Independent woman

27 July 2008

Compared to the quiet wildernesses that we'd come to love, Manhattan was noisy beyond belief. Sitting on low wall outside the Hilton hotel on Sixth Avenue, I could hear every type of noise that I can imagine, including I'm told, a Space-hopper. In contrast, our room on the 31st floor was an oasis, with only the low hum of the air-conditioning unit to break the silence.

After four weeks on the road, we had been looking forward to running a big, deep, bubbly bath and soaking in it until the water went cold. Unfortunately neither of our rooms came with a bath-tub and although the hotel did agree to move us to a room with a tub, we were in no mood to move again and decided to stay put.

This was my fifth visit to this city and as we’ve all seen most of the tourist spots on previous trips, we had no inclination to visit Liberty Island, the Empire State Building or New York’s other main attractions again. Instead, after breakfast we took the D-train downtown to Soho and headed first to Prince Street, home of New York’s latest and biggest Apple Store.

We weren’t in a buying mood, but while Alex soaked up Apple’s bandwidth collecting his email, I checked in on work and watched the swarm of people buzzing around the dozen iPhone 3Gs on display. I was amazed that even several weeks after the iPhone 3G’s release, handling one of these new miracles still involves standing in line for several hours before being allowed inside the roped off iPhone temple.

Several doors around the corner from Apple’s Soho flagship was Paul Smith‘s New York emporium. There was a sale on, but with our suitcases and my personal credit card already bursting at their seams, I think that both were slightly relieved when I left Paul Smith empty-handed.

The weather in New York was very warm and humid and our feet were already starting to complain about carrying our weight before we reached Greenwich Village. It had seemed like a good idea to spend the afternoon at the cinema, taking in the latest Batman movie, but with all the showings sold out until later in the day, instead we ate lunch in Max Brenner and then caught the (wrong) subway back uptown, getting off near Bloomingdale’s. From there we walked back towards Central Park and sat on the grass under the trees for a while to cool off, before braving the crowds at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. This time I was in a buying mood and picked up a 1Tb Time Capsule, a 160Gb iPod (my first black iPod) and a Snowball USB microphone.

As we walked across the street, back towards our hotel, a group of break-dancers were about to start their street performance. So we leaned against a tree and watched them perform their moves for a while. As we stood, my US cellphone buzzed in my pocket and Jeffrey was calling with the time and address of our dinner date. We had only forty-five minutes until we were were due to meet and as I had an Apple bag of goodies and no money left, we needed to quickly walk the three blocks back to our hotel, drop stuff, pick up cash and head downtown in a cab to Penelope’s on 30th and Lexington Avenue.

It was a lovely evening of great food and conversation with Jeffrey, Carrie and Ava who is becoming a wonderful personality all her own. She had us in stitches while she licked bright blue icing off a cupcake and told us how she’s going to be an independent woman.

As the evening was a little cooler for walking around the city, we decided to walk back to our hotel, past Grand Central Station and up on Broadway through Times Square. It was a good opportunity to try to capture the bright lights of Broadway on camera, but the heaving, hot masses of tourists were a little off-putting. Before long we had strolled the last few blocks and were soon heads-down on our fluffy Hilton pillows.

By Andy Clarke

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