It may not be the most original thought, but the beauty of New York City is that you can go anywhere in the world without leaving the five boroughs. Being an unabashed Anglophile, I have been dreaming a lot about London lately. So I decided to pretend I was British for a day.
A friend and I have been talking about going to afternoon tea at the Plaza for a long time, but I discovered a cheaper option at Tea and Sympathy, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Greenwich Village, staffed by a lovely group of Brits. For $35, you get a full pot of your choice of tea (blackcurrant is delicious, sweet and creamy with a little milk), and a multi-tiered tray of more food than one person could possibly eat – and I generally do not have trouble consuming food. Finger sandwiches (Dear British people, why are you so enamored with mayonnaise?), scones, a slice of a strawberry shortcake type concoction, and a cupcake.
You had me at clotted cream.
Setting Mumford and Sons on my iPod and A Room with a View on my Kindle (English people in Florence! Oh what a glorious combination!), I had a gorgeous hour lost in a European fantasy-haze. My level of sophistication may only rise to that of Stacy in The Babysitters Club, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I stopped in at the Tea and Sympathy shop next door to see if I could get some of the blackcurrant tea to bring home, and was blinded by the adorable staff of British boys working the counter. I spent an obscene amount of money on tea in order to spend a few minutes flirting with them. Worth it. And now I know where the cute British population of NYC hangs out.
I took a stroll over a few streets to Myers of Keswick, a legitimate British grocery, but couldn’t bring myself to go inside – I didn’t want to look at food after glutting myself on sweetness. But it’s good to know it’s there, in case I ever want a meat pie or something (seriously, Englishmen, what is up with your cuisine? Don’t get me started on beans for breakfast.)
Next I headed uptown to Grand Central Station, to the New York Transit Museum Annex, which is currently featuring an exhibit of posters from the London Underground. Reading about the London Transport Authority’s mission to brighten the Tube with real (and informative) art, I was amazed at the beauty and humor of the poster designs. My Anglophilia knows no bounds and I was tempted to buy the accompanying coffee table book about the exhibit (art + London = ecstasy) but I managed to escape without further damaging my wallet – the exhibit itself is free, and definitely worth the effort to check out.
After taking a break to watch the ice skaters in Bryant Park, I continued west along 42nd Street to the subway station, to catch a performance by The Meetles, a Beatles tribute band that performs around the subway as part of Music Under New York, an MTA sponsored program to bring entertainment to commuters. I have walked through Times Square Station ten thousand times, enraged by the gaggle of tourists forming a circle around whatever street performers were clogging the arteries, cursing them for getting in my way and making me just miss my train.
Now I was one of them.
Having spent six months on a ship with a Beatles tribute band straight out of Liverpool, complete with verisimilitude-inducing wigs and costumes, I was curious about what NYC had to offer. The Meetles, unfortunately, look like a random assortment of homeless people. Six members, including two women, rumbled jeans, pot-bellies, and balding heads, they aren’t much to look at. And I can’t say they SOUND particularly like the Beatles. But they are more than competent musicians, and honestly, taking the time to stand and watch the crowd instead of plowing through it in irritation, I have never seen so many people smiling in a subway station. The spectators danced and sang along, and there was just a general good vibe. The music of the Beatles seems to unite people, even awkwardly.
Bless them, the Meetles perform for five hours in a freezing subway station, but after an hour and a half I was numb and exhausted, so I headed down to take the train back to Queens. On the downtown platform I heard someone playing “Yesterday” on a saw. Seemed like an appropriate end to my British day. I returned home to watch An Idiot Abroad, my current favorite UK import, and laughed at the misadventures of poor Karl Pilkington.
Sometimes I’m embarrassed by m obsession with all things English. Maybe I should focus my energy on a more exotic, foreign culture. But I can’t help it: I love Jane Austen, Eddie Izzard, Muse, Stephen Merchant, Shakespeare, Notting Hill, Mumford and Sons, Davy Jones from The Monkees, The Office, Spike from Buffy, and…the accents. I love it unashamedly. And when I don’t have the means to travel, it’s nice to know I can get a taste of my favorite fetishized culture at home.