“You need to go around the corner and take the lift. But they might not let you in, because it turns into a club at midnight. So if you can’t get in there, you can always go to the beer garden down below. Or you could try Heifers and Hogs. People used to go there, but they don’t anymore so it’s closing down. But everyone’s trying to go before it closes”, was the very firm but friendly advice offered to use by a thirty-something woman in gym clothes at about 11 o’clock at night.
As we were both a little jet-lagged, and were just looking for a couple of drinks to “knock ourselves out” for a good night’s sleep, we weren’t too fussed about where we had a drink. So we ended up having a couple of beers in a couple of smaller “neighbourhood bars” not far from where we’re staying in the Chelsea district of New York.
Michaela had been flying for some stupid amount of time, including a five hour lay-over in Los Angeles. I’d also been flying for about twelve or thirteen hours, having left Stockholm at 9.45am local time. I flew Swiss Airlines, which turned out to be a really pleasant experience. Like the planes and the inflight entertainment system, the flight attendants were a little older, meaning they were both friendly and experienced, and the food was also reasonably good. I watched a couple of terrific old movies along the way – Chocolat, The Birdcage and Philomena – and even managed an hour or two of sleep.
Even though I am a terrific sleeper on transport, I didn’t really want to sleep, as it was a daytime flight, with a mid-afternoon arrival in New York. Even though I could have taken my luggage as carry-on, I checked it in due to the connecting flights. In hindsight this was an excellent idea, as the passport control queue at JFK Airport was very slow. I don’t mean they were inefficient, it’s just that they have to process so many tens of thousands of people who must arrive everyday. It took me roughly 100 minutes from the time we landed to the time I “made it to the other side”.
So I skipped the my plan for public transport, and grabbed a taxi into Manhattan. As I made my way towards the hotel, walking the last few blocks, I had one of those “OMG, I’m in New York” moments. This is my first visit to the United States, and it’s doubly exciting to be here with a good friend.
We screamed with both with laughter and delight as we caught up at the hotel we’re staying in for out first night. “The Leo Hotel“ is a “guest house for Catholic travellers”, though not nearly as glamorous as the Catholic guest house I stayed in Rome for roughly the same price.
“I checked Google Maps”, I told Michaela, “…and we’re about half a block from The Highline”. Google Maps also provided a few nearby bar and restaurant suggestions including a “gay sports bar” around the corner and a restaurant “The Cookshop” which billed itself as providing food “from the farm to the hipster” which, of course, we couldn’t resist.
“That’s a Flinstone serve” you have there, was how Michaela described the mixed grill I ordered. Although the restaurant was a little noisy, we both enjoyed it very much, as the food was good and the service was excellent.
Having enjoyed our meal, we set out determined to find a bar to have a drink and to chat to some people. “I’d forgotten how helpful Americans can be”, my friend Michaela said, as everyone we spoke to seemed to delight at offering suggestions to the two Aussies who had arrived. In fact, the bar manager at the nearby Westside Tavern went so far as to write down a list of places we should visit while staying in Brooklyn. He seemed like a lovely bloke who told us he had been to Australia. He also seemed very happy with himself, as while he worked, his wife had sent him some video of their unborn baby “kicking it”. Sweet.
So the verdict on New York so far? Not as busy as I thought. Not as “dressed up” as I thought. Really friendly. So… so far… we’re loving it.