Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Year, New Town, New York

There is something really great about getting off a plane and knowing exactly where you're going. I love being able to stride past the jet-lagged masses to the luggage carousel, fetch my bag without smacking something with it (accidentally or on purpose), then exiting the airport terminal through the one door that takes you straight to the end of the taxi queue.

There are only three airports in the world that give me these experiences each time. The first is Adelaide Airport; in my home town, so of course familiarity reigns. Good coffee, great toilets, Coopers beer. Gold.

The second is Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Sure it’s big, noisy and full of grabby TSA staff who give you an enthusiastic pat down, but at least they don’t give you a dirty-old-man grin as they do it. I love O’Hare for its cold beers, huge food court, and peaceful airport lounges. I also love the Chicago accent on the dude that does the voice overs to tell us that the transport safety rating is "o-range". No really, I love that.

And last, but by no means least, is La Guardia Airport in New York. I’ve only flown in and out of here a couple of times but already I've totally taken to it. The bars are sadly non-existent, but the souvenir shops are fabulous and the taxi guys like to laugh - which really helps when you're so jet-lagged that you hate everybody.

So you’ll appreciate the irony of how relaxed I was, when I landed at La Guardia on 31 December, arguably one of New York City's busiest party days of the year.

Breezing through the terminal to reclaim my baggage, I took my place at the end of the taxi queue and was ushered into a cab in a matter of minutes. Zooming towards the concrete jungle I chatted amiably with the taxi driver about the state of the city’s roads after the horrible blizzards. Sure enough snow was piled high along the sides of the roads – waiting until the next fleet of ploughs, or perhaps just a good drenching rain, could come along to clear them away.

On the day I arrived, K and her family were helping to strengthen the US economy at the outlet malls, so I let myself into her apartment and watched a couple of episodes of “Criminal Minds” – man, I love that show. When the family came home, we all got ready and had some pre-dinner drinks before heading out in the cold (but clear) night.

Dinner on New Year’s Eve was at a French restaurant called Millesime and it was just gorgeous. The follow-up Restaurant Review in the NY Times probably hasn’t hurt its reputation either (click here to read that). There were 10 of us at the table and I shared a lobster soufflĂ© starter with K’s Mum and then enjoyed a tuna steak with a sauce vierge, plus a side order of potatoes cooked in duck fat (duh) as my main course. The duck fat tried to clog my arteries, but the tuna steak wouldn’t let it, so all in all it was a well-balanced meal. Sort of. Kate’s Dad took charge of ordering our dinner wines and they were so good. As with the rest of the silly season though, I totally over-indulged in the food and drink sensations, and basically put myself in a food coma by about 2am. In the midst of my blame spiral, I was cursing my enthusiasm for the punch-you-in-the-face red wine that Kate's Pa ordered - I think that's what finished me off.

The next day started with brunch and admittedly I was feeling pretty ill – though not as sick as K who had to go home from the brunch restaurant and sleep all day. Stupid gunky gems had invaded her and she looked and sounded pretty rotten. The rest of us stayed in the fresh air and headed into Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library (Breakfast @ Tiffany's moment, anyone?). We wanted to check out the little Holiday village they’d set up there and the outdoor skating rink that was still proving really popular. We then wandered in and out of stores on Fifth Avenue, peeked across the street at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, then wound up back at the apartment. Nobody really had the energy to head out, so we stayed in and got pizza and watched Eddie Izzard DVDs. Loved it.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun and this holiday proved it. I awoke on 2 January feeling much better than I had the day before, and ready to face a great day. Rain had already started to fall, which basically declared it a Museum Day, but I didn’t mind a bit. While K’s parents explored flea markets on the other side of the city, we met up with PL at the Museum of the City of New York – incidentally the one museum in town that I’d actually been to already! Never one to resist a gift shop, I picked up a book about John Jacob Astor and his fantastically wealthy life. I haven’t started reading it yet but I can’t wait.

Later in the afternoon we called into a Mexican restaurant around the corner from K’s place and had a few too many margaritas but we needed to – how else to wash down the ultra spicy guacamole and salsa?!

Pouring myself back into a taxi, I bade farewell to P & K and headed for New York’s JFK airport – not my preferred option but as Mick Jagger said, “you can’t always get what you want”. The lovely dude at the British Airways counter let me board really early, so I was happily seated down the back of the plane with my book and music before the other yahoos came aboard. What followed was a full but happy flight, where I didn’t sleep a wink (again), but had a great time thinking back over the wonderful holiday that I’d had in the US cities – and airports – that I love.

See you soon, gang!

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