The New Telkom Store at Sandton City: A True Story

Telkom store in Sandton City
Telkom store in Sandton City

In the eight years we have lived with our current landline, I actually have largely good things to say about my experiences with Telkom, especially with respect to fault-reporting and speed of fault resolution. But this story is too funny not to share. No embellishment is required.

On Thursday, I walk into the new-ish Telkom store in Sandton City (to sort out some non-urgent landline-related paperwork I haven’t bothered to prioritise until now). The store is large, airy, modern and bright. Besides a payment counter to the right as you walk in, there are two counters. Each one has a large sign above it, in big, bold, modern type-face:

“HOME” and
“MOBILE”

Telkom: "Home" and "Mobile" (ostensibly)
Telkom: “Home” and “Mobile” (ostensibly)

I need assistance with my home phone and I want to respect the clearly demarcated division of labour, so I initially approach the desk sporting the “HOME” sign above it. The gentleman behind that desk is on the phone so I smile at his colleague who does not look busy. (I am the only person in the store, besides three employees).

Me: Hi! I would like to sort out some paperwork for my landline. I have all the documents here as per what I was told I needed by the Rosebank branch a while ago… (I launch into great detail about what I have done to date and what I understand I still need to do instore).

Telkom teller: You need to go back to Rosebank.

Me: No, no. You don’t understand. I haven’t handed in any documents yet, so I’d rather just do it here.

Telkom teller: No, you need to go to Rosebank because we only deal with mobile in this store.

I pause, look up, and allow my eye to settle on the “home” sign above us.

Me: Um, but there’s a big sign that says “HOME” right there (I point at the sign.

Telkom teller: That’s just for decoration.

(I would just like to state, for the record, that those were his words VERBATIM).

Me: No, come on. (smiling).

Still no reaction from said gentleman.

I really believe that the only rational explanation is that he has an odd sense of humour, despite the fact that he looks very serious.

There is pregnant pause which I feel compelled to fill. (Still smiling)

Me: Are you joking?

Telkom teller: No. I am not joking. We get alot of people coming in here just like you, wanting to sort out home phone issues.

(You do? Surprise!)

Telkom teller: But we’re the mobile store.

Me: Really?

Telkom teller: Yes

Me: I see

But I still can’t quite believe it and I’m not quite ready to give up just yet…

Me: Gosh, I didn’t even know that Telkom did mobile!

Telkom teller: You didn’t KNOW we did mobile?

Me (gathering my thoughts and searching my memory bank): Oh yes. Doesn’t the 8ta mobile brand belong to Telkom?

Telkom teller: Yes! (he’s animated now and apparently relieved that we’re finally on the same page)

I look around the store. I can’t see any 8ta branding. Not a sign. Not a pamphlet. Nothing.

Me: Shew, so nothing to do with Telkom landlines, then.

Silence.

Me: That does seem like a curious business decision. I’m sure your rent here is huge plus there’s alot of empty space. You would have thought one could have squeezed in another desk for “home” phones. You even have the big “HOME” sign…You know, the one for “decoration”?

Deafening silence.

I finally give up, smile and bid him farewell. I still haven’t gone to Telkom in Rosebank. Instead I went back to Sandton City and took pictures of the store for this blog.

Some Home Truths About Losing That Baby Weight

Home Truth No. 1: Meet the Prolactin Hormone

After I gave birth to my daughter, I “shed” around 8kg in the first two weeks. This should sound ridiculous to you because it is. I believe the cause was acute anxiety and severe insomnia. As the acuteness of the anxiety wore off, I took to comfort eating and – surprise! – the weight piled on swiftly. With my second child, I was calm and and after 10 days, I had “lost” my son’s birthweight almost to the gram – nothing more. Knowing that I would be at home alot with my infant and that it would be tempting to reward/ comfort myself with food, I took myself off to Weight Watchers when he was two weeks old. I followed their breastfeeding formula (when you can eat WAY more than a member who is not breastfeeding, but way less than I would otherwise have eaten). Some weeks I was really good about sticking to the programme, other weeks I wasn’t as good for as many days. It didn’t seem to matter. Each week I would step onto the scale and I would be 200g lighter. “It’ll creep off,” the Group Leader would smile encouragingly. Awesome!

