Arriving in New York was definitely one of those pinch yourself kind of moments. It felt as if we’d stumbled onto some kind of elaborate movie set, and what we were finally seeing in person couldn’t actually be for real.
For the little over a week we were there, Chelsea became our new home.We stayed in an old European-style lodge recommended to us by a couple of friends. While the room was pretty tight (as I think most reasonably priced NYC rooms are), a comfy bed, warm shower and waking up to freshly brewed coffee every morning was all we really needed in the so called city that never sleeps.
What I enjoyed the most about staying in Chelsea was that while we were still so close to all of the goodness Manhattan had to offer, we could escape Mid Town’s constant flock of Tourists should we want to, and retreat to this stylish neighbourhood and just soak up the day to day life of the every day New Yorkers going on around us.
While the tourist traps of places like the Statue of Liberty and Time Square were a must do for us given it was our first visit, we were incredible lucky to have our friend Jack to spend some time with as it meant we got to see the city from a local’s perspective as well. Not only did he take us to areas the guidebooks forgot to mention, his local knowledge meant we got a wonderful insight into our surroundings, and his walking tours gave a whole new meaning to the concept of city strolling.
I’d have to say one of the best afternoons we had was actually spent far away from the extensive security searches you find at most tourist attractions, the heaving ferries carrying hundreds of people back and forth to Liberty Island, and the crowds of Time Square. Instead it involved strolling the streets of Williamsburg in Brooklyn with Jack. The arty hipster neighbourhood with its Wellington-like cafe culture was charming enough, but it was when we crossed a street and saw the world around us literally change before our eyes from a hipster neighbourhood, to a Hasidic Jewish neighbourhood, in the space of about 10 footsteps, that really amazed me.
I think that’s what I loved most about NYC, this patchwork of cultures that fit together like a puzzle resulting in such a vibrant amazing city. Where you can literally cross a road and feel like you’re in a whole new world – in this city I really didn’t feel like we were in America at all.
Visiting Ground Zero will also be an experience that stays with me forever. It wasn’t so much the memorial itself (which was very beautiful, and amazingly peaceful given the busy working world operating so closely around it), but I think it was more being able to stand on the street with the hustle and bustle of people coming and going around you that brought home more acutely what things must have been like for those people in New York City that day.
We managed to pack a lot into our short NY stay: we walked the high rise, spent a rainy afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art, explored Wall St and the financial district, saw Spring start to creep out at Central Park, got a little more than breakfast at Tiffanys, converted to the religion of the Knicks and Yankees, found heaven in the form of Broadway musicals, gained several kg’s eating the most delicious food from restaurants and food carts lining every city street, AND got rip roaringly drunk off Martinis at a fabulous gay bar with a former drag queen turned NYU maths lecturer (appropriately named MissCalculation).
But despite such an amazing whirl wind week, it’s a concrete jungle I still feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of ….