shake the sensation of unreality thinking back to the project and my apartment. In a different time zone, with different accents, currency, climate (certainly) and surroundings the project and New York experience felt farther away than a half remembered dream.

Dr and Mrs...Back Together Again

Not wishing to rend the pictures here a host of before to after photos of my rapidly expanding waist-line, owing to all the food and drink consumed (liberally) with great friends over these few days, I will stick to bunting and views mostly, and let the pictures talk for themselves.

A very flat tyre indeed

One small homage, however, to the drama of my visit home in the shape of the above - a very, VERY flat tyre. (For Americans reading, please note the use of the British spelling of the word tyre.) Travelling home to the UK, I wanted to visit my family and Mat's, so our little used old car was put to her paces to schlep up the motorway to Nottingham and back on my first full UK day.

Alas, the journey home in the perpetual English drizzle had more excitement than planned when the car began to shake (literally) in the right hand lane of the motorway, whilst travelling at about 90 MPH. Oh dear! We pulled over (thankfully - safely) on the hard shoulder, happily right by a rescue telephone, and were able to connect with the AA. 

Much to the bemusement of passing motorists, not even the rain and spray from the speeding traffic could
dampen our high spirits at being back together again and safe, so the two stray roadsiders enjoyed hooting from the road as we hugged and kissed in the rain, and giggled at how ridiculous - really - it all was.

Back Home - St Paul's in the Sunshine

Wherever I am in the world I always feel connected to Mat - and we live in a fortunate age of video chat where we can see each other every day, and 'date' when we feel like it. That said, being at home back with my husband was wonderful. I can't wait for Mat to be here for the summer so we can explore a whole host of New York adventures together.

Richmond Riverside from our Proposal Spot

The remaining days passed without traffic incidents, and weather behaved itself just enough to allow to odd jaunt out for a walk to such beauty spots and favourite places as Richmond Riverside. As you will see below, we saw that some people viewed the Jubilee as less pomp and circumstance and more, well, pants.

The Jubilee - Pants on Parade