At my 6 week check-up with my gynae I relayed my experiences. I found his response utterly liberating. He explained that during the first 12 weeks after birth, your prolactin levels are high and this meant that weight loss would be slow during this time. Obviously, my gynae wasn’t suggesting that I ate whatever I liked during this time, so I carried on trying to stick to Weight Watchers but was no longer disappointed with my weekly 200g loss as I believed this would improve after 12 weeks – which it did. (I have also read that prolactin can stimulate appetite – no doubt because it is connected to milk production and on a basic level it is egging the body on to store up fat reserves in the event of famine which would endanger the baby.)

Home Truth No. 2: Newsflash: Breastfeeding Does Not Cause Weight Loss. Get Over It.

My GP told me this long ago. My dietician told me this after my first child was born. But despite hearing it from trained professionals, it still felt like the whole world was declaring that “breastfeeding causes weight loss”. Even the pamphlet at the hospital where I gave birth to my son listed weight loss as one of the advantages of breastfeeding. Based on some high level research, anecdotal evidence and my own experiences, these are my thoughts on what I believe to mostly be a myth.

Let’s be honest – it is not in the best interests of medical professionals to actively dispel the myth that breastfeeding will make you thin. On a basic nutritional level, experts agree that “breast is best” so if women think of breastfeeding as a calorie quaffer, so much the better.

Here’s why I think that so many women (incorrectly) attribute their post-baby weight loss to breastfeeding:

Experts seem to agree that if you’re breastfeeding, you need to eat about 500 calories (about 2,000kj) more per day than you would otherwise need, to maintain your weight. (This may sound like a lot but if you are stuffing your face with cakes, macaroons and muffins, 500 calories is nothing.) I suspect that there is a significant category of women who continue to eat roughly the same as what they ate before breastfeeding – or maybe just slightly more. They would then automatically create a calorie deficit and therefore lose weight. One study calls such women “restrained eaters”. On the extreme end of “restrained eaters” we have the Heidi Klums and Angelina Jolies of this world. Classic examples of the post hoc fallacy (I knew that Economics course would come in handy): they breastfed and then they lost weight and so they concluded that breastfeeding caused the weight loss. I can’t attest to what these women did or didn’t put in their mouths, but my guess would be that a) they were super skinny before they fell pregnant and gained the minimum amount of weight possible during pregnancy and b) they ate very, very carefully post birth. A simple case of “calories in” versus “calories out” rather than some breastfeeding miracle.

Home Truth No. 3: Comfort Eating Leads to Self-Loathing

I thought I’d start out with some tough love on this topic, because it really is that simple but oh-so hard to put into practice. If you’re prone to comfort eating, try to do it in moderation because when you’re housebound and you have so little time to yourself and you’re up half the night, you could find yourself virtually comfort eating around the clock. Find something that’s realistic and practical to do in its place, like watching a DVD series while you feed – without a bag of chips next to you. For me, walking around my neighbourhood became my refuge. These are things that don’t require pre-planning and that you can fit in at the last minute (essential with small babies) and which you can do more than once a day. And they don’t involve food.

Home Truth No. 4: Walk! (or something)

I fully agree with Scary Mommy who said that she can’t relate to people who claim to have lost weight from “running after their children“. Like Scary Mommy, I only mix running with child-rearing if I hear something like a loud thud signalling imminent danger for my offspring. Child rearing is exhausting but it probably doesn’t burn as many calories as we’d like to think and that’s why if you want to boost weight loss attempts, I believe it’s best to do some dedicated exercise. I don’t really count vacuuming although it certainly can’t hurt, but I don’t think it should replace a brisk walk – or if you’re a Sporty Spice then whatever you do for exercise. I’m advocating walking because you can do it with your kid in a pram and for most of us, there’s really no excuse to open that front door and go for a walk.

So How Do I Shed This Freaking Weight, Then?

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably not a “restrained eater” and you probably find it hard to listen to women who say “just eat normally!” Personally, I need a framework – even if I don’t stick to it entirely. Weight Watchers is great because it’s really flexible in terms of what you eat plus they have a specific breastfeeding programme. I also love the app MyFitnessPal which my friend Megan introduced me to after she had her third child. It takes a little getting used to and some discipline to input everything that goes in your mouth, but after a while you should have an idea of what you need to eat to create a calorie deficit – which, as well all know deep down, is the only way to lose weight.

