Let nobody tell you that New York is like London. It is not
Let nobody tell you that New York is like London. It is not.
My first experience of the United States was 24 hours in New York and it was love at first bite.
In a subterranean deli, below a Fifth Avenue sidewalk, I pointed to a gargantuan pastrami sandwich to satisfy my post-flight hunger. It looked beautiful, as much as a sandwich can; it really did.
But then the man behind the counter told me he was going to get me the other half and I could have kissed him. I carried my two fat sandwiches into Central Park, where I overdosed on rye bread, pickle and cured beef.
Great gleaming towers loomed over me. The river-like streets, through which traffic poured, carved their way through the buildings and the buzz of the Big Apple was palpable. Before I had left for my short trip a friend had said: “You'll love it. It's just like London.”
I was in New York at the height of summer and there was not the thinnest slither of me that thought I would rather be in London.
The next 24 hours were frenetic. A life - by and large - spent watching movies meant that there was much of New York that seemed so familiar. And yet Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge can never be truly realised on film.
I spent hours lost and dizzy in Macy’s, I walked down Broadway with my head craned constantly to the bright lights and captivating noise. I walked and walked until my feet hurt, my neck hurt, and my eyes hurt. So I jumped on one of the excellently-staffed tourist buses and just kept going.
The Chrysler Building glinted in the summer sun; steam occasionally billowed from manholes in the road; several public pools, open for the season, were full of laughter. New York had her summer clothes on and she looked good.
Further and further into the city and past the infamous Ground Zero (as it was still known then), I found myself in the “old” city close to Manhattan Island. The experience became a bit rougher around the edges, but no less incandescent.
Street parties, live music, and a multitude in bars and cafés lapped up the heat of the day. Suddenly, I realised I was lost. My hotel was somewhere in mid-town and I was almost at the water's edge. I asked someone for directions, which were given - but not before a couple of impromptu drinks.
Eventually, I walked back to my hotel, which was easy once I found my bearings. And as I caught my breath upon the bed I realised that not once in the whole day had I felt threatened or alarmed or even cautious.
Summer time in New York City, either in 24 hours, a long weekend or longer, is an unparalleled experience and packed with events and activities.
I woke up in a city that never sleeps. And I wondered what kind of sandwich I might get when I returned to London.