I am starting this post on the 1st day of the trip. This is not something I typically do but this is not your typical trip. This is a repeat trip. Something that rarely happens for me. Life is so short and traveling is expensive. Therefore, we may say the words…”if we ever come back, we will do this”. But the chances of that happening are slim to none. There are exceptions to that and NYC just happens to be one of them. I’m on my 4th visit. Yes, you read right, 4 times I’ve been to the concrete jungle. Why would probably be your next question. In my opinion there are 2 categories of NYC visitors. Those that hate it and those that love it. I’m in the latter of course. And often times those who hate it, never actually visited. I mean they did go there but they didn’t make the most of it. In other words, they walked around aimlessly belly aching about all the people and how much everything costs. I never try to talk anyone out of hating it. It’s their prerogative. Plus, there are some negatives about the city. Just to name a few. It is dirty, it is expensive, and most New Yorkers come across rude as heck to us southern folk. But the positives far outweigh the negatives in my opinion.
My 1st trip to the city was in 2003. I was 25 years old and I had never even been in an airplane. Other than my Grandpa Jinks’ 4 seater plane that took us as far as the neighboring county to look at farm land and was used as way to scare the bejesus out of a couple of teenage girls. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count! Shelby and I started dating that year and he asked me if I could go anywhere, where would it be. I of course in my over exaggerated accent said New York City. Well lo and behold a few months later, he made that happen. It was a short 3 day trip and we arrived via Amtrak from Connecticut where I finally got that real plane ride into. We didn’t see or do much. We mainly just walked around aimlessly in search of a Dr Pepper. Which we never found! All that walking was tough on this (then) pack a day smoker. I do remember going to Central Park, the top of the Empire State Building, and the Museum of Natural History. We also went to Ground Zero and stared at the gaping hole in the ground where the Twin Towers were standing just 2 years prior. I remember it being October and really cold. I also recall buying those tacky “I ♥️NY” shirts for all my friends. No offense if you have one. By the looks of things they are currently in style. I don’t think I truly fell in love with the city then. I remember thinking it was neat because I had never been anywhere or saw anything like it. However, I don’t recall learning anything or feeling like I couldn’t wait to go back.
It was 10 years later before I returned. This time at the ripe old age of 35, I fell in love with this city. I don’t remember the exact moment. It could have been when I was in the theater watching the oldest running Broadway show (Phantom of the Opera). Or when I was peddling my heart out on bicycle going across both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. All that peddling got us lost in Chinatown where everything looks the same since I don’t read Chinese. Maybe it was when Alexis Bledel, who starred in Gilmore Girls, was in line in front of me at a Brooklyn Starbucks. It could have been when I was touring NBC studios and got picked to do the weather. FYI there’s a dvd of that I keep on lockdown. Or was it when I got up early and ran in Central Park and then had my 1st taste of Shake Shack afterwards. Which is still my favorite fast food today. Maybe it was when I went to the top of both the Rockefeller Building and the Empire State Building in the same day. Or when I got to see Lady Liberty up close. She sure is a stunner! That was also the trip I went on a solo shopping excursion to Madison Avenue. It was unseasonably hot in early October and I remember walking into Tory Burch just dripping in sweat. My feet were hurting because I got on the wrong train and had to walk several blocks in a pair of red canvas Toms. I know you gals remember those! I was literally looking like a hot southern mess when I strolled in there. I did leave with my 1st TB purse so it was all worth it. I could go on and on about that trip and the combination of things that made it memorable. But I whole heartedly believe it was the people and the hustle bustle that lured me in. No longer a Marlboro gal, I was able to not only keep up but get around like I owned the place. This trip introduced me to the New York Subway System. Which in turn fostered my fascination with the people. I would watch them and imagine what their story was. I wouldn’t stare, just observe. It was the proverbial melting pot that I’d always wanted to be exposed to but never able to see at that time in Arkansas. So many people of different backgrounds and ethnicities going about their everyday lives. There was a grittiness about them and I had the feeling the world had hardened them some how. And I could be totally misreading the cues but what I saw in a majority of them was that life was hard. It was a daily struggle to keep your head above water in a city of 8 million.
