Sunday, 26 June 2011

What I thought of New York

Our 1st Wedding anniversary trip to the big apple came to an end all too quickly last November.
Like most big cities I've visited, a week just isn't enough to do everything you would like to and New York was no exception but my time there was enough to get a bit of a feel for the place.

NYC street scene on 8th Avenue

As I wrote in my pad whilst on the plane flying across the Atlantic, this was my first ever visit to the USA and North America. Regardless of how much I could learn about the city before hand, I still wasn't too sure what to expect because after being lucky enough to visit a few big cities in Europe, I knew the only thing to expect is the unexpected. I just hoped it would be a positive experience and in anticipation of that I was really excited. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed, our overall experience was brilliant. .

Before I sing it's praises too much though, first of all I'll quickly run through the few negatives I found:
- Accommodation in Manhattan is very, very, very expensive.
- There seemed to be a lack of public toilets. There were some in Central Park and some down by the Chelsea Piers but other than that it was always a case of having to buy a drink in a cafe which just led to a vicious circle.
- Tipping. This is just a personal statement - I tip at home anyway so it was easy to get used to the increased value/occurrences of tipping in the US ('When in Rome') however, I don't like the fact that bad service is expected to be tipped too because it then seems like a some pseudo-tax that just keeps wages low instead of the minimum wage being increased. On the plus side of this point, we never actually got a very bad service so I didn't have to fight with my conscience.
- Queues. So many people in such a small space = lots of queues for popular things, including the immigration control queue at JFK.
- Drivers. Turning right at a Red might be allowed but this is only meant to be when proper caution is observed - Pedestrians crossing when it is their turn cannot be willed away by imagination, no matter how much the driver tries. Also, using a cell phone in the regular up to the head way is a $150 fine and 2 points - this is something our cab driver from the airport should have been given 3 times over. Bad driving did give us some highlights, Norngirl shouting "I'm walking here" to a driver trying their luck with a right at a red was excellent, P.S the car did stop.
- TV. A philosophical question for the TV stations: At what point does the advert become the show and the show become the advert?
- Fellow pedestrians on busy streets are quite likely to play chicken - I tried to be polite but I found that those who don't care will absorb any space you give them and a lot of the time bump into you anyway. I ended up finding a happy medium. I gave half way - room enough that if the other person also gave half way we would pass smoothly. I just made sure to brace. There was something satisfying about watching the rude ****s bounce. Muwhahahahahaha.
Hopefully there aren't too many New Yorkers now wanting to hurt me... I'll quickly move onto the positives:
- Food. New York has to be a foodies heaven, choice and quality is just astounding. Also the city that is home to the best BLT I've ever eaten.
- Culture. So many museums, theatres, attractions, gatherings and a very diverse mix of just about everything from people to shops, every day of the week.
- Availability. I just love that you could get decent quality food and drink for relatively cheap delivered to just about anywhere at just about any time. From our hotel room to the Brewery. Even our local liqour store had an on demand delivery service!
- Accessibility, New York might have streets full of cars but it's surprisingly easy to get around. Public transport is great. The subway was cheap, quick and easy, the bus was clean and contrary to what I'd heard about America, people in New York walk, cycle and run, we felt at home.
- Great atmosphere. Casting the pretentiousness of 5th Avenue and the ostentatious crazy wealth on display elsewhere aside, New York felt like 'my kind of city'. This may just be because there does seem to be something for everyone and we found our niche but I think there is maybe more to it, the feel of the place was mesmerizingly addictive.
- People sensibly jaywalk (this was the habit I didn't think I could leave at home so I was happy not to be alone and that native New Yorkers were as used to doing it as we are).
- Central Park. I don't think I would need to go to the gym if I lived within commuting distance of this place, I'd even rollerblade around it in the rain if I lived there.  
The Mall in Central Park
- Ice Hockey. Being played at it's highest level.
- Understanding. With so many news reports, movies, books and TV shows set in New York, visiting the place really brings an extra appreciation to anything set there.
- There is always something cheap or free to do like visiting Central Park, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, going for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry etc.
- Leaving Manhattan. Don't worry, I'm not being controversial. As brilliant a place to be as Manhattan is, Brooklyn and Hoboken were a nice change of pace + you get to see more of that skyline and then go back to it!
There really did seem to be something somewhere in the urban sprawl for everyone. Filling the days twice over would have been no problem, the issue would only have been our physical fitness and being able to keep up with everything we wanted to do. From our one week visit, the flavour or feel of New York was to me that the city can be pretty much the city of 'whatever you want it to be the city of'. Sure, people still get walked/cycled into on the side walk and the city undoubtedly ticks over by the constant and seemingly unquenchable drive to make profit (whether this is a good or bad thing is one for another day), but between all that there is a city that has the flexibility to mould to the visitor.

I loved the feel of the New York we found - my New York being quite a liberal New York, full of great entertainment that amazed me, left me intrigued and wanting to experience more.

Norngirl and I have already pencilled in plans to head back some day though next time we also want to explore beyond New York and out into the wider realm of the US and North America. I'll let my wife's words taken from her 'Dreaming of the City that Never Sleeps' post bring my recap of our trip to an end as I think it sums everything I've said up in one sentence -

"It might take some time to get back there but when we do it's going to be one helluva trip in one helluva town!"


  1. - TV. A philosophical question for the TV stations: At what point does the advert become the show and the show become the advert?

    YES! I couldn't agree more. ...and I'm in marketing...

    I loved your posts, pictures and reviews. I look forward to my first trip in June 2012. My tickets are already booked!

  2. Brilliant. I'd love to visit New York.

    We found the same thing in Toronto with pretty much all your negative points! I think the turning right at red lights is madness. And the tipping thing is just too much, and we did get some bad service.

    I loved the post/pictures!



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