New York, New York | 14-200119

Hastings-on-Hudson. Monday is Martin Luther King Day. Also, with -16 degrees celsius and a wind chill factor reinforcing the icy feel of the crisp, clear air, it’s the coldest I’ve ever felt, which may seem surprising given the facts that I’m Danish and love skiing – well, I’ve never experienced Denmark or the Dolomites this cold! We stay inside the spacious (three gigantic floors; our Hampstead flat would easily be able to fit into the master bedroom) most of the day – cooking plant-based pancakes and waffles for breakfast, making several cups of coffee, enjoying the stunning view of the Palisades Interstate Park on the opposite side of the river through the gigantic panorama windows in the living room, playing the piano, sketching animals and stars and people, playing charades and board games, working a little bit (the adults) and throwing paper planes at the flickering fire in the fireplace (mainly the kids). While mum is cooking a hearty Indian meal for lunch, the kids and I go for a freezing walk into town – they show me all of the highlights, including the view of the Manhattan skyline from the public library grounds. Wow. While being in the City just feels like home, spending time in this little suburb, the southernmost of the River Towns, with its real American Main Street and quaint wooden houses, feels so exotic. In the evening, they all drive me into the city in the most cartoon-like orange and red sunset against a bright blue sky. I hug them all goodbye and think to myself how wonderful it is that this is really happening. Never in my wildest imagination would a child, teenage or early twenties version of me have thought that I’d get to spend a week in my all-time favourite city working at an amazing company with an incredible positive global impact and hanging out with local family and best friends. I better make the most of every single moment of this week, in and outside the office. It is also kind of interesting to think how every single of my nine trips here so far has had a unique purpose

The NoMad Hotel. I could stay with the family all week, but seeing as I am here because of work, I decide to stay in the city so my commute is just a short walk; so it’s easy to go out with colleagues after work; and so I, when getting home late at night, can just crash and sleep (when not talking to Sanoop, who conveniently is awake when I wake up and before I fall asleep). I picked NoMad, located just a few streets north of the Flatiron on Broadway, as it’s really conveniently located in relation to the office in Chelsea and not fully booked unlike the hip ones downtown, haha. I am happy with my choice – chic Parisian-inspired spot in an romantic old beaux arts building, clean, great service, beautiful room with nice bedding and a beautiful bathroom. Everything I could wish for. And it’s perfect for picking up morning coffee from Stumptown at Ace next door.

Google, New York. I allow myself to slowly savour and process every single second of this experience. Tuesday-Thursday and some of Friday are packed full of back-to-back meetings. Everything about it is quite wonderful – meeting my American colleagues and learning from them, so many hours worth of valuable insights and perspectives, the office itself, its cool cafes, its cool people, its splendid iconic panorama view from the 14th floor roof terrace, its location right by Chelsea Market, its readily available scooters for transporting you down the block-long corridors, its many, many sweet office dogs. Ah! I am excited about the work we’re doing, about the potential ways in which I can contribute, about the company, about my team… I was excited all the way through the application process and my first month in London. This – being here; I don’t even feel like the infamous imposter… I just feel like I am in a dream. And I don’t want to pinch myself. It’s a cringe worthy cliché, but I want to make the most of it and work as smartly as I can.

Food. Breakfast and lunch at the abundant office cafes. Three team dinners, giving us the opportunity to digest the week’s impressions and process ideas of how to approach our projects, but also to connect around other things than work and figure out our dynamics. It’s all very enjoyable – we get along very naturally! Monday night: BCD Tofu House, Korea Town. Tuesday: The Woodstock, Meatpacking. Wednesday: Chinese Tuxedo, China Town. Thursday: Los Mariscos, Chelsea Market. Friday: one of Sanoop’s best friends from Hong Kong, whom I’ve also met in Hong Kong, London, Barcelona and Singapore, where he stayed with us several times, is in town. He knows it very well. And he is starting to get to know me really well, haha! He has sweetly booked a table for dinner at all-vegan Ladybird on the Lower East Side, which turns out to be delicious, and after that, we get vegan chocolate ice cream at Van Leeuwen for dessert. YUM! I laugh at the ginormous sizes of American scoops, but happily shovel every mouth-watering flake and drop of it into my mouth. We sit in the window and watch party people go by before walking up to Union Square and hugging each other goodbye after such a wonderful 1:1. Saturday brekkie: cashew-based yoghurt, mango chunks and green juice from Whole Foods on Columbus Circle. Saturday lunch: upscale Korean Hangawi, also vegan, with another one of Sanoop’s best best friends in the whole wide world and his girlfriend. Sanoop and he were roommates in college, and then they briefly worked together at Google in Singapore, where he met his girlfriend, and then the couple moved here with work. They’ve just quit their jobs, however, and moved out of their West Village flat to travel the world for a while. For a few weeks still, all four of us are working for the same company. It’s emotional for them to leave, of course, but it feels right, they say. While munching on tofu and kimchi in all kinds of delicious concoctions, we talk about all of those emotions, or some of them, and about the company, travel, love, longing, home… all of the good stuff, haha. They lived in Tiong Bahru as well, and she even lived just around the corner from our flat in Hampstead 8 years ago, haha…! In the evening, I just eat a macro bowl at Ace Hotel, where I sit in the hipster gloom and read. Sunday morning: peanut butter on a freshly baked bagel from Meyers Bageri in the Great Northern Food Hall in Grand Central Station. I walk into the station at sunrise, when 42nd Street is bathed in a glorious orange light, buy a copy of the New Yorker and Harward Business Review, and coffee from the Danish cafe, and then pick out my bagel while chatting to the Danish girl working there. Ahh… I laugh at myself over the warm and fuzzy feeling of pride that swells up at the gorgeous sight and hyggelige vibes. It’s the best of two worlds coming together in one of the most magnificently beautiful buildings in the world. All the things I’ve read of its history and all of Paul Auster’s observations about people and loneliness and crowds in its halls and on its platforms flash through my mind. I look across the selection of rugbrød and kanelsnegle and beautiful wooden and brass elements of the cafe that’s so elegantly fitted into this opulent space. Read a bit in my magazine. Talk to my love on the phone. It’s all very overwhelming – in a great way, haha. My final lunch in the city for now is a bowl of mixed healthy goods from Whole Foods, eaten on the steps of the statue in Columbus Circle, my family’s special spot. It’s cold but wonderful for people-watching and feeling that energy…

