I wouldn’t consider myself a local in New York City, not even close. But I’d like to say that I know more about the city than a typical tourist. Still, the conventionalities of Rockefeller Plaza, Times Square, and Central Park do hold the attraction and picturesque image of New York that all visitors feel compelled to indulge. I went over the holiday weekend with my family, and the city that never sleeps was in full for decked out in red, white, and blue, looking to take advantage of the consumer green. Before entering the Lincoln Tunnel, glancing the skyline from behind the glass of my aunt’s SUV, I couldn’t help but play Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” in my head.
“There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy.” – Walt Whitman
New York City is truly amazing and I always both dread and anticipate every trip. Dread because of the sheer amount of people who are walking against you (because there aren’t pedestrian traffic lanes), asking you for money (sporting handwritten cardboard signs), and honking horns from their goldenrod taxis (not caring whether you’re in the crosswalk or not, only that they get their fares). But it’s not all bad.
When you get past the traffic and the people, you can enjoy New York for what it is: a metropolis of views and gems to discover.
On our short weekend there, we went to the Top of Rockefeller Center. Its tiered observations decks let us look out for miles across the city with clear sightlines to the tip of Manhattan, the Empire State Building, Elis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center, and Central Park. Granted this is a tourist attraction, it was definitely worth it. As are viewing many of the other sites that are just along Fifth Avenue or close: The Empire State Building, the Flat Iron Building, and the Chrysler Building. You don’t realize all the history and majesty that even the most modern of skyscrapers possess when you’re gazing up as opposed to looking down on the darker, dirtier traits of cities. (You could almost argue that it’s a metaphor for humanity- looking out from a higher vantage point affords you more beauty of a city and the human character compared to observing the squalor and pollution at ground level.)
But even the local gems are beautiful and historical in their own way. For one: you create your own memories at each stop, culminating in the establishments becoming part of your own personal history. (Who knows, it could be popping up in a memoir or biography of yours in the future. We don’t know who’s going to become famous in the next ten or twenty years.)
Most localities happen to be cafes and pubs of underrated repute. We hit a couple on our little tour of the Theater District.
Playwright Celtic Pub, where we went for dinner, was the coziest restaurant that wasn’t out of the conventional redbrick, mood lighting, but still modern with its televisions and stereo system. Its stone walls, hardwood floors and tables, and glass walls detailed with poets’ portraits, made me feel at home, especially with the European Championships playing in full view of our table. The food was fresh and the cheesecake was true New York delicious. I didn’t even mind climbing the stairs to get there.
Bouchon Bakery is a bit more touristy, but still authentic. You can get all sorts of pastries and coffee (brewed fresh) for breakfast, along with a sweet treat- macarons (macaroons for the American spelling). They’re French “cookies” that melt in your mouth with each bite, wafting the smell of vanilla, chocolate, red velvet, etc. into your nose. And don’t even get me started on the coffee… it was perfect!
We also had time to go to the Today Show and meet some star news anchors, find a little street market off of Eighth Avenue, and explore Central Park. But, in the grand scheme of everything there is to do in New York, we really didn’t do much. It just means we have to go back again soon.
“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.” – Truman Capote
I wouldn’t consider myself a city girl (Why label myself as such?), but I would consider myself a curious explorer, open to everything a city may have to offer…especially the library. I need to go there next time!