On 20th November 2003 I took a long walk. Over the preceding few weeks I had fallen for a girl, and it took a couple of hours walking the streets surrounding the university campus to find the courage to tell her. At sunset exactly ten years later, I was stood with her at the top of the Empire State Building.
Our recent trip to New York was a dream come true for me. I had been to the US a couple of times as a child — Florida on one occasion, and California on another — and had long wanted to return as an adult. To be making the journey with the woman I love, and celebrating a decade spent together, was a special addition.
In the months of anticipation running up to the trip we had amassed guidebooks, put in hours of research online, made lists, and stuck more pins in virtual maps than we could ever have hoped to cover in a month, let alone a week. We wanted to strike a balance between tourist stuff — not knowing if we’d ever be back in NY — and other activities that would give us a sense of the city as a lived-in place rather than a visited one. I’ve long been fascinated by cities: the organisation of them; the way they work; the benefits and compromises of living within them — and New York, in many respects, felt like the non plus ultra of the metropolitan concept.
There was a point in the planning when we’d considered getting a hotel in Brooklyn, but eventually decided on lower Manhattan — The Nolitan on Kenmare St — which I think proved to be the right choice. Over the week we spent the majority of our time in various parts of Manhattan, and a day in Brooklyn. In the end I was really happy with how much we managed to fit in: both the bigger things like The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, Central Park etc. and those smaller items on my mental tick-list such as getting a pretzel, seeing a smoking manhole cover, and reading The New York Times over breakfast. We saw a basketball game, went to a movie just off of Times Square, and drank tea in Bryant Park whilst we watched people skate…. The days were so full and I spent the evenings furiously scribbling down the details in a notebook so I wouldn’t forget anything; if you’re planning a trip and want restaurant tips just ask!
I brought back so many memories from NY, along with the sense of having been incredibly lucky to get to do it all. We may have visited a week before Thanksgiving, but no one could have been more thankful than I was on 20th November 2013 — just beneath the sky, looking down on the glowing grid of streetlights and taillights, my head on Elizabeth’s shoulder.