Let it be known that I’m really good at procrastinating. I finished the text for this post exactly three months after I flew out of JFK Airport at the end of my holiday. I guess I’ve been holding onto it, savouring it, because once the blog posts are done then it’s properly over and I can’t swan about indulging myself any more. My holiday photos are dropping off the start of my photo stream, one by one, and each one to go is a pin-prick of sadness.
The positive of all this time is that my broken ankle is 98% recovered. I’ve been using the 98% description for a couple of weeks now. My foot doesn’t hurt much at all, except when I pivot quickly, but I don’t think ankles are really designed for that anyway. I’ve got a lot of cool scar tissue in my ankle that I can push around, thanks to all the ligaments I tore good and proper, but yeah. All healed up and walking on two legs like I was never crippled—so I guess these posts kind of take me back to those painful days of forward-planning and disappointments and struggling through my holiday as best I could. But I gosh darn did it, and it’s a story I’ll have forever.
So let’s finish the story. Here’s my recap of the last week of my holiday, picking up from the end of my last blog post.
Saturday 4 January
The first order once we arrived at our hotel in the theatre district was to get warm. I guess we’d kinda been dumbheads and stood out in the cold for a while—we didn’t know what to do? Of course in a wintry climate you don’t wait around on the footpath for your cab, you wait inside where it’s warm. WHATEVER. So Fatboy decided to do a dash to Shake Shack and bring takeaway back to the warmth of our room (where we were continuing our My Cat From Hell marathon). After my disappointing first order I decided to follow her lead, if it was good enough to make her want to return so soon.
ALL HAIL THE SHACK STACK. SHACK STACK UBER ALLES. Yes, please add a cheese-filled, deep-fried portobello mushroom to a standard cheeseburger to improve my life by at least 50% at any given point of ingestion. I UNDERSTAND NOW. And hallelujah, crinkle-cut fries! This was the Shake Shack of legend and I was 100% in.
Once the sun had set, we headed down the street to take in Times Square. Literally down the street. Half a block. Times Square was almost on our doorstep. This meant Sephora was also almost on our doorstep. Sephora was overwhelming and great but by gosh did the Times Square staff ever ignore me! Ah, well.
We did a family wander through Times Square and then over to Bryant Park, where there was an ice skating rink and some holiday markets. Most of the stalls were closed up, but the hot chocolate stall wasn’t! So we all got different flavours and sipped those as we wandered back. I ducked into a wonderful little hotel bar for a cocktail before the night ended, and the charming doormen kept an eye on my scooter. I love the service industry.
Sunday 5 January
In the same style as Tuesday 24 December, this day is getting a whole post of its own, seeing as this was my 30th birthday. No way! Yes way.
Until later, birthday. You’ll keep.
Monday 6 January
By today, the end of the trip was looming, and end-of-trip panic was settling in. Not enough time left to do everything we wanted! Oh no! DO EVERYTHING! We got sensible about things and split up to do our own things for the morning—my sister trekked off on a Seinfeld location quest, my mum & stepdad headed to a library, and I hit MoMA.
I think I have to accept that I might be an Art Gallery person now. Years ago, when I was in London, friends and I went to the Tate Modern. Maybe we’d just overhyped it, but I remember being so bored. I spent years thinking I just wasn’t into art galleries. Brisbane’s GoMA (in particular the special exhibits) held my attention for a while. Then I moved to Hobart and had MONA at my beck and call (or the opposite, I suppose), but I figured MONA was a little left of centre.
Then I went to MoMA and a two hour timeframe wasn’t nearly enough for me. I headed straight for the fourth and fifth floors and saw as much as I could. I stood (well, I sat in my mobility scooter) in front of van Gogh’s The Starry Night and felt like crying, his complementary Olive Trees on a nearby wall. Around the corner, a Frida Kahlo self portrait. In one room, three huge panels of Monet’s water lilies along one wall, another panel opposite. Mondrian! Picasso! Dalí! A wall of Warhol’s soup cans.
And so many artists I already knew but didn’t have names for, or fell in love with. René Magritte. Giorgio de Chirico. Georges-Pierre Seurat. Magritte, Magritte, Magritte. A more understated piece of his (The Empire of Light, II) caught my attention in the standard collection and it was that piece that drove me upstairs to check out the Magritte special exhibition “the Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938“. I couldn’t have been more grateful for that piece because I was kind of entranced in that exhibition.
I hated that I had to leave.
But I had more to fit in to my day!
Heading back toward my rendezvous with mum and Fatboy, I stopped in at Momofuku. How could I not? A pile of sweet treats from the milk bar (including a free trio of birthday truffles thanks to my birthday the day before), a cereal milk thickshake (I miss it so much) and a pair of takeaway pork buns from Ma Peche later and I was burning rubber back down the Avenue of the Americas.
From there I swapped my foodie fan hat for my reality TV fan hat as we waved to Parsons en route to Mood Fabrics. It’s a slight effort to find the shop, inside a building and then up a stunning old elevator (manned by a bellhop and all) to the third floor, where glorious fabric awaits. Yes, it’s true, we went there because we are nerdy Project Runway fans. But at least my mum and sister are nerdy Project Runway fans who can sew (I’m still getting there); we actually wanted to purchase some Mood fabric to make something with once we got home, because wouldn’t that be an excellent souvenir?
From Mood, Fatboy and I did a little shopping (hello AGAIN, Sephora) before heading all the way to the top, baby! Ok at least to the 86th floor: time for the Empire State. Heck yes.
We chose a fricking FREEZING night to hit the top of the Empire, but it had to be done. The polar vortex wind chill had settled on NYC but it meant that only intrepid (read: crazy) souls were out and about, and the entry hall for the Empire State was a bit of a ghost town. I wish I’d taken photos, it was almost eerie how empty it was.