Three years later in May 2016, I returned again. This time along with Shelby, my stepson Jack, and my cousin Neely. Previous trips, we had stayed in midtown. Mainly, because it was easy to get around from there. You are centrally located to everything. This time I rented an apartment off AirBnB on the lower east side. I wanted to live like a Manhattanite. Yes, that’s a word. I googled it. The 1st thing I remember about this trip is the limo ride from the airport. As a surprise, I rented a limo to pick us up from the airport and take us to the apartment. I know what you’re thinking. That must’ve been expensive. Well it was only $40 more than the taxi so I thought why not. We were supposed to arrive in the afternoon, but due to flight delays, we arrived late at night. In hindsight, I’m glad we arrived at night. Had we arrived in the daylight, we would’ve missed out on the cheesy neon interior glow of the stretch white limo. This thing was a party palace on wheels. I felt like I was going to a bachelorette party in Vegas. It wasn’t quite the bougie experience I was after. Memorable moments from this trip include a trip to the top of the One World Trade Center (aka freedom tower). As previously mentioned, I visited the site in 2003 and the memorial in 2013. The 1WTC was not open on my last visit. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend a trip to the top. The elevator climbs 102 floors in 47 seconds, all while you witness the transformation of NYC from unsettled lands to today’s forest of skyscrapers. Once up top, stand in the sky portal, where real time high definition footage shows the streets 100 stories below. It is an experience I wish every American could have. You leave there with a feeling of pride. The reason for that feeling can only be explained as “Hey terrorists, I know you tried to break us, but we will not be broken! We are Americans. We are fierce and loyal. And when sh?t hits the fan, we will band together and come out stronger”. That there is a quote from yours truly! There was a couple repeats on this trip. I really wanted the kids (Jack-18 and Neely-23) to have those experiences. I realize they are not kids but they are kids to me. The Empire State Building and biking across the Brooklyn Bridge is always a necessity. We also went to a Broadway show. This time I picked one that had just opened, instead of a long running production. American Psycho, which apparently already had a movie made based on the book. I’d never seen or read either. I did know it was about a NYC bachelor who was a professional by day and a serial killer by night. I was prepared for the dark humor. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the sexual references. Sitting by Jack and Neely, my face was red the entire time. I mean it’s not as if they were 10 years old and hadn’t heard or saw that sort of thing before. However, I should’ve chose The Lion King. So here’s my tip…you can’t go wrong with Disney. Just stick with Disney! We also did a boat trip on the Hudson on a beautiful sunny May day. That same day we stumbled onto the 9th Avenue International Food Fest which was in Hell’s Kitchen and stretched from 42nd Street to 57th street. I read where 1 million people attend it every year. It was quite the scene. And the Nutella and banana crepe did not disappoint.
January 1, 2020, what a way to start a new decade. Jerri Ann (JA) and I had planned this trip in early 2019. A few months ago, Shelby decided or should I say begged to come. He loves NYC as much as I do and we’ve never been there without each other so what the heck. He did travel separately and leave a day early. It was a short trip for us. We left from Memphis at 6:30 am on Wednesday and returned at 9:00 pm on Saturday. Needless to say, we did not act up on NYE since we had to get up at 4 am the next day. To be honest, I never do anything special on NYE so it was worth it to go to bed early and get to NYC at a decent time. Our flight was nonstop (2 hours) to Newark, New Jersey. We arrived at 10 am and took the airport express bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan. We stayed in midtown due to it’s central location. After arriving at the bus terminal, we walked about 5 blocks to our hotel dragging our luggage through trash and food. I promised JA it usually wasn’t this dirty and it must’ve been because of the previous night’s celebration. I mean it is in fact always dirty but this was absolutely filthy. After storing our luggage at the hotel, we set off to the nearest subway stop and headed uptown toward Central Park where the Nordstrom’s flagship store was located. This store finally opened a few months ago after being in the works for 7 years. It has 7 floors and you can get anything from a martini to a pizza to a donut. All while shopping for shoes, clothing, and handbags. We didn’t buy anything but we did enjoy a rather expensive cocktail at one of their in store bars. After leaving there we strolled over to 5th Avenue and did some window shopping. We went in Trump Towers where our 1st Lady supposedly lives. I’m not bringing politics into this but there was a line trying to get in and it was really crowded inside. