In January this year, I turned 30 and celebrated by hitting the streets of New York City with Ross. For four days, we packed in as much as was physically possible in the space of time we had. Over the course of our stay I made a few observations and have a number of highlights I would like to share.
Before going to New York, everyone you speak to who has been before will tell you all of the things you MUST do when you get there. This is incredibly useful, until you realise that everyone’s experience of this city is uniquely brilliant. Recommendations are great, but you can’t do all of them in four days, no matter how many you diligently note down.
Every stereotype that is portrayed about NYC is true. On our first night, our friendly taxi driver gave us an introduction to his City, pointing out the various landmarks on the way to our hotel and telling us of the many conspiracy theories he felt extremely passionate about. As we stepped out on to the main street and trundled our cases up to the entrance, a Hummer cut in front of a small, more normal looking car which blasted its horn in protest. At this point, the Hummer driver (wearing sunglasses in January) leaned out of his tinted window and screamed back at the wee car: ‘WELCOME TO NEW YORK BABY!!’ before speeding off.
You have approximately no minutes to acclimatise to your new sensory overload – the buildings are as big as you think they’ll be, the lights are as bright, the noise is as loud and the pace is as fast. It’s a lot to take in, and in winter it really, really is as cold as everyone told you it would be.
Some real highlights for us included: walking the High Line, a 1.5 mile elevated trail created on a former New York Central Railroad; finding Chelsea Market and dreaming that the Victorian Market in Inverness would spruce up and turn in to something similar; the sobering and thought-provoking 9/11 memorial; walking the Brooklyn Bridge; discovering the quirky and vintage bookstores in Williamsburg (but mainly ear-wigging in to other people’s bookish conversations – I’ve said before I’m incredibly nosey); walking all the way back from Brooklyn through Manhattan to Times Square; and catching a show (Aladdin) in the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway – and that was Day One…
Day two comprised of checking out Grand Central Station, Fifth Avenue, Central Park and the Guggenheim. We braved the subway (which turned out to be remarkably easy) and realised that certain hipster looking cafes don’t sell coffee made with milk, they sell mylk. Ross was particularly appalled with his almond mylk cappuccino and – after keeping up a pretence that my mocha with cashew mylk tasted just like hot chocolate – I had to admit defeat and pour it down the nearest drain five gulps down.
By day three I was feeling bold with this new city and also stiff as a board, what with the long-haul flight and many thousands of steps taken. Jet-lag also meant I kept waking up at 5.30am, so I decided to hit an early-morning hot yoga class to see how the New Yorkers do it (and also to warm up a bit since it was now minus 13 degrees out there). Near to where our hotel was, a small studio called ‘Yoga to the People‘ offered drop-in classes, so I bundled up and braved the cold, thinking all the ‘city types’ would be there donning their Lulu Lemon outfits, coconut water in hand… Turned out to just be me and one other guy along with the instructor. Maybe the New Yorkers are done with yoga and have moved on to SoulCycle instead.
That afternoon, we headed to Madison Square Gardens to watch the Knicks play Oklahoma Thunder. Fully equipped with a foam finger and a hot dog, it was probably the best sporting event we’ve ever been to. They really know how to put on a show, even in between the quarters of the game. Every minute was accounted for with some form of audience entertainment, from ‘celebrity row’ to a full-blown Gospel Choir. It was brilliant, even if the Knicks did get thrashed.
There is something about New York that sucked us in to adopting the same pace of life. In a way it feels like we’re only just shaking it off after flying home and launching straight back in to work and various social events. It was a whirlwind of a trip and one to absolutely recommend, but it’s not a relaxing holiday. New York is an exciting, diverse, dirty, overwhelming, sensory overload of a place to visit and I loved every bit of it. But it also made me really appreciate the quiet, peaceful, natural beauty of the Highlands and all it has to offer too. After all, there’s no place like home.