Wednesday, September 17, 2008

tips for travelling

Travellers, I am about to dispense to you - for absolutely no charge at all - the two most useful tips you will ever be given about the art of exploring cities anew. They won't let you down. By all means do your other research first - I spent an eight hour flight over the Atlantic learning about New York City's boutiques, record shops and drinking dens - but attend to these basic, essential tasks, too.

When you look up places to go, look up some really dull things too. Look up supermarkets.

In my first four hours in NY I had a really, genuinely wonderful time drifting through Greenwich Village - of which more later - and quite marvelled at the fact that I was walking through an area which has captured my imagination for most of my life; even if my mental image of the area was utterly misleading. Once there, of course, I simply couldn't tear myself away from the area until I reached absolute dropping point, at which point only two clear priorities for the evening remained: getting to the subway, and picking up a bottle of beer and some groceries to see me through the evening. So I boarded the subway - a deliciously exciting experience, sorry - and travelled up to 73rd and Broadway, where my apartment is, and, drawing on the last remnants of my energy, strolled around looking for a supermarket where I could grab some food.

Cue an hour of directionless, listless, indecisive walking. Conclusion one: there are no supermarkets in the Upper West Side. Conclusion two: there almost certainly are, but I walked down all the wrong streets. After a while, a kind of grim, determined pessimism set in and I started actively walking past potential vendors simply because I had kind of accepted the idea that I was destined to spend the night walking and yearning. And the sad truth is that this happens to me every time I stay somewhere new.

Lesson two is related to lesson one. It is that early on, inevitably, during your search for a supermarket, you will pass a burrito house and briefly consider going in. No matter what happens that evening, no matter how long it takes, you will - equally inevitably, with absolute certainty - end up going back an hour later and ordering the meal you earlier rejected.

So just get it the first time, seriously.

Here, after all that, is my first meal in New York. It may not look like much, but it tasted fucking unbelievable.


keirmcdowall said...

73rd and Broadway, not bad. I stayed on 81st and columbia last time I was in NY. There's an Urban Outfitters just next to 73rd isn't there?

I know what you mean about the lack of supermarkets though, although, I think it is a case of looking for something so hard that you can't see it.

jonathan said...

Yeah, I'm sure that's true. There was definitely a bit of defeatism blighting me, too.

Yep, there's an Urban Outfitters there; dangerously close to where I stayed. I actually visited three of their shops while I was there, ludicrously; that one, a bigger one on 14th and another in the East Village, which I thought was the best of the lot - and accordingly spent most money in. Unwise, but impossible to resist.