Our recent travels, in no particular order.
On our second day in New York, we were in the midst of doing the must-do things that tourists must do in New York. We had armed ourselves with an enormous red umbrella with the words Hotel Vetiver emblazoned across it, which was not embarrassing at all. I carried it because Jeet was in charge of carrying the stroller; baby et al; up and down steep, slippery and never-ending steps on the subways, and coaxing it to behave even on the flawless pavements we walked on those two weeks. In the wrong hands, the stroller often had a habit of planting both wheels in opposite directions, and obtusely refusing to budge, or at least in the direction intended. So I would shoulder the heavy baby bag, which I packed every morning with every conceivable thing Mia could need in the course of our perambulations – thermometer—check, 2 litres of water—check, eardrops and long abandoned teething ring, just in case she needed it atop the Empire State Building -- check and check. Later, after lugging this impossible bag around for about a week, I decided we would just have to be daredevils and lighten it by almost half its weight. The curious crick in my neck vanished. The umbrella, due to the drizzly weather in New York, stayed.
On Day 8, we had executed our daily, complicated manoeuvre of: First person swipe metro card, open emergency door for stroller, quick! push Mia through, (while the door alarm wailed), slam the door, second person swipe card, check if we had left anything behind the gates; and board our train. This was Mia’s moment of glory. She would sit in her stroller and smile and wave at the nearest fellow passenger, and persist until her target cracked a little smile. Often in our miles and miles of travel by the underground train in both London and New York, we would find the people seated opposite us first glance in her direction, then smile, then wave. If they guffawed I would quickly check to see what she was up to, and more often than not found her skirt over her head; her ultimate party trick.
Once we got off at our station, I turned to a passer-by to ask which exit to take for the Empire State Building. “Here, I’ll show you” another person going past offered. He took the detour to the lift for our convenience, and while we rode up he said, “I was born in Brooklyn, and I’m 53 years old now, but I’ve never gone to the top of the Empire State Building yet.”
He pointed it out to us in the pouring rain. We waved our thanks and I told him, “You really should go!” and off we went at a brisk trot, the spokes of the enormous umbrella poking every New Yorker within available distance.
I don’t know if it was because of the umbrella, but we totally missed the Empire State Building. After walking what seemed like a really long while we looked up.
“Oh good, it’s stopped raining!”
“Er…where did the building go?”
So I rolled up my umbrella, and leant on it thoughtfully; Jeet took off his glasses and wiped them in a contemplative manner, Mia affected her haughtiest expression and sucked on a finger ruminatively. We were distinguished visitors from overseas enjoying the New York sidewalk, not three clueless tourists who’d managed to lose the Empire State Building.
A middle-aged guy went jogging past. “Excuse me, my good man” I called out in my fruitiest voice. “Mayhaps you know where the Empire State building is?”
He looked at us like we were crazy.
He pointed back to a spot in the sky a 100 yards behind us. “It’s right there! You can’t miss it!”
“Apparently one can,” I gently corrected him. ”WE just did.”