Monday
Nov122012

I Want to be a part of it...

I am not a difficult man to please when it comes to travel.  I have learned over the years to accept what comes from any opportunity no matter how bleak its potential.  I could be in a meeting somewhere in a small concrete town outside a boring city, and I would carry my camera in my briefcase.  There is always something interesting or different to what I'm used to, and I have learned that not carrying a camera will guarantee its appearance. With over a decade of regular travel and having been fortunate enough to explore many countries and cities - often repeatedly -  I am extremely difficult to impress.  

New York City laughed in my challenging face.  Within a couple of days I was wondering how much the average rent would be in the nicer neighbourhoods - perhaps overlooking Central Park? This city is infectious.  Our story begins in Times Square, and thanks to Sandy it even has a twist.

It was the Eid holiday week and our plan was to have five full days to explore NYC, fly back Wednesday night and rest Thursday to Saturday before going back to work and school. 'Tight but realistic' is how I described it to a friend.  It didn't turn out like I had planned, but we were very lucky considering what the city went through during our time there.

We arrived on an evening flight so Times Square was alive when we got out of the cab.  My wife took a photo of our suitcases coming out of the cab and we didn't stop shooting until we got back.  Our Instagram feeds provided a storyline to our friends and family - starting with the suitcase and cab photo uploaded by my wife before we checked into our room!

Arriving at Times Square was the perfect feast after the appetiser of seeing the city from a distance when we were driving in from the airport.  At that point I remembered how the same drive also impressed me the first time I arrived into New York more than ten years ago. Sightseeing and shopping were the only two targets for the trip.  No business meetings or formal dinners.

New York has the energy of an active young man, the elegance of a sophisticated older lady, and the resilience of a dedicated soldier. The city is manicured perfectly in some parts and a little rough-edged in others.  The perfect blend of what makes a place interesting to visitors and residents alike.   The place feels like it 'never sleeps' despite the limitations: Manhattan feels like it barely copes.  It stands tall (very tall) surrounded by water and the ground it sits on is meshed with the miles of tunnels dug underneath it over the years.  Yet it somehow looks invincible.  

I recognise I'm viewing it with tourist eyes - and this is all I claim to describe here. I mention this because as you can see the shock on the policeman's face when Yousef asked him where the nearest open Starbucks is.  This as they were closing stations and roads preparing for the storm that was hours away! I had told Yousef to ask the guys holding the Starbucks cups, and he heard me say 'cops'. This was not a set photo. I took it at that very moment he finished asking and seconds before we all hurried out of their way.

We saw how the mighty prepared for battle.  Preparations for the no-longer-called-hurricane Sandy were simple but done properly.  We witnessed the big brace-yourselves feeling when the city became a ghost town for almost 48 hours.  We stepped out when the storm was approaching, knowing at the time that it was a short but safe distance away.  Where we were in Times Square was completely untouched by the wind and water.  

Other places were hit hard. Shops and restaurants closed for two days after the storm as people struggled to get to work. Deliveries were still catching up three days later and the queues for petrol were miles long.  Thousands were without power and many were charging phones and catching up with their work in cafes that barely stayed open.

Our two days spent indoors were made up with the time it took to find a flight home after our original booking was cancelled.  The only discomfort was a cold shower when the steam line was being repaired.  Apart from the Lion King on Broadway which was cancelled on our night, we managed everything else on our list. 

Regular readers here will know my love for London.  I feel I'm on the cutting edge of the world when I'm there: a feeling I rarely get in any other city, especially in the United States.  NYC feels very similar to me.  The energy and drive are palpable and the sharpness and wit are in abundance.  I felt surrounded by clever design, interesting architecture, art, culture and even history.   We had a truly unforgettable week in a fantastic city.

This is not my first post of images exclusively from my iPhone.  It is however the first time I have done it by choice. I had access to my camera and I did use it.  These images just felt a little more alive.

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