My round-the-world trip began in style, with me ensconced in a big first class seat on my AA flight to New York. My friends had collected me on time, the plane arrived on time, and my luggage appeared on the carousel as I walked up to it. No complaints, aside from the fact that the nuts served in first class no longer came heated, and my later discovery that the TSA had unlocked my checked bag (good thing I use a “TSA-approved” lock for US flights). Perhaps they had mistaken my hiking stick for a rifle.
Then I switched to budget traveler mode and bought a one-week transport pass (well worth the money for a four night stay) and boarded a Q33 bus for a slow ride to the nearest metro station. At first we rode past cute, family-sized houses, but then hit a bustling business district and the start of the rush hour. My bags were heavier than usual, thanks to the guidebooks for three countries and assorted pills and vitamins, and I was glad to finally reach the Jane Hotel, way downtown near 12th Street and the Hudson River. The carpets looked older, the bathrobes had fared poorly in the wash, but otherwise my room was the same as last year, and the hotel now hosted the Cafe Gitane as well as a bar – although the cafe was in a different price bracket to the hotel rooms.
For the first time in three visits I had a couple of fine days, and was actually able to enjoy being outside, instead of being blown along in a rainstorm. I started out on a sunny Saturday at the Union Square market, and while I would totally shop there if I lived nearby, I’m not sure why it figures in the guidebooks as a tourist sight. I love markets, but this was no different from the farmers’ markets at home.
I rode the Staten Island ferry (why pay for a Circle Line cruise when you can ride for free?) and joined the other tourists at the rail for the obligatory shots of the Statue of Liberty (which I could just make out from the window in the communal bathroom at the Jane), and of the crowded tip of Manhattan Island. I walked the Brooklyn Bridge, westward in the morning, with the sun behind me and the best views in front of me, and wondered at all the people going in the other direction. And after some quality time with the period rooms in the Brooklyn Museum I strolled the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in hot sunshine. The roses were already past their best, but I loved the lily ponds.
Another day I saw Bryant Park at its best, full of people enjoying the last of summer, and admired the magnificent Bryant Park Hotel across the street – all dark brick and bright gilding. I wondered what it would cost to stay there…