My husband, teenage daughter and I just spent a long weekend in New York City. We do this a lot.
People often ask me where we stay, thinking I might have the inside track on an inexpensive bed and breakfast. Well, I do. But, unless they want to spend their visit with my sainted mother, they might want to go elsewhere. (Although her warm croissants are to die for.)
On this trip, however, there was no room at the proverbial inn. But, I happened to find a wonderful guesthouse in Harlem, for a lot less money than a midtown (or anywhere in town for that matter) hotel. It was elegant but a little faded, much like the places we stay in New Orleans. I immediately fell in love with it. My daughter, meanwhile, spent an evening with a friend, then ended up on a couch at my mom's for the rest of our visit.
My trips back to New York always include long long long walks. This is how I reconnect with my hometown: people-watching (beyond compare people-watching), passing by familiar landmarks and, even more often, seeing everything that's changed. Staying in a new neighborhood gave me a chance to explore and to extend my usual walks an extra mile or so north.
The first day, I toured around the Upper Westside (my old 'hood). From our guesthouse to 110th, then South on Columbus to 72nd, then back uptown on Amsterdam. The second day, I set out early and walked all the way down to Times Square to pick up my niece for a day with my daughter (her "sister-cousin"). By the time I dropped the girls off at the Loews 84th multiplex for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 in 3D, I felt like I was home again.
Home again, with very very sore feet.
We had a little time to kill after brunch, so my sister and I left my husband in a pub and pursued another important New York pastime: shoe shopping.
Before you picture a scene from Sex and the City, let me explain. This was not about fashion or fetishes. This was about pain relief. Did we go to Christian Louboutin? No. To Jimmy Choo? No. Gucci, Manolo Blahnik or Tory Burch? No, no, no. We hoofed it down to Aerosoles.
I discovered Aerosoles many years ago. Some supermodel said in an interview that when she wasn't working, she wore Aerosoles. I figured if they're good enough for Heidi or Naomi or Christy or Linda (or whoever it was; I don't remember), they're good enough for me.
We went in and in short order, I tried on every pair of flat, black ankle boots they had in my size (10, yes, 10; if they get any bigger I'm going to the drag queen department). There wasn't much of a competition. One pair felt better — way better — than any of the others. I sank into them with an audible sigh of relief and pulled out my wallet.
For one brief shining Carrie Bradshaw moment, I had second thoughts.
"Do these make me look like a lesbian?" I asked my sister, patiently waiting on a nearby bench.
"A lesbian geriatric?"
While she searched for a politically correct non-answer, I shrugged and bought them anyway.
On my last morning in Manhattan, I walked across Central Park to Fifth Avenue, visited my old high school on Park, and then walked about thirty blocks down Madison. The sidewalks were filled with tiny children in school uniforms. The weather was gorgeous. The window shopping was fabulous. And, my feet were fine.
Within a couple of hours, we collected my daughter (had a couple of those croissants for the road) and headed back to Massachusetts.
"What do you think of my new shoes?" I asked my 16-year-old fashion consultant. I pulled up my pant hems so she could get the full effect.
"Um, cool," she said, without taking her eyes off her iPhone.
Um, maybe that was a good thing.
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