Two years! We’ve been in Paris for two years now, living an ordinary life in one of the least ordinary cities in the world. We feel at home, we know the routines and understand more about the “way things are done around here.” I realised that my point of comparison for “the way things are done” has changed. While in the USA for a family wedding last week, we kept noticing how things were different to what we were used to in Paris. We had to think hard to compare with NZ, and wondered what we will notice when we return.
In Sackets Harbor, a small town of 1500 people way up in the north of New York state, the extraordinarily prompt and bubbly customer service in the restaurants struck us. A soon as the meal (gargantuan – we shared) was done the plates were whipped away and the “check” delivered to the table. No dilly-dallying around trying to catch the eye of the waiter to signal for “l’addition.”
The drill was the same once we arrived in New York city; super-friendly, fast and forthright. In some places the check arrived with suggested gratuity amounts printed on the till receipt, starting at 18%, with higher options of 20% and 22% handily calculated too, or in other cases already added onto the total. In one place we watched the scene at a nearby table where the waitress bowled up to the guests, just as they reached the door, to ask for a tip as they hadn’t included a gratuity amount on their credit card payment. Unfamiliar tourists, or discerning diners – I wasn’t sure – the waitress made sure and got her tip.
Even if the language was familiar, the accent and the turn of phrase in overheard conversations had me smiling: “ah there’s a whole bunch of things we could do.” A whole bunch? It doesn’t really translate directly into French or Kiwi.
For all the differences though there were plenty of things the same (a whole bunch of ’em) that we loved: family and traditions. Proud parents, bride and groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, the best man, confetti, the first dance, wedding cake and speeches; all the elements for a wonderful day shared with friends and family. We were thrilled to be together with all my family and a couple of Kiwi friends at the very happy occasion of my nephew’s wedding held on the historic Battlefield site.
In New York I was right at home in familiar surroundings in two gorgeous yarn stores. Knitty City on the Upper West Side (W 79th Street) just happened to be only two blocks away from our hotel, and Purl Soho (Broome Street) on the bus and subway route between our hotel and downtown Manhattan – both easy to get to, how convenient! At Knitty City I chatted with a few local knitters sitting around the knitting table. We shared opinions on fair isle techniques and admired a recently finished object that had us all complimenting the knitter while jotting notes of designer, pattern name and yarn.
That’s it really – life’s the same but different, here or there, we loved New York too. The differences don’t matter, they just make life interesting.
We especially enjoyed these New York places and activities:
Mille Feuille Bakery Cafe, 2175 Broadway, Upper West Side (between 76th and 77th streets)
Central Park Bike tours, 203 West 58th Street, NYC. (We did the Art and Architecture tour)
Riverside Park, alongside the Hudson River