I always wanted to visit New York, no surprise there, who wouldn’t want to visit? But the surprising thing is that it took me 27 years to finally get there and it was a very last-minute trip indeed.
Two days before I travelled I didn’t have my visa in hand. I’m usually quite good at planning a trip but not this time. In the end, my lack of preparation added a special touch to the visit. The journey started quite well – the immigration officer who welcomed me at JFK Airport was a very smiley and friendly woman. She told me she was going to a Brazilian party that night and I usually know how my trip is going to go from the way I’m treated by immigration officers.
There’s a large Brazilian diaspora in the city and I arrived a few days after “Brazilian Day”, when Brazilians and New Yorkers take to the streets to celebrate Brazilian music. New York fashion week was happening at the time and one of my favourite designers, Oskar Metsavaht of Brazilian luxury brand Osklen, was holding his womenswear show there. Brazilians were everywhere, from the lovely Carioca who helped me at one of the department stores to two men from São Paulo dining near me at the iconic Balthazar restaurant.
But it’s not only Brazilians; it surprised me how international the city is. In fact, its foreign-born population is higher than London’s. And the friendliness was another plus. People asked me all the time where I was from, where did I buy my shoes?
One of my highlights was the High Line park – the elevated garden with incredible views of the city. I was lucky because it was very sunny and I could sit down in one of the many sun loungers reading The New York Times while eating delicious shaved ice with watermelon syrup.
Even though London, where I live now, is an all-time favourite, I wish it could be a little bit more of a 24 hour-city like New York. In the latter you can visit a pharmacy very late in the evening or have a late dinner. It reminded me, in fact, of my hometown São Paulo. Paulistanos, though, could also learn a thing or two from the city – such as creating something similar to the High Line in its centre or making an effort to reduce homicide levels – something that New York has achieved with panache. It could be extremely violent in the 1980s, not so much now.
It is a city that I will definitely come back to and very soon. From Barneys department store to the cosy rooms of Ace Hotel, I’m missing New York already.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco