To tell a tale that hasn’t been told is one of the most challenging aspects of this newcomer travel blog. Token magazines (with their extensive resources & connections) keep finding unexplored, unknown and often more dangerous places to send their brave young journalists. Perhaps (enthusiastically hopeful) that will be me someday, but for now I will happily struggle to interest you with a new version of one of the most written about cities on earth:
New York City!
I have an extraordinary luxury that most travelers and New Yorkers alike cannot afford.
I have time.
What actually happens when you just let New York guide you? Put aside the maps. Assume the non-existence of ‘Top 10’ or ‘Must See’ checklists. To let myself follow every quirk and winding road as long as my senses favored the sights and sounds. I hypothesized that I would see more. I envisioned long walks covering indiscriminate miles across every neighbourhood and borough. I actually believed that if I just enjoyed the journey, I would somehow feel the complete New York experience.
I was a little bit wrong. New York City is absolutely massive! I don’t need statistics (like 8 million people!) to explain it. In the very heart of Manhattan island I stumbled upon the southern edge of Central Park, carefully stepping over picture perfect horse shits all down 59th street. It was just before noon. With 8 and a half hours of sunshine left, I figured that “on this day I will conquer New York’s famous 843 acre backyard.” By dusk, I had not yet reached the northern borders as anticipated. Even more astonishing, it took me 8 and a half hours to walk the length of 13 blocks (had I gone as the crow flies). I literally saw less than 20% of the park. Without the time constraints or destination goals, I found a way to stay fully content, entertained, and 100% captivated by the natural and man-made beauty on just a sliver of what Central Park offers.
Beyond New York City’s vast expanse, every level of the city warrants a new perspective. Even the flavour changes. I’m not just speaking of the impressive views offered by Rockefeller Center’s ‘Top of the Rock'(850ft) or the colossal Empire State Building (1,250ft).
Times Square would often rank in the ‘fire engine hot’ scale with its interminable, unfaltering, tumultuous activity reminiscent of a stirred ant hill. It is multitasking level 100. To navigate the buzzing thoroughfare of scattered and unaware tourists, the fast-walking average Manhattanites, the touts and sellers purposely getting in your way, and inexplicably, dozens of big headed cartoon characters demanding ‘tips’ for being in your picture (even though they purposely jump into it), all while a hundred blazing neon billboards pull your attention with everything from 40ft tall nearly naked models offending every culture to the latest news and weather information, and did I mention the aggressive New York driving coursing (and cursing) through…? Phew! (Run-on sentences are an important part of describing how it feels.) Hard to believe this same Times Square in all its busy glory can be as mild as a bell pepper when you become an observer from above. As little as a third story glass window, maybe a dash of jazz in the background, and the milling below becomes hypnotic.
Time of day dictates a whole new perspective as well. Try exploring Grand Central Station late morning, on a weekday perhaps. While the stockbrokers, fashion designers and theater performers refine their trades high above the dim lighting of the underground, the station is your playground. Come back at rush hour and prepare to move like a local or get the hell out of the way. Then get on board a subway train heading anywhere; it won’t be long before aspiring artists, peddlers and/or professional beggars join your train car with tales both inspiring and stimulating, disheartening and dreary.
A lifetime would not suffice in Gotham City.
My feet alone have not taken me to every corner of the ‘Greatest City in the World’ as hoped for, but my flexibility and design-less wanderings did offer a multidimensional experience. So don’t be afraid to be static while the city goes full throttle around you. Have extended lunches. Be open and interact. New Yorkers don’t bite, really! Get lost. Learn to love the subway. And always look both ways before you cross the street.
~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~
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