I first visited New York in December 1999. It was pre-Christmas, pre-millennium, pre-9/11, pre-legal-drinking-age. I was 14 years old and I went with my parents for a festive long weekend. This time I went alone, aged 30, spent almost two weeks there and met up with a few of my oldest friends while I was there. It was a very different experience!
I’d turned 30 in March of 2015. My friend Caz, who I’ve known since primary school, was turning 30 in April and chose to spend it in New York city at the end of a three month trip to South America. Of course I wasn’t going to let her celebrate alone! I flew out a few days before she arrived, another of our school friends also came out to meet us, so we had a little reunion halfway across the world! It’s crazy how you can live within walking distance of people for years and never meet up. Naturally we decided that New York would be far more convenient for all of us!
During my alone days I spent a lot of time exploring the High Line and Chelsea, I went to Top of the Rock, ate some amazing food and got very drunk at The Rum House near Times Square. I went running in Central Park and visited the Guggenheim. I used the subway, but I also walked a LOT. This is what’s great about city breaks, you can walk for miles without even realising. I was getting accidental exercise!
When Caz and Clair joined me, we did more of the traditional tourist activities. We went up the Empire State Building, walked across Brooklyn Bridge in one of the most uncomfortable hailstorms I’ve ever had the misfortune of enduring, saw a show on Broadway and wandered around MOMA. We drank and sang along at a piano bar, went to a (terrible) comedy club and had some of the best brunches I’ve ever eaten. They took a boat to the Statue of Liberty, while I met up with another of my oldest friends who lives just across the river.
Melinda and I became pen pals at the age of nine, back when people wrote actual letters with a pen and then posted them in a letterbox. She’s from Romania, but now lives in Queens, so we decided to meet in Williamsburg for a bit of browsing at Brooklyn Flea Market.
We were greeted with an eclectic and strangely beautiful collection of things, and it somehow seemed small and cute for a city the size of New York. We headed into Williamsburg and stumbled on a foodie festival, Smorgasburg. We ate veggie hotdogs, delicious fries, corn on the cob and an ice cream sandwich to finish it off. NYC does food very well. If I lived there I’d be fat and skint.
One of the most excellent things about this city, for me as a movie lover, is that pretty much every bar or diner you go into has been used in a film or TV show at some point. I loved seeking out the Friends building and the Ghostbusters fire station. It wasn’t until after my drunken night in adorable 1920s bar The Rum House, that I discovered it had just recently been used in Birdman.
When my friends left and I was on my own again I discovered the truth in the name “the city that never sleeps”. My last three nights were a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and I didn’t get in earlier than 4:30am each night. I visited some of the classiest and dingiest drinking establishments. I sampled dollar beer night at a student dive, squeezed onto a table in a tiny jazz club drinking wine and sipped (slowly) a very expensive raspberry mojito at 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar.
One of the best things about my trip was that in such a crazy city, I actually had time to relax. Don’t get me wrong, I still crammed an unfathomable amount of stuff into my time there, but I didn’t feel guilty about taking a day off to just sit and people watch, with the tiniest of hangovers.
I absolutely squeezed every moment out of this wonderful city, I don’t think I could possibly get bored there. The biggest change in the last 16 years I found to be the people. 1999 New York was cold, grumpy and unhelpful, 2015 New York was friendly, welcoming and always offering a hand if you were looking confused at a map. I definitely felt at home in the new New York 🙂