The first cloud in Mitzela in six days; no real cause for concern, though a cooler current has certainly hit the water this morning too. If anything the slight cover, accompanied by an occasional breeze, came as a blessed relief on my run this morning. I have conquered the hill that defeated me on Sunday, as well as a few more as I followed the road around, down, and back again. Only one car passed – the fruit and veg truck that comes through the village each day, the grocer announcing his wares through a megaphone as he drives slowly down each and every street, sounding not unlike the Morning Prayer that shatters the quiet of a Muslim morning elsewhere. When he and his assistant (son, perhaps) overtook me, it confirmed what I suspected: another village lay around the next headland. And after a solid 21 minutes of hard slog, I came to the bend that finally revealed it – still a good distance away – allowing me to turn around and head for home.
There are gorgeous if virtually inaccessible bays everywhere, one a short walk from here that we’ve already enjoyed for a late afternoon dip. The Touring Toddler is loving all the beach activity, I’m pleased to say. His early uncertainty after 7 weeks without a swim has given way to his old, slightly unnerving daring. Now he’s back to being a little too confident; if we weren’t there to stop him, he’d just keep marching in.
Mitzela/Amaliapolis is very family friendly, so there are plenty of children for him to… well, if not exactly play with, then interact with at least. We met a lady yesterday who said, “How did you find out about this place? It is not known by tourists,” – meaning non-Greek tourists, as most of the people here are Greek families on holidays. I was pleased to have it confirmed, the sense that we’d hit upon a local place – and I’ve been enjoying the absence of the international multitudes that I know annually descend on the Greek islands. And how did we find it? AIRbnb, of course. It’s come through for us every single time on this trip: Hong Kong, New York, Paris and now here. Best accommodation site I have ever experienced by a million miles, and the only way to travel if you ask me.
So…New York. I can’t believe we have only been overseas for two months – it feels like so much longer. Our fortnight in NYC honestly feels like six months ago. I guess I should begin with the flight: a 15-hour ordeal hurtling us into a 12-hour time difference between Hong Kong and NYC. Obviously we were dreading it. And when we got to the airport, our seat reservation hadn’t come through, so we were looking at a regular row instead of the bulkhead seats we’d booked. Llew never complains, never sends anything back or asks for a refund or anything, no matter how just his cause, but this time he stood his ground, an out of character reaction for which I shall always be grateful, because ultimately he prevailed and the right seats were ours.
Oh, it makes a difference with a tallish toddler in tow. Truth be told, the Touring Toddler probably needs his own seat now, but he was still borderline even just two months ago, though he was far too big for the sleep pods they have on board. He was sticking out of the one we tried using from Sydney to Hong Kong like a baguette out of a bicycle basket. And all things considered, it went pretty smoothly. We broke the 15 hours into shifts, which in hindsight was the perfect blueprint for what we’ve only just hit upon here. Time on, time off – it meant neither of us was pushed to the brink in a confined space, because we both always knew that at most we only had two hours to go. And you can deal with two hours, in the same way I can deal with a half day here. In some ways it’s actually easier, because you’re not expecting the other parent to do anything, and you’re not waiting for or considering them, either. You’re in charge. And you only have to get to about 2 pm before you all come together again. Plus, through it all, whatever the TT chooses to hurl at you, there’s the knowledge that you’ll get your own break the next day. Genius.
Perhaps I sound selfish, being so greedy for these hours to myself. Thrilling to the time away from my husband and son as though I just can’t wait to get away from them. I can see that it might seem that way, because, well, actually it’s true. I can’t wait. I genuinely look forward to it, and I love it, and I am already a much better wife and mother for these 3 mornings to myself than I have been since we left Sydney (and the TT’s two days at family daycare). I need it. I have always spent a lot of time on my own, though I am a social creature too. How else does one get any reading and/or writing done? I’m just constructed that way; I need time to myself. Everyone does, but some more than others. And if that need isn’t answered – much like my very basic need for a decent amount of sleep – I quickly become very bitter and twisted indeed.
And stressed. Really stressed. I think 19 months of motherhood has put 19 years on my face. I get where that pinched look comes from – it’s the expression of a woman who isn’t managing her own needs properly. And it doesn’t do anyone a jot of good, in my humble opinion. I can feel the accumulated tension going slack throughout my body with every slot I get to myself. It’s so simple, really, not a big ask at all, but so absolutely fundamental to my well-being.