Drinks. Coffee from La Colombe, Everyman Espresso, Stumptown at ACE (every morning; my ultimate favourite), Blue Bottle (various outlets), Ninth Street Espresso and Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters, where the barista seems to know the coffee order (and dogs, hobbies and pastry preferences) of every single person who steps through the door here (except for mine; I only get to visit twice this week, but will definitely come back if I can). I peep at the dressed-up folks in the swanky cocktail bar at my hotel, but then hop next-door to the more relaxed ACE for a glass of red wine on my own. Another glass of wine on my own – at a cosy wine bar, St Tropez, which I stumble upon on a walk through the West Village. Very romantic; I sit in a window and listen to random snippets of conversations in the room behind me, watch people walk by on the quaint brownstone street. Third (and final) glass of wine of the week is consumed in Chelsea Market with Sanoop’s friend, after he’s given me a tour of the impressive YouTube Space, located in the same building. Before the dinner on Friday night, I take my friend to Death & Co on the Lower East Side, where I went five years ago. I was curious whether it still was as hip as back then. It seems very popular still, and, if possible, even more charming in all of its dark, decadent speakeasy splendour. Very good cocktail! We also pop next-door for a negroni at Amor y Amargo, which is just as charming, and have the loveliest conversation through it all, full of laughs and lovely thoughts directed at Sanoop.

Walks. Alone, with colleagues, with close friends… between 15 and 21 km a day…. Extreme temperature fluctuations, at least compared with Singapore, haha, from negative 13 to positive 13… from rain to shine, mainly the latter… magical NYC… downtown, midtown, uptown Manhattan, sunrise glory of orange and red hues against buildings and floating out in broad streets… and evening chill… drinking in sights and atmospheres with my eyes… happy, present… such an essential way to experience a city… and I love how walkable this city in particular is… the fact that I rarely have to check my map in the grid nor in the by now so familiar crisscrossed streets downtown means that I really can be fully present…

Sights. On Friday afternoon, a colleague and I check out the Whitney Museum of American Art after work. Last time I went to the Whitney was over a decade ago when it was still in a gloomy, boxy building on the Upper East Side – and now it’s been looking at me from the office all week, shiny and alluring, this elegantly terraced river-facing structure. The Andy Warhol special show was great – but the space itself, the bright indoor and outdoor galleries, as well as the permanent pieces were even more of a hit. // My friend wants to show me the ice rink in Bryant Park and his favourite building in the city, the New York Public Library. As I love it so dearly myself and am curious to see it through his eyes, I don’t reply that I’ve already been there so many time; I just head over to meet him there after the Whitney. He enthusiastically shows me his secret spot, where he comes every day to read the NYT and drink coffee; one of the old reading rooms towards the southern end of the building. Just so incredibly ivy league college-like… those brightly polished wooden panels in the ceiling and on the walls, so carefully carved and fitted in with beautiful paintings and brass lamps. I love it! And then we walk all the way downtown to the bars and food on the Lower East Side, chatting all the way. // On Saturday afternoon, my friends and I head to the top of the Empire State Building just in time for the most divine sunset. It is rather cloudy when we ascend, but once we get to the top and do a loop of the outside bit, a big, intensely red sun pokes out its head over Jersey City (where Sanoop grew up) and gives us our money’s worth of a colour-saturated show. Even the staff by the lifts and doors shout at each other so come out and see it. It’s the best one they’ve ever seen, they all say. Same for us. We’re all so happy – pointing down at our office, at my friends’ old flat in the Village, at the crazy skyline that’s shooting up in Brooklyn. Never too cool to do touristy stuff – I like that. // Weekend: long Central Park walks on my own, checking out the area between the Mall and Bethesda Fountain, where ice sculptures are being made amongst food stalls and a dj stand, hundreds of birds hanging out on thin crusts of ice on the ponds and lakes, circling around the stunning Reservoir, LOVING the energy of people running, walking, chatting here… it’s just so fresh, healthy, straightforward, natural!

Exercise. Keeping myself flexible and fresh by doing the Five Tibetans every morning and stretching every night. Trying out classes at Barre3 West Village (just love trying out different barre methods in different cities, and this one is particularly awesome – it’s a lovely way to immerse yourself in a community…), Humming Puppy (6am sunrise hatha yoga to an intensive humming tune that allegedly vibrates at a frequency resonating within your body in an energising way) and Physique57 (the teacher calls me ‘love’ and has a megaphone; the class is crazily loud and intense… I love it!). New York City IS in many ways an intense city, but I do feel it’s definitely possible to be sane and healthy here – with some fresh air, and some intense classes, haha… Hm. As much as I feel like a local on weeks like this, I am just a visitor. A visitor who is happy to get the opportunity to go here for a boost now and then (and soon again!), but also happy to go back to London tomorrow and eventually make a home there with Sanoop. Our furniture arrives from Denmark on Tuesday for starters, haha!

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