(PS: My girlfriends and I finally quaffed that “goal weight” champers a couple of months ago)

5 Me-centric Mantras I Wish I’d Known As A New Mom

Kind of how Kristen Armstrong (the ex Mrs Lance Armstrong) told Oprah she believed that marriage was the world’s “greatest conspiracy”, I think a much greater conspiracy exists in the West for new moms. Whilst it may be true that no-one can ever prepare you for motherhood, I felt as though people should have at least tried a little harder. These are some of the things I wish I’d known early on as a first-time mom.

1. “Banish guilt“. These were the words uttered to me by my ante-natal teacher when my daughter was about 10 days old. I had phoned her in desperation as I was battling to breastfeed and battling with my new reality in general. She sat cross-legged on the nursery floor and dispensed just the kind of advice I needed, which included telling my husband and I to go out for dinner that night, telling me to drink champagne to stimulate my milk flow (whether I believe this or not, it was what I needed to hear at that moment). She also told me to banish guilt – forever. Of course, this is much easier said than done when you’re a mother but sometimes it’s exactly what you need to tell yourself. I think of her words often. They make me realise that my feelings of guilt help no-one and that they are a waste of energy.

2. “Be kind to yourself”. These are the words of my high school friend, Callia. And I think they are so applicable to new moms – whether this means that you’ll get take-aways/ eat leftovers more often than normal or go out for a girls’ lunch sans enfant once in a while. Just remember that it’s okay to be kind to yourself – your baby will be fine. One of the things Callia did with both her children as part of her “be kind to yourself” campaign was getting her nanny to do a night nurse duty once a week so that she and her husband could go out for dinner without worrying about the baby waking up later. There are many ways to be kind to yourself and this goes hand in hand with banishing guilt.

3. Pick and choose which advice to follow based on what makes sense to you. The world of parenting is awash with advice – and much of it feels contradictory, even when it’s being dispensed by paediatricians, gynaes and midwives. For example, I was advised by a breastfeeding consultant to express every three hours around the clock to stimulate my milk. For me, at the time, it was the worst advice ever. I couldn’t sleep a wink, knowing that I’d better fall asleep pronto because, in two and a half hours, I’d have to jump up in the middle of the night, wash and sterilise the breast pump and start the pumping process again. Things were put into perspective for me when a less uptight friend with a baby three weeks older than mine, wrote me an email about her first few days of motherhood. “The paed told me to wake up and feed every two hours,” she wrote. “I ignored him! I was way too exhausted!”. And she had a very positive breastfeeding experience – probably partly because she was so relaxed and only paid attention to advice that made sense to her.*

4. “Most Fortune 500 CEO’s were breastfed as infants“. Seriously? No. I totally made that up. There’s a reason we don’t have a line item on our CV’s stating whether we were breastfed as babies – because it really doesn’t matter. If you want to breastfeed and you’re able to – awesome. If you want to and aren’t able to, then know that your child will be just fine. The implication by lactation specialists that brain development will not be optimal when a baby is not breastfed is infuriating. Brain development will not be optimal if the kid is starving or if the mother is stressed out of her mind. What helped me when I was battling to breastfeed my first child, was thinking of all the highly intelligent, accomplished adults I knew who were formula fed – my husband being one of them. My mom and mother-in-law were helpful in citing many other examples (mothers of their generation with children of my generation whom I knew) and this really put things in perspective for me. I also saw a recent comment by a Facebook friend who is in her late thirties and one of four children, “My mother can’t exactly remember which of us kids she breastfed and which of us she didn’t”. Case in point.

5. A little bit of make-up goes a LOOOONG way. It may sound incredible if you have not had a baby, but there will be days when getting out of your pyjamas seems like an insurmountable challenge. My advice is to enjoy the odd pyjama day or the odd day without make-up, but don’t make this your norm. A little bit of make-up really does go a long, long way to making you feel like your old self – before you walked around all day with baby puke on your left shoulder.

You will be glamorous again. And it will be much, much sooner than you think it could ever be right now… Of course, this advice is only the tip of the iceberg, but the baby is probably about to wake up for yet ANOTHER feed and your me-time is nearly up – for now.

