Took a week off from Dream of a City to focus on 100 Ways to See A Street, but I’m back.
It snowed yesterday, just light feathery bits of snow that didn’t last long on the pavement. But on the way to meet a friend last evening, I decided to walk 15 blocks, instead of take the Tube, just so I could be in the snow. It made New York feel completely different; took me out of the mundane life I lead here (a city’s always mundane when you’re living in it, even if it’s New York City) into something so much more magical.
Which got me thinking about what is often most memorable about a trip to a city. Frequently, it’s the simple experiences; the simple pleasures that delight, rather than the major attractions.
In Berlin two weeks ago, the best experience I had was having a matjes brötchen – a cured herring fillet in a bun – in a deserted mall in Potsdamer Platz. Not that I was bowled over by the mall or anything – it was the delicious salty-tangy flavour of the matjes and that firm texture, which brought back memories of all those trips taken to spend time with an old friend in Hamburg. It was also the unexpectedness it – my Austrian hosts were almost adamant against me having any kind of German food while I was in Berlin (“It’s too heavy!”) and so I despaired of being able to get my matjes fix. But there I was, happily munching away on my brötchen with a big grin on my face.
Similarly, in London, just last week, I decided I would finally hunted down my favorite brand and flavour of crisps – Red Sky Anglesey Sea Salt. This, and a pre-made sandwich from Sainsbury’s was what I had for lunch almost everyday during the six-ish months I was holed up in Marylebone, working on my Master’s thesis. I missed English crisps – the American ones just don’t have the same robustness and flavour – and it had been absolutely essential that I have as many bags of English crisps as I could, preferably Red Sky Anglesey Sea Salt flavored. My (American) host in London was disgusted that I would prefer crisps and sandwiches from Sainsbury to organic paninis from the organic super next door, but hey, I wasn’t so much eating, as experiencing and reminiscing.
I realise that I’m straying into Proustian petite madeleine territory here and I have to qualify that my taste for simple pleasures doesn’t always have its basis in nostalgia, though ( I admit) they do often have something to do with food or drink. When I finally leave Williamsburg in New York, for example, the one memory that will be seared deeply into my mind and tastebuds is that of the smoky-burnt bouquet of a large café latté from Oslo Coffee – founded in Williamsburg – who, in my mind, make simply the best damned coffee in the whole damned world. http://oslocoffee.com/
To simple pleasures and the people that appreciate them.