I get it now. That mysterious love of New York so many people have while simultaneously unable to put that love into words. I get it in that way that you have to let New York introduce herself to you. Enough time to get past the initial shock of her pace. And I now see why so many people love New York, because New York got into my blood. Big time.
My first impression was a major culture shock. Cars screeching and honking, people pushing and yelling, people literally everywhere. I was simultaneously dazzled and terrified. The energy had me electrified and a little bit overwhelmed. But by the time I wheeled my suitcase back to the train station five days later, I didn't want to go. I'd found my spot amidst the chaos, and I liked it. I was thriving not only on the energy, but also the quieter personality of the surrounding neighborhoods, the peace of the park, the passion of the arts, the glamour of the architecture, the deliciousness of the food, the glitz of Park Avenue...everything.
New York is difficult to describe. Some of it makes sense, some of it doesn't. Some of it is brash, some of it isn't. Juxtapositions are everywhere. Farmer's markets and parks amidst skyscrapers. Art museums adjacent to construction sites. Shiny modern buildings next to elegant historic brownstones. Classically trained pianists playing on the sidewalk next to angry traffic. Tiny, unassuming restaurants serving some of the best food I've ever had.
Within four short days, I munched cannoli while walking through a street fair in Little Italy, swallowed back tears inside Paul's Chapel across from Ground Zero, watched a thunderstorm from a restaurant overlooking Times Square, witnessed the whole world pass by from the main concourse of Grand Central Station, listened to exceptionally good street performers on the steps of the Met and a bench in Washington Square Park, watched New Yorkers dance in Central Park, stood underneath the arches of the Brooklyn Bridge and on top of 30 Rock, shopped at Bloomingdales and Serendipity 3, eaten hot dogs at Grays Papaya and pizza at Lombardi's, looked Lady Liberty squarely in the eye, sang along with showtunes on 42nd Avenue, crossed the street in front of the Empire State Building, prayed in Saint Patrick's Cathedral, strolled dreamily through the posh lobbies of The Plaza and The Waldorf-Astoria, and the list goes on.
The only way to describe New York is New York. I've never been in any other city like it, and I think that is what makes it so fabulous; it's just New York. Sometimes you hate it, sometimes you love it. But the truth remains that you'll never find its qualities anywhere else. And if it gets under your skin, there is no other place that will scratch that itch.
From a traveler's perspective, there are a few things that caught me off guard. After countless anecdotes, I had mentally prepared myself for a dirty, nasty, dangerous city filled with danger around every corner. Warnings of muggings, rats, and disease, plus traveling during what has been called the worst bedbug infestation on record....to say I was trepidacious would be putting it lightly.
It was all for naught, however. No bedbugs. The city and subways were cleaner than many others I've experienced. No encounters with crime at all. Never saw a single rat. And every single person we engaged in New York was more than kind; perhaps even nicer than any other city I've visited so far, London included.
Speaking of London, it is still my true love; I don't think any city will be able to take it's place for me. But in addition to that flat in London and that house on Sydney Harbour, I'd also love a brownstone on the upper East Side, thankssomuch. This urban wanderer has added NYC to her top three favourite cities in the world. I will return, probably on a regular basis.