* The world of contradictory advice on the rearing of infants was brilliantly and hilariously summed up by a frustrated American mom whose rant went viral. Well worth reading:

http://www.today.com/parents/exhausted-new-moms-hilarious-take-expert-sleep-advice-goes-viral-6C9559908

Why I’m Glad You’re My Dad: To My Father On The Eve Of His 70th Birthday

Dear Dad,

I felt that today, on the eve of your 70th birthday, it was important for me to tell you publicly, why I am so glad that you are my Dad.

Although I was too young to recall doing puzzles with you, I am told that we bonded over jigsaws when I was still in nappies. When you sat patiently with me, separating the inside pieces from the outside pieces and, together we built puzzles. It explains why I love puzzles so much. I only wish humans had the capacity for earlier memories.

One of my earliest memories is our family trip to Durban when I was “three and three quarters”. I know I was that age because you had told me so and I, in turn, told anyone who asked. And I told them earnestly and with pride. To this day, your sense of humour and that memory, make me smile.

I recall your being tasked with the job of ensuring that I was warm enough at bedtime in winter – an impossible task as I have never been known to declare that I feel sufficiently warm when it’s cold.

“Are you warm enough?” you’d ask.

“No!” I’d reply.

And you’d fetch me another blanket (one of those thick, old-fashioned, heavy, rug-like blankets). This would be repeated two or three times before you’d say:

“This is just weight now, Natalie! It’s not warmth!”

And I’d giggle in mock protest and insist that I was still cold and you’d obligingly go down the passage to find me another blanket until all of the spare blankets in the house were on top of me. I think about those moments every single time I am cold, in bed and wishing for another blanket.

From Standard Two to Standard Five, for each and every test I ever wrote, my studying process was never complete until you had “tested me”. I still have visions of us sitting on the couch, you holding my school notebook and patiently asking me questions about the subject matter to test my knowledge. Those sessions with you were not only a lot of fun, but they gave me such confidence. It’s probably good that I was forced to go-it-alone at boarding school in high school or I don’t think I would have passed my university degree without you there to test me.

In Standard Five, I came home mortified after my Maths exam. I’d left out a certain number of marks in the paper. It was printed double-sided and I hadn’t realized and had left out an entire page. You and Mom tried to console me. I felt as though it were the end of the world but deep down I did understand that it was just one of those too-bad-so-sad things that happen in life and that I’d need to grow up and get over it. The next day, however, I was called to the principal’s office and there you were, seated across the desk from him. You’d convinced him to let me complete the paper then and there.

25 years later, it’s irrelevant what I got for Maths in Standard Five but what will always stick with me is how you fought for me, without even being asked. I’m not sure that the self-involved twelve year old version of me ever did thank you. Thank you, Dad.

And though I loathed you for it at the time, I respected you for turning the car around with my friend and I inside, when you discovered that we’d rented a 2-18 movie for the weekend. You didn’t have to say much: the mortification of handing it back to the video store owner twenty minutes later, was punishment enough.

But the main reason why I am so glad you are my Dad and one of the reasons why my childhood is so full of such wonderful home and family memories is because you were always there: dropping us at school, testing us, checking our homework, at bath time, at supper time, watching the A-team at 7pm, at bedtime, at sports day (the one time I accidentally made it to interschools), at prize-giving, at Rotary Exchange interviews – you were there, always, loving us and looking after that.

And these are the things I treasure about you, Dad.

Happy 70th birthday. You’re a survivor!

Love
Natalie

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To the Hairdresser with 2 Toddlers in Tow

Joe fringe

When Chiara’s fringe first starting hanging in her eyes when she was little, David decided he should be the one to give her, her first haircut. Trimming a fringe sounds like a simple task, but we’ve subsequently learned that there is skill involved. Chiara’s fringed looked hacked at and it was too short to fix for months.

So when Joe’s fringe started brushing across his eyes (as per the pic), I booked an appointment with a professional and the other day, we set for the hairdresser.

Total time taken to: park car; wake Chiara up; unstrap two children; pick up a grumpy Chiara in one arm and Joe in the other; negotiate the locking of the car with the assistance of the car guard; cross the road on a blind corner; get up the stairs into the salon; try to put down unsettled and crying children; throw down handbag and nappy bag; remove jackets; sit down = 8 minutes.

