I’d traveled to New York City before, but it had been more than a decade since my last visit. And I’d never traveled there solo.
Until last week. And it was sublime.
For reasons that are hard to explain and fathom now, I’d always felt a bit intimidated about visiting NYC by myself. But I didn’t feel that way at all when boarding my recent flight from London to JFK. In fact, from start to finish, I found New York City to be easy and accessible … and New Yorkers to be incredibly friendly and helpful.
No wonder so many people want to move there.
I think I might want to move there!
Thanks to previous visits, I’d already seen the Empire State Building, Ellis Island and some of the other top sights. So, this time, I was able to dig a bit deeper into my Big Apple bucket list.
- First, I made a beeline for Strawberry Fields in Central Park. I still remember getting ready for school in 1980 when my Dad told me that John Lennon had been shot. It was bittersweet seeing the Imagine mosaic in person and the steady stream of multi-generational fans paying their respects. There was also a man nearby playing a guitar and singing Beatles tunes. Every once in a while, he even got the lyrics right. 🙂
- I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for the first time and strolled down the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
- I walked the entire length of the High Line but declined to beat the heat with one of the $5 (yikes!) ice cream sandwiches for sale along the way.
- I took the free (!!!) Staten Island Ferry, both ways.
- I had a bagel at Absolute Bagels, a slice at Joe’s Pizza, a dog at Papaya King and dumplings at Vanessa’s.
- I saw Fun Home on Broadway and loved it. I’m usually not a big fan of musical theater, but I was really touched by this performance of Ring of Keys during the 2015 Tony Awards. As luck would have it, I found a 4th of July promotion online and was able to purchase a ticket for $40. But I had no such luck winning the Hamilton Lottery despite dutifully entering each day!
- I had a couple of drinks at my hotel’s rooftop bar that was *this close* to the Empire State Building.
- I walked walked walked as much as possible but also sprung for the 7-day MetroCard, which saved my feet with subway rides and temporarily stopped me from sweating with air-conditioned cars.
- I took a step back in time at the (too expensive) Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
- I saw the fascinating and puzzling documentary Weiner at the IFC.
- I visited the legendary B&H store!!! (Whispers: The camera stores in Tokyo are actually better)
- I visited the almost as legendary Strand bookstore and bought a hard copy of Fun Home.
- I visited the 9/11 Memorial and One World Trade Center, twice.
- I spent 5+ hours — and could’ve spent more — at the phenomenal Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ve visited museums all over the world, and the Met is hard to beat. Considering that the price of a rooftop bar cocktail is $20 plus tip, the Met’s suggested $25 donation is a bargain!
- I passed through Grand Central Station numerous times and took advantage of cooler temps during nightly midtown strolls.
- I even turned on BBC America one night to see the episode of Top Gear that was recorded in Ireland. Remember when we stumbled upon the production while touring the The Ring of Kerry?
- During my week in New York City, I walked a lot of miles and saw a lot of sights. Fortunately, I never saw any subway rats and, sadly, never encountered any bodega cats. However, I did watch the Pinc Louds perform while waiting for my train. One member (on the right) was dressed like a rat and carrying a homemade mobile of stuffed rats. So there’s that.
- I found New Yorkers to be kind and chatty and quick to engage. A park bench sharer in Washington Square recommended the documentary Yarn. An NYC native and subway seat neighbor told me that she enjoyed helping tourists and, as if on cue, was asked by another rider for directions. While I was walking through Greenwich Village, a visitor from Brazil asked me how to get to Bleecker Street. She said she was looking for this cupcake shop. I showed her the way … then bought myself a cupcake!
Why did it take me so long to visit New York City on my own? Over the last six months, I’ve asked myself similar questions about a lot of different things.
Why didn’t I do this before? Why didn’t I realize that before? The answer I’ve come up with is simple yet soothing:
I just wasn’t ripe yet.
But I am now! At least for certain things. And the feeling is sublime.