New York City (NYC)… If anyone asks me to describe NYC in one word, frankly I will be quite lost for words…
When I first arrived in the city, I was exhausted after a 16 hours flight, jet lagged and convinced that it’s just another big concrete jungle. But within a few minutes here I was caught-up in its magic and totally charmed by its sights. Armed with my friend, Archi’s list of suggestions (a perfect guide for any NYC debutante) I walked all around Manhattan to discover the un-discovered! And I was soon caught-up in a magical web of different experiences that are unique and somethings that I would have never associated with NYC.
In this journey of getting over my preconceived notions about the city (which were mostly on the negative side!) and coming to love NYC, I have to thank my brother, host and guide – Pranay, who patiently took me around all the places he has painstakingly discovered over the last five years and I absolutely loved his version the city. I also think all his efforts are a big reason why I loved this city.
During my research on this city, I came across many authors who have had similar thoughts about the city but I want to share Italo Calvino’s words on what newcomers experience on their first visit to New York –
“‘New York is not exactly America.’ This phrase, which I had read in all the books on New York, is repeated to us ten times a day, and it’s true, but what does it matter? It’s New York, a place which is neither exactly America nor exactly Europe, which gives you a burst of extraordinary energy, which you immediately feel you know like the back of your hand, as though you had always lived here, and at certain times, especially uptown where you can feel the busy life of the big offices and factories of ready-made clothes, it lands on top of you as though to crush you. Naturally, the minute you land here, you think of anything except turning back.”
I felt all of what Italo felt and much more and today I want to share my first impressions of NYC with everyone –
1. You can live in anyone’s shoes or any lifestyle – New York has something for everyone – for every possible holiday, every interest, every whim and fancy, every budget, every age group. You name it and I am sure you will find it here. From the hippy to the celebrity, everyone has their own corner in New York and you can live anyone’s lifestyle with super ease.
2. Anonymity is a good thing – New York made me realise that being anonymous is not such a bad thing. Since no one knows you, no one cares for who you are, what you are doing, don’t judge you and accept you for who you are. I guess being such a diverse population gives this city an innate capacity to accept all kinds of people and their diversities.
3. Constantly on the move – This you have to see and experience to believe it. You never see anyone or anything just standing here. People and cars are always moving, giving an impression that the city is by itself on the move. There is also an underlying buzz or energy here that even compels you to move and be somewhere.
4. A city where all locals are migrants (at least at some point in time) – This is one city that is so diverse that you will find people here from every country in the world. All ‘locals’ here are migrants from some country or the other and settled here for generations. In fact, just walking across its streets you hear so many languages that with every block you feel you are in a different country. Hence I truly believe that this is a multicultural, diverse and a cosmo city. This intermixing of cultures has also provided this city with its own unique culture, identity and tolerance for diversity.
5. Easy navigation for the directionally challenged – Manhattan taught me that there is hope for the directionally challenged people, such as myself. I can never read a map straight or figure the right direction and always end up getting lost. But Manhattan has a super easy navigations system – its like a grid. All vertical roads are avenues with a name or number and all horizontal roads are streets in numerical order. Just like a latitude and longitude system. So when you want to reach a place all you need is the (x,y) coordinates and no map.
6. Incredible skyline yet green – New York especially Manhattan has an incredible skyline – all vertical with each building sporting its own unique art deco designs. My ultimate favourite is the ‘Chrysler’ building when it’s all lit up in the night. Despite all the concrete, the city is still very green with numerous parks interspersed in between and the huge Central Park, right in the centre.
7. It’s not as expensive as I had expected it to be – Contrary to my expectations, New York was not as expensive as I had thought it would be. Its super easy to walk around, many sights had free entry, I never paid more than US$25 in a cab (that was from one end of the city to another) and a full meal for 2 in good restaurants with indoor seating was never more than $30 (I have definitely paid more in India for a similar restaurant).
8. Being vegetarian is easy – Either New Yorker’s love vegetarian or a sizeable percentage of the population is vegetarian. But whatever be the reason, veg food is super easy to find here. In fact this was one city, after India, where I saw numerous pure veg / vegan restaurants and even a Korean pure vegetarian restaurant… I tried at least 10 cuisines from all over the globe here and except limited brunch options (as I don’t eat eggs) I never had a problem with food. A super big A+ for NY. 🙂
9. More alive at night than in the day – New York is the only place where I saw more people out on the streets in the night than in the day. And especially at the Times Square, a complete night-bird where the clock definitely works the other way around and life increases with each passing minute in the night-time. Even for shopping 🙂
10. There is never enough time for this city – There is just too much to see, do and experience here that you will always feel you don’t have enough time. Speaking for myself, even after 2 trips (and 5 days of being a dedicated tourist here) I still have quite a few things to see . For example a trip to MOMA, Museum of Natural History, a live performance in Central Park and so much more.
New York is so much more than what a typical guide-book says and a trip to see the Statue of Liberty. It’s a melting pot of diverse cultures, a culinary delight, an architectural marvel, an art lovers paradise, a partyholics den, a shoppers mecca and I could go on and on. Needless to say its a city that should be everyone’s must visit list, at least once in a lifetime… 🙂
Watch this space for more stories on my visit to New York 🙂