When I lived in Sydney, Australia Day meant a long summer weekend.
Australia is the world’s smallest continent, the world’s largest island (technically), a great place to live, a country filled with wonderful people who are partial to sacrcasm, a space with a diverse landscape, from the underwater beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, to the earthiness of Ayers Rock, to the stunning urban skyline of Sydney… Not to mention, it is home to a myriad wildlife: kangaroos, wombats, koalas, and dare I mention, spiders and snakes!
The temperatures may be reversed in the Northern Hemisphere, but I always celebrated my Australianess on January 26th. While I can’t sip on Semillon Sauvignon Blanc in the backyard under the summer’s rays, I can indulge in good Aussie tucker and watch the Australian (tennis) Open from New York.
The Aussie dining scene thrives in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Last year, I had meat pies and lamingtons from Tuck Shop stop on East 1st Street. Previous years included vegemite on toast with a flat white from Ruby’s on Mulberry Street, and the Shearer’s Burger (complete with fried egg, beetroot and pineapple – my husband wasn’t a fan!) from Sheep Station in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
This year, I had planned visits to two new Australian places: Toby’s Estate, a café in Williamsburg, and Pie Face, a meat pie chain by Times Square.
I had an inkling Toby’s Estate would deliver good coffee. They roast their own beans and Aussies man the espresso machine. The makings of a perfect cappuccino were all there: firm foam and a dark espresso pour with generous dose of golden crema, and a bold, smooth flavour. Eating Anzac cookies, listening to Crowded House, hearing the Australian accent, and being surrunded by Aussie memorabilia – Weet-Bix, a Milo canister, a football (and I don’t even like rugby): these were all bonuses.
It wasn’t until I got to Pie Face, located at the corner of The Late Show with David Letterman’s Ed Sullivan Theatre, that I grew nostalgic. Standing a stone’s throw away from Times Square, I though back to my hometown of Sydney, and how my mind was always filled with dreams of living in New York…
The vividly remember traveling to the Big Apple for the first time, back in February 2001, when a couple of friends and I stood in Times Square before midnight on the day of our arrival. Many say this area has Disneyfied since its rock ’n’ roll days of the ’70s and ’80s, but I was awestruck as I took in the Square’s expanse. Standing in the middle of it all, I immediately fell in love with New York. It buzzed, it crackled, it pulsated — I was electrictrified. I knew I had to come back and experience it all for real.
And I did, a few years later.
I hadn’t anticipated to write a reflection in this post, but this is what I was thinking about in Times Square today. And I felt renergised while reliving that same tingling sensation I’d felt while falling for New York all those years ago. This was the space I needed to reflect on how good the city has been to me over the years.
At the same time, I felt that longing for Sydney. Because, ultimately, home is where the heart is.