I remember having a ‘heated discussion’ with mum toward the end of my high school days (could have actually been my early 20s), the details of the actual ‘discussion’ are lost now but she was probably giving me some quality advice that I was too stubborn to listen to (sorry mum!). I do, however, remember saying something along the lines of “I’m not like you guys mum, I am a city person NOT a small town person, I am going to live in New York one day …” Oh, how I look back and cringe, and giggle because nothing could be further from the truth … Considering I happily reside in a very small town back home in NZ and am currently happily living in the little village of West Dover … the point is I have always looked upon New York City, as a whimsical place that was not just a city but the symbol of independence and ‘making it’. It’s own little world.
I had built this romantic image of New York in my head, mainly thanks to movies and TV shows I had seen over the years because I didn’t particularly know a whole lot about the city. Little bits and pieces of its history and iconic places, but compared to other American cities I actually didn’t know a whole lot about it. Just that I really wanted to go there because I was after all ‘a city person’. So last week, we did just that. We had two full days in the city, which was not a lot. However, we went with the mindset of being tourists for the two days, seeing and doing all the main touristy things. We booked ourselves onto a hop on hop off bus (we used greyline and they were terrible!!! just a sidenote for anyone considering them – Don’t do it. Use another company.) and set out to see the city. I was excited and nervous, we were in the big city!!
Two days of, what felt like a million miles, walking and three boxes of blister bandages later, we had seen all the main attractions (with the exception of Grand Central Station, Ellis Island, and Brooklyn). It was amazing to be there and to be amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, seeing all these things I had dreamed of for years. Times Square was crazy and felt like the middle of the day at 11pm at night. The 9/11 memorial was harrowing, it really drove home to scale of the tragedy and how intensely scary the whole ordeal would have been but also highlighted how resilient the people of New York have been to rebuild and move forward. The Statue of Liberty was a really beautiful statue, as was the charging bull and brave little girl. Central Park was an amazing example of engineering and a slice of quiet paradise in the middle of the crazy city. Ice skating there was spectacular with the city as a backdrop. The architecture of buildings such as the Rockefeller, Empire State, Chrysler, Flatiron, the MET and specific areas such as SOHO, Greenwich Village, East Village, Upper East Side, where spectacular and amazing to consider many of these buildings were developed before modern methods of construction existed. It really was amazing to be there, in person, taking it all in. This crazy big world that literally rises out of the water.
That being said, I can’t shake the feeling of being slightly disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time there but I feel like I had built this magical image in my head of all these places and to see them all in person left me feeling a little flat. I don’t know what I was expecting, or how I would hope for things to be different but I left New York thinking it was just a city … not the world I had thought it would be … I didn’t get a feeling of culture or character, it seemed cold and without personality. Perhaps we were looking in the wrong places or we didn’t venture far enough into specific areas. Perhaps it was our lack of time, or reluctance to spend exuberant amounts of money on things. But I just did not feel it was as magical and whimsical, as I had imagined.
This is not the cities fault by any means, it is just a poignant piece of learning for me. Sometimes the facade of what we imagine things to be, does not match the reality of what they are. We are best to approach things with little to no expectations and take them for what they are, as we encounter them, to truly appreciate them.
At the end of the day, however, Damian and I really did have fun. We had a drink in a sky-top bar and learned that to get the seats with a view you need to book well in advance, so like tourists we peered out the windows over people having romantic dates becuase we did not book well in advance, we got excited about the Grammys being set up accross the road from our hotel, we laughed at the terrible terrible way the hop on hop off bus people treated us, he put up with me dragging him to Gossip Girl filming sites and took stupid photos of me recreating things the characters did, I put up with him skiting about how much better at ice skating he was then me, we tried to hide our disbelief as pedestrians kicked and hit passing cars as they crossed the road and the normality of a man being tazzered in a shop as we brought an ice cream but comended the police for resopnding so quickly to his violent disterbance – we really did feel safe the whole time we were there, which we were not really expecting. It was a fun busy few days and we made lots of incredible memories together exploring a whole other world and that to me is where the magic is found.