Day four, Stateside – brunching, shopping and good old-fashioned boozing

The novelty of waking up without a pancake or alcohol hangover got day four off to an excellent start. Jen had booked a table at her favourite brunch spot in Manhattan – The Park – for midday so we took the Path train to 14th street and walked there in glorious sunshine. The Park is a stunning restaurant with a large outdoor conservatory area where diners can sit and enjoy their meals as birds tweet and fly around above them. The food is as much of an experience as the setting, with The Park famed for its delicious brunches and complimentary banana bread. We had Mimosa cocktails (the same as Bucks Fizz) and I tried French toast with vanilla maple syrup for the first time (which was absolutely heavenly).

After brunch we crossed the road to the High Line, a raised walkway that runs across several blocks allowing visitors to take in the city from a different viewpoint. We walked up and down for the best part of an hour, stopping to bask in the sun and chat to a couple who were taking their five month old baby out for his first experience of spring weather (particularly poignant when you consider in his short life he’s already lived through a hurricane ripping through his city).

With the High Line ticked off we strolled the few blocks to Jen’s workplace where I left her and carried on to the central shopping street of Broadway. Within minutes of walking into Bloomingdales I felt overwhelmed and hastily beat a retreat back out onto the street. Captivated by a top in the window of Guess I wandered in and was promptly attacked on all sides by overbearing shop assistants asking if I needed any help. My stress levels rose instantly and, far from feeling assisted I actually felt more stressed than I ever thought it possible to feel in a clothes shop. Fortunately I managed to hold my nerve and resist most of the purchases suggested by Edwin, my flamboyant assistant, but I did succumb to three little tops that will be oh-so-perfect for Glastonbury in June….

I emerged from Guess feeling thoroughly drained and desperate to get off Broadway, so started making my way to Jen’s restaurant for a drink and something to eat. Unfortunately en route I was distracted by a Calvin Klein sample sale and somehow coerced into buying two dresses (neither of which I could really afford, but they were half price and designer…)

The restaurant Jen works in is a lovely little French bistro called Vin et fleurs. I settled myself at the bar and ordered a glass of Chardonnay and a cold plate of vegetables with a side of the famous mashed potato with truffles that Jen had told me I had to try. I got talking to JD, a friend of Jen’s who works locally and regularly comes into the bar for a drink, and the lovely bartender Daniel, and before I knew it the evening was drawing to a close and Jen’s shift was about to end. Barry, who was in the area, popped in for a drink and when Jen finished the three of us headed down the road to M’Ladys bar for a nightcap.

When we walked into the bar, however, we saw JD, and half an hour later Daniel walked in so rather than having one drink we ended up having quite a few and not leaving until 3am! It was such a fun evening and I’m so glad I got to experience a typical night out in downtown Manhattan with the locals. 

One thing’s for sure: I’m really going to miss this place and all the people I’ve met here. 

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Jen and I on the High Line in Manhattan

Day three, Stateside – revenge of the pancakes

Day three brought with it an unwelcome hangover from the evening before, but it was nothing brunch at a traditional American diner wouldn’t cure. Once we’d managed to pull ourselves together and get ready we walked ten minutes to the Brownstone Diner. Settling into a booth, we ordered coffee, pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausages, French fries and smoothies and sat back and waited for our massive haul to arrive.

When the food did arrive I was taken aback by the sheer volume of pancakes before me – three plump doughy pillows half an inch thick and almost as big as the plate upon which they sat. My sausage, bacon rashers and two poached eggs sat on a separate plate beside them and the strawberry and banana smoothie was topped off with lashings of whipped cream. Suddenly my confidence in being able to finish everything on my plate vanished. And, sure enough I was defeated with one and a half pancakes still to go, my dreams of being a competitive eating champion shattered all around me.

Wonderful as the Brownstone Diner experience was it left us desperate for a lie down, so we headed back to the apartment for an hour’s rest before getting ready to go back out. Jen was working a shift at a restaurant in Soho so I went along with her and settled myself in a lovely little place around the corner called Sanctuary T, where I whiled away a pleasant few hours sampling speciality teas, writing and watching the world go by. When my appetite finally returned I treated myself to a delicious kale salad with truffle oil, hazelnuts and Parmesan accompanied by a glass of Malbec (which, I have to admit, made me feel terribly grown up).

On the walk back to the Path train I couldn’t resist popping back into Patisserie Rocco for a post-dinner cappuccino and mini pastry, where I proceeded to read my book by candlelight and do a spot more people watching. Afterwards, caught up in the sights and sounds around me I walked a block too far and had to retrace my steps to find the train.

When I got back to the apartment I was horrified to find a two-inch long centipede on the bathroom floor. Immobilised by fear, I backed out of the room to find my phone and Googled it to see if they were dangerous. Fortunately the answer was no; apparently ‘house centipedes,’ as they call them, are commonplace in the New York area, and whilst they’re not particularly pleasant bedfellows they are harmless and they even help control other pests like spiders (given that spiders are my worst enemy in the insect world, I suppose that means centipedes should really be considered friends?).

All in all another eventful day in the U, S of A…

Simple things

I’ve no plans for this blog to stray too far into my personal life (I’ve made that mistake before) but I feel today is worthy of note, because it’s been the kind of day that makes you feel that everything is just the way it’s meant to be. You know the ones. You wake up next to someone special, the sun is shining and you’ve got plans with good friends whose company make you feel positive and happy. In my case those plans involved two friends, their new baby and a pleasant stroll around Brockwell Park. This was followed by an impromptu brunch with my boyfriend’s friends and a slightly random excursion to purchase wheelie suitcases. Upon our return we donned our running gear and went for a five kilometre jog around Clapham Common. I’m now curled up on the sofa in my slipper socks writing this post and allowing myself the odd moment’s distraction in Location, Location, Location, before changing into my glad rags for a posh (but cheap – you’ve got to love toptable deals) meal at the National Portrait Gallery’s restaurant, Portrait, which I’ve read has rather spectacular views across London.

What I’m trying to illustrate by sharing the finer details of my day is that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make it so worth living; spending time with people who mean a lot to you, eating good food, being good to your body by exercising and getting fresh air, even allowing yourself time to veg out in front of a favourite programme. We live in such a fast-paced world. It’s easy to get swept along without ever taking time to appreciate the things that seem so simple but are, in fact, the most important things of all.

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Talking of appreciating the simple things in life reminded me of this photo I took in Manali in northern India. I was walking by myself when I turned around and saw, perfectly positioned between two tall trees, a cow. I love the way this photo came out, with a romantic haze. It’s one of my favourites from my travels.