1999 was the first NYC trip and it was memorable. Of course it was. Bright lights, big city. Young and impressionable we were. Y’know, marriage proposal. Stuff.
For accidental reasons there was an unintentioned hiatus in visitations: the next trip was fall 2016. On business.
Then in early 2017 dear chums get posted to Washington DC and a plan is hatched to massively abuse their phenomenal hospitality with a getaway ride on the Amtrak to NYC.
And winning it was.
Of all our travels, something about this holiday made it stand out.
Sat on a dank December eve that we Brits specialise in it’s difficult to remember how clear blue the skies were on that warm Brooklyn Waterfront day. The immersive movie-set-ness of the city. You can lose yourself in those vistas. Cliched? Nah, iconic. Romantic. Pop in some ear buds, crank up that playlist and start creating scenes in your private widescreen cinemascope NYC story: riding the subway, wandering around DUMBO, crunching golden leaves in Central Park, watch the impossibly (hilariously) hipster barrista craft your flat white, be moved to tears at the staggering cost of a takeout pizza, stroll the leafy streets of Brooklyn nosing into the open doors and windows of flashy (and more appealingly less flashy) brownstones with their sitcom-establishing-scene front steps. Then take in a happy hour craft beer and a mimosa for the lady at a Smith Street pub with a goat in it. Happen upon the unique – surely? – Chinatown eatery that has a full meatylicious menu but is in fact 100% veggie. (Additives in our food? No sir, that’ll be just genuine vegetarian imitation pork. It [the restaurant] would have also been the scene of some disquiet had a sensitive customer ventured to look in the shopping bag our youngest momentarily left behind. 14 year old boys and fake horses head masks are a halloween thing apparently.) Or perhaps your Manhattan movie memory/meme/taste is Sam’s Fried Ice Cream.
Why even the dehumanising masterclass by the FAA/Department of Transportation/Fun Police/Buzz Killers at JFK on departure failed to dent the halo that surrounds what was a super trip.
What made it so good? Firstly, thanks to all the great advice, hints, tips and such we got from fellow travelers. It helped that our very own teenagers who were at the right age to be introduced to the city: they loved it. Great weather. Staying in Brooklyn (in a house). Yours truly researching stuff and being a one-man-travel-agency. Just some of the myriad factors that made it stand out.
And yet… some of the comments, observations and opinions we encountered when we got back have oddly furthered the process of this trip really cementing itself as a milestone. Particularly those comments from folk who’ve been there and – apparently – don’t know the half of it. Almost like they’d visited an alternative version of NYC. (Checking question: there’s just the one Big Apple on earth, right?)
Occasionally, the responses of others who’ve been there before thee induce the feeling-like-a-z-class-tour-guide, er, feeling. How so? Well – among other things – we failed to do so much. We failed to see a Broadway show, we tooled round Central Park on foot instead of in a pony & trap, didn’t go up in a chopper, didn’t shop at Macy’s, we missed Ellis/Liberty/Governors Isles, didn’t eat a zillion dollar meal in a restaurant totally on top of Times Square and… and… and similarly failed many other mandatory/compulsory/obligatory activities. Does this make us failures? In days gone by? Yes. These days, I think not. (Although on reflection, several of those nopes might be simply because I am a total cheapskate.) We appear to have accidentally arrived at a spot where each visit/trip is now about enjoying ourselves, not collecting selfies/ticking off a list of “must sees” from the Kuoni brochure.
Now that I have that off my chest, and in the spirit of passing on the good stuff, might I offer a couple of cool things?
The magnificent repurposing, rescuing, restoring and reimagining of a dilapidated freight railway over the heads of Chelsea folk is a 21st century must do, right? This author thinks so. And yet several people who have touristed to the city in recent times – for more than a fleeting pit-stop – look at us blankly. Never heard of. WTF? Sure it’s not Times Square, but that’s the point. The perspective it gives and the sheer pleasure of walking/hanging out there are sublime: it talks about the past, present and future simultaneously.
One individual near swallowed their own teeth when Gilly ventured that we stayed off Manhattan. They were incredulous when the reveal was a house in residential Brooklyn. They didn’t exclaim “thank GOD you’re safe” whilst teary eyed and there-there hugging, but the effect was patronisingly, bewilderingly similar. Jeez Louise. It’s 2017! This is not the bankrupt city of 1970s blacksploitation movies where pimps in Caddys are trigger happy to mow you down in a drive-by. You are more likely to get a complimentary artisnal doughnut from a vegan tooled up with a soy latte and sharp beard. Here’s a handy pictoral guide to becoming a Brooklyn Hipster. Walk south over the Brooklyn Bridge and keep walking. Bimble around DUMBO. They say that New Yorkers live in Brooklyn, Manhattan is full of foreigners and tourists.
Empire State of mind.
And of course, don’t forget to re-entact your engagement atop the Empire State’ with both your teenage kids in attendance.
She (16) thought it was romantic and he (14) nearly died of acute embarrassment/shame/toxic-schmaltze-reaction.
(Then [sigh] be prepared to field clueless/confused “congratulations” social media comments on the shared photo.)