My initial vision for this post was to break it down into a two-part comparative: what one could NY-“See” versus what I NY-“Saw.” Punny, I know. Fate and/or lack of time prevented me from posting the first half before I left and, now that I’m home, I’m especially grateful for that serendipitous change in plans. If there’s one thing I learned while backpacking overseas it’s this: the fewer the expectations you enter a new [town/city/country/continent] with, the more open-minded you are to unique, salient opportunities and experiences. Now, I’m not saying TripAdvisor and the Lonely Planet aren’t valuable tools (trust me, there are still days Mike and I think about building a shrine for South East Asia on a Shoestring), but the key is not to overflow your day planner – or to have a day planner at all.
For those of you who followed MJ2012, I can dish for days about a city, but I promise I won’t do that this time. (Bless all your sweet, strained eyes.) I also won’t attempt to indoctrinate you with how to travel the city because no two people seek an identical travel experience. Too, most of you wouldn’t have the pleasure and privilege of being hosted by Miss, one of my favourite “souvenirs” from the year I spent in Victoria, British Columbia and a woman who is taking the big city by storm. I owe her and her fashion savvy roommate, Nnamdi, a special shout-out for taking me in to their home and out on the town.
Here’s a quick overview of some of my favourite sights, smells, and sounds of New York City:
· New York Public Library – It’s no secret I’m a bookworm. Mark my words: one day I will do a literary pilgrimage through Europe. In the meantime, though, visiting this building was another check-mark on my bucket list. In my opinion there is nothing greater than the smell of old books, and here it is intoxicating. Not only that, but for all you Sex and the City fanatics, it’s almost surreal to stand on the staircase landing where Carrie and Big were meant to be married. All that was missing was a Vera Wang and a pair of Manolo Blahniks.
· Carrie Bradshaw’s iconic front steps – Empire State Building? Nope. Statue of Liberty? Maybe next time. But coming to NYC and not scouting out Carrie’s front steps? Yeah right. This was a touristy must for me, as those steps are part of television history. We learned that this landmark was removed from all official SATC tours so we set out on foot to find it ourselves. When you consider this stoop is more than a prop – it’s part of somebody’s home – the fact that you are met with a neon ‘NO TRESPASSING’ sign and a chain stretching the width of the steps makes sense. The owners ask that visitors wishing to take a photo make a donation towards animal rescue efforts in the Greenwich Village area, and I was happy to oblige. What a nice sentiment!
· Minskoff Theatre’s ‘The Lion King’ – I’ve always heard nothing beats Broadway theatre, and now I can join the masses in agreement. I had two unconditional loves growing up: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Lion King. Since I doubt a Broadway rendition of TMNT is on the horizon (someone please prove me wrong), I was equally content to tick two more items off my bucket list and see the performance of a lifetime in the middle of Times Square. To the cast, crew, and visionaries who brought my childhood dreams to life: thank you. I’d also like to shout-out to my friend Dan who – despite entering Columbia University and impending starving-student life in the fall – came out from Long Island to join me. Dan and I met on a long-tail boat cruising down the Mekong River in Laos and it was great to reconnect with him on home soil to reminisce about Malaria scares and post-curfew bowling (read more about that here). My advice to you is to seize any opportunity to take in a Broadway performance; it will change your life. I promise!
· The High Line – It should come as no surprise that NYC, a city of over eight million, is full of urban, concrete sprawls. The High Line was a residential effort to recycle a former New York Central Railroad line into a mile-long linear greenway through the Meatpacking District and into Chelsea. Coming from a city where greenery is in abundance (for the four months of the green when we’re not in 40-below weather, anyway), I can appreciate why the community rallied to give this industrial railway an environmentally-friendly facelift. The High Line attracts thousands of visitors and creative buskers every day, boasts gorgeous views of the Hudson River, and gives reprieve from fifty shades of grey (my second and final bad pun). You also get a glimpse at fashion revolutionary Diane von Furstenberg’s warehouse; even though I could never afford her, a girl can dream, right?
This hardly scratches the surface of all we saw and did in the city, but it gives you a taste of what NYC has to offer. After four days of mastering the subway, meandering through artist villages, visiting flea markets full of all the vintage jewelry and furniture I could dream of, 24-hour Mexi-bars, roof-top clubs, vino in Central Park, giving my Visa a work-out in Soho, and catching up with one of the loveliest and most ambitious women I know, I came home feeling inspired and itching to go back.
So what do I wish I NY-Saw? A lot, I’m sure, but it’s comforting to know I have true, genuine (and local!) friends there who [probably] won’t turn me away if I show up on their doorsteps again in the future.
If you ever have the opportunity and finances to travel, please give yourself that gift and GO! No matter how big a city you live in, the world is still bigger. See as much of it as you possibly can.
Given that Mike and I just handed over our savings to our lawyer and get the keys to our new house this Friday, I think I’ll be housebound for the next little while. At least I have great memories, friends, and a new wardrobe to keep me company in the meantime.