I recently returned from my third trip to New York City, and had such a fantastic time (again) that I feel compelled to blog for my first time about it.
I've travelled some of the world, and still have more to see. I've seen major cities across four continents, but New York City captures my heart.
I rented an apartment in the East Village, Manhattan, and spent my seven days exploring the city. Architecture, art, music, food, history, theatre... anything you could possibly want; and a number of things I had never imagined existed, are at your disposal for the right price. I spent cool, sunny afternoons wandering Central Park with a book and a camera, and overcrowded, frantic mornings in Chinatown. I felt the wind on my face on the Staten Island Ferry, and cheered for the Home team with the locals. Lady Liberty stood proud before me, and I felt the spirit of the City while looking across the water at downtown Manhattan. An amalgam of humanity, New York City stands to remind us that we are all immigrants. Some have just been around for longer.
The spirit of the City is reflected in their heart: Central Park. Dog walkers help tourists with directions, and children latch onto their noble steed on the Carousel with whole-hearted glee. Everyone seems to forget themselves while walking through. To go from the insanity of 5th Avenue and 59th, and escape into the tranquil, seemingly infinite cocoon of wilderness was a spectacular balm to my soul. The beauty of the sprawling greens, and the ancient trees; the history, and the romance, all compelled me further. Nature conspired with man to create this haven of calm. Off in the distance, you can see the spires of the buildings, and upper floors of high rises, that return you to the bustling civilization pulsing around you.
I spent some time sitting in Washington Square, where students were studying in the sunlight, and dogs were barking joyously in the leash-free zone; their owners chatting cheerfully along the fence. A lady had a small portable CD player perched on a bench, and a gentleman in her arms as they salsa'ed in the Square. A while later, her partner continued on, and she approached passersby until she found a new participant.
I misplaced my bus pass one night, and I stood in front of the driver, stunned at the empty slit in my wallet and empty pockets. He saw me safely to a train station, where I could break my five dollar bill for fare. Another day, I was sitting in a restaurant window, watching the world pass by, when a woman tripped over her feet, and fell to the sidewalk. A number of people stopped, and helped her to her feet. Everyone made sure she was okay, then turned to resume their journeys.
The buildings that surround you speak of history. Horse-drawn carriages, and kerosene lanterns. Times just as complicated, but simpler somehow. Brownstones with neatly painted trim, and little patches of grass behind tidy fences. Cobblestone streets still remain, if you look hard enough. Walking on the sidewalk, you encounter men with tables of produce set up, next to a truck serving all-day waffles, and another truck selling halal shawarma just down the street. The World is your buffet in downtown Manhattan, from the decadent chocolate shops to the high-end grocery store.
I ended up in Times Square at eleven p.m., to find it still crowded and brilliant. Tourists browsed in chain stores, and locals pushed laminated sheets of paper with pictures of handbags into womens' hands along the sidewalk. There was a large seating area in the middle of the Square, and groups of people rested their undoubtedly tired feet. Although it is a part of Manhattan, I believe it to be more of a tourist draw than a place for locals.
Union Square on weekends was mayhem. Vendors peddling everything from baubles to knits and caricatures and photographs. Throughout the week a farmer's market sets up stands along the Square, and locally produced food brings itself nearly to your door. Teens practice their skateboarding along some steps, while Jews celebrate Sukkot in a makeshift Temple in the Square.
I didn't do half of what I'd hoped, but experienced more than I'd dreamed. My love affair with New York City continues, and I hope it never ends.