Total time taken to cut fringe = 1.5 minutes.

This seemed hugely inefficient to my Type-A mind. What could I possibly do to maximise the efficiency of what felt like an expedition?

Well, I was in a hair salon so perhaps they could wash and blow dry my hair and I could walk out looking fabulous AND Joe would no longer have hair hanging in his eyes. As it turned out, Joe’s hairdresser was able to squeeze me in. So off we traipsed to the basins where Joe obediently sat on my lap and Chiara sat happily in the chair next to us.

Towards the end of the wash, I started mentally high-fiving myself and thinking what a great idea this was.

After the wash, we passed the reception area and the receptionist offered Chiara a sucking sweet. I was about to refuse on her behalf but to be perfectly honest, I thought it might occupy her for five minutes. Instead, I carefully explained to my three and a half year old that those sweets needed to be sucked for a long, long time and that they couldn’t be swallowed whole . She probably didn’t fully understand but instinctively she knew that any sign of non-comprehension would jeopardize her chances of being given the sweet so she nodded sagely and popped it in her mouth.

I settled down in the hairdresser’s chair with a toddler on each knee – one happily sucking her sweet and one whose phobia of hair dryer noise I had conveniently forgotten. As soon as the apparatus was switched on, Joe screamed as I have only heard him scream when an inoculation needle pierces his upper thigh. He’d stop for breath and allow himself to become distracted every so often and the screeching would relent – but only momentarily.

And then Chiara started coughing. Or was she gagging? Or possibly choking on that wretched sweet? I bashed her on the back just in case but she seemed fine. And then she was gagging again and not so fine. I needed to do something, stat. If only I’d taken notes in that First Aid Course. I shoved Joe in the direction of the twenty-something hairdresser. I’m not sure who looked more terrified at this point – the hairdresser or Joe. She was half paralysed in fear, still brandishing a roaring hair dryer.

“Take the baby!” I was forced to yell at her, simultaneously shoving Joe into her arms.

I then proceeded to pound a gagging and spluttering Chiara on her back and had just remembered the part from the First Aid course about putting them on your knees and whacking them between their shoulder blades, when a purple, syrup-y thing flew out of her mouth.

Thank God.

I then settled back down in the chair with the kids on my lap. Joe went back to screaming his lungs out as soon as the hairdryer started up, the hairdresser looked mildly traumatised by the near choking ordeal and my hair was only half-finished. I think in an effort to normalise the situation, the hairdresser asked me for the second time if I was certain I wouldn’t like that cappuccino? I’m not sure what kind of multi-tasking, supermom can sip cappuccino with a screaming one year old on one knee and a freaked out three year old (vowing never to eat sweets again) on the other, but I’m not that mom.

As the poor woman next to me got up to leave, I apologised profusely for disturbing her experience so and mumbled something about forgetting about Joe’s phobia of hairdryers.

“Don’t worry,” she replied. “My two year old has a fear of people and screams when she comes into contact with strangers.”

I felt mortified for disturbing her tiny tranche of me-time.

Moral of the story: going to the hairdresser to get a boy’s fringe cut is an inefficient process – accept it.

Second moral of the story: leave your kids at home with the nanny when you want to have your hair done.

New York: 10 Tips for Surviving a Stay in Manhattan

View from the gym at The Standard
View from the gym at The Standard

In 2012, I took my first mommy vacation to visit my sister in New York. I arrived on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend, so the Monday was a public holiday, and I left for JFK early on the Tuesday morning.

I loved, loved, LOVED Manhattan. At the time, my sister was living in a shared apartment in the West Village. I arrived in her tree-lined, facebrick, quiet, gorgeous street and decided that this was better than the movies. Not even hauling my suitcase up five flights of stairs could put me off. Naturally, her apartment – shared by three twenty-somethings – was minute. But it was irrelevant. We were hardly there. We had brunch at the Gramercy Park Hotel, ran in Central Park, shopped at Lulu Lemon, ate sustainable, free-range eggs at Bubby’s, dined on brown rice sushi at Dean & Deluca and swanned around The Met. It was divine.

