I am SO ITCHY lately. All I want to do is travel. All anyone else seems to be doing is travelling (and the bitter, twisty black bits of my uncharitable soul get blacker and more twisted with each suntanned, bikinified European snapshot you send me, you bastards). (But yay! So glad you’re having fun! Write soon, xoxo! Etc!) But I cannot afford to travel. NOT YET. So indulge me, internet friends, on a trip back through times past and adventures had, as we revisit some of my favourite places…
Oh, Paris! The food! The buildings! The snow! Dirty streets and elaborate grey buildings. The never-ending grey smear of the city winding out from the top of Montmarte. Orange paper flowers roping the ceiling of a tiny, perfect little cheese shop. The dirty, tired looking stretch of street where the Moulin Rouge hunkers among sordid shop windows and dubious-looking crowds. Department stores that are astronomical feats of coloured glass and gilt, and outside there’s children begging in the snow.
The streets are so narrow and the buildings so old they seem to slump, bowing into the street like they’re trying to prop each other up. Huge, ornate doors that seem to lead to nowhere! Underground public bathrooms tiled like palaces! Rioting, crazy lines of traffic. Dirty pigeons and neon lights. And of course the FOOD. OH, THE FOOD.
Lunch in a restaurant where the waiter scrawls your order on your paper tablecloth, and strangers take the seats around you. Authors are working in the corners and the walls are papered up and down in tiny metal drawers, relics from the workmen who once stored their cutlery in them when they came daily for lunch. Mango-jasmine macaroons. THE YOGHURT. Tiny little bakeries packed with people and pastels and smelling like butter and sugar. Sprawling cemeteries with cramped, jutting tombs. And standing over it all the Eiffel Tower, a ridiculous Christmas-light fiesta of spinning lights and lasers. I’d go back tomorrow. CAN I go back tomorrow?
I LOVE New York. I’ve been there twice: once overnight when I was visiting a friend in Philly, and the second time for 10 full days; four of them alone. If I was better at crowds and less fond of grass and space, I could spend a year there without once getting bored. I love the touristy stuff and the New Year’s Eve stuff and the walking through Central Park stuff, but my FAVOURITE thing to do in New York is just wander about. I spent a whole day wandering around SoHo, ducking in and out of shops and watching people going places, wrapped up against the cold. I love catching the subway anywhere, because I’m a huge nerd and get sincere enjoyment out of successful transit. Also, I like sticking tickets in the turnstile thingies — here in NZ we still have a dude who comes around and clips a notch out of a paper ticket. That dude is lame.
Favourite things: Getting bagels in Williamsburg and pretending to be a local, spending the day writing in organic cafes that have no idea how to make decent espresso. Eavesdropping on conversations, especially conversations between the obviously rich, and guys who speak like a Soprano and strut like Danny Zuko. Accidentally getting the very scary-looking not-for-white-people bus through Brooklyn to JFK, and discovering everyone on it is super, super nice, and told me how to get places and offered me snacks and helped me with my bags. I was helped out so many times while struggling around with my stuff on the subway, and it was never by white guys in suits, let me tell you! New Yorkers hold the nicest populace crown by a mile, in my experience. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time there alone, I don’t know. But I heart you, NY.
I also love Macy’s the way I’m pretty sure only people from places like New Zealand can love Macy’s: hard and often.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that much out of Miami before I went; I’ve never been a beach-bum type and everything else I know about Miami comes from Dexter, but I LOVED it. It FEELS like Miami, the way NY feels like NY and London feels like London. The pastel colours and the cocktails and the heavy heat. Parrots perched on street hawkers and luxury liners and resort islands framed by seedy neighbourhoods where no one speaks English.
I loved drinking mojitos in South Beach and watching the ladies dance, completely unselfconscious in their size and bodies and beauty. Watching a storm roll in along the dead-flat Florida highway. Taking a boat ride through the everglades with a dude named Scooter, all in khaki and with a half-burned cigarette permanently hanging from his lip. MY BABY ALLIGATOR FRIEND, FELIX GATOR.
(YES, I am THAT big a nerd! But so are you, for getting it.)