New York: Day Three

We walked around with big plans for how much ground we wanted to cover, but after stepping into Times Square and promptly deciding this was not the place for me, we scuttled off to investigate some less touristy locations. 
First up was the Hells Kitchen Flea Market, which we discovered by accident. After looking at everything, and deciding that I couldn’t really justify shipping gigantic metal cat statues back to Belgium, I limited my purchases to a smoothie and a golden necklace with an origami crane stamped on. 
The next stop was B and H Photo Video, a camera shop run by Hasidic jews, which Ben had mentioned to me before our trip. Fascinated by the place, and amazed by the choice, we picked up a new rucksack for camera storage (while a little small to fit our laptop in when travelling, my iPad will squeeze nicely into it’s own special section), and a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8, for all my instant photography gratification requirements. 
The ordering process was fascinating. We took our stuff up to a counter surrounding the camera section, where Ismael took my details, added me to the database and discussed the pros and cons of life and weather in Brussels, Brighton and New York. By the time the order had been entered, he’d reached under his desk where a packaged version of the bag had appeared, stuck that and the camera into a bag and sent them down to the collection point. Everything seems to be sent around the store in green boxes on miles upon miles of conveyor belts. I was sent off to pay elsewhere, and then took my proof of payment to the collection spot to be reunited with my purchases. 
The evening brought with it some Thai food from Tuk Tuk, an experience to be repeated later as we were all a little tired to eat and ended up with doggy bags. Thankfully it was only a short walk back to the apartment and bed. 

New York: Day Two

A good night’s sleep behind us, we were ready to get out and explore New York. we were staying in Long Island City in Queens and my first surprise was that it looked like I’d imagined a normal American town would – I’d kind of expected skyscrapers to dominate the entire landscape, but in fact there weren’t many, and the ones that there were contained apartments and looked over the river. 
The first stop was the shiny shiny diner, where we enjoyed corned beef hash and a couple cups of cwaaaarffee. 
After the breakfast of champions, we caught the subway into Manhattan, and wandered through Little Italy and Chinatown, which was so much bigger and more fascinating than the ones I’d been to in other cities. 
After a brief stop in a supermarket where you seemed to be able to choose your own live fish from a tank under the counter before it was killed and served to you, we continued walking south, passing by Wall Street and dodging the joggers along the river front. 
We rounded the peninsula of the island and stopped for hwat dwags, before heading to Century 21, a discounted designer store which I’d heard so much about, but was actually really disappointed by. Maybe it’s good if you’re the kind of person who can rummage around on the rails of TK Maxx and come out looking like a million dollars, but I am not. 
Our aching feet thanked us as we managed to clamber back onto the right subway train and wander back to the apartment without getting lost. 
We settled onto the balcony for the evening, knocking back Long Island Iced Teas, eating hummus and playing Michael Trumps, a game, invented by our friends, which is basically Top Trumps with famous Michaels. 

New York: Day One

After a slightly demented taxi ride through Brussels on our way to the airport, I was very much ready for a holiday. There is only so much time you can spend in the company of a coffee swilling, priorité de droite screeching maniac before you feel that the time has come to spend some time away from your adopted country. Fortunately, I was able to say ‘Fuck this shit, I’m off to New York,’ and be on my way.
A recent survey has listed Brussels Airport as 60th best in the world, beaten by both Gatwick and Stansted, something I find rather laughable. Brussels airport is great – especially when you compare it to the chaos of Brussels itself! The staff are quite nice, there are a few shops, the queues are always acceptable when I’m passing through, and theres a Starbucks selling those lovely apple doughnuts I like so much. 
On planes is one of the few times I will watch films, and therefore also one of the few times I cry in public. This time I cried to 500 Days of Summer and The Breakfast Club. I considered crying to both The Addams Family and Alice in Wonderland, but eventually decided they looked fucking shit. Other members of the flying crying film club included some bloke watching a Steve Martin film, the guy next to me watching The Avengers while eating a cup, and a woman very determinedly starting The Impossible just as we began our descent into JFK. 
The flight was my first experience of American hospitality, and it was quite fascinating. Having a few American friends had not prepared me for this. I can only assume the cheesy smiles mask vast swathes of sarcasm. Even my fellow passengers were polite – I had a lovely chat with a lady doing some lunges outside the loo. 

Once back on solid land, a whole hour early, and through the quite scary security procedure (my fingerprints have been taken for the second time in my life – good luck with those babies, the scanner at work hasn’t recognised me once in three years), we met up with our friend and host for the week, and caught a cab back to her apartment.

NY lesson number one: No taxi driver in this city will understand an English accent. At one point I became so frustrated with his inability to understand the address that I joined in giving directions to a place I’d never beenbefore.

Settling in for the evening, we cracked open a bottle of wine, caught up on gossip and admired the amazing view of Manhattan from the balcony.