When I returned to New York last month, however, all of my senses went into shock. Mainly my ears though. Manhattan on Memorial Day weekend was a very different place to Manhattan in late July. The place was LOUD. It felt as though the whole of Manhattan was “under construction”. My sister had moved to the “vibier” (read noisier) Lower East Side, and buildings were being razed right there on her road.

So the tips below were heavily influenced by my current phase of life: I hate noise, I don’t do crowds but I do love acquiring beautiful books, clothes and bags and eating yummy food in trendy establishments. This is how I’d recommend negotiating Manhattan for anyone with similar proclivities:

1. Tax

Like death, you can’t avoid the 8.875% New York sales tax. No matter what the dodgy midtown salesman tells you about not charging you tax but shipping your bill to your distant cousin in another state. (He forgets to mention that your cousin will be liable for the tax). The annoying part is that tax is not included in the marked price – unlike VAT in SA – so it’s hard to remember to include it when have your hand on a beautiful handbag that is borderline in terms of budget…

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Bloomingdales, however, has mercy on foreign shoppers. I was offered a 10% discount to negate the sales tax when a very proactive and helpful salesgirl picked up my accent.

Hotel taxes come to more than 8.875% – around 15-% if I’m not mistaken, which I omitted to factor in when I booked The Standard online. Sure, the site said the price quoted excluded tax but I figured the amount would be negligible. Ahem, not so.

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We loved our stay at The Standard (& yes, the logo is meant to be upside down – it’s art, okay?)

(My sister’s stylish French friend met us for lunch at Cafe Gitane at The Jane Hotel in the West Village and proffered this handy tip: The Jane costs around $220 per night – inclusive of tax – which is unusual for a boutique hotel in a fabulous location, within walking distance to the High Line and cute shops in the Meatpacking district. It’s also well-positioned if you want to go for a run along the Hudson River, all the way into the financial district. There are lots of runners but there’s also lots of place to run, walk and cycle and the area is well kept and clean.)

2. When You Gotta Go

My romantic notions of strolling along Fifth Avenue, holding David’s hand and exclaiming ” Oh my God, would you look at that gorgeous jacket/ bag/ dress!” were crushed in seconds. Sure, the shops are amazing but when you’re on the “sidewalks” you may as well be on London’s Oxford Street – ie it’s MANIC!!! This is where I figured out that the best places to “spend a penny” (the McDonalds staff keep an eye-out for non-consumers using their restrooms) were in the beautiful old department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodmans. (I could live in these stores). Which brings me to my next tip…

3. Books at Bergdorfs

On my way out of the restrooms at Bergdorfs, I happened upon the children’s section and couldn’t resist taking a peak. One item of designer kid’s clothing would feed our household for a month, but the books sell for the recommended retail price on their dust jackets and they are magnificent. I could run my hands over the silky paper all day. Here’s what I picked up for the kids:

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4. Shop till you drop

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So what if heels are last season? These still look sexy, I’m sorry…

Something I noticed was that some branded items cost exactly the same as they do in SA. I don’t know how this works with SA’s import duties, but a pair of Nike running pants purchased at Totalsports in Joburg in June compared with the exact same pair I saw at a sports store in New York in July, cost the same (give or take a few cents for the Rand/ Dollar exchange rate on the day). I also compared the price of an I-pod Touch which was a bit cheaper in New York, but honestly not a saving to write home about.

To shop at places like Zara & H&M, make sure you have your big girl panties on, because you are going to need them. I’m talking, chaos, crowd control, queues for change rooms, queues to pay… Not to mention the fact that I was literally policed by shop assistants for trying on a cardigan on the shop floor. Apparently this is not allowed. The prices at Zara in SA might be higher but I’d say it’s worth it for the shopping experience.

5. Far From the Madding Crowds in the West Village

My neighbour did me a huge favour when she put in an order for a Marc Jacobs tote. My sister could see that I wasn’t coping well with the crowds and suggested that we hit the mini designer stores in the West Village instead. Sure, you won’t get the range that you’d get in a huge department store and not all the brands are there by far, but it’s a really pleasant experience compared to the madness of Soho, Broadway and Fifth Ave.