Shit, I’ve done it again! How did I get so off track?! I’m supposed to be talking about New York and here I am opening the rant can again… Oops. Okay, I guess the segue into the New York story is to note that once on the ground, we did not give each other the time out we knew we both needed and wanted. And for that I blame New York itself, which swept us up in the great tide of its ceaseless energy and demanded that we fall in line and keep time. But all is forgiven, because how I love New York City.
We caught the alarmingly rickety Airport Train from JFK, changing at Jamaica for the LIR line to Penn Station. It all went smoothly and cheaply, considering we had a pram, the TT, a portacot and two bags in tow. The apartment we’d booked on AIRbnb was a few blocks from Penn Station, so we decided to walk, and our first glimpse of the great metropolis this time included Macy’s and Madison Square Garden. We were on W29th, between 8th and 9th, on the top floor of a narrow old 1890s walk up. When we arrived out front, Llew and I looked up and then stared at the pram dubiously – it would not be fun ferrying it up and down each day. When we booked, the charming ‘host,’ Raul, an artist and research assistant to a New York art investor and patron (great job, huh?), warned us that the apartment was on the 4th floor, but we didn’t realise that this amounted to 8 short flights of stairs. If the TT is freakishly adept on stairs now, it is thanks to our two weeks in Chelsea. We only took the pram up there twice, immediately investing in a good bicycle lock so that we could leave it undercover by the window grille on the ground floor instead. A great solution, as it turned out. And the stairs forgave all the usual NYC sins: baked goods (Amy’s, anyone?), pizza (large enough for a helicopter to land on, I am sure ours could be seen from space), pretzels, bagels, guacamole and chips… really good guacamole, too – available everywhere.
While New Yorkers often identify as being either uptown or downtown types, I’m giving my vote to midtown. Chelsea was great for us – we were right by the end of the High Line, (easily the best addition to the city since my last visit), walking distance to all the area’s galleries as well as to Chelsea Markets (the best coffee we found in New York was opposite the markets at Blue Bottle; they also have a cart on the High Line), a short walk from the Empire State Building and Madison Square Park (think the Flatiron Building), and in close proximity to the Hudson River Park path for running, which we did whenever the monsoonal rains stopped. We could head to Times Square in one direction and the utterly transformed and now supremely hip and happening Meat Packing District in the other, plus we had friends uptown and downtown, so being at the midpoint between them was incredibly convenient.
I also appreciated the delightful warmth of Raul and Milena’s apartment, which you can see here. It was a lovely sanctuary at the end of a day’s roaming, and since it overlooks a small park and has a skylight in the lounge-room, it gave us an invaluable sense of space and openness in an otherwise notoriously crowded city.
Catching up with old friends there was amazing; one, B, lives just a few blocks downtown, so we really made like neighbours the entire time we were there. B and I went to Pearson College together and have been friends since we met in Canada in 1989, but we haven’t been able to just casually make plans like this since then. It was an extraordinary luxury to just make impromptu arrangements with him and other friends, and really that was one of my primary goals for the Manhattan Project. Mission Accomplished.
Another dear Pearson friend, R, came up from Philadelphia for the day, and returned on our final Sunday with her husband and two boys for the Central Park picnic some of our uptown friends had organised. One friend, A, even made an appearance all the way from Toronto, if you can believe that, happily combining a romantic weekend in NYC with his lovely girlfriend L with catching up with us on a perfect summer’s day in the park. Such occasions make me feel blessed; though I am not religious, I really don’t know what other term to use.
Being able to meet S and S’s little girl, I, and P and D’s daughters, E and A, and setting the TT loose among them (the memory of the TT and E sharing an extended cuddle on the couch at P and D’s apartment will not soon leave me) was a very special highlight of our time there. Normal life – I just wanted us to feel like we were part of their normal life. And with a last-minute Friday night at S and S’s place with wine, pizza and chat, followed by a similarly successful recipe at P and D’s house after the picnic, I really feel we managed that. And it tops up everything, don’t you think? The heart, the friendship, the memory bank.