Carnegie Mellon gave her musicians ample time to explore New York City before our concert at Carnegie Hall. I wandered in Central Park, ate at some fantastic restaurants (they gave us generous food money), and visited Times Square.
And the entire time I kept thinking:
It’s so much quieter than Cairo.
It’s so much cleaner than Cairo.
The toutes are so much less pushy than in Cairo.
It felt like the most famous things about New York–the noise, the city dirt, the attitude–were more moderate in New York than I had found them in Cairo. The one thing which was better in New York than Cairo was the food: in 3 days, I don’t think I ate a bad meal.
My favorite by far was Radiance Tea House and Books, an island of calm blocks from Times Square:
The service was pleasantly stylized, the food yummy, and the tea, well, I loved what I drank so much I bought a big tin of it to drink at home.
The word “island” came to mind a lot when I was in New York. I felt like every restaurant and store I stepped into was its own distinct world. Compare the detailed calm of Radiance to the frenetic cheerfulness of the 3-story M&M Store in Times Square, complete with make-it-yourself M&M mixes and suggestions of possible mix themes:
And then the Disney Store (above), where I bought an “I Fight in Heels” Marvel heroines t-shirt and enjoyed the ever-changing projections on the wall abutting the escalator and excessively priced She Hulk figurine.
No, Cairo had nothing like the bright billboard lights of Times Square but I prefer walking by 1000 years of history done up in ropes of lights to the newest Boardwalk Empire sign any day:
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”–Seneca