I had a number of surprisingly awesome experiences while broken-ankled on holiday but I think my journey to the 86th floor was at the top of the list. I rolled up in my mobility scooter and a discounted ticket price was just the start of a delightful experience. Queues cut, private elevator rides, doors held—I felt like ROYALTY (and my able-bodied sister got to come along for the ride with me). What a real treat.
The view itself? Perfection. Hello, Manhattan. Hello, lights of the surrounding boroughs from 360°.
We scurried around the building, at times literally gasping from cold blasts of wind, but we darn well saw the sights. And then we crawled emphatically into our hotel beds to warm our bones back up (after a healthy dose of Shack Stacks, natch).
Tuesday 7 January
WELCOME TO THE POLAR VORTEX. The mayor of NYC warned residents to stay inside. Seeing as we weren’t residents, we decided it would be a perfect day to walk the High Line park, the stretch of old railway line that’s been converted to a beautiful park up above the streets of the lower west side. We were so enthusiastic about our walking day that we walked (well, I scooted) all the way from the theater district.
In -30°C winds.
Sometimes being a tourist is really hard work.
The High Line itself was a pretty sweet stretch but definitely more worth the visit during a greener time of year. Maybe when temperatures are far above freezing.
Our mission as soon as we reached the other end of the High Line was to find warmth inside, both for our outsides and insides. We huddled in a diner, drinking hot chocolates and eating deep-fried mac & cheese balls (yes, they were as glorious as they sound).
My family sensibly caught the subway back to the hotel to warm up after that, but my stubbornness overrode and I decided to scoot the streets back alone because I Needed to see the Flatiron building, and I Needed to visit DAVIDsTEA.
I did both of those things, as well as a couple of other pit stops, and after a minor ordeal of trying to summon an NYC scooter-accessible cab with an Australian mobile number I finally got back to the hotel myself and I then sat in a hot bath for an entire hour. After 15mins of soaking I could eventually feel my feet again. I dumped an entire (hotel mini) bottle of conditioner on my head (-30°C WINDS, people).
That night Fatboy and I saw Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart starring as Gogo and Didi in Waiting for Godot, which wasn’t a big deal or anything.
Wednesday 8 January
After such a big and freezing day the day before, we ended up taking it pretty easy for most of the morning. No regrets. Lots of reality television. A fair amount of packing (and standard amounts of packing-related panicking).
The afternoon was spent at the Belasco Theatre, in on-stage seats (supreme) to see Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, starring Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance and a number of excellent people but holy cow, Mark Rylance is my new hero(ine). I was also a little bit my own hero(ine) after stubbornly making it up the stairs at a hobble in my CAM boot, my first proper attempts to put a decent amount of weight on my ankle and all went very well. The timing was exceptional—I’d contacted the theatre a week or so earlier about our on-stage seats and accessibility for me, and they’d tried to make me book for shitty wheelchair seating up the back of the theatre. I stubbornly refused, so was pretty glad that hobbling abilities were upon me by the 8th.
Then there was that moment where I was in the same small room as Bill Murray and I lost the ability to control most of my motor functions and I blushed and babbled and kind of crashed my scooter a bit as I tried to get it out of the little alcove that was the only reason I was in the same small room as where Bill Murray was hiding out from the post-theater crowds anyway. Will anyone ever believe me?
From there I went to meet up with my excellent gin blogger pal Aaron so we could partake in some gin, and while I did this my trooper of a sister lined up to try to score us tickets to the Book of Mormon. She waited in the freezing cold for hours while I hung out drinking gin and having a great time and yes I do feel guilty and we didn’t even get tickets BUT the light at the end of the tunnel is that we went to see Matilda: the Musical as a backup option and it was GREAT FUN.
As minor penance I went and got us Shake Shack for late dinner (and also bought myself an NYPD hoodie).
Thursday 9 January
I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna go.
Mum came down to our room in the morning with my stepdad’s bag scales and declared both our suitcases overweight, so Fatboy ran out to buy a new bag for us to decant into. We checked out of the hotel, I said goodbye to my sweet mobility scooter, and all four of us shared a huge black SUV out to JFK airport.
We had to say goodbye to mum and Paul at terminal 1—Fatboy and I were flying home to Sydney, whereas mum and Paul were continuing their US adventure down through the south for another couple of weeks. Goodbyes are always hard.
I’m writing this blog post three months after the fact (wow, literally three months, it’s the 9th of April!) and thinking about our return flight adventure still makes me feel ill and anxious. Thanks to the polar vortex and weird shit happening everywhere, our flight from NYC to Shanghai ended up having to go via Harbin in northern China to avoid some solar flares. We flew thirteen hours to Harbin, waited on the runway in Harbin for an hour, then flew five hours to Shanghai. What was originally going to be a long trip of fifteen hours got stretched to nineteen. Nineteen hours in one plane. What was originally going to be a 4.5hr stopover in Shanghai ended up being a sprint from one plane to another. Seriously, much credit to China Eastern. I was playing devil’s advocate the whole way. I was so certain we would miss our connecting flight and be stranded in Shanghai, which would have been confusing and stressful. Then once we’d miraculously made the connecting flight to Sydney (we were quite literally the last passengers to board), I was so certain that our checked luggage wouldn’t make it through. In both instances I was wrong and I couldn’t be happier.
Speaking of stressful though, walking out into a 30°C (that’s plus, no minus) Sydney day once we’d gotten through home Customs was distressing. I couldn’t wait to make it back to my little island home again, and to see my cat.
But you can take me back to NYC any day.