Post a hectic yet eventful and fruitful trip to the Big Apple, I sit down to chronicle this, and I wonder, what do I say about New York that hasn’t been said before?
That it embodies a unique kind of crowded chaos, which by now has become such an embedded part of the city, that its almost impossible to imagine what the Big Apple would be without it, to the inhabitant and visitor alike.
Or that the city stands tall for the ideal symbolization of the adage that unity comes from diversity – the diversities of ethnicities, personalities, cultures and identities, that seamlessly converge to give us this one breed of driven, fast, busy, ready-to-take-on-life New Yorkers.
Or that I’ve heard locals tell me that one can have spent their entire life here, and still feel like a tourist, for there’ll always be a part of New York you haven’t explored.
This time round, it wasn’t my first trip to the city. I’d been here before, as the dreamy, doe-eyed, slightly awestruck tourist, when I’d done the city bus tour, been to the Empire State building, Central Park, the Met, so on and so forth. But a big believer in ‘feeling places’ over ‘seeing places’, I was determined this trip round, to see the unseen, and experience the New Yorker flavor in its true sense.
And it was with this very intent, and determination that I began my brief NYC sojourn. And an unplanned 72 hours, ended up including an entire myriad of experiences, a pleasant mixture of the planned and intentional, and spontaneous surprises.
I’d grown up on a staple diet of American chick-flicks, some of my favorite ones being the Christmassy rom-coms with the city as the backdrop, which meant that wanting to witness the city’s Christmas fervor and spirit had made it to my bucket list for a long,long time. And I wasn’t disappointed, for it’s when you see how the city celebrates Christmas, you realize that in New York, Christmas isn’t just a festival, rather a celebration of life. The Christmas market at Union Square. The lights on 5th Av. And truly enchanting, the magnificent tree at Rockefeller – all of which are worth at least one visit, if not more.
I happened to spend good quality time with a dear friend who’s a Manhattan born and bred proud bookworm and self-proclaimed Nerd. And while I’m not entirely sure of my status as a bookworm, I do hold a love for books, bookshops, libraries and the literary universe close to my heart. Thanks to Jo, I got to get a taste of the a literature freak’s slice of the New York pie, in the form of Books of Wonder, the city’s oldest and largest bookstore dedicated to children’s literature, and The Strand, an iconic New York based bookstore, where you could find books on possibly every topic under the sun, along with an entire plethora of souvenirs celebrating the city, and literature and reading in general.
Meeting with another dear friend from high school took me on a separate trip within the trip. All the way to the non-debatably the most glamorous, glitzy part of Manhattan – the ever cliched, yet magical Times Square. The last time I visited Times Square, I was awestruck by the hustle and the bustle, how the crowds throng to the place almost 24*7 as if it were a kind of man-made human shrine, the shiny, larger-than-life billboards, and the plethora of stores, restaurants and bars et al. And I felt the similar feeling and awe this time round too. Though the icing on the cake this time turned out to be getting to see what I’d always wanted to – a musical on Broadway, which in this instance, turned out to be the Oprah Winfrey produced The Color Purple, a tale of Celie, a black woman in the 1960s and the trials and tribulations she faced because of being black, female and poor, and how she ultimately managed to triumph all odds, emerging victorious. A great story at heart, added to which were stellar performances made this a visual treat in every manner.
Yet, if I had to pick a highlight of my trip, it would be the hidden food & drink gems, I was treated to, all courtesy my local friends, who had discovered them and were only too happy to introduce them to me. Within my 72 hours in the city, I went from hitting a couple of quaint cafes, with coffee and freshly-baked sweet-treats to die for, a tiny, completely missable Thai restaurant which could seat no more than a dozen, yet managed to serve up some of the most delicious Thai fare I’ve tasted in my lifetime, and a couple of tiny family-run Italian restaurants which with their fresh ingredients and rich flavors, took me on a mini-culinary escapade to Italy. And not to mention, my newly acquired taste for green tea latte, which I know will stay for a while.
And as an eventful 72 hours came to an end, I came to a conclusion. New York isn’t jus a city, its a vibe. Paradoxically, while its overall impersonal, its also completely customizable. There’s a New York for everyone. For the skyscraper lover to one for parks. From the art aficionado to the live comedy junkie. For the one who’d rather hang out at the eclectic Brooklyn bars to the admirer of tiny, hidden quaint cafes. And while I know that personally, there’s still a lot I still have to discover, I know it’s at least a step closer to being friendlier with the city, in a manner where I anticipate that after a few more visits, I would’ve possibly reached a stage where I will understand the ins and outs of the Subway, will have explored a lot more in terms of neighbourhoods, easteries and such sundry, and will be able to manoeuvre myself around without Google Maps in at least a minuscule part of the NYC maze.
So long. Till then, adieu, NYC.