Woke up at a respectable 7.30 am despite having an interrupted sleep by the party revellers in the room next door. Then it dawned on me that I'd got to pack and be out of the hotel by noon. Though I hadn't bought much (just 2 gifts) I remembered how hideously compact my case had been on the way in and bulging like a Carnegie sandwich. I remembered the rolling technique taught to me by my friend and proceeded to roll everything out on my bed ready to be squished in. I then decided that to continue without a good breakfast inside me would be futile so off I went to Daniela trattoria for poached egg heaven! It was at this point I remembered that Lance the bus ticket hustler had offered to take me out for the day. I remembered what Milton ( the trained psychologist and FBI employee) had told me about being careful and decided that although Lance was a top guy who had brightened my mornings that to go off on a junket with a big hunky guy from Queens, who I knew only as Lance the bus ticket guy, is a little bit silly and I know Milton would not approve! I made my excuses to Lance who was fine about it and we had a nice little morning chat about his job and how difficult it was trying to get people on his blue bus since the red bus people are EVERYWHERE. To be fair to Lance though you couldn't get a friendlier and better person for the job. Went off for my breakfast where I was kindly greeted like a regular, addressed as sinorita, asked if I wanted my usual hot tea ( to be fair this is nice tea) and my usual 2 eggs with bacon and NO potatoes! YAY they've got it! Just in time for me to go home. As per usual the breakfast was lovely and I made sure I told them so verbally and with extra green stuff!
Went back to see Lance for a goodbye chat and he told me next time I come he'll take me to Queens for some great food! Thanks Lance, you're a star! Outside my hotel a guy came up to me and asked me if I knew of any liquor stores. Clearly I look like a typical English hardened drinker then! I told him that actually I hadn't seen any on my travels but back in the UK they're as frequent as Starbucks! He was afraid to ask anyone so I went and asked for him and was told where one was! He was eternally grateful and called me an Angel. For some reason I have had many people come and ask me things or talk to me - such open people.
Back to the hotel I forcibly thrust everything into my tired little case and vacated to check out at reception. NB: always take a bigger case to the States to allow for yummy purchases and the taking of delightful little hotel bathroom toiletries. Left my bag with the guys downstairs who said
" We don't charge to look after your bags but we do accept tips" tell it straight. I gave him $5 and left. I know when I get back there's going to be a different guy there who will say the same. Walking out down 7th Avenue I realised that converse and jeans were so not appropriate for the intense heat already and I'd got to walk round like this for the next 10 hours before leaving for the airport with Starbucks as my only reprieve. I decided I really must try and do Macy's or my friends will think I'm mad. I went in and managed to get up 2 sets of escalators before deciding I was just too hot and bothered to shop. I know, I know, this is just so out of character but what I'm enjoying about Manhattan is the atmosphere, the sights, the smells and the experiences and I'm really not interested in buying stuff. I'd rather save up for more travelling! I had no more big red bus ticket so wherever I ended up today I was going to have to walk to so out with the dog eared map to see where my adventure would be today. Decided that Greenwich Village really was too far to walk in heavy attire with hot sun and my airport stuffed bag cutting grooves into my shoulder so opted for lunch. Had heard that the shake shack was worth a visit so made my way up to 8th Avenue to pay it a visit. Now honestly shakes and burgers are not really my thing but when in Manhattan and all that! Got to the shake shack, looked at the menu and tried to get inspired and hungry but to no avail. Plus there was nowhere to sit (clearly I'm in the minority) and it was full of people. Made a hasty retreat to the New York bagel store which I had passed earlier and done a double take at. Follow your heart Juliette! Went in and was amazed at the multitude of different flavoured bagels and fillings. I was so overwhelmed with the choice and aware of the queue behind me that I panicked, reverted to type and only ordered a simple sesame seed bagel with ham and cheese which is a slight variation on the bacon theme. Bought myself a New York Times, a USA today paper and some vitamin water and guess where I went? That's right, back to Times Square. I don't know why this place has such a draw for me but I love the atmosphere. I think it's because I'm a person who likes to be entertained and with all the moving pictures and ads you can't fail to be. I sat and whiled away my time on a little red seat at the bottom of the big steps and read my papers and ate my hugely stuffed bagel. Every person I watched was carrying some sort of electronic device from phones to cameras to iPods. It fascinated me that I didn't see a single person without some gadget. The age of technology! Tried to take in every single advert and story. Watched people working and setting up for a food fair, people playing and going about their business and I could have sat there for hours. Eventually got so hot I went back to Starbucks for some air conditioning and caffeine. Soon it was time for me to take leave to JFK so I went back to the hotel to get my luggage and Ed the doorman kindly waved me a yellow cab.
I feel quite sad to be leaving New York it really has special meaning to me because I did it alone. I never once felt unsafe and found the people I spoke to kind, friendly and helpful. Being on my own was sometimes very lonely and I have certainly experienced a mixture of feelings both high and low. However, I will certainly have the courage to come back and do it again alone and go further afield.
New York is a very lively, vibrant city that I feel very at home in and definitely consider to be one of my favourite places.