 

6. Sharing is Caring

The eensy weensy space between tables
The eensy weensy space between tables

Vanity aside, there is a reason there are no fat people in Manhattan (I blogged about this in 2012): it just isn’t practical. According to a 2013 census, 1.6million people live on the 59 square km island – excluding the additional 2.3 million commuters who come in on business days. Often, the tables in little cafes were so close together, I literally didn’t think I would fit through them sideways – or certainly not without knocking over my neighbour’s latte. So I had to get used to feeling like I was also having brunch with the table next to me. It is completely impossible not to hear every single word they say to one another but sometimes this comes in handy – like when they see you eyeing their banana bread, hear you and your sister contemplating ordering some and they feel obliged to share their experience of it with you. Hell, the setting is so intimate at one point I though they were going to offer us a taste and was inwardly panicking re the appropriate response. But that’s the other reason Manhattanites aren’t fat – the portions aren’t huge – so sharing does have its limits.

7. BYOB on Broadway

I’m told there are more affordable Broadway shows and less affordable ones. (I was told this after booking tickets). For the show Book of Mormon there are only two ticket prices: unbelievably effing expensive and literally double that. We got over that before leaving SA but thought nothing of grabbing a drink at the theatre’s bar before the start of the show. The damage for two average double whiskeys and a sparkling water was no less than $76. And when David balked and asked the barman to please repeat, he shouted back “That’s RIGHT! Seventy six AMERICAN dollars!” That, really, was the cherry on top and David vows he’ll never set foot on Broadway again.

8. The World of Water in the States

I absolutely LOVE the fact that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for tap water in all types of American restaurants. And when you’re on the run, you can totally buy bottled still water anywhere. But sometimes, when I really want to let my hair down, I do like some bubbles. Unlike SA, however, where every affordable brand of still water (Valpre, Bon Aqua, Woolworths, you name it) has an affordable bubbly equivalent, in the States sparkling water equals Perrier equals imported from France equals really expensive.

8. Modern Art

Jeff Koons balloon dog
Jeff Koons: balloon dog

The beauty of New York is that most of the waiters/ bellhops/ hostesses/ receptionists double up as struggling actors/ writers/ artists. We learnt that Jeff Koons was having a solo exhibition at The Whitney thanks to a waiter at The Standard. The exhibition blew my mind. Jeff Koons chose a Polish-Italian porn star as a muse, fell in love with her and married her, she somehow became a member of parliament (only in Italy) and he shocked the world with their sexually explicit “art” (basically pornographic photography) but otherwise most of his work is fun, fabulous, playful, ironic, over the top and, in short, like nothing I’ve ever seen. I loved the experience.

Something to note is that The Met is moving most of its modern art collection to The Whitney and The Whitney is moving from the Upper East Side to new premises near the start of the High-Line in the Meatpacking District. As a result, there is currently hardly any modern art available to view at The Met (it’s all in the process of being packed etc) but then there is always the Guggenheim and MOMA which I am gutted I didn’t get to see.

9. Flats Are the New Black

My sister told me that flats are totally acceptable in lieu of high heels in NY and I must say I did notice a definite trend. Heels still seem to be the footwear of choice amongst girls fresh off the boat, lining up for the night club on the top floor of The Standard, but otherwise, I did feel kinda last season in my heels – tragic, as I only bust them out for really special occasions.

10. Top of the Standard

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View from the Top of the Standard

Undoubtedly, the most beautiful bar in the whole wide world. The almost 360 degree views of the city are just spectacular. Even the sexy little dolly bird waitresses in their silk mini dresses whom you just expect to be bitches are SUPER nice (and actually really fast and efficient). And then the foie gras mini burgers with truffle oil are possibly the most delicious of any food I have ever tasted. And thanks to the new fashion, you can even go in flats…

Finally, some quintessential NY pics:

My sister, hailing us a cab on the Lower East Side
My sister, hailing us a cab on the Lower East Side
An exhausted tourist catches a nap while waiting for his table at The Boathouse, Central Park
An exhausted tourist catches a nap while waiting for his table at The Boathouse, Central Park
Running over the Williamsburg bridge from the Lower East Side into Brooklyn
Running over the Williamsburg bridge from the Lower East Side into Brooklyn
At a food stall at a vintage market in Brooklyn
At a food stall at a vintage market in Brooklyn
Manhattan & the Empire State Building from Brooklyn
Manhattan & the Empire State Building from Brooklyn
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