It's equally embarrassing and endearing to think about how nervous I was on first arriving (I had never even visited New York before), for the first week we would make sure we were back in the apartment not long after it got dark and had no idea where anything was or how to get around, a couple of lost lambs.
We have settled in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn and it feels like something I'm happy to call home. The area has a slightly suburban feel to it, probably because of the old victorian houses and tree-lined streets.
|(we live in an apartment building a block or so down)|
|A view from our apartment window|
Ox Cart Tavern do the best burgers I have ever had. Cafe Tibet is our go-to takeaway option (well, equal with Ox Cart), the ginger chicken is always ordered... I have enjoyed The Farm on Adderly every time I've eaten there although my wife prefers Picket Fence where we have also had some very good meals (the prix-fix menus during the week have offered great value). I ordered food from AM Thai on new years eve and was suitably impressed, it will definite be getting future business from me.
We're about a ten minute walk away from Prospect Park, which is a lovely place for a weekend stroll. Overall it's just a truly nice neighbourhood in which to live. We don't really know anybody in the area yet, I'm a bit of a social leper and too shy to engage, maybe in the future! I did go to the local bar, Sycamore (which doubles-up as a florist), a couple of times during the European Championships in the summer. The local blog, Ditmas Park Corner, has also proved an invaluable source of information.
To cap things off, the journey into the city is quick and easy on the Q-line (I have to make a quick change to get to work in the financial district) which goes direct up to Union Square and beyond. One early moment that will stay with me was when I was heading back after work (when our office was near Union Square), the Q-train goes over the Manhattan bridge, the sun was just going down and produced a glorious skyline and Afghan Whigs' Blame, etc just shuffled onto my ipod. Perfect.
I now work just off Wall Street, so unfortunately don't get those views anymore.
The surprising thing about the city is that you can really cover a lot of ground on foot, you think of NYC as this vast metropolis, but in the scheme of things, Manhattan is fairly small (2.3 miles wide at its widest point), it's the little things and places that usually come to mind when thinking about what to recommend here.
Of course, one huge benefit has been the access to concerts, highlighted by my recent post, I've mentioned some local treats but I can't talk about consumables without mentioning two places in the city:
The best coffee I've ever had is from Abraco, a little hole in the wall joint in the East Village. Get the drip-coffee. One thing that has definitely changed since my arrival here has been my coffee consumption, something I didn't really drink back home (I was a typically tea drinker).
Little Cupcake Bakeshop seem to produce cakes that are simply out of this world, every time we are in that part of town we have to go in. My wife always gets the pistachio cake, which is indeed very good, I seem to be doing my best to work my way through the extensive array of goodies.
Another benefit of living here is to see the city change with the seasons, seeing the trees and flowers bloom between Spring and Autumn is truly a joy, although the "aroma" of all the linden trees in the spring takes some getting used to... and the weather in general has been great, the sun is out almost every day, although the summer was brutally hot (and there was one cloudy day in September I found myself slightly nostalgic for grey skies).
The weather can't be mentioned without a couple of pictures of the neighbourhood in the aftermath of hurricane Sandy (which in fairness came out a lot better than many parts of New York).
The storm was pretty close to delaying my trip back to England in November (I was given the all-clear from work the afternoon before my flight), it was nice to be back for a few weeks and I also managed to squeeze in a spontaneous trip to Paris (I'd never been), which does have a certain grandness and eloquence that New York doesn't have (not that it suffers for it), put it down to age and history. Here I am on the second level of the Eiffel Tower.
And just for good measure, a picture of me in my natural habitat:
It was fantastic to see friends and family again, they are just about the only thing I have truly missed since moving away, there might be a couple of other things but nothing ever seems to spring to mind when I have to think about it.
Other highlights of the last 12 months include getting tickets to see both The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (see if you can spot me!).
This city does, however, seem to pull you in all directions emotionally, the hustle and bustle busy subway commutes (which admittedly are not as bad as I was expecting), the self-inflicted pressure of keeping up with and trying to get to various events takes a bit of a toll eventually, the cost of living, the crazy healthcare and of course the sheer number of people. They are, however, all part of the experience, and while the perception of NYC from the outside seems to suggest that the residents are rude and unfriendly, I have not really experienced that at all.
A final anecdote on which to end, at a meet-up with friends from a music message board I frequent, one of the visitors to the city remarked that I wasn't a New Yorker (which, I don't really feel like, everything still feels very new to me), at which point, before I even had a chance to agree or disagree, the locals jumped in and defended me, maybe I do belong here.