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that! We also went in St Patrick’s Cathedral before heading to check into our hotel. After checking in and freshening up, we hit the hotel bar for a few drinks while waiting for Shelby to arrive. The highlight of the night was the caramel sea salt banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery. This was the 1st of many desserts I consumed in those few days. The next day, I had booked a walking cultural food tour in Greenwich Village. The village is one of the most desirable parts of Manhattan to live. The streets are not on the grid system and have names such as Bleecker and Cornelia. Lots of history there and of course lots of good food. After meeting at Murray’s Cheese Shop, our group of 15 set off on foot for the next 3 hours. We dined on a slice of classic NY pizza at Joe’s Pizza, sampled olive oils and balsamic vinegars at Oliviers and CO, ate a Sicilian rice ball and sweet soppressata Italian salami at Faicco’s, sat down to a meatball at Pesce Pasta and an Eggplant Rollatini at Rafele. For my sweet tooth there was also a lemon glazed donut at the Doughnut Project and a Cannoli at Rocco’s Pasticceria. Last but not least, we ended up where we started at Murray’s for a sample of cave-aged cow, sheep, and goat cheeses. It was a fantastic tour with so much information, I’ve since forgotten it all. We did stop at the building that is used as the outside shot of the Friends apartment. I imagined them peering through the window at the naked fat guy across the street. After the food tour, we needed to walk it off so we headed to the High Line which is a 1.45 mile elevated park located on an old NY railroad spur. We also perused the Chelsea Market which is a food hall and the high line runs through it. It was overwhelming because of all the people and my full belly. I wish we would’ve come back and hopefully I’ll get to visit it again next trip. There was lots of food I would’ve tried had it not been for the food tour I’d just been on. That night we went and saw Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. The screenplay was written for Alanis Morissette’s Grammy winning album of the year from 1995. It was a very relevant story for this day and age. And the music was absolutely perfect. Like I had any doubt. After the show, I got my 1st taste of Junior’s Cheesecakes. The cheesecake was so good and I may or may not have went back for another slice the next night. Friday, Shelby headed home so JA and I did a little shopping at Hudson Yards. We also went on a boat ride around the entire island. We viewed the One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Yankee Stadium from the boat. We also passed under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges as well as 18 other bridges. Twenty total I believe. The weather was terrible so it was not as enjoyable as it could’ve been had we been sitting on the top deck in the sunshine sipping a Michelob Ultra. And yes I’ve done that before. Our final night in the city required my 2nd visit to the 1st pizza parlor in the US, Lombardi’s. After walking around Nolita and Soho, we took the subway to Times Square. This was JA’ s 1st visit to the city so Times Square was a must see. We took a couple pictures and bought a few souvenirs. Saturday would be departure day but not until late. We spent the afternoon at Grand Central Station and the Macy’s Flagship Store. I got my carrot cake donut fix and was ready to hop a plane and be South bound.
I mentioned earlier in my post that “most” New Yorkers come off rude. In fact I believe a recent study said it was the rudest city in America. I threw in the word “most” last minute due to an encounter with a so called rude New Yorker. On the last full day of our trip we had ran out of money on our metro cards. I didn’t buy the unlimited this time because 5 days was the minimum. Therefore, I put money on each card when we needed it. At the start of that day, I loaded $5.50 on each card. There was $2.75 left on each at this point, which is one ride. I went through the turnstile, no problem. JA had an issue. Apparently, you have to hold your mouth just right to get it to work. Anyway, she just kept swiping and it eventually said insufficient funds. It must have took it at some point and she didn’t push herself forward. One of them rude New Yorkers was on his way out. He said you don’t have any money on it in his thick Northern accent. Then without hesitation he swiped his card for her to go through. Now I don’t know about you but I consider that the southern equivalent of holding a door open for the person behind you. So there may be hope for you yet New Yorkers!
Will I be traveling to NYC again in the future? There’s a pretty good chance. I recently read a